The current state of American healthcare



I’m not a medical expert. My science career ended in Mr. Maciel’s high school biology class. I remember the basics, we’re all made of cells and whales eat krill, but world governments aren’t calling me to consult when the next outbreak of Ebola occurs. I don’t purport to know what I’m talking about, but I did just watch a Grey’s Anatomy marathon, so I feel confident I can handle a discussion on the complexities of our healthcare system. Matthew B.J. Delaney's Black Rain is available from Amazon.

Here’s my medical prediction: whatever you may be sick from, human beings will figure out a cure. Of course you might be dead by the time we do, but we’ll figure out something. We’re good at that. And by ‘we’ I mean people much smarter than I am who actually went to school for science and stuff. For thousands of years humans have been figuring things out. Fire. Space travel. Tinder. And our figuring has been increasing exponentially. We’ve got more human brains on the job now than ever before thinking about things from toilet bowl night lights to artificial synapses. So whatever you’re sick from, we’ll get you that cure. I just hope you have the money to pay for it.

I may not know fancy doctoring, but twelve years as a police officer in New York City has taught me about human nature. And humans are motivated by incentives. The incentive to avoid death and suffering is called fear. Read the rest

US people pay more for health care, die sooner than people in other developed countries


From Our World in Data: "The US stands out as an outlier: the US spends far more on health than any other country, yet the life expectancy of the American population is not longer but actually shorter than in other countries that spend far less."


"[A]dministrative costs in the health sector are higher in the US than in other countries"

"[L]arge inequality in health spending.... The top 5% of spenders accounts for almost half of all health care spending in the US." Read the rest

Mylan CEO raises price of EpiPens over 400% in 9 years, is rewarded with 671% raise


The head of the pharmaceutical company that makes EpiPens raised the price of the life-saving device by over 400%. She was rewarded with a 671% raise. Read the rest

House passes bill to help children who are born hooked on opioids

Lisa Collinsworth holds her infant son Luke during a visit with him at Lily's Place, a treatment center for opioid-dependent newborns in Huntington, West Virginia, October 19, 2015. JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS
Today, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday unanimously passed legislation to improve safety planning for babies born dependent on opioid drugs.

Read the rest

Boy, 7, who donated his hair to child cancer patients is diagnosed with metastatic cancer

Vinny Desautels.

For two years, Vinny Desautels grew out his hair to donate to children with cancer who have lost their hair during treatment. The 7 year old Roseville, California boy was recently diagnosed with an unknown form of metastatic cancer, according to reports from his family and in local news.

Read the rest

This man's medication cost jumped from $400 a month to $40,000 a month

CC Image mzuckerm

Neven Mrgan takes a prescription drug called Cuprimine. Without it, he would slowly die from liver disease. Unfortunately, the price of Cuprimine has gone from $400-$1,700/month to $44,000/month. Curprimine is made by Valeant Pharmaceuticals, run by billionaire J. Michael Pearson. He's stepping down, not because he jacked up the price of Cuprimine and other medications, but because the company's misstated earnings hurt its stock value.

Read the rest

Disabled chicken will receive a 3D-printed prosthetic leg

In America, chicken has better health care than you.

UK Tories launch quiet inquiry into privatising the NHS

David Cameron repeatedly promised to protect "our NHS" but now the world's most beloved healthcare system is on the chopping block, thanks to a quiet inquiry in the unelected House of Lords. Read the rest

What happened when Colorado offered free birth control? Teen birthrate and abortions plummeted.

The state of Colorado has been conducting a massive experiment with birth control over the last 6 years.

Should a past mental health episode mean this mom loses her child?

Steve Herbert for ProPublica

At ProPublica, the story of a young woman who had a mental health crisis -- a psychotic episode -- and as a result, lost custody of her infant daughter. In the crisis incident, the mom became delusional and believed her child had been raped. The child had not been assaulted, nor was she ever harmed by her mom. Four years later, the mom is receiving effective treatment for her postpartum depression and psychosis, and capably raising a son. Yet, the courts in Kansas still won't give back her daughter, arguing she is unfit based an principle sometimes called "predictive neglect." Is this right? Read the rest

The VA whistleblower speaks out

The sign in the front of the headquarters building at the Department of Veteran Affairs in Washington, DC. (Reuters)

The Veterans Administration worker who leaked damning information about the federal agency has a name: Sam Foote. He is an internist, and for 19 years was a VA outpatient clinic director. Read the rest

Investigative report on collapse of US mental health care system

Karen Kelley is one of about 10 million people who suffer from mental illness. The cost is staggering, and could never account for the emotional toll, since that could never be fully calculated. [USA Today]

"More than half a million Americans with serious mental illness are falling through the cracks of a system in tatters," reports Liz Szabo and colleagues in an important USA TODAY special report. Absolute must-read. Read the rest

Texas passes draconian law limiting women's health care options

Earlier this week on Facebook, Senate Democratic caucus chairman Kirk Watson posted this photo.

The NYT's John Schwartz, who is himself from Texas, live-tweeted the dramatic proceedings yesterday in the Texas Senate surrounding one of the strictest anti-abortion measures in the country. The law was pushed forward by governor Rick “The louder they scream, the more we know that we are getting something done” Perry.

No surprise: it passed. Read John's coverage today, and weep. Read the rest

Networks of Microexperts: crowdsourcing for health care

A post on Dr. Roni Zeiger's blog (it's a few months old, but new food for thought for me) explores models for shared intelligence in health care.

"We’ve heard a lot about crowdsourcing, or outsourcing work that one person would normally do to a large and often distributed crowd.  There is a related and I think even more important idea of a network of microexperts and how they amplify the collective intelligence of their members," Zeiger writes.

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Physical, sexual abuse documented at FL facility for autistic and brain-injured

Investigative reports released under a court order to Bloomberg News show that caregivers at a Florida center for brain-injured and "non-neurotypical" adults physically and sexually abused patients, in a systematic and brutal manner. Caregivers "goaded them to fight each other and fondle female employees and in one instance laughed at complaints of mistreatment." At least five patients have died at the center in question, the Florida Institute for Neurologic Rehabilitation, from alleged abuse or neglect there since 1998. Two patients died in just the last two years. (Bloomberg) Read the rest

Amazons with a Cause

Why are women first to pay for every crisis? In every society, capitalist, socialist, or transition? It's because the bodies of women are expendable.

I always noticed how women over eighty in Turin looked incredibly well, beautiful and loved and taken care of: desirable, because old and valuable. I connected this to Italy's long-established and sophisticated health care system. Italian hospitals were famous for methods which preserved the dignity of the patients, in tumor cures, especially breast cancer: the "invisible mastectomy" was invented in Milan. Rather than simply intervening in crisis, they were good at illness prevention and attentive follow-ups.

The economic crisis and financial harassment of Italy has reached this safe haven of health and dignity. In Turin, one of the best clinics for cure and prevention of breast cancer is about to be closed. The patients are on the streets, their appointments cannot be scheduled, they are paying for their urgent operations because their doctors cannot help them. The doctors are on the streets too. Read the rest

Breast cancer patients: Stanford launches lymphedema registry study

Lymphedema occurs in about 7% of breast cancer patients who have undergone sentinel lymph node biopsy (to see if disease has spread to these lymph nodes), and in greater percentage of patients whose nodes end up being removed (because one or more contain cancer) and patients who receive radiation therapy after breast surgery. Lymphedema is basically a chronic swelling of the affected arm, caused by trapped lymph fluid. It can be disabling, disfiguring, and extremely painful.

"Once lymphedema develops, it is permanent," says my friend Dr. Deanna Attai, a breast surgeon in Burbank, CA. "Physical therapy can help minimize swelling and other complications, but there is currently no cure. Early recognition and prompt treatment definitely makes a difference." Read the rest

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