Happy Friday! A quick programming note: We are closing up shop for Thanksgiving, so I will be leaving you to your turkey and pumpkin pie next week. But never fear, I’ll be back in your inboxes Dec. 6, as we barrel out an outrageous pace toward the end of the year.
Speaking of outrageous pace, is everyone doing OK after this news-filled week? If you’re feeling stressed you missed something health-related while distracted by the approximately 13 billion big stories going on simultaneously, relax, I’ve got you covered.
One of those 13 billion big stories was, of course, the latest Democratic debate. But the candidates might be feeling some health care fatigue like the rest of us because, although they hit their talking points, they moved quickly on to subjects beyond “Medicare for All.” That came as a slight surprise, since earlier in the week Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) released a plan on how to move more gradually into such a system than she’d previously discussed. Warren’s new blueprint would start by offering a more generous, subsidized government plan for some Americans and pass MFA by the end of her third year.
Meanwhile, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has already walked the fine line that the progressive 2020 candidates are attempting when it comes to universal health care. He also ran on the idea of a single-payer system and has been navigating what happens when political slogan meets reality ever since he was elected. Could his experience offer insight to the Warrens of the world?
The White House was left scrambling this week after President Donald Trump made an unscheduled visit to Walter Reed Medical Center last Saturday. The speculation over Trump’s health spread like wildfire, and the White House’s attempts to frame the trip as Part One of the president’s annual physical were widely mocked by late-night hosts. Officials later shifted the story, saying it was just a routine checkup, but the damage had been done.
Side note (because I was curious, and you might be, too): During his tenure, then-President Barack Obama in 2014 made an unscheduled Saturday trip to Walter Reed, as well. The reason? A sore throat. (h/t WSJ.)
CMS Administrator Seema Verma has said that the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on outside communications contractors was meant to spread awareness of CMS’ policies. But emails obtained by Politico show that some of the discussions between those contractors and federal officials focused on getting Verma high-profile features in magazines like Glamour, winning recognition for her on “Power Women” lists and getting her invited to attend prestigious events.
In other news, this heartbreaking story takes a look at families of developmentally disabled beneficiaries who are stranded on waitlists because the state slashed its Medicaid funding.
A new Trump administration rule would force hospitals to reveal the prices they negotiate with insurers for all their procedures, as part of a larger strategy to increase transparency in health care. As you might imagine, hospitals and insurers were very much not pleased and have already promised a legal fight. The negotiations have always been shrouded in mystery, and revealing them would be tantamount to exposing trade secrets, they say.
A Wall Street Journal investigation has revealed that 1 in 4 of the doctors involved in the 163 malpractice claims against the Indian Health Service that the government settled or lost since 2006 had a history of medial mistakes and regulatory sanctions that should have raised red flags in the hiring process. At least 66 of the patients died as a result of the alleged malpractice.
The Department of Justice planned to announce a plan Friday to combat chronic and underreported violence against Native American women. The DOJ has faced criticism after past investigations found that thousands of missing-persons cases are missing from the agency’s logs. The proposal includes a plan to hire coordinators across the country who would be responsible for developing protocols for a more coordinated law enforcement response to missing-persons cases.
If you want to get a look at drugmakers’ behavior during the start of the opioid epidemic, look no further than what’s going on in China, apparently. An Associated Press investigation reveals that the tactics being employed there by a Sackler-owned company mirror the ones that spawned a crisis — as well as thousands upon thousands of lawsuits. That includes things like telling doctors that OxyContin is less addictive than other opioids and representing the drug as safe for chronic pain.
Meanwhile, county officials in Ohio struggle with incredibly tough decisions when it comes to reuniting children who were taken away because of a parent’s addiction. If the wrong choice is made it can — and has — ended in the death of a child.
In more lighthearted news: You think your mistakes at work are put on blast? This poor dude’s decimal error made national news.
A big, federal study showed that drugs are just as effective at saving lives as surgeries for blocked arteries. But here’s the thing, other studies have already shown this, and yet doctors still perform them. Why? Hint, hint: It just might have something to do with the fact that those procedures pull in the big bucks (though doctors say it’s because past studies were poorly designed).
In the miscellaneous file for the week:
• South Dakota’s new slogan to combat drug use in the state was thoroughly dragged through the social media wringer this week. “Meth. We’re on it,” was lambasted as both tone-deaf and ridiculous. But, the governor pointed out, it got your attention, didn’t it?
• Who better to take notes from on addiction than Big Tobacco? In the early days, Juul executives were bragging about the “leg up” they got from cigarette research.
• They’re billed as “quiet rooms,” but the isolated timeout spaces found in schools across Illinois seem far more troubling than the name suggests. Children are being kept in these rooms, locked up, alone and terrified — and the practice of doing so is often under-monitored by state officials.
• And so the pendulum swings: As more is discovered about CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and the neurological damage done by playing football, many youth leagues have been banished. But the cultural roots of the sport run deep, especially in Texas where the game is making a comeback.
Hope everyone has a restful holiday. See you in December!