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Health Care

California Wants Medicaid To Cover Six Months Of Rent

Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose administration is struggling to contain a worsening homelessness crisis despite record spending, is trying something bold: tapping federal health care funding to cover rent for homeless people and those at risk of losing their housing. States are barred from using federal Medicaid dollars to pay directly for rent, but California’s governor is asking the administration of President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, to authorize a new program called “transitional rent,” which would provide up to six months of rent or temporary housing for low-income enrollees who rely on the state’s health care safety net — a new initiative in his arsenal of programs to fight and prevent homelessness.

A Big Miss On Drug Prices

The Biden administration has seen firsthand in the past few weeks the benefits of using statutory power to bring down prescription drug costs. With Novo Nordisk and Sanofi following the lead of Eli Lilly and announcing their intent to slash the list price of their insulin medications by 65 percent or more, practically all diabetes patients will see relief, mostly thanks to a change in Medicaid rebates stuck into the American Rescue Plan. It upended the usual laissez-faire attitude about prescription price-gouging, and showed that the government, as a major medication buyer, can intervene to lower costs.

Report Details Private Equity’s Stranglehold On US Healthcare

Private equity's ownership of U.S. healthcare providers is incompatible with the needs and best interests of patients and should be checked with federal legislation, according to a report published Wednesday by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen. Critics of for-profit care have long decried private equity's focus on maximizing returns through practices including slashing staff, surprising patients with astronomical bills, and eschewing low-margin care upon which vulnerable populations rely. The new report—authored primarily by Public Citizen healthcare policy advocate Eagan Kemp—examines investment firms' impact on more than a dozen healthcare sectors, from reproductive health through end-of-life care.

How Cigna Saves Millions By Rejecting Claims Without Reading Them

When a stubborn pain in Nick van Terheyden’s bones would not subside, his doctor had a hunch what was wrong. Without enough vitamin D in the blood, the body will pull that vital nutrient from the bones. Left untreated, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to osteoporosis. A blood test in the fall of 2021 confirmed the doctor’s diagnosis, and van Terheyden expected his company’s insurance plan, managed by Cigna, to cover the cost of the bloodwork. Instead, Cigna sent van Terheyden a letter explaining that it would not pay for the $350 test because it was not “medically necessary.” The letter was signed by one of Cigna’s medical directors, a doctor employed by the company to review insurance claims.

Drug Decriminalization Saves Lives

The criminalization of drugs hasn’t kept them from becoming a public health hazard — and we can’t just pretend they don’t exist. More than 106,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2021 in the United States, a number that has doubled since 2015. Three-quarters of the overdose deaths in 2021 were from opioid use, and nearly 3 million Americans struggle with opioid use disorder today. To help affected people, many are arguing for a policy of ​“harm reduction” to make drug use less risky. Sites provide clean syringes and alcohol wipes to prevent the spread of infectious diseases for IV drug users, for example and are prepared with oxygen masks and the anti-overdose drug naloxone to help manage bad reactions.

How Canadians Are Losing Medicare

Ontario’s Bill 60 has delivered a potential death blow to public Medicare. If it becomes law, the provincial medical system will no longer operate as a public service but as a profit-taking business managed by the private sector. While defenders of public Medicare blame Conservative Premier Doug Ford, British Columbia, Quebec and Saskatchewan are going down the same road. If we hope to reverse this disaster, we need to know how Canadians won Medicare in the first place, and why they are losing it. World War II saw a global upsurge of labor protest. 

‘Our Jobs Are Killing Us’: Firefighters Are Facing A Cancer Epidemic

Iain Barbour first noticed something was wrong when he started choking on a burger. ‘I realised I couldn’t swallow. And I had these chest pains that I thought was a heart attack,’ he recalls. When he went to the doctor in July 2020, he was told it was acid reflux. After weeks with no progress on medication, he was then told it was a fungal infection. In the meantime, he still couldn’t swallow, was living on liquid meals and had lost four stone. It was only in September, after a follow-up appointment, he was contacted by doctors who thought it might be something worse. One rushed endoscope later, and he had a diagnosis.

Prevent: Health Workers Resist UK’s ‘Counter Terrorism’ Strategy

In the two decades since the UK government unveiled its ‘counter terrorism’ strategy ‘Prevent’, campaigners and human rights organizations have consistently documented its impact on racialized and otherwise marginalized communities, and the ways in which public services—including healthcare—have been weaponized in this process. A part of the government’s broader counter-terrorism strategy called CONTEST, Prevent’s stated objective is to “prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.” First implemented in the aftermath of the 2005 London bombings, Prevent was amended in 2011 to deal with “all forms of terrorism and with non-violent extremism.”

New York City Retirees Fight Their Own Unions To Stop Health Care Cuts

New York City, New York - Defying two years of protests and lawsuits by union retirees, New York City’s Municipal Labor Committee voted Thursday to scrap some of the best retiree health care coverage in the country. The change aims to put 250,000 city retirees into a for-profit Medicare Advantage plan run by Aetna. Twenty-six unions in the MLC voted no, while others abstained. But their votes were swamped by the votes of the largest unions on the committee, AFSCME District Council 37 and the New York United Federation of Teachers. Retirees and active members protested during the MLC vote and marched to City Hall.

Biden Hands The Covid Response To The Private Market, Endangering Us All

In this year’s State of the Union address, President Joe Biden took care to portray the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as a trial that is behind us and a victory for the people. ​“Today, Covid no longer controls our lives,” Biden said, adding that ​“while the virus is not gone, thanks to the resilience of the American people … we have broken Covid’s grip on us … And soon we’ll end the public health emergency.” This rosy depiction belies reality. Even by the official count, hundreds of people in the United States are dying of Covid-19 daily. In recent months, more than half of all Covid deaths have been among people who are fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Proved Workers Make The World Run, Not The Bosses

The start of the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the existing crises of capitalism for workers everywhere. This was most obviously apparent for “frontline” or “essential” workers, who were forced by their need to survive to risk disease, disability, and potential death on a daily basis at their jobs. While lauded in media and culture in the early days of the pandemic, the rewards these workers have actually received have been precarity, damaged health, depressed wages, and for far too many, an early death. As a new ruling class narrative that insists the pandemic is over becomes hegemonic, the stories and ongoing crisis faced by these workers is fading from public view.

UK Nurses Join Britain’s Cost Of Living Strike Wave To Save NHS

After decades of targeted underfunding, the UK’s National Health Service is on the verge of collapse. Spiking inflation as a result of corporate profiteering in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine War have only worsened the situation, as the UK’s 300,000 nurses face staffing shortages on top of a cost of living crisis. All these conditions have driven the Royal College of Nurses to strike. This video is part of an ongoing Workers of the World series about the cost of living crisis in Europe. This story, with the support of the Bertha Foundation, is part of The Real News Network’s Workers of the World series, telling the stories of workers around the globe building collective power and redefining the future of work on their own terms.

Report Shows Big Insurance Profiting Massively From Medicare Privatization

A new analysis released Monday shows that insurance giants are benefiting hugely from the accelerating privatization of Medicare and Medicaid, which for-profit companies have infiltrated via government programs such as Medicare Advantage. According to the report from Wendell Potter, a former insurance executive who now advocates for systemic healthcare reform, government programs are now the source of roughly 90% of the health plan revenues of Humana, Centene, and Molina. Over the past decade, Potter found, the seven top for-profit insurance companies in the U.S.—the three mentioned above plus UnitedHealth, Cigna, CVS/Aetna, and Elevance—have seen their combined revenues from taxpayer-backed programs soar by 500%, reaching $577 billion in 2022 compared to $116.3 billion in 2012.

US Funneled Billions To Ukraine While Cutting Health And Education

February 24 marks the one-year anniversary of the Russia–Ukraine war, and in the past year, the US Congress has approved $113 billion in aid to Ukraine. Meanwhile, working people in the US are in dire economic straits, and desperately need relief from their government. When US President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union Address in early February, over 160 million people—almost half of the nation’s population—reported having trouble paying weekly expenses. The cost of living had jumped by 8% while wages had only increased by 4% in the past year.

Punitive Enforcement Does Not Save Lives, Or Reduce Drug Supply

When it comes to drugs—that is to say, when it comes to drugs whose use by some people in some contexts is officially deemed illicit—to suggest any other approach than criminalization is to be told you aren’t “taking the issue seriously.” That any response not involving jail, prison, loss of livelihood, family separation, is widely deemed, essentially, a non-response is indication of an impoverished state of conversation. But is that changing? Some pushback to the White House policy addressing fentanyl suggests that there is space for a new way to talk about drugs, and harm, and ways forward. Maritza Perez Medina is the director of the Office of Federal Affairs at the Drug Policy Alliance.
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