How the Health Insurance Industry (and I) Invented the ‘Choice’ Talking Point

Health Care – “consumer “choice”” is a lie.

Without Medicare for All, the Healthcare System Will Collapse – Wendell Potter RAI

It was always misleading. Now Democrats are repeating it.

By Wendell Potter
Jan 14 2020
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/14/opinion/healthcare-choice-democratic-debate.html

There’s a dangerous talking point being repeated in the Democratic primary for president that could affect the survival of millions of people, and the finances of even more. This is partly my fault.

When the candidates discuss health care, you’re bound to hear some of them talk about consumer “choice.” If the nation adopts systemic health reform, this idea goes, it would restrict the ability of Americans to choose their plans or doctors, or have a say in their care.

It’s a good little talking point, in that it makes the idea of changing the current system sound scary and limiting. The problem? It’s a P.R. concoction. And right now, somewhere in their plush corporate offices, some health care industry executives are probably beside themselves with glee, drinking a toast to their public relations triumph.

I should know: I was one of them.

To my everlasting regret, I played a hand in devising this deceptive talking point about choice when I worked in various communications roles for a leading health insurer between 1993 and 2008, ultimately serving as vice president for corporate communications.  Now I want to come clean by explaining its origin story, and why it’s both factually inaccurate and a political ploy.

Those of us in the insurance industry constantly hustled to prevent significant reforms because changes threatened to eat into our companies’ enormous profits. We were told by our opinion research firms and messaging consultants that when we promoted the purported benefits of the status quo that we should talk about the concept of “choice”: It polled well in focus groups of average Americans (and was encouraged by the work of Frank Luntz, the P.R. guru who literally wrote the book on how the Republican Party should communicate with Americans). As instructed, I used the word “choice” frequently when drafting talking points.

But those of us who held senior positions for the big insurers knew that one of the huge vulnerabilities of the system is its lack of choice. In the current system, Americans cannot, in fact, pick their own doctors, specialists or hospitals — at least, not without incurring huge “out of network” bills.

Not only does the current health care system deny you choice within the details of your plans, it also fails to provide many options for the plan itself. Most working Americans must select from a limited list made by their company’s chosen insurance provider (usually a high-deductible plan or a higher-deductible plan). What’s more, once that choice is made, there are many restrictions around keeping it. You can lose coverage if your company changes its plan, or if you change jobs, or if you turn 26 and leave your parents’ plan, among other scenarios.

This presented a real problem for us in the industry. Well aware that we were losing the “choice” argument, my industry colleagues spent millions on lobbying, advertising and spin doctors — all intended to muddy the issue so Americans might believe that reform would somehow provide “less choice.” Recently, the industry launched a campaign called “My Care, My Choice” aimed in part at convincing Americans that they have choice now — and that government reform would restrict their freedom. That group has been spending large sums on advertising in Iowa during this presidential race.

This isn’t the first time the industry has made “choice” a big talking point as it fights health reform. Soon after the Affordable Care Act was passed a decade ago, insurers formed the Choice and Competition Coalition and pushed states not to create insurance exchanges with better plans.

What’s different now is that it’s the Democrats parroting the misleading “choice” talking point — and even using it as a weapon against one another. Back in my days working in insurance P.R., this would have stunned me. It’s why I believe my former colleagues are celebrating today.

[snip]

Propaganda uses “words that work” to tell lies.

Health Care “It is staggering how much the United States is more expensive.”

A billion a year in health care costs, $15 billion of which comes from insulin.

A billion a year in health care costs, $15 billion of which comes from insulin.

Dementia ‘linked’ to common over-the-counter drugs

A study has linked commonly used medicines, including over-the-counter treatments for conditions such as insomnia and hay-fever, to dementia.

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-30988643

 

All of the types of medication in question are drugs that have an “anticholinergic” effect.

Experts say people should not panic or stop taking their medicines.

In the US study in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, higher doses and prolonged use were linked to higher dementia risk in elderly people.

The researchers only looked at older people and found the increased risk appeared when people took drugs every day for three years or more.

Side-effects

All medicines can have side-effects and anticholinergic-type drugs that block a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine are no exception.

Patient information leaflets accompanying such drugs warn of the possibility of reduced attention span and memory problems as well as a dry mouth.

But researchers say people should also be aware that they may be linked to a higher risk of developing dementia.

Dr Shelly Gray and colleagues from the University of Washington followed the health of 3,434 people aged 65 and older who had no signs of dementia at the start of the study.

They looked at medical and pharmacy records to determine how many of the people had been given a drug with an anticholinergic effect, at what dose and how often and compared this data with subsequent dementia diagnoses over the next decade.

Drugs in the study

The US study does not name specific brands, but does outline the types of treatments investigated, which include:

  • Tricyclic antidepressants for treating depression
  • Antihistamines used to treat hay-fever and allergies
  • Antimuscarinics for treating urinary incontinence

Most of the drugs were given on prescription, rather than bought at the pharmacy over-the-counter.


The most commonly used anticholinergic-type drugs were medicines for treating depression, antihistamines for allergies such as hay-fever or to aid sleep/promote drowsiness, and drugs to treat urinary incontinence. Nearly a fifth were drugs that had been bought over the counter.

Over the course of the study, 797 of the participants developed dementia.

‘Not causal’

The study estimated that people taking at least 10 mg/day of doxepin (antidepressant), four mg/day of diphenhydramine (a sleep aid), or five mg/day of oxybutynin (a urinary incontinence drug) for more than three years would be at greater risk of developing dementia.

The researchers say doctors and pharmacists might want to take a precautionary approach and offer different treatments instead. And when there is no alternative, they could give the lowest dose for the shortest time possible.

Dr Gray says some of the study participants have agreed to have an autopsy after their death.

“We will look at the brain pathology and see if we can find a biological mechanism that might explain our results.”

Dr Simon Ridley, head of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said the study was interesting but not definitive – there was, he said, no evidence that these drugs cause dementia.

Dr Doug Brown, from the UK’s Alzheimer’s Society, said: “There have been concerns that regular use by older people of certain medications with anticholinergic effects, such as sleep aids and hay-fever treatments, can increase the risk of dementia in certain circumstances, which this study supports.

“However, it is still unclear whether this is the case and if so, whether the effects seen are a result of long-term use or several episodes of short-term use. More robust research is needed to understand what the potential dangers are, and if some drugs are more likely to have this effect than others.

“We would encourage doctors and pharmacists to be aware of this potential link and would advise anyone concerned about this to speak to their GP before stopping any medication.”

He said the charity was funding more research in this area to better understand any connections between these and other drugs on the development of dementia.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which monitors the safety of medicines in clinical use in the UK, said it would review any new evidence.

Drug company Johnson & Johnson Ltd said many hay-fever products sold in the UK now contain newer, second generation antihistamines – not the type looked at in the study.

Matthew Speers, who represents the UK trade association for manufacturers of over-the-counter drugs, said: “Over-the-counter allergy and sleeping aid products are not intended to be used continuously and people are advised to talk to their pharmacist or doctor if they need to use these products long-term.

“There are a range of allergy products on the market which contain a number of different ingredients, many of which were not considered in this study.”

Burger King’s ‘Impossible Burger’ Has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper

Burger King’s ‘Impossible Burger’ Has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper 

DOCTOR: Burger King’s ‘Impossible Burger’ Has 18 Million Times More Estrogen Than Regular Whopper

Impossible and Beyond: How healthy are these meatless burgers?

Impossible and Beyond: How healthy are these meatless burgers?

 

Beyond Burger vs. Impossible Burger vs. Beef Burger for Vitamins & Minerals Question: How do the Beyond Burger, the Impossible Burger, and a beef burger compare in terms of vitamins and minerals, and which is best?

https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/beyond-burger-vs-impossible-burger-vitamins-minerals-comparison/beyond-burger-impossible-burger/

Twitter trolls cause epileptic seizures on twitter

HEALTH Twitter trolls cause epileptic seizures on twitter
#followFriday

@cyberplayground

@NetHappenings

Foundation says Twitter trolls have bombarded its Twitter feed with seizure-inducing content to harm epilepsy victims.
Epilepsy Foundation files criminal complaint over seizure-inducing videos posted on Twitter Foundation says Twitter trolls have bombarded its Twitter feed with seizure-inducing content to harm epilepsy victims.

The foundation says unidentified users posted flashing or strobing lights as responses to its tweets, and using popular epilepsy-related hashtags, hoping to cause seizures for people who have photosensitive epilepsy and were viewing their posts.

The attacks were carried out last month during the National Epilepsy Awareness Month “when the greatest number of people with epilepsy and seizures were likely to be following the feed,” the foundation said. Over 30 different Twitter accounts participated, it said.

These attacks are no different than a person carrying a strobe light into a convention of people with epilepsy and seizures, with the intention of inducing seizures and thereby causing significant harm to the participants,” said Allison Nichol, Esq., director of legal advocacy for the Epilepsy Foundation.

https://www.zdnet.com/article/epilepsy-foundation-files-criminal-complaint-over-seizure-inducing-videos-posted-on-twitter/

HEALTH #PurduePharma @PurduePharma Oxycotin maker expands into the anti addiction Market!

#Chutzpa #OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive” Anti-Addiction Market

https://www.propublica.org/article/oxycontin-purdue-pharma-massachusetts-lawsuit-anti-addiction-market

Eight Sackler family members, company directors and current and former executives,  created the opioid epidemic through illegal deceit. the Sacklers pushed for higher doses of OxyContin, guided efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the drug’s addictive capacity, and blamed misuse on patients. Purdue paid two executives convicted of fraudulently marketing OxyContin millions of dollars to assure their loyalty, concealed information about doctors suspected of inappropriately prescribing the opioid, and was advised by global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. on strategies to boost the drug’s sales and burnish its image, including how to “counter the emotional messages” of mothers whose children overdosed.

Prescription OxyContinpainkiller first launched in 1996 now kills more than 100 a day.

2007 Purdue admitted it misbranded the drug.

None of the Sacklers are personally being sued over it.

After Arthur Sackler died in 1987, Mortimer and his younger brother Raymond bought his option of Purdue Pharma for $22.4 million

Oxycontin grandson heir David Sackler spends $22.5 million in Bel Air paid entirely in cash.

Sackler is the grandson of Raymond Sackler, one of the three brothers who together launched and ran Purdue Pharma. (By 1996, when the company introduced OxyContin, only two brothers and their families were still involved in the business.) According to The New Yorker, David runs an investment firm for the family and “is the only member of the third generation who sits on Purdue’s board.”

Secret portions of a lawsuit allege that Purdue Pharma, controlled by the Sackler family, considered capitalizing on the addiction treatment boom — while going to extreme lengths to boost sales of its controversial opioid.

Purdue Pharma, is controlled by the Sackler family.

An internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general.

In 1998, two years after OxyContin was launched, Dr. Richard Sackler, a son of Purdue co-founder Raymond Sackler, instructed executives in an email that its tablets were not merely “therapeutic” but also “enhance personal performance,” like Viagra.

The five Purdue directors who are not Sacklers always voted with the family, according to the complaint. The family-controlled board approves everything from the number of sales staff to be hired to details of their bonus incentives, which have been tied to sales volume. CEO Michael Friedman and then-legal counsel Howard  Udell each pleaded guilty in 2007 in U.S. District Court in Abingdon, Virginia, to a misdemeanor charge of misbranding OxyContin.

The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis
You’re aware America is under siege, fighting an opioid crisis that has exploded into a public-health emergency. You’ve heard of OxyContin, the pain medication to which countless patients have become addicted. But do you know that the company that makes Oxy and reaps the billions of dollars in profits it generates is owned by one family?

Sackler Family photos

Yale donor linked to opioid crisis

Sackler family behind OxyContin made $4bn amid opioid crisis, filings claim. Purdue Pharma and leading Sacklers accused of deceiving public and doctors about dangers of opioid painkiller OxyContin

Tell the Smithsonian: Rename the Sackler Gallery. Take the blood money out of our museums.

Guggenheim Museum Says It Won’t Accept Gifts From Sackler Family

Opioid Protest at Met Museum Targets Donors Connected to OxyContin

London Museum Will Forgo Donation From Purdue Pharma’s Sackler Family

[ECP] NetHappenings 3/18/19

YOUR HEALTH INFORMATION PRIVACY RIGHTS

HIPPA  

Office for Civil Rights Headquarters
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201
Toll Free Call Center: 1-800-368-1019
TTD Number: 1-800-537-7697

HHS Releases Voluntary Cybersecurity Practices for Health Industry

GDPR, California’s Consumer Privacy Act, and next-generation ransomware and denial of service attacks, a firm’s ability to provide security is also becoming a matter of survival. Put it all together, and many CISOs today exist in environments where they are not understood by business executives and thus are not being included in business initiatives until it is too late and security vulnerabilities expose the enterprise to cyberattacks and compliance violations.

WHO OWNS YOUR MEDICAL RECORDS?

In 2016, more than 100 million Americans have had their electronic medical records hacked from health systems. For example, this June, Banner Health in Phoenix had a breach of 3.7 million electronic medical records.
Many hospitals throughout the country have been held hostage for their health information system by hackers and have had to pay ransom to regain control of their patients’ medical data.

2016 more than 100 million Americans have had their electronic medical records hacked. Each one can be sold for $50.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was written 20 years ago, when medical records were kept on paper, and is not applicable to the contemporary digital era.

Moreover, the pervasive selling of our medical data is unchecked, with no legal protection. The massive hacking of health system data has not resulted in any new legislation to date or enforcement via established laws.

Informed Patient Institute
We rate the websites that help you find the right doctor, hospital, and nursing homes and we provide tips about quality concerns. also see

https://www.philly.com/philly/health/what-is-philly-health-costs-and-how-can-it-help-me-20180220.html

ProPublica analyzed nearly 17,000 surgeons and found wide variations in complication rates for some of the most routine elective procedures. Explore our database to know more about a surgeon before your operation.
https://www.propublica.org/article/surgeon-level-risk-quotes

2016 Consumer Reports Medical Board Ratings

Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Physician and Other Supplier

Digital business has become a key driver to business strategy across industries.
CIOs have digital transformation at the center of their corporate
strategy.  #Cybersecurity, amazingly, is often not a top-tier priority in enterprise risk management. The #CISO, is only noticed when things go wrong. This is why CISOs are almost always fired or “resign” after major data breaches. The CISO is usually the most qualified person to manage post breach forensics, cleanup, and compliance audits.
https://venturebeat.com/2019/03/16/cisos-you-need-to-manage-by-walking-around/

Think a strong information security posture means you’re complying with HIPAA? Without proper documentation for government regulators, infosec protocols might safeguard data without meeting federal criteria.

Staff lapses and IT system vulnerabilities are key reasons behind SingHealth cyberattack, according to COI Report

ClassAction.org is a group of online professionals who are committed to exposing corporate wrongdoing and giving consumers the tools they need to fight back. We’ve been reporting on the legal space for nearly a decade and have built relationships with class action and mass tort attorneys across the country.

Prescription Hope
Prescription Hope offers over 1,500 brand-name medications all for the
set price of $50 per month for each medication. This covers 100% of the medication cost, no matter the retail price.

Market Share Matters: Evidence Of Insurer And Provider Bargaining Over Prices
Health-care providers and insurers have to agree on how much doctors will be reimbursed before doctors begin treating insurers’ clients. Those fees, which depend on the two parties’ relative clout. Abstract

A survey of the numbers, published this week in Health Affairs, shows that small-time doctor’s offices and insurance companies are getting squeezed by their larger competitors.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/01/09/its-hard-to-be-a-small-time-family-doctor-these-days-new-data-show/

Finally, U.S. hospitals will have to post their prices online.

Hospitals must post ‘chargemaster’ prices online.
Patient Estimate team call  484.337.1970
FAQ Requirements for Hospitals To Make Public a List of Their Standard Charges via the Internet
https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-Fee-for-Service-Payment/AcuteInpatientPPS/Downloads/FAQs-Req-Hospital-Public-List-Standard-Charges.pdf
The chargemaster is not a useful tool for consumers who are comparison shopping between hospitals or health systems.
The chargemaster amounts are billed to an insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid, and those insurers then apply their contracted rates to the services that are billed. In situations where a patient does not have insurance, our hospital has financial assistance policies that apply discounts to the amounts charged.
https://www.mainlinehealth.org/patient-services/patient-billing/standard-charges

A huge trove of medical records and prescriptions found exposed Thousands of health records and doctor’s notes were exposed daily
By Zack Whittaker TechCrunch.com March 17, 2019 A health tech company was leaking thousands of doctor’s notes, medical records, and prescriptions daily after a security lapse left a server without a password. The little-known software company, California-based Meditab, bills itself as one of the leading electronic medical records software makers for hospitals, doctor’s offices, and pharmacies. The company, among other things, processes electronic faxes for healthcare providers, still a primary method for sharing patient files to other providers and pharmacies. But that fax server wasn’t properly secured, according to the security company that discovered the data. SpiderSilk, a Dubai-based cybersecurity firm, told TechCrunch of the exposed server. The exposed fax server was running a Elasticsearch database with over six million records since its creation in March 2018. The faxes also included personal data and health information on children. None of the data was encrypted. […] Board of Directors responsible

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA

800 West El Camino Real, Suite 350
Mountain View, California 94040
General +1 650 458 2620
Sales +1 650 458 2625
info@elastic.co
sales@elastic.co

The server was hosted on an subdomain of MedPharm Services, a Puerto Rico-based affiliate of Meditab, both founded by Kalpesh Patel.

NY Governor Cuomo Calls For Investigation on Facebook Health Data Collection

American Travelers Seek Cheaper Prescription Drugs In Mexico And Beyond
In Utah last year, the Public Employee Health Plan took this idea to a new level with its voluntary Pharmacy Tourism Program. For certain PEHP members who use any of 13 costly prescription medications — including the popular arthritis drug Humira — the insurer will foot the bill to fly the patient and a companion to San Diego, then drive them to a hospital in Tijuana, Mexico, to pick up a 90-day supply of medicine.

TechCrunch: Screen time inhibits toddler development, study finds. “In news that will surprise few but still alarm many, a study has found that kids 2-5 years old who engage in more screen time received worse scores in developmental screening tests. The apparent explanation is simple: when a kid is in front of a screen, they’re not talking, walking or playing, the activities during which basic skills are cultivated

Researchers Create Algorithm to Protect Kids from Disturbing YouTube Videos

Computer program that could bypass patents to produce synthetic drugs Software that can bypass current intellectual property and design medication with the same function as top drugs could help pharma companies…

“Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey alleges eight Sackler family members and nine Purdue board members or executives played key roles in the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic.