Happy Friday! If you’re like me, you’re hooked on the The Golden State Killer case, where investigators used a genealogy website to hunt down their suspect. (And if you’re also a health wonk like me, you’ll want to check out this story on what privacy concerns the investigators’ strategy sparked.)
On to the rest of the best from the week.
Dr. Ronny Jackson’s alleged misconduct (like how he was called “the candy man” and oversaw a hostile workplace) has dominated the headlines. But behind the theatrics of the failed nomination process lies a crucial but leaderless agency — the Department of Veterans Affairs — that’s caught in the midst of a fierce battle over privatization. There has been a recent legacy of turmoil and scandal at the VA, and veterans’ health care is at stake. “This is complete and total chaos after years of complete and total chaos,” said Paul Rieckhoff, with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America.
Do drug companies see rare-disease patients as human jackpots? A deep dive into the money flow for charities that are, in theory, set up to help those patients pay for expensive drugs reveals that pharma may not be donating to the organizations out of the goodness of their hearts. (Go ahead, feign surprise.)
Don’t forget our new KHN patient advocacy group database, “Pre$cription for Power,” which tracks the donations of some of the country’s biggest drugmakers to hundreds of patient groups. It was a resource for the USA Today story and is available for all to use.
Short-term plans are back in the news because the comment period for the proposed extension was Monday. Lots of people in the industry spoke out against them for obvious reasons — they know healthy and young consumers are likely to jump ship to these enticingly cheap plans leaving the population buying individual coverage sicker and older, on the whole. Also, they warn, those young and healthy consumers may well find that the plans don’t offer good coverage if they get sick.
In the new trend of transparency as a fix for high health prices, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants to require hospitals to post their prices online in an easily accessible format for patients. But experts say that while the idea sounds good in theory, it’s not actually going to help most consumers because list prices aren’t what people end up paying. And there’s the big question: Does CMS really have the legal authority to make them do this?
There was a lot of movement in women’s health this week: The administration is favoring abstinence-focused programs with its teen pregnancy prevention funds; a judge has blocked cuts to Planned Parenthood grants; and an executive order banning Title X funding for Planned Parenthood is apparently in the pipeline for next month.
The research on needle exchanges is crystal-clear. They cut deaths, curb spending and reduce disease without increasing drug use. But in the midst of a raging opioid epidemic, public health leaders just can’t quite convince the public that they’re a good idea.
And a drug distributor absolves itself of responsibility in the opioid crisis — but, uh, it doesn’t really work that way.
In the miscellaneous file: In Oregon, the criminally insane get better mental health services than people who don’t commit a crime; oncologists wonder if the slimmest chance of a therapy working justifies offering the treatment to terminal patients or if it’s better to keep their mouths shut; and a reporter offers a heartbreaking look at West Virginia’s long history of broken promises over black lung disease.
Have a great weekend! And let me know what you think of this doctor who is pushing the idea of “regifting” kidneys as a way to solve the country’s organ shortage.