Covid Shot in the Arm Not Enough to Keep Pharmacies in Business

Tobin’s pharmacy and department store had already stocked its shelves with Easter and Mother’s Day items last spring, and the staff had just placed the Christmas orders. The shop in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, had been operating on a razor’s edge as retail sales moved online and mail-order pharmacies siphoned off its patients. It was losing money on 1 out of 4 pill bottles filled, so the front of the store, where it sold clothing, cosmetics and jewelry, had been compensating for pharmacy losses for years.

This story also ran on Fortune. It can be republished for free.

“And then covid hit,” said Dave Schultz, who co-owned the store with his brother. “And that was the final straw.”

The covid-19 pandemic sank many businesses in 2020, particularly those relying on in-person sales to stay afloat. For pharmacies — especially independent pharmacies — the pandemic lockdowns exacerbated long-standing economic pressures. Many small owner-operated … Read the rest

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A Primary Care Physician for Every American, Science Panel Urges

The federal government must aggressively bolster primary care and connect more Americans with a dedicated source of care, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine warn in a major report that sounds the alarm about an endangered foundation of the U.S. health system.

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The urgently worded report, which comes as internists, family doctors and pediatricians nationwide struggle with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, calls for a broad recognition that primary care is a “common good” akin to public education.

The authors recommend that all Americans select a primary care provider or be assigned one, a landmark step that could reorient how care is delivered in the nation’s fragmented medical system.

And the report calls on major government health plans such as Medicare and Medicaid to shift money to primary care and away from the medical specialties that have … Read the rest

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As Schools Spend Millions on Air Purifiers, Experts Warn of Overblown Claims and Harm to Children

Last summer, Global Plasma Solutions wanted to test whether the company’s air-purifying devices could kill covid-19 virus particles but could find only a lab using a chamber the size of a shoebox for its trials. In the company-funded study, the virus was blasted with 27,000 ions per cubic centimeter.

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In September, the company’s founder incidentally mentioned that the devices being offered for sale actually deliver a lot less ion power — 13 times less — into a full-sized room.

The company nonetheless used the shoebox results — over 99% viral reduction — in marketing its device heavily to schools as something that could combat covid in classrooms far, far larger than a shoebox.

School officials desperate to calm worried parents bought these devices and others with a flood of federal funds, installing them in more than 2,000 schools … Read the rest

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Two Unmatched-Doctor Advocacy Groups Are Tied to Anti-Immigrant Organizations

In their last year of medical school, fourth-year students get matched to a hospital where they will serve their residency.

This story also ran on The Daily Beast. It can be republished for free.

The annual rite of passage is called the National Resident Matching Program. To the students, it’s simply the Match.

Except not every medical student is successful. While tens of thousands do land a residency slot every year, thousands others don’t.

Those “unmatched” students are usually left scrambling to figure out their next steps, since newly graduated doctors who don’t complete a residency program cannot receive their license to practice medicine.

At first glance, two new advocacy groups, Doctors Without Jobs and Unmatched and Unemployed Doctors of America, seem to be championing their cause, helping them find residency slots and lobbying Congress to create more medical residency positions. The groups also recently organized a protest in Washington, … Read the rest

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Journalists Track Biden’s First 100 Days

Chief Washington correspondent Julie Rovner discussed Biden’s first 100 days on WAMU/NPR’s “1A” on Wednesday. She also joined Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time” to talk about why hospitals aren’t cooperating with price transparency requirements.

  • Click here to hear Rovner on WAMU/NPR
  • Read Rovner’s “The Great Undoing: Which of Trump’s Policies Will Biden Reverse?”
  • Click here to hear Rovner on Wisconsin Public Radio

KHN senior correspondent Julie Appleby discussed changes in insurance coverage for covid-19 care on NBC News NOW on Tuesday.

  • Click here to watch Appleby on NBC News NOW
  • Read Appleby’s “Time to Say Goodbye to Some Insurers’ Waivers for Covid Treatment Fees”

California Healthline senior correspondent Anna Maria Barry-Jester discussed how public health leaders in Santa Cruz have faced a year of threats on KGO 810’s “The Chip Franklin Show” on Monday.

  • Click here to hear Barry-Jester on KGO 810
  • Read Barry-Jester’s “‘We’re Coming for You’: For Public
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Mental Health Services Wane as Insurers Appear to Skirt Parity Rules During Pandemic

Therapists and other behavioral health care providers cut hours, reduced staffs and turned away patients during the pandemic as more Americans experienced depression symptoms and drug overdoses, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

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The report on patient access to behavioral health care during the covid-19 crisis also casts doubt on whether insurers are abiding by federal law requiring parity in insurance coverage, which forbids health plans from passing along more of the bill for mental health care to patients than they would for medical or surgical care.

The GAO’s findings are “the tip of the iceberg” in how Americans with mental, emotional and substance use disorders are treated differently than those with physical conditions, said JoAnn Volk, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms who studies mental health coverage.

The GAO report, shared … Read the rest

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A ‘Dose of Hope’? Fact-Checking President Joe Biden’s First Speech to Congress

In his first speech before Congress, President Joe Biden argued it was time to turn the coronavirus pandemic into a historic opportunity to expand government for the benefit of a wider range of Americans, urging investments in jobs, climate change, child care, infrastructure and more. 

Biden said that taxes should be increased on corporations and the wealthy to pay for new spending, as well as to address escalating inequality. 

“My fellow Americans, trickle-down economics has never worked. It’s time to grow the economy from the bottom up and middle out,” Biden said.

He repeatedly urged Congress to act on a variety of measures, including issues like gun control and immigration that have frozen Congress for decades. He said police reforms proposed in the wake of the death of George Floyd should be enacted and specifically urged bipartisan consensus. 

“I know the Republicans have their own ideas and are engaged in … Read the rest

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No hay que sufrir efectos secundarios con la vacuna contra covid para estar protegido

Si una persona cree que vacunarse hoy en día es una dura prueba, debería conocer la versión del siglo XVIII.

Después de que te pusieran en el brazo pus de un hervor de viruela, seguirían tres semanas de fiebre, sudores, escalofríos, sangrado y purgas con medicinas peligrosas, acompañadas de himnos, oraciones y sermones sobre el fuego del infierno recitados por rígidos predicadores.

En general, con la vacuna de la viruela, el proceso funcionó y las personas lo prefirieron a soportar la viruela “natural”, que mató a cerca de un tercio de quienes la contrajeron. Los pacientes a menudo estaban agradecidos por la prueba de inmunización, una vez que terminaba, claro.

“Por lo tanto, mediante la Misericordia de Dios, he sido preservado a través del Moquillo de la Viruela”, escribió un tal Peter Thatcher en 1764, después de someterse al proceso en un hospital de vacunación de Boston. “Muchos y atroces … Read the rest

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Evaluating President Joe Biden’s First 100 Days in Office

In the first 100 days, new presidents try to turn campaign promises into quick legislative victories, defuse lingering crises, set themselves apart from their predecessor and set a leadership tone for the next four years — all while avoiding blunders that could destroy their momentum.

This story ran in partnership with PolitiFact. It can be republished for free.

So how is President Joe Biden doing as he approaches this mark?

Not bad, experts say, given the scale of the crisis he’s tackling and the political opposition he faces in Congress.

“I think there are three accomplishments that stand out so far: the ramped-up coronavirus vaccine distribution, the passage of the American Rescue Plan and the return to the Paris Climate Agreement,” said John Frendreis, a political scientist at Loyola University in Chicago.

When Biden took office, the seven-day rolling average for vaccinations was 777,000 a day, but that number rose … Read the rest

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Time to Say Goodbye to Some Insurers’ Waivers for Covid Treatment Fees

Just as other industries are rolling back some consumer-friendly changes made early in the pandemic — think empty middle seats on airplanes — so, too, are health insurers.

Many voluntarily waived  all deductibles, copayments and other costs for insured patients who fell ill with covid-19 and needed hospital care, doctor visits, medications or other treatment.

Setting aside those fees was a good move from a public relations standpoint. The industry got credit for helping customers during tough times. And it had political and financial benefits for insurers, too.

But nothing lasts forever.

Starting at the end of last year — and continuing into the spring — a growing number of insurers are quietly ending those fee waivers for covid treatment on some or all policies.

When it comes to treatment, more and more consumers will find that the normal course of deductibles, copayments and coinsurance will apply,” said Sabrina … Read the rest

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