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Trump Vows Action to Tackle the Opioid Crisis

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President Donald Trump (R), flanked by Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Tom Price, delivers remarks on North Korea during an opioid-related briefing at Trump’s golf estate in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., August 8, 2017.

In a briefing at President Trump’s golf estate on Tuesday, he said the United States had no alternative but to defeat an epidemic of opioid drug use.  However, Trump did not mention any new policies to combat the health crisis that kills more than 100 Americans daily.

“It is a problem the likes of which we have not seen,” Trump told reporters in the midst of a two-week getaway at his golf club in New Jersey.

“We will fight this deadly epidemic, and the United States will win,” Trump added. “We will win. We have no alternative.”

In an earlier statement, Trump was expected to give a “major briefing” on opioid drug use but instead gave a few brief comments on the subject while also warning North Korea it would be met with “fire and fury” if it threatens the United States.

Video Courtesy of  (PBS News Hours) August 8, 2017

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price announced that the administration is currently working on devising “a comprehensive strategy” to be presented to Trump “in the near future.”

The commission created by Trump to study opioid abuse urged him to declare a national emergency to address the opioids crisis, framing its death toll in the context of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. It’s important to note an emergency declaration could free up federal resources for the effort.

“The resources that we need or the focus that we need to bring to bear to the opioid crisis at this point can be addressed without the declaration of an emergency, although all things are on the table for the president,”  Price said in a news briefing.

According to new federal reports, drug overdose deaths continue to spike in the United States despite efforts to combat the nation’s ongoing opioid addiction crisis.

The addiction to opioids and its abuse is not only a serious problem; the abuse is a challenging public health problem—as noted in statistical data via the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Over the past two decades, deaths from drug overdose have risen steadily and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Prescription drugs, specifically opioid analgesics—a class of prescription drugs such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and methadone used to treat both acute and chronic pain — have increasingly been implicated in drug overdose deaths over the last decade.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Center for Health Statistics and the National Vital Statistics System, Mortality files cites in its reporting—from 1999 to 2013, the rate of drug poisoning deaths involving opioid analgesics nearly quadrupled.  The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) cites deaths related to heroin have also increased sharply since 2010, with a 39 percent increase between 2012 and 2013.

Given these alarming trends, it is time for an expedient and sustainable response to prevent opioid abuse and overdose with the goal of treating individuals with opioid use disorder.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) intent on combatting the drug abuse problem, has made addressing opioid abuse a high priority.  In keeping with the challenges facing the drug abuse epidemic, HHS is committed to gaining momentum on its work towards two extensive goals—decreasing opioid overdoses and overall overdose mortality and decreasing the prevalence of opioid use disorder.

Areas requiring top priority for immediate action were identified through a department wide effort, which tapped all the analytical scientific, and programmatic expertise contained in HHS agencies. Moreover, the development effort at its core relied on discussions with states and other stakeholder organizations.

The drug overdose death rate reached 19.9 cases for every 100,000 people during the late summer of 2016, compared with 16.7 cases per 100,000 the year before, the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) stated in its quarterly mortality report.

The 12-month overdose death rate also showed an increase. The rate was 18.5 overdose deaths per 100,000 people for the 12-month period ending in September 2016, compared with 16.1 deaths per 100,000 during the same period a year before, the NCHS said.

The NCHS statistics were released on August 8—the same day Trump reportedly stated that he received a “major briefing” on the opioid crisis with top administration officials at his private golf club in Bedminster, N.J.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price and acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Richard Baum accompanied President Trump for the opioid briefing.

A White House spokesperson according to a Washington Post report said Trump was reviewing a preliminary report on the opioid crisis from the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which he established in March.

The language in the report urges Trump to declare a national emergency, rapidly increase the nation’s addiction treatment capacity, and provide model legislation that would promote the use of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

“Your declaration would empower your cabinet to take bold steps and would force Congress to focus on funding and empowering the Executive Branch even further to deal with this loss of life. It would also awaken every American to this simple fact: if this scourge has not found you or your family yet, without bold action by everyone, it soon will,” wrote the commission, which is headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

By LeNora Millen     08-10-17

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Health Care

Medicare Takes Aim at Medical Identity Theft: Protecting Seniors From Fraud

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Criminals are increasingly targeting people age 65 or older for personal identity theft. In 2014 alone, there were 2.6 million such incidents among seniors, according to the Department of Justice.

A growing offshoot of identity theft is healthcare fraud, which can result when someone unlawfully uses another person’s Medicare number. Medical identity theft can lead to inaccuracies in medical records, which in turn can result in delayed care, denied services and costly false claims.

That’s why Medicare works with the Department of Justice, taking aim squarely at would-be thieves. In the largest law enforcement action against criminals fraudulently targeting the Medicare, Medicaid and Tricare programs, 412 people around the country, including 115 doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, were charged in 2017 with bilking U.S. taxpayers out of $1.3 billion.

New Medicare Card for 2018. (Video Courtesy of YouTube)

The next big fraud-fighting push is well underway — and its focus is protecting the personal information of senior citizens by removing their Social Security numbers from Medicare cards.

People with Medicare don’t need to take any action to get a new Medicare card. Beginning in April 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will mail out newly designed Medicare cards to the 58 million Americans with Medicare. The cards will have a new number that will be unique for each card recipient. This will help protect personal identity and prevent fraud because identity thieves can’t bill Medicare without a valid Medicare number. To help with a seamless transition to the new cards, providers will be able to use secure lookup tools that will support quick access to the new card numbers when needed.

Healthcare fraud drives up costs for everyone, but healthcare consumers can be an effective first line of defense against fraud. Follow these tips to help protect yourself:

Do

  • Treat your Medicare number like a credit card.
  • When the new card comes in the mail next year, destroy your old card and make sure you bring your new one to your doctors’ appointments.
  • Be suspicious of anyone offering early bird discounts, limited time offers or encouraging you to act now for the best deal. That’s an indicator of potential fraud because Medicare plans are forbidden from offering incentives.
  • Be skeptical of free gifts, free medical services, discount packages or any offer that sounds too good to be true.
  • Only give your Medicare number to doctors, insurers acting on your behalf or trusted people in the community who work with Medicare, like your State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
  • Report suspected instances of fraud.
  • Check your Medicare statements to make sure the charges are accurate.

Don’t

  • Don’t share your Medicare number or other personal information with anyone who contacts you by telephone, email or approaches you in person, unless you’ve given them permission in advance. Medicare will never contact you uninvited and request your Medicare number or other personal information.
  • Don’t let anyone borrow or pay to use your Medicare number.
  • Don’t allow anyone, except your doctor or other Medicare providers, to review your medical records or recommend services.
  • Don’t let anyone persuade you to see a doctor for care or services you don’t need.
  • Don’t accept medical supplies from a door-to-door salesman.

Learn more about how you can fight Medicare fraud at Medicare.gov/fraud, or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). You can also visit a local SHIP counselor, who can provide free, one-on-one, non-biased Medicare assistance.

With a common sense approach to protecting health information, senior citizens can be effective partners in fighting Medicare fraud.

 

Source: Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

@LeNoraMillen       01-19-18

 

 

 

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Health Care

Two Million Children Could Lose “CHIP” Coverage Next Month

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Phillip Verhoef speaks at a rally Dec. 14, 2017, hosted by University of Chicago medical students to call on Congress to reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

Nearly 2 million children will lose health coverage starting next month if Congress doesn’t renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by Friday, a new report projects.

Already, state CHIP administrators say, parents are panicking and permanent damage has been done to the program, set up to take care of kids who don’t have health insurance through other programs.

CHIP covers 9 million children across the country. Congress failed to authorize funding in September, and some states have already started warning parents to get their last medical visits in while money lasts.

“Our phones are ringing off the wall,” said Cathy Caldwell, director of the Alabama Bureau of Children’s Health Insurance.

“We have panicked families wondering what in the world they have as options. So it is just very, very stressful here in Alabama,” Caldwell told reporters in a telephone briefing.

The crisis puzzles health policy experts, doctors and politicians, who say CHIP is a universally popular program that’s never been made into a political pawn before.

Earlier Wednesday, Democrats in Congress urged their GOP colleagues who control both the House and Senate to act by Friday. “This is the ultimate bad Christmas carol story,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said at a news conference where politicians held lumps of coal.

CHIP has bipartisan support, but Republicans have been focused on passing a tax reform bill — their first legislative victory for 2017.

“Congress must get CHIP done before they leave for the holidays,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Research Center, which issued the latest report.

“Families need the peace of mind that their child’s coverage will not disappear as the new year begins.”

The report finds that 20 states will run short of money in the first quarter of 2018.

“There’s no good options here.” “Never before has congress let CHIP funding lapse for this long a period of time,” Alker said.

The continuing resolution that Congress passed earlier this month shifts around $1.24 billion in CHIP funds so that the states running out the fastest get some 2017 money. But that’s at the expense of states that were not running out as quickly.

“In essence, the patch robs Peter to pay Paul,” the report reads.

“The remaining 31 states will see their share of redistribution funds reduced, and thus the timeline by which they will run out of money is accelerated. Despite the additional funds, the 20 ‘winner’ states will only have sufficient funds to operate their programs through January,” it adds.

“All of them will come up short for February.”

Linda Nablo, chief deputy director of Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, said her state has even less money than she thought just weeks ago.

“There’s no good options here,” Nablo said.

Caldwell said Alabama is already making contingency plans.

If Congress provides funding by Friday, the state will not have to freeze its programs.

“If it happens after Feb. 1, then we’re looking at rebuilding the program,” Caldwell said.

“Even what’s happened so far, I believe, will cause irreparable damage to the CHIP program. It’s already negatively affecting our credibility.”

The last time Alabama froze enrollment into CHIP, some families stayed away for a decade after funding was restored, she said.

“It will take us years and years to overcome it,” Caldwell said. “But by far the worst is what’s going to happen to the children who lose coverage.”

Pediatricians say when kids don’t have health insurance, their parents skip needed medical care.

“For some conditions, that can be deadly,” said Dr. Sam Bartle, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Virginia Commonwealth University/VCU Health System and president of the Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

 

NBC News and the American Academy of Pediatrics contributed to this report.

#LeNora Millen     12-21-17

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Rev. Jesse Jackson discloses Parkinson’s disease diagnosis

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U.S. civil rights leader the Reverend Jesse Jackson disclosed Friday he has Parkinson’s disease, a progressive neurological condition that affects body movement.

In a  letter to supporters, the 76-year-old civil rights icon said family and friends noticed a change in him about three years ago and he could no longer ignore symptoms.

He says the diagnosis isn’t a sign to stop working but a “signal” to make “lifestyle changes” to slow progression of the chronic neurological disorder that causes movement difficulties.

“Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it,” he said. “For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.”

Jackson has been a leader of the U.S. civil rights movement since the mid-1960s and was with Martin Luther King when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968.

He twice sought the Democratic presidential nomination and has acted as an emissary to secure the release of Americans held abroad.

Parkinson’s disease occurs when certain nerve cells break down and reduce the amount of the chemical, dopamine, that sends signals to the part of the brain that controls movement, according to Webmd.com. But the disease progresses slowly, and treatments can slow it down even more, it said.

Jackson said he planned to advocate to find a cure for the disease, which he said “bested my father,” strikes 60,000 Americans a year and afflicts 7 to 10 million people worldwide. He also said he is writing his memoir.

“I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world,” he said.

Read the letter below:

Dear Friends and Supporters,

 On July 17, 1960, I was arrested, along with seven other college students, for advocating for the right to use a public library in my hometown of Greenville, S.C. I remember it like it was yesterday, for that day changed my life forever. From that experience, I lost my fear of being jailed for a righteous cause. I went on to meet Dr. King and dedicate my heart and soul to the fight for justice, equality, and equal access. In the tradition of the Apostle Paul, I have offered myself – my mind, body and soul – as a living sacrifice.

Throughout my career of service, God has kept me in the embrace of his loving arms, and protected me and my family from dangers, seen and unseen. Now in the latter years of my life, at 76 years old, I find it increasingly difficult to perform routine tasks, and getting around is more of a challenge. My family and I began to notice changes about three years ago. For a while, I resisted interrupting my work to visit a doctor. But as my daily physical struggles intensified I could no longer ignore the symptoms, so I acquiesced.

After a battery of tests, my physicians identified the issue as Parkinson’s disease, a disease that bested my father.

Recognition of the effects of this disease on me has been painful, and I have been slow to grasp the gravity of it. For me, a Parkinson’s diagnosis is not a stop sign but rather a signal that I must make lifestyle changes and dedicate myself to physical therapy in hopes of slowing the disease’s progression.

I am far from alone. God continues to give me new opportunities to serve. This diagnosis is personal but it is more than that. It is an opportunity for me to use my voice to help in finding a cure for a disease that afflicts 7 to 10 million worldwide. Some 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every year.

I will continue to try to instill hope in the hopeless, expand our democracy to the disenfranchised and free innocent prisoners around the world. I’m also spending some time working on my memoir so I can share with others the lessons I have learned in my life of public service. I steadfastly affirm that I would rather wear out than rust out.

I want to thank my family and friends who continue to care for me and support me. I will need your prayers and graceful understanding as I undertake this new challenge. As we continue in the struggle for human rights, remember that God will see us through, even in our midnight moments.

 

KEEP HOPE ALIVE!

Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr.

 

By LeNora Millen                 11-17-17

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