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Only in America: The Loss of Health Insurance as a Toxic Financial Side Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In terms of income, U.S. households entered 2020 in the best financial shape they’d been in years, based on new Census data released earlier this week. However, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the level of health insurance enrollment fell by 1 million people in 2019, with about 30 million Americans not covered by health insurance. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 2 million people in 2018, and by 1.9 million people in 2017. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the erosion of the health insured population. What havoc a pandemic can do to minds, bodies, souls, and wallets. By September 2020,

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My ABCovid-19 Journal – Day 3 of 5, Letters “K” through “O”

Welcome back to my ABCovid-19 Journal, which I created/curated in the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, I’m sharing all the letters of the alphabet with you which reminded me keywords and themes emerging as we were learning about this dastardly public health threat beginning early in 2020. In today’s Health Populi blog I bring you letters “K” through “O,” continuing through the rest of the alphabet tomorrow and Friday while I’m on a lake-side holiday that’s good for mind, body, and spirit. K is for Kirkland, Washington state In the U.S., one of the earliest hotspots for

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The Median Hospital Charge In the U.S. for COVID-19 Care Ranges From $34-45K

The median charge for hospitalizing a patient with COVID-19 ranged from $34,662 for people 23 to 30, and $45,683 for people between 51 and 60 years of age, according to FAIR Health’s research brief, Key Characteristics of COVID-19 Patients published July 14th, 2020. FAIR Health based these numbers on private insurance claims associated with COVID-19 diagnoses, evaluating patient demographics (age, gender, geography), hospital charges and estimated allowed amounts, and patient comorbidities. They used two ICD-10-CM diagnostic codes for this research: U07.1, 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease; and, B97.29, other coronavirus as the cause of disease classified elsewhere which was the original code

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Juneteenth 2020: Inequality and Injustice in Health Care in America

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,” Martin Luther King, Jr., asserted at the second meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago on March 25, 1966. This quote has been shortened over the five+ decades since Dr. King told this truth, to the short-hand, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Professor Charlene Galarneau recently enlightened me on Dr. King’s original statement in her seminal essay, “Getting King’s Words Right.” Among

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How COVID-19 Is Driving More Deaths of Despair

In the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all feel like we are living in desperate times. If you are a person at-risk of dying a Death of Despair, you’re even more at-risk of doing so in the wake of the Coronavirus in America. Demonstrating this sad fact of U.S. life, the Well Being Trust and Robert Graham Center published Projected Deaths of Despair from COVID-19. The analysis quantifies the impact of isolation and loneliness combined with the dramatic economic downturn and mass unemployment with the worsening of mental illness and income inequity on the epidemic of Deaths of

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Healthy Thinking: Inside the Mind of the COVID-19 Consumer

Stress is up, smoking increasing, drinking more alcohol….Americans are tapping into a variety of coping mechanisms in the coronavirus outbreak, with health on their collective minds. Toluna and Harris Interactive are collaborating on the COVID-19 Barometer, publishing biweekly data on consumers’ views on the coronavirus pandemic. The data here are a snapshot of consumers taken through the Toluna-Harris poll conducted among 1,047 U.S. adults between 9-20 April 2020. The first chart shows various life-flows Americans have adopted in April, all risk factors impacting peoples’ overall health status and mental well-being. There were demographic differences across these factors: more women felt

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The Unsurprising Surprise of Social Determinants in COVID-19 Mortality

“Covid-19 exposes America’s racial health gap,” asserts The Economist, the weekly news magazine based in London, UK, in an advanced essay dated 11 April 2020. The subtitle of the piece: “African-Americans appear more vulnerable to the virus.” The phrase, “your ZIP code is more important than your genetic code” has become the common mantra for public health people communicating the concept of the social determinants of health: those factors outside of medical services that shape peoples’ overall health and well-being. Two days ago, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published data that showed African-Americans were dying from complications of the

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The Coronavirus Impact on American Life, Part 2 – Our Mental Health

As the coronavirus pandemic’s curve of infected Americans ratchets up in the U.S., people are seeking comfort from listening to Dolly Parton’s bedtime stories, crushing on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s science-wrapped-with-empathy, and streaming the Tiger King on Netflix. These and other self-care tactics are taking hold in the U.S. as most people are “social distancing” or sheltering in place, based on numbers from the early April 2020 Kaiser Family Foundation health tracking poll on the impact of the coronavirus on American life. While the collective practice of #StayHome to #FlattenTheCurve is the best-practice advice from the science leaders at CDC, the NIAID

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Steps Count: More Steps Are Self-Care Goodness in the COVID-19 Lifestyle

There’s evidence in this week’s JAMA of a dose-response relationship between peoples’ steps and lower mortality. In other words: more steps done daily is statistically significantly associated with death from all causes. Furthermore, step intensity didn’t make a difference in mortality rates, shown in the JAMA-published study, Association of Daily Step Count and Step Intensity With Mortality Among US Adults. The publication of this study is incredibly well-timed given the fact that hundreds of millions of people around the world are in lockdown, #StayHome lifestyles this week, and will be for many weeks to come. Going outside for fresh air

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In the US COVID-19 Pandemic, A Tension Between the Fiscal and the Physical

“Act fast and do whatever it takes,” insists the second half of the title of a new eBook with contributions from forty leading economists from around the world. The first half of the title is, Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis.  The book is discussed in a World Economic Forum essay discussing the economists’ consensus to “act fast.” As the U.S. curve adds new American patients testing positive for the coronavirus, the book and essay illustrate the tension between health consumer versus the health citizen in the U.S.  For clinical context, as I write this post on 24th March 2020, today’s U.S.

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In A Nation “At War” with the C19 Virus, Partisan Healthcare Differences Persist

More Democrats would want to get tested for the coronavirus (C19) than would Republicans. And, more women than men believe that a vaccine to address the COVID-19 pandemic believe that treatment would be offered at no-or-low-cost under a Democratic president versus President Trump. These are two key insights gleaned from a look into U.S. adults’ perspectives on the C19 virus in the second week of March 2020. What Are Americans’ Views on the Coronavirus Pandemic? asks and answers an NBC News/Commonwealth Fund Health Care Poll published on 20th March 2020. NBC News and the Commonwealth Fund polled 1,006 people 18

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The Book on Deaths of Despair – Deaton & Case On Education, Pain, Work and the Future of Capitalism

Anne Case and Angus Deaton were working in a cabin in Montana the summer of 2014. Upon analyzing mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they noticed that death rates were rising among middle-aged white people. “We must have hit a wrong key,” they note in the introduction of their book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. This reversal of life span in America ran counter to a decades-long trend of lower mortality in the U.S., a 20th century accomplishment, Case and Deaton recount. In the 300 pages that follow, the researchers deeply dive into and

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The 2020 Social Determinants of Health: Connectivity, Art, Air and Love

Across the U.S., the health/care ecosystem warmly embraced social determinants of health as a concept in 2019. A few of the mainstreaming-of-SDoH signposts in 2019 were: Cigna studying and focusing in on loneliness as a health and wellness risk factor Humana’s Bold Goal initiative targeting Medicare Advantage enrollees CVS building out an SDOH platform, collaborating with Unite US for the effort UPMC launching a social impact program focusing on SDoH, among other projects investing in social factors that bolster public health. As I pointed out in my 2020 Health Populi trendcast, the private sector is taking on more public health

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Social Determinants of Health – My Early Childhood Education and Recent Learnings, Shared at the HealthXL Global Gathering

My cousin Arlene got married in Detroit at the classic Book Cadillac Hotel on July 23, 1967, a Sunday afternoon wedding. When Daddy drove us back out to our suburban home about 30 minutes from the fancy hotel, the car radio was tuned to WWJ Newsradio 950, all news all the time. As soon as Daddy switched on the radio, we were shocked by the news of a riot breaking out in the city, fires and looting and gunshots and chaos in the Motor City. Two days later, my father, who did business with Mom-and-Pop retail store owners in the

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Art As Medicine – WHO Weaves the Evidence for Arts’ Role in Improving Health

“What’s the evidence on the role of the arts in improving health and well-being?” asks a report from the World Health Organization‘s Europe region team (WHO-Europe). There’s a lot of proof supporting arts-as-medicine, WHO details in this paper, which synthesizes research published in over 3,000 studies. The first chart illustrates the logic model that bridges arts to health in three segments: “Components” of arts programs, including but not limited to cognitive stimulation (e.g., learning a new arts skill such as painting, drawing or journaling), social interaction (e.g., participating in theatre), physical activity (e.g., dance), and evocation of emotion (e.g., listening

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Making Health Care Better, from the N of 1 to the Public’s Health – Trend-Weaving Medecision Liberation 2019

Health and our health information are deeply personal. Changing health care and inspiring positive health behaviors is hard to do. But we must and we will, a group of inspiring and inspired people who work across the health/care ecosystem affirmed this week in Dallas at the conference of Medecision Liberation 2019. I was engaged at this conference to wear several hats — as a keynote speaker, a sort of “emcee,” and, finally, to trend-weave the many talks and discussions happening throughout the meeting. This post is my synthesis of the summary I delivered live at the end of the conference,

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Health Care Bills’ Financial Toxicity – Remembering the Jones’ of Whatcom County, WA

“In an extreme example of angst over expensive medical bills, an elderly Washington couple who lived near the U.S.-Canadian border died in a murder-suicide this week after leaving notes that detailed concerns about paying for medical care,” USA Today reported on August 10, 2019. Five years ago, financial toxicity as a side-effect was noted by two Sloan Kettering Medical Center in a landmark report on 60 Minutes in October 2014. Epidemiologist Peter Bach and oncologist Leonard Saltz told CBS’s Lesley Stahl, “A cancer diagnosis is one of the leading causes of personal bankruptcy…We need to take into account the financial

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Gaps in Health Equity in America Are Growing

There’s been a “clear lack of progress on health equity during the past 25 years in the United States,” asserts a data-rich analysis of trends conducted by two professors/researchers from UCLA’s School of Public Health. The study was published this week in JAMA Network Open. The research mashed up several measures of health equity covering the 25 years from 1993 through 2017. The data came out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System looking at trends by race/ethnicity, sex and income across three categories for U.S. adults between 18 and 64 years of age.

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