As Florida becomes U.S. epicenter of covid-19, it reports a wrong death count
Florida recorded more coronavirus cases this week than California, Texas, New York and Illinois combined, a Palm Beach Post analysis of state and federal data shows. The state logged 73,199 more infections in this week’s state Department of Health report. That’s the biggest one-week surge since Jan. 27.
California, Texas, New York and Illinois all together logged 73,116 new infections in the seven days leading up to Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
The state took hours longer than usual on Friday to publish its weekly update to inform the public about pandemic statistics. And the late report contained an error in its death tally. Read More
The Florida Legislature has declared war on direct democracy
The Legislature has had it with intrusion on its power by the people of Florida.
This past session, lawmakers adopted Senate Bill 1890, sponsored by southwest Florida state Sen. Ray Rodrigues. It is a severe measure designed to shut down citizen petition gathering for constitutional amendments by limiting the financial contributions that are the oxygen of political movements.
This latest restriction imposes a cap of $3,000 on contributions to committees working to place a constitutional amendment before the voters or opposing a proposed amendment, is being challenged in federal court. Read More
Conflicting school mask guidance sparks confusion
Conflicting mask recommendations and orders from all levels of government and advocacy groups have emerged over the past few weeks, flustering the public as back-to-school season approaches.
Confusion is mounting over whether children should wear masks in school and whether their vaccination status should play a role in any guidance ahead of next month, when many schools plan to fully reopen for in-person learning.
President Biden addressed the debate this week, saying during a Wednesday town hall that he expects the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to urge unvaccinated students to wear masks in schools and to continue to advise vaccinated students that they don’t need masks. Read More
Medicare Anniversary events are being planned in several regions around the state. Keep and eye on your inbox for information as announcements are released.
56th Anniversary of Medicare Brings Fight to Lower Drug Prices into High Gear
Americans continue to pay the highest prices in the industrialized world for prescription drugs, and as Medicare’s 56th anniversary approaches on July 30, the pharmaceutical industry is spending millions to protect their sky-high profits.
More than 54 million seniors rely on Medicare for guaranteed, quality health coverage, and while the program is highly regarded, seniors are still struggling to afford their prescription drugs. A new analysis found that women on Medicare spent an average of $6,175 a year on out-of-pocket health care costs while men spent $5,375, much of it on prescription medications.
“Lower drug prices are an essential part of retirement security, and there is no reason for them to be this high. We know that if Medicare were allowed to negotiate lower prices, the way that the Veterans Administration does today, it would save $450 billion over the next ten years,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance. “Seniors are bearing the brunt of these costs and they cannot afford to continue paying these exorbitant prices.”
The Nevada, Ohio and Oregon Alliance chapters have already held Medicare birthday events. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto joined the Nevada Alliance’s event that included the Women of Washoe earlier this month.
Additional Alliance anniversary events are planned during the next week in Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Vermont and Wisconsin, and several more will follow in August and September. Social Security’s 86th anniversary is August 14.
As Medicare’s anniversary approaches, the Alliance is doubling down on our advocacy in support of lower drug prices.
Senate Holds Hearing on PRO Act, Proponents Drum Up Support
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee held a hearing Thursday morning on H.R. 842, the PRO Act. This bill would protect the rights of workers to unionize in several ways. In her opening statement, Sen. Patty Murray (WA), Committee Chairwoman, railed against the inaction on union protections, saying “[t]he National Labor Relations Act hasn’t been significantly updated since 1947, and the failure to do so has led to serious problems for workers trying to have a voice in their workplaces.”
The legislation will remove barriers that keep workers from forming a union and enable them to bargain for better wages, benefits, and safer workplaces. Workers who form or join a union have greater retirement security. Union workers earn more and can negotiate for benefits such as health care, pensions and employer contributions to retirement plans, which leads to higher income and increased Social Security benefits in retirement. Further, unions often come with negotiated defined benefit pensions, which provide lifelong retirement income.
The hearing fell during the AFL-CIO’s PRO Act Week of Action, with Americans across the country sharing their story and making a case for the bill. Alliance members in several states joined AFL-CIO members at events outside all 100 senators’ offices. The Illinois, Nebraska and Pennsylvania Alliance chapters were among those playing a key role in the events.
“The Senate’s PRO Act hearing made it even more clear that this legislation needs to be passed today,” said Robert Roach, Jr., President of the Alliance. “Rebuilding our economy has to include ensuring that every worker has the right to join or form a union and negotiate for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions.”
American Medical Debt Twice as High as Previously Thought, Concentrated in States Without Medicaid Expansion
New research published Tuesday in The Journal of the American Medical Association finds that collection agencies held $140 billion in unpaid medical bills last year – a number that has grown rapidly in just a few years. An earlier study examining debts in 2016 estimated that Americans had $81 billion in medical debt.
The new paper also found that almost 18% of all Americans had medical debt in collections, making medical debt the largest source of American debt owed to collection agencies. The $140 billion figure is not all-inclusive, since it only includes debt sold to collection agencies. The paper used data from before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Medical debt was primarily held in states that have yet to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the amount of medical debt held in states that did not accept federal funding to expand Medicaid is now around 20% more than in states that did expand it. In 2020, Americans living in states that did not expand Medicaid owed an average of $375 more than those in states that participated in the expansion.
Medical debts are different than other debts: Failing to pay your utility bills could result in shut-offs, and failing to pay your auto loan could cause your car to be repossessed. Medical debts, in contrast, tend mostly to harm people’s credit reports and peace of mind.
“These numbers are astounding. No person should choose between financial ruin and their health,” said Joseph Peters, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer of the Alliance. “This paper makes it clear that Medicaid expansion can really help people, and we need the twelve remaining holdout states to end their opposition to it.”
KHN: Though Millions Are at Risk for Diabetes, Medicare Struggles to Expand Prevention Program
By Harris Meyer, Kaiser Health News
Damon Diessner tried for years to slim down from his weight of more than 400 pounds, partly because his size embarrassed his wife but even more because his doctors told him he was at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. His hemoglobin A1c level, a blood sugar marker, was 6.3%, just below the diabetes range of 6.5%.
Then, two years ago, one of his doctors helped get him into a YMCA-run Diabetes Prevention Program not far from his home in Redmond, Washington. The group classes, at first held in person and then via Zoom during the covid-19 pandemic, were led by a lifestyle coach. He learned how to eat better, exercise more and maintain a healthier lifestyle overall. He now weighs 205 pounds, with an A1c level of 4.8%, which is in the normal range.
“This has been a life-changing program,” said Diessner, 68, an environmental consultant. “My cardiologist said you have clearly beaten diabetes. I tell everyone who has blood sugar issues or just wants to lose weight that this is the thing to do.”