500,000 deaths

And other healthcare news.

This will be a shorter news roundup than usual; I have a migraine again, thanks this time to spending 11 hours playing Horizon Zero Dawn yesterday. Truly humiliating and thoroughly deserved. I’m trying out sending these news roundup posts on different days to see if that makes a difference in how many people open/read/enjoy them; if you have an opinion on Sunday versus Saturday versus Friday for these posts, let me know.

Speaking of migraines, make sure you read Anna Altman’s review of Tessa Miller’s What Doesn’t Kill You: A Life With Chronic Illness—Lessons From a Body in Revolt. Anna is the author of my favorite piece about migraines ever written, and her insights on this new memoir of chronic illness and the genre in general are invaluable. Do we gain anything from a life lived with chronic illness or is illness just, as Anna’s chronically ill mother put it, “a thief?” It’s something I struggle with too, as well as the feelings of self-doubt Anna mentions. Even now, with a migraine and two doses of Migranal hanging around in my nasal cavities, I wonder if the days where the pain isn’t this bad still ‘count,’ or if the fact that I’m able to put out a newsletter right now (albeit after getting out of bed at 1.30pm) means I’ve put off work on days where I actually could have managed, if I had just gotten on with it and pushed through. And this is where I return to the grounding and guiding central belief of my life: Absolutely fuck work, and a world that ties your ability to live to your ability to do so. Work sucks. Work is a thief, too.

Finally—I went on Chapo Trap House again last week, so if you’re a premium subscriber, check that out. We talked about Texas, Rush Limbaugh’s place in Hell, and a little bit about Sick Note. And if you’re a new Sick Note subscriber or reader because of Chapo, welcome!

Here’s Digby, being a little sweetie in her cube.

Coronavirus news

The pandemic has cut life expectancy by an entire year, according to the CDC, as reported by The Washington Post. The racial disparities are, as is so often the case with Covid-19, shocking. For Black Americans, the decline in life expectancy was 2.7 years; for Latinos, 1.9. (The study’s authors expect white life expectancy will take a greater hit once they examine data for the second half of 2020.) The life expectancy for a Black American in the study was 72 years, compared to 78 for a white person. Another crucial point: The CDC estimated in October that around a third of the excess deaths in 2020—that is, the number of deaths higher than the norm—were due to causes other than Covid-19, such as drug overdoses and stroke. Things weren’t good even before they got so much worse; life expectancy had been dropping in America for years.

The ongoing scandal surrounding Andrew Cuomo’s handling of nursing home deaths during Covid-19 continues to… go… on? (Migraine, remember.) Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating the number of deaths that occurred in nursing homes in the state, according to The Albany Times-Union. Shortly after the start of the pandemic, Cuomo’s administration issued an order requiring nursing homes to accept patients discharged from hospital even if they were positive for coronavirus. On February 12th, it emerged that one of Cuomo’s aides admitted that they had hidden the true number of deaths that happened in nursing homes because of fears that they would be investigated by the Trump administration over it. Read David Sirota on the ties between Cuomo and nursing home executives, as well as our old friends at the Greater New York Hospital Association.

The New York Times has a devastating piece on the horrific milestone of 500,000 deaths from Covid-19, which we will pass in the next day or two, with remembrances of a few of those lost.

As we reach this awful number, albeit with lower new cases (for now), insurers’ pledges to cover out-of-pocket costs are beginning to expire, as I noted last week. A new study, using data on the cost of influenza hospitalizations for Medicare Advantage patients, found that the average out-of-pocket burden for patients was around $1000—meaning Covid-19 patients could experience such major cost-sharing if insurers’ voluntary forgiveness of these charges expires. (It also means we have a shitty healthcare system, where even people with Medicare have to cough up around $1000 if they get very sick with the flu.) For some patients, the costs could be much higher. It feels inevitable that the last coronavirus hospitalizations—in this go around, at least—will come long after insurers decide it’s no longer too embarrassing for them to stop voluntarily covering those costs.

Non-Coronavirus News

Democrats plan to tackle the cost of prescription drugs, and we can only hope it’s better than the total shite they proposed in June 2019, when it had no chance of passing anyway. (They settled on a stronger bill later that year, but it was still Quite Shite.) I can’t wait to see how Joe Manchin justifies opposing this one without mentioning the millions of dollars his daughter earned by being an executive of Mylan, which raised the price of Epi-Pens astronomically.

There’s a new single-payer bill in California, too. Watch to see what sort industry-funded groups crawl out of the woodwork to spend millions opposing this one; California has an impressively awful track record of those.

Modern Healthcare reports that executive pay in health insurance grew faster than revenues. Financial executives at health insurance companies saw an average bump of 14 percent, despite an average revenue increase of just 3 percent. You know, sort of like hazard pay.

That’s it this week; I’m going back to bed, which Digby has been keeping warm for me. Send me your healthcare stories, and see you next week.