Friday, May 26, 2017

Institutional Deception and Repression of Honest Science

AHRP
Posted by Vera Sharav | Friday, May 26, 2017 |


I believe this book may be of interest to those who are concerned about conflicts of interest in medicine and public health policy. Science for Sale: How the US Government Uses Powerful Corporations and Leading Universities to Support Government Policies, Silence Top Scientists, Jeopardize Our Health, and Protect Corporate Profit (2014)
The government hires scientists to support its policies; industry hires them to support its business; and universities hire them to bring in grants that are handed out to support government policies and industry practices… The greatest threat of all is the purposeful corruption of the scientific enterprise by the institutions themselves. The science they create is often only an illusion, designed to deceive; and the scientists they destroy to protect that illusion are often our best.” (Dr. David Lewis)
Institutional deception encompasses:


  • dictating the research agenda;
  • suppressing unwanted avenues of research;
  • and even predetermining research outcomes;
  • in order to preserve public policies that favor powerful industries.
Cases demonstrating suppression of vaccine safety data:



An article by Peter Doshi in the current issue of The Scientist reveals that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is blocking  internet access on its website to the vaccine adverse effect reports (VAERS). In 2015, CDC suppressed information from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program about the latest adjudicated cases. (Read Government Wipes Recent Vaccine Injury Data from Website by investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson)


Ed; Here's a whole page of Ms Attkisson's investigations of Vaccines

 Sharyl Attkisson, Search Results, Vaccine

 These examples demonstrate the extreme measures of information suppression that government agencies resort to in order to delegitimize concerns about vaccine safety and the CDC vaccine policy.

Vaccine safety research is singularly biased
An example of institutional deception is the rigged “pharmacovigilance” HPV safety review by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The EMA, in collusion with the HPV vaccine manufacturers, disregarded numerous clustered reports of emergent serious medical syndromes (CRPS and POTS) following HPV vaccination. A critical review of the internal documents pertaining to the EMA evaluation process, by Dr. Tom Jefferson and Dr. Lars Jørgensen suggests that “the outcome of the EMA’s review process was decided prior to its initiation.” (Indian Journal of Medical Ethics, 2017).


The Cochrane Collaboration review (2012) of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine safety literature acknowledged that the studies were corrupted by bias. The reviewers acknowledged that “none” of the studies upon which the safety of the MMR vaccine rests met the Cochrane’s criteria – all are biased. What the Cochrane reviewers didn’t address is why a vaccine that has been marketed since 1971 lacks proper methodological safety studies – especially in view of the intense acrimonious controversy surrounding the vaccine, and increasing public distrust.

An analysis of the cumulative incidence of autistic disorder
An analysis during a 10-year period (1987 – 1996) published in Environmental Science & Technology (2010) identified a sharp “changepoint” year (1988) when the incidence of autism sharply increased. That “changepoint” year is the year that childhood vaccination schedules were greatly expanded. Shouldn’t that disturbing correlation be worthy of serious investigation to determine IF there is a causal link? After all, there is no such thing as a genetic epidemic!


The fact is, that legitimate research that seeks to determine the safety (and to identify the hazards) of the MMR (or any vaccine), is impeded by powerful interest groups who claim to have a monopoly on vaccine science. But lacking answers as to the triggers/causes behind the spiraling rise of developmental disorders – including autism spectrum – the response given by reigning medical “authorities” is to close ranks and declare that the science is “settled.” The vaccine-autism debate is “over;” and we should “close the door for good.”

A repressive institutional effort has effectively marginalized and delegitimized – though not quite extinguished – relevant avenues of vaccine safety research. 

The agents in this repressive effort belong to a web of collaborating partnerships between vaccine manufacturers, government regulators, academic and professional medical associations, and especially, the high impact, major medical information gatekeepers – the financially dependent journals and media. They deny the existence of a sizable body of research that has identified neurotoxic ingredients in vaccines that are believed to trigger inflammation and autoimmunity. And deny research that suggests an increased cumulative toxic effect from the CDC- recommended Childhood Vaccination Schedule.

Studies that lend validity to safety concerns about the vaccination schedule are regarded as posing an intolerable threat. They are a threat because any reassessment of the vaccination schedule would likely reduce the number of recommended vaccines and, hence, would reduce the profit margins for vaccine manufacturers; and would threaten the financial support that academic “partnerships” have come to rely on.  So, whenever a study challenges vaccine orthodoxy – i.e., “vaccines are safe and effective” – that study is ignored, dismissed, or derided; its authors are disparaged, or attacked as “anti-vax hacks.”

The recent article, “Evidence-Based Medicine Was Bound to Fail” by Dr. Giovanni Fava, in which he states:  “One route was to perform comparisons by meta-analytic methods that are liable to manipulation instead of head-to head comparisons.“ This is precisely what those who are concerned about vaccine safety have been arguing to no avail for decades. The most recent examples are two peer reviewed reports about a pilot comparative study of vaccinated and unvaccinated 6- to 12-year old U.S. children by a team of Mississippi researchers led by Anthony Mawson. The reports were published online in the Journal of Translational Science (2017) and abruptly removed – without explanation. [Both papers are posted here, and also here]

A result of such suppression of legitimate vaccine safety research is that there is no credible, “evidence-based” reasoned risk/benefit analysis validating the safety of government-recommended /mandated childhood vaccination schedules. Neither the selection, the bundled multiple vaccines administered simultaneously, nor the timing in which they are given have been validated as safe. (Is the Timing of Recommended Childhood Vaccines Evidence-Based?  Dr. Tom Jefferson and Dr. Vittorio Demicheli, BMJ, 2016)
Read also, AHRP post: Independent GMO research is trashed: scientists hounded & silenced

  Categorized Current Controversies, Vaccines


Thank You Ms Sharav and AHRP.

And to those who'll happily dismiss us as a member of the Tin Foil Hat Anti Vax set for posting this;

The Democrat's Second Secession & America's New Civil War


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How to look at the bizarre turn our political life has taken.
May 26, 2017
David Horowitz


 

Senator Kamala Harris is a rising star in the Democratic Party, frequently mentioned on the short-list of contenders for the next presidential race. In a recent commencement speech at Howard University Harris issued a call to arms, urging her audience to rally behind the Democrats’ resistance to the Trump administration: “Graduates, indeed we have a fight ahead. This is a fight to define what kind of country we are, and it’s a fight to determine what country we will be.”

Ignore for a moment the impropriety of addressing a class of students as though they were Democratic Party operatives. Focus instead on the statement itself. The call “to define what kind of country we are” is an ominous agenda for America. Compared to other nations, America is absolutely unique in one regard: it is a country defined in its creation. Normally, nations have been formed on the basis of common origins, ethnicities, and languages – a modern form of tribalism. In contrast, America was created by peoples of diverse origins and ethnicities and on principles that were universal. The American union was forged in a set of founding documents that insisted on the equality of citizens – regardless of origins. The idea that creates the identity “American” is summarized in America’s official motto: e pluribus unum – out of many, one.

It took a Civil War and two hundred years of sacrifice and struggle to achieve a polity that approached this ideal. If one political faction is now able to redefine the ideal to conform to its own sectarian beliefs, the country we have known will cease to exist. But that is just what the current creed of the Democratic Party - “identity politics” - entails, and is why the current divisions in our political life seem so intractable. Identity politics is, in fact, the antithesis of the American idea. It is a reversion to tribal loyalties. It regards diverse origins – colors, ethnicities, genders and classes - as primary, and proposes a hierarchy of privilege based on them, which it justifies as a reversal of past oppressions.

It is not the proper role of an opposition party in a democracy to mount a “resistance” to a duly elected government and press for its overthrow at the very outset of its tenure. But that is precisely what the Democrats have done in the first months of the Trump administration. For the second time in its history, the Democratic Party has opted to secede from the Union and its social contract. This time there is not going to be an actual civil war because the federal government is now so powerful that whoever controls it will decide the outcome. The passions of an irreconcilable conflict are still present but they are channeled into a political confrontation over the executive power.

In launching their resistance, Democrats rejected the honeymoon normally afforded to incoming presidents. Until now this tradition has functioned as something of a sacred political rite. Campaigns are by their nature divisive, and they inevitably exaggerate the differences between factions of the electorate. The presidential honeymoon is designed to reunite the contending factions as constituents of a shared constitutional republic. It allows an incoming president to take his place as the chief executive of all the people, to have his cabinet confirmed, and to launch his agendas before the normal contentions of a democracy resume. It ratifies the peaceful transition of power and reasserts the principle that as Americans we are one.

According to the Gallup organization, the normal duration of a presidential honeymoon in recent times has been seven months. The Democrats didn’t give Trump seven seconds. While he was president-elect, they were already attacking him as a racist, a “white nationalist,” anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim; also an anti-democratic “fascist”- a would-be dictator. His election was called illegitimate, the alleged agent of a Russian conspiracy. This meme swiftly metastasized into one of the most bizarre witch-hunts in our political history, a “red scare” without actual reds, in which Democrat after Democrat stepped forward to allege that Trump had colluded with Vladimir Putin to steal the election.

Trump did not get confirmation hearings for the team he was hoping to put in place. He got a witch-hunt instead - a series of attempted character assassinations directed at his nominees. Most outrageously, his candidate for Attorney General, Senator Jeff Sessions, was smeared as a “racist” by one Democratic senator after another beginning with Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer. Yet, Sessions’ public career reflected values that were quite the opposite. It included service as the attorney general of a deep south state, in which capacity he had prosecuted the Ku Klux Klan and desegregated the public schools. These acts reflected his actual commitment to civil rights. Schumer and his colleagues had served alongside Sessions for ten and twenty years, and knew very well that their accusations were defamatory and false. But they persisted in them anyway.

So that no one would mistake their hostile intent, the Democrats’ attacks were accompanied by calls for Trump’s impeachment, despite the fact that he had hardly been in office. These were echoed in massive street demonstrations, organized and funded by core Democratic groups, which featured chants of “Not My President,” claims by celebrity speakers that Trump’s election was “worse than being raped,” and addled wishes to “blow up the White House.” Each protest – no matter its official organizing premise - was orchestrated to underscore the identity-driven accusations that the Trump regime was anti-woman, anti-black, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant. Trump and his supporters were in turn anathemized as members of a hostile tribe – “white nationalists.”

Behind this Democratic rage is the conviction that the Trump administration represents a reactionary throwback to the status quo ante before Obama began “fundamentally transforming the United States of America,” as he promised on the eve of his election. The new order towards which progressives think they are marching is called “social justice.” To Democrats the hierarchy of privileges they offer groups on the basis of ethnicity, skin color, and gender is “social justice.” It defines the society they intend to create, which in their eyes is mortally threatened by the Trump regime and its conservative supporters.

During the second presidential debate, there was a seminal moment illuminating this conflict. It occurred when Trump turned to the fifty million viewers in the television audience, and said, “You have to understand, Hillary has tremendous hatred in her heart.” He was referring to Clinton’s campaign remark that her opponents belonged in “a basket of deplorables – irredeemables,” whom she went on to name: “Racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, xenophobes…” Trump, she said, had “raised them up,” and that made him “unfit” to be America’s president.

The condemnation of her political opponents is not unique to Clinton but is shared by Democrats generally. There is hardly a conservative in the country who has been in an argument with a so-called liberal who has not also been called a racist, sexist, homophobe, etc. - terms designed to drum them out of decent society. They are expressions of the hatred progressives feel towards anyone who opposes their crusade to re-define America’s identity in the interests of “social justice.”

The theory behind “identity politics” is an ideology the political left refers to as “cultural Marxism.” This is a perspective that takes Marx’s view that society is divided into warring classes, and extends it to encompass races, genders, and ethnicities. It is a vision that regards one group’s success as another group’s oppression. “Social justice” - the proposed remedy for inequality and division - punishes oppressor groups by redistributing their incomes and privileges to the “under-represented,” “marginalized” and otherwise oppressed. It is a vision that disregards the accountability of individuals and ascribes to group identities the inequalities that are allegedly unjust.

The left has created a term of art – “people of color” – to promote its collectivist views on ethnicity and race. “People of color” is not grammatical English - we do not refer to “crayons of color” or “televisions of color.” It is a French construction, reflecting the way French people speak (personnes de couleur). “People of color” is an invention of ideologues to serve an ideological purpose, which is to organize the world into the categories of cultural Marxism - into oppressors and oppressed. To understand its usage one has only to look to Mexico, a country whose illegal migrants have been one of the flashpoints of the war against the Trump administration, as Democrats have rallied to their defense.

Mexico is composed of two main ethnic groups: the descendants of the Spanish conquistadors who enslaved and slaughtered the indigenous Indians, and the descendants of the Indians. In other words, actual oppressors and actual oppressed. When members of these two groups cross into the United States, however, they both become “people of color,” therefore oppressed; therefore, deserving of special sensitivities, special allowances, special privileges – all without regard to their individual histories and merits. That is why criminal migrants from Mexico, who are here illegally, can commit felonies against Americans, including rape and murder, and become a cause for progressives and Democrats, who create “sanctuary cities” and policies to protect them. Because they are people of color and allegedly oppressed.

Maharajahs in India are also “people of color.” Islamic beheaders and crucifiers in Syria are “people of color” too. The whole world is people of color except … white people – the designated oppressors. Identity politics is both racist and totalitarian. It obliterates the individual in favor of the group. It removes the agency of individuals as subjects and turns them into objects. After this is understood, there is no longer any mystery as to why advocates of identity politics should come into existential collision with the American framework and its defenders, personified by President Trump.

The 2016 platform of the Democratic Party vows “a societal transformation” that will “end institutional and systemic racism in our society.” This is the ideology of cultural Marxism. “Institutional racism” as a systemic American problem is a political fiction. Americans outlawed “institutional racism” half a century ago with the passage of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. Any incidence of institutional racism today is actionable in the courts – the utra-liberal courts that threw out Trump’s executive orders on extra-legal grounds because of off-the-cuff remarks he made on the campaign trail.

“Systemic racism” and “institutional racism” are anti-American mythologies that drive the Democratic Party’s political agendas. The Democratic platform and Democrats generally, regard every social disparity as prima facie evidence of racial or gender oppression, and attribute such disparities not to individual decisions and performances but to un-named “policies,” which if they actually existed would be illegal. Consider this plank in the 2016 Democratic Party platform:
Closing the Racial Wealth Gap

America’s economic inequality problem is even more pronounced when it comes to racial and ethnic disparities in wealth and income. It is unacceptable that the median wealth for African Americans and Latino Americans is roughly one-tenth that of white Americans. These disparities are also stark for American Indians and certain Asian American subgroups, and may become even more significant when considering other characteristics such as age, disability status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The platform then explains: “The racial wealth and income gaps are the result of policies that discriminate against people of color and constrain their ability to earn income and build assets to the same extent as other Americans.” But if such policies existed they would be illegal under the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965. The disparities, on the other hand, are realistically explained by individual details, for example the presence (or lack) of two-parent families, the degree of education, or whether (in the case of Latino Americans), English is spoken in the home. More generally, the ability to accumulate wealth is determined in large part by genes and by cultural attitudes that guide the choices families and individuals make. Otherwise Japanese Americans, who are people of color, would not be among America’s richest (and therefore most privileged) economic groups.

The same mythology characterizes the Democrats’ claims about gender disparities. The Clinton campaign presented itself as a quest for equality for women. According to candidate Clinton, women across America were being paid only 76 cents on the dollar for the same skills, job experience and work as men. But if this were so, it would also be illegal under the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act passed as long ago as 1963 by a Congress dominated by men. After the election, the New York Times published a column inspired by studies that ratified what conservatives had been saying for a generation: “The Gender Pay Gap Is Largely Because of Motherhood.” The disparity exists because child-rearing takes women out of the work force for extended periods, and also causes them to seek flex-time occupations that pay less.[1]

Similarly, the animus behind Democratic assaults on Republicans and their support for law and order as “racist” is the direct consequence of viewing all social disparities through the distorted lens of oppression politics. Thus, the “over-representation” of African-Americans in the prison system is not because of systemic racism. Police forces have been integrated for decades, along with the entire criminal justice system. African-Americans are “over-represented” in the prison population because they are “over-represented” in the commission of actual crimes. Democrats’ embrace of the Black Lives Matter movement and its efforts to cast career criminals as civil rights victims and law enforcement officials as villains is an inevitable consequence of ignoring the specific circumstances of the incidents under review, and forcing them into the melodramatic framework of “racism” and “oppression.”[2] The “social justice” future to which these attitudes lead can be seen on college campuses, the experimental laboratories of the left, which are now characterized by privileged admissions and tuition scholarships distributed on a racial basis, “safe spaces” for people of color only, and, at Harvard, segregated graduations for blacks.

Trump and his followers not only understand the fateful nature of the conflict triggered by decades of these assaults. Their campaign to “Make America Great Again” is inspired by them. In his inaugural address Trump opposed to the progressive vision and its divisive consequences the American idea – e pluribus unum. Referring to those Americans who had been economically left behind, Trump said, “We are one nation and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office, I take today, is an oath of allegiance to all Americans.” Trump then elaborated on the idea that Americans are united as equal citizens: “Through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.” And finally: “It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget, that whether we are black, or brown, or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots. We all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same, great American flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator.”

In spirit, this echoed the address by the last man to have war declared on his presidency by an opposition party even as entered the office. “In your hands, my dissatisfied fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war,” Lincoln said in his first inaugural. “You have no oath registered in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to ‘preserve, protect and defend’ it…. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Notes:

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/13/upshot/the-gender-pay-gap-is-largely-because-of-motherhood.html?_r=0

[2] For ample statistical support for this, see Heather MacDonald, Are Cops Racist? 2016.


Thank You Mr Horowitz and FPM.

Arrest Napolitano! UC President Must Go!

frontpagemag

University of California protesters speak the truth to power.
May 25, 2017

Lloyd Billingsley



Dozens of University of California students and workers peacefully assembled at a recent UC regents meeting in San Francisco, but it wasn’t to protest Milo Yiannopoulos, David Horowitz, Ann Coulter or even Donald Trump. The target was Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California.

“Arrest Napolitano! Arrest Napolitano!” and “Janet Must Go!” were the rallying cries, and along with their placards the protesters brought along some facts.

While beating the drum for tuition and fee hikes, president Napolitano has amassed a secret slush fund of $175 million, which she used to shower perks on already overpaid staff and even to renovate the houses of UC chancellors. That’s why the protesters wanted her arrested. The state auditor reported that Napolitano’s office “intentionally interfered” with their investigators, which could be construed as an obstruction of justice.

“Shame on you Janet Napolitano,” said UC Santa Barbara graduate student Hannah Kagan-Moore during the public comment. “Shame on the office of the president for padding your own pockets!” Other students called the regents “hypocrites” and “greedy,” but the regents weren’t having it.

Regents chair Monica Lozano, formerly of U.S. Hispanic Media, talked of “changing the culture” but was uncritical of Napolitano. “There has been no criminal activity and no slush funds,” responded regent Sherry Lansing. The former movie executive blasted “distortions” in the media, hailed Napolitano’s “wisdom and integrity,” and proclaimed, “her leadership has been incredible.”

Regent Bonnie Reiss, an attorney who produced president Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration ceremony, complained of “salacious” newspaper headlines. “Seeing how some in the press have characterized it as a slush fund or a secret fund hurt my heart,” Reiss lamented.

UC regent Norm Pattiz was “delighted when I found out we had a chance to have Janet Napolitano as our president.” Pattiz was “still delighted” after the audit, but protesting students might have wondered why he was still a University of California regent.

Last year, during a commercial for a memory-foam bra, Pattiz asked television writer Heather McDonald, “Wait a minute — can I hold your breasts?” and referred to his hands as “memory foam.” In another audio clip Pattiz offered critiques of pornographic films and that got the attention of the student press.

“If you want a porn connoisseur making decisions about our school’s academic, administrative and yes, sexual harassment policies, then by all means, Pattiz should remain a regent,” editorialized the Daily Bruin. “But if he has any remaining respect for himself and the institution he works for, he must resign.”

It didn’t happen. The eager Pattiz with the memory-foam hands is still a UC regent and “still delighted” with president Janet Napolitano.

In similar style, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, also a UC regent, criticized the audit as too strict and opined that president Janet Napolitano was doing a good job. Media sycophants also had the president’s back.

“Nothing in her long career or her UC performance indicates that she’s dishonest or incompetent,” wrote Shawn Hubler of the Sacramento Bee. Napolitano’s critics need to “dial down the hostility, give some benefit of the doubt and remember the bigger picture. Like the UC system itself, a UC president of her stature is something to value and it would be too bad if California failed to appreciate that.”

That was a stark contrast to the response from legislators. Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Torrance Democrat, said he was “very disturbed” that Napolitano’s office had interfered with the auditors, and several Democrats announced plans for a bill to make such interference a crime.

“President Napolitano is not worthy of the public’s trust,” explained Democratic assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva. “It’s time she resigned.” Other legislators were curious whether Napolitano had already committed crimes and should be subpoenaed.

Attorney general Xavier Becerra, currently occupied with the protection of illegal foreign nationals, did not weigh in on the subject. Governor Jerry Brown threatened to withhold money but did not criticize Napolitano directly, nor call for her to step down. As it happens, the $175 million slush fund was not the UC president’s first caper against California students.

As the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, Napolitano lowered admission requirements for out-of-state applicants “while denying admission to nearly 4,300 qualified Californians — using out-of-state students’ higher tuition rates to avoid any belt-tightening during the state’s revenue recession.” The UC regents responded by attacking state auditor Elaine Howle’s report on this practice and defending Napolitano. The regents now ignore the $175 million slush fund, the obstruction of auditors, and hail the UC boss as an incredible leader.

Janet Napolitano got her start spearheading the smear campaign against the African American Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. The former Arizona governor and Department of Homeland Security chief is a non-educator and has never produced anything of scholarly interest. The prominent Democrat was a purely political hire and with Donald Trump in the White House she serves, in effect, as California’s very own female president. Napolitarian rule quashes free speech, shirks accountability, and shows utter contempt for the rights and welfare of students.

The UC boss is looking out for number one, as the late Frank Zappa would say, and students, workers and taxpayers aren’t even number two. So the protesters have good reason to cry “Arrest Napolitano!” and “Janet must go!” This time they are speaking the truth to power. 



Thank You Mr Billingsley and FPM.

California Public Employee Union Pensions Are Huge Hypocrites On Drug Prices

redstate
Posted at 1:00 pm on May 26, 2017 by Dan Spencer



Two huge California public employee union pension programs are trying to eat their cake and profit from it too. They are helping to make a stink out of drug prices, even as those same drug prices are helping to prop up their members’ retirements.

CalPERS and CalSTRS are available to public employees and public school teachers respectively. The pension systems are active members of the National Coalition on Health Care, which runs the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing. That’s significant because NCHC, lead by former AARP heavy John Rother, has been hammering pharmaceutical companies over drug prices.

For instance, after President Donald J. Trump met with the heads of some drug companies, the coalition released a statement charging that “100% of Big Pharma’s earnings growth in 2016 came from price hikes rather than innovation.”
We could quibble about the substance of what NCHC puts out, but it’s worth asking what the California Public employees pension programs are doing as part of that coalition, given their investments.

CalPERS an CalSTERS actively profit off the drug companies that Rother and the Coalition attack. You don’t have to take my word for it, here are some numbers!

As Of June 30, 2016 CalPERS held at least $2.7 billion – with a b – worth of domestic equities in drug companies.



Shares Market Value
Johnson & Johnson 8091344 $981,479,966
Pfizer 19395322 $682,909,280
Gilead Sciences 4036451 $336,720,740
Abbvie 4,738,959 $293,388,976
Allergan 1127412 $260,533,621
Abbott Laboratories 4,208,253 $165,426,422
GlaxoSmithKline 404298 $17,522,275
Total
$2,737,981,280
(CalPERS 2015-16 Annual Investment Report)
Same date, same year, CalSTRS held at least $3.2 billion in domestic equities in those same drug companies.


Shares Market Value
Johnson & Johnson 8300271 $1,006,823,000
Pfizer 18339819 $645,745,000
Merck 8955425 $515,922,000
Bristol Myers Squibb 4782642 $351,763,000
Abbvie 4335014 $268,381,000
Celgene 2353188 $232,095,000
Abbott Laboratories 4569519 $179,628,000
Gilead Sciences 3886475 $324,210
Total
$3,200,681,210
(CalSTRS Domestic Equities)
These public employee union investments are what Al Gore might call an inconvenient truth and most of us would just call rank hypocrisy. Here’s a suggestion for those California public employee pension funds who are trying to have it both ways: Remove that plank from your own eye first. Or just send NCHC packing.


Thank You Mr Spencer and Redstate.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

United Healthcare Doctored Medicare Records, Overbilled U.S. By $1 Billion, Feds Claim


KHN



 

The Justice Department on Tuesday accused giant insurer UnitedHealth Group of overcharging the federal government by more than $1 billion through its Medicare Advantage plans.

In a 79-page lawsuit filed in Los Angeles, the Justice Department alleged that the insurer made patients appear sicker than they were in order to collect higher Medicare payments than it deserved. The government said it had “conservatively estimated” that the company “knowingly and improperly avoided repaying Medicare” for more than a billion dollars over the course of the decade-long scheme.

“To ensure that the program remains viable for all beneficiaries, the Justice Department remains tireless in its pursuit of Medicare fraud perpetrated by healthcare providers and insurers,” said acting U.S. Attorney Sandra R. Brown for the Central District of California, in a statement announcing the suit. “The primary goal of publicly funded healthcare programs like Medicare is to provide high-quality medical services to those in need — not to line the pockets of participants willing to abuse the system.”

Tuesday’s filing is the second time that the Justice Department has intervened to support a whistleblower suing UnitedHealth under the federal False Claims Act. Earlier this month, the government joined a similar case brought by California whistleblower James Swoben in 2009. Swoben, a medical data consultant, also alleges that UnitedHealth overbilled Medicare.

The case joined on Tuesday was first filed in 2011 by Benjamin Poehling, a former finance director for the UnitedHealth division that oversees Medicare Advantage Plans. Under the False Claims Act, private parties can sue on behalf of the federal government and receive a share of any money recovered.

UnitedHealth is the nation’s biggest Medicare Advantage operator covering about 3.6 million patients in 2016, when Medicare paid the company $56 billion, according to the complaint.

Medicare Advantage plans are private insurance plans offered as an alternative to traditional fee-for-service option.

Medicare pays the health plans using a complex formula called a risk score, which is supposed to pay higher rates for sicker patients than for people in good health. But waste and overspending tied to inflated risk scores has repeatedly been cited by government auditors, including the Government Accountability Office. A series of articles published in 2014 by the Center for Public Integrity concluded that improper payments linked to jacked-up risk scores have cost taxpayers tens of billions of dollars.

Tuesday’s court filing argues that UnitedHealth repeatedly ignored findings from its own auditors that risk scores were often inflated — and warnings by officials from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) — that it was responsible for ensuring the billings it submitted were accurate.

UnitedHealth denied wrongdoing and said it would contest the case.

“We are confident our company and our employees complied with the government’s Medicare Advantage program rules, and we have been transparent with CMS about our approach under its unclear policies,” UnitedHealth spokesman Matt Burns said in a statement.

Burns went on to say that the Justice Department “fundamentally misunderstands or is deliberately ignoring how the Medicare Advantage program works. We reject these claims and will contest them vigorously.”

A spokesman for CMS, which has recently faced congressional criticism for lax oversight of the program, declined comment.

Central to the government’s case is UnitedHealth’s aggressive effort, starting in 2005, to review millions of patient records to look for missed revenue. These reviews often uncovered payment errors, sometimes too much and sometimes too little. The Justice Department contends that UnitedHealth typically notified Medicare only when it was owed money.

UnitedHealth “turned a blind eye to the negative results of those reviews showing hundreds of thousands of unsupported diagnoses that it had previously submitted to Medicare, according to the suit.

Justice lawyers also argue that UnitedHealth executives knew as far back as 2007 that they could not produce medical records to validate about 1 in 3 medical conditions Medicare paid UnitedHealth’s California plans to cover. In 2009, federal auditors found about half the diagnoses were invalid at one of its plans.

The lawsuit cites more than a dozen examples of undocumented medical conditions, from chronic hepatitis to spinal cord injuries. At one medical group, auditors reviewed records of 126 patients diagnosed with spinal injuries. Only two were verified, according to the complaint.

The Justice Department contends that invalid diagnoses can cause huge losses to Medicare. For instance, UnitedHealth allegedly failed to notify the government of at least 100,000 diagnoses it knew were unsupported based on reviews in 2011 and 2012. Those cases alone generated $190 million in overpayments, according to the suit.

While Medicare Advantage has grown in popularity and now treats nearly 1 in 3 elderly and disabled Medicare patients, its inner workings have remained largely opaque.

CMS officials for years have refused to make public financial audits of Medicare Advantage insurers, even as they have released similar reviews of payments made to doctors, hospitals and other medical suppliers participating in traditional Medicare.

But Medicare Advantage audits obtained by the Center for Public Integrity through a court order in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit show that payment errors — typically overpayments — are common.

All but two of 37 Medicare Advantage plans examined in a 2007 audit were overpaid — often by thousands of dollars per patient. Overall, just 60 percent of the medical conditions health plans were paid to cover could be verified. The 2007 audits are the only ones that have been made public.

CMS officials are conducting more of these audits, called Risk Adjustment Data Validation, or RADV. But results are years overdue.

KHN’s coverage related to aging & improving care of older adults is supported by The John A. Hartford Foundation.

Categories: Health Industry, Medicare

Tags: Medicare Advantage

fschulte@kff.org | @fredschulte


Tank You Mr Schulte and KHN. 

Tab For Single Payer In California Could Cost $400 Billion

KHN

 
A proposed single-payer health system in California would cost about $400 billion annually, with up to half of that money coming from a new payroll tax on workers and employers, according to a state analysis.


The report by the state Senate Appropriations Committee, issued Monday, put a price tag for the first time on legislation that would make the state responsible for providing health coverage to all 39 million Californians. The state-run system would supplant existing employer health insurance in California, as well as coverage through public programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.

One of the chief obstacles to the legislation, Senate Bill 562, is the prospect of higher taxes. It also has exposed deep divisions among Democrats over whether now is the time to pursue single-payer — just as the Affordable Care Act comes under attack from Republicans in Washington. At a hearing Monday, one Democratic legislator questioned whether the state can effectively manage a universal health care system.

The legislative analysis estimates a total annual cost of $400 billion to enact the Healthy California program for all residents, regardless of their immigration status. Use Our Content
This story can be republished for free (details).

To put that in perspective, about $367 billion was spent on health care last year statewide, including public and private spending by employers and consumers, according to the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Legislative analysts said federal, state and local taxpayer funding of about $200 billion a year for existing programs could be available to offset the overall tab of $400 billion for universal coverage. But additional tax revenue would be needed to foot the other half of the cost, according to the report, which raised the possibility of a 15 percent payroll tax on earned income.

Of course, the shift to a single-payer system should reduce current spending on health insurance by employers and workers, so those savings could offset some of the new taxes, the analysts said. The report estimated that employers and employees in California spend $100 billion to $150 billion a year now on health insurance and medical care.

“Total new spending required under the bill would be between $50 billion and $100 billion per year,” the report said.

The Senate analysis noted that all of its projections were “subject to enormous uncertainty” because the bill would mark “unprecedented change in a large health care market.”

A single-payer system likely “would be more efficient in delivering health care,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. (California Healthline is produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.)

But the proposal expands coverage to all and eliminates premiums, copayments and deductibles for enrollees, and that would cost more money, Levitt said. “You can bet that opponents will highlight the 15 percent tax, even though there are also big premium savings for employers and individuals,” he added.

State Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), a chief sponsor of the legislation, said the present system is unsustainable because health spending continues to grow faster than the overall economy, making coverage unaffordable for too many people.

Lara touted the potential savings from creating a public plan with greater bargaining power and cutting out the administrative overhead and profits of private health insurers acting as middlemen.

Overall, many of the details behind California’s single-payer proposal remain in flux. Under questioning from fellow lawmakers, Lara said the 15 percent payroll tax is “hypothetical” and “we don’t have a financing mechanism yet for this bill.”

Lara said he has sought a review from researchers at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst into potential funding sources for the measure.

Lara also said there’s no guarantee the Trump administration would grant the federal waivers necessary for California to shift Medicare and Medicaid funding into a single pot for universal health care.

With so many unknowns, the Senate Appropriations Committee didn’t vote on the measure Monday. Backers of the legislation are hopeful for a vote in the full Senate next month and then lawmakers could continue to work on the financial aspects during the summer.

At Monday’s hearing, many consumers pointed to Medicare as a model for how single-payer works now and urged lawmakers to make California the proving ground for how it can succeed at the state level.

Business groups and health insurers spoke out in opposition, saying it would lead to massive disruption and escalating costs. Even if it passes the legislature, California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t endorsed the idea and new taxes may require a statewide ballot measure, which are always hard-fought campaigns.

The California Chamber of Commerce said the costs would likely be far higher than what was projected and the taxes imposed on employers would trigger major job losses.

State Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama), a member of the Appropriations panel, expressed similar concerns. “The impact on employers will be astounding,” Nielsen said. “How can you say this will be fiscally prudent for the state? The state has never gotten anything right in health care.”

State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) also preached caution, questioning whether state agencies are up to the task. “I don’t want California to move toward a program that is not sustainable and one that we can’t manage,” Bradford said.

Other states have taken a close look at single-payer and balked. Colorado voters rejected a ballot measure last year that would have used payroll taxes to fund a near-universal coverage system.

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Categories: California Healthline, Insurance, States

Tags: California State Assembly, Legislation

cterhune@kff.org | @chadterhune



Thank You Mr Terhune and KHN. 

Putting A Lid On Waste: Needless Medical Tests Not Only Cost $200 Billion -They Can Do Harm





It’s common knowledge in medicine: Doctors routinely order tests on hospital patients that are unnecessary and wasteful. Sutter Health, a giant hospital chain in Northern California, thought it had found a simple solution.

The Sacramento-based health system deleted the button physicians used to order daily blood tests. “We took it out and couldn’t wait to see the data,” said Ann Marie Giusto, a Sutter Health executive.

Alas, the number of orders hardly changed. That’s because the hospital’s medical-records software “has this cool ability to let you save your favorites,” Giusto said at a recent presentation to other hospital executives and physicians. “It had become a habit.”

There are plenty of opportunities to trim waste in America’s $3.4 trillion health care system — but, as the Sutter example illustrates, it’s often not as simple as it seems.

Some experts estimate that at least $200 billion is wasted annually on excessive testing and treatment. This overly aggressive care also can harm patients, generating mistakes and injuries believed to cause 30,000 deaths each year.

“The changes that need to be made don’t appear unrealistic, yet they seem to take an awful lot of time,” said Dr. Jeff Rideout, chief executive of the Integrated Healthcare Association, an Oakland, Calif., nonprofit group that promotes quality improvement. “We’ve been patient for too long.”

In California, that sense of frustration has led three of the state’s biggest health care purchasers to band together to promote care that’s safer and more cost-effective. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the Covered California insurance exchange and the state’s Medicaid program, known as Medi-Cal — which collectively serve more than 15 million patients — are leading the initiative.

Progress may be slow, but there have been some encouraging signs. In San Diego, for instance, the Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group said it cut unnecessary lab tests by more than 10 percent by educating both doctors and patients about overuse.

A large public hospital, Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center, eliminated preoperative testing deemed superfluous before routine cataract surgery. As a result, patients on average received the surgery six months sooner.

These efforts were sparked by the Choosing Wisely campaign, a national effort launched in 2012 by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation. The group asked medical societies to identify at least five common tests or procedures that often provide little benefit.

The campaign, also backed by Consumer Reports, encourages medical providers to hand out wallet-sized cards to patients with questions they should ask to determine whether they truly need a procedure.

Critics have knocked Choosing Wisely for playing it too safe and not going after some of the more lucrative procedures, such as certain spine operations and arthroscopic knee surgeries.

Daniel Wolfson, chief operating officer at the ABIM Foundation, said the Choosing Wisely campaign has been successful at starting a national conversation about unwarranted care. “I think we need massive change and that takes 15 years,” Wolfson said.

The state effort, dubbed Smart Care California, is in the early stages as well.

Initially, the group has focused on cutting the number of elective cesarean sections, reducing opioid use and avoiding overtreatment for patients suffering low-back pain. In its contract with health insurers, the Covered California exchange requires that their in-network providers meet a range of quality standards, including low C-section rates.

Dr. Richard Sun, co-chairman of the Smart Care group and a medical consultant at CalPERS, said he’s pursuing safer, more affordable treatments for low-back pain, a condition that cost the state agency $107 million in 2015. “One challenge is developing metrics that everyone can agree upon to measure improvement,” he said.

For patients, overtreatment can be more than a minor annoyance. Galen Gunther, a 59-year-old from Oakland, said that during treatment for colorectal cancer a decade ago he was subjected needlessly to repeated blood draws, often because the doctors couldn’t get their hands on earlier results. Later, he said, he was overexposed to radiation, leaving him permanently scarred.

“Every doctor I saw wanted to run the same tests, over and over again,” Gunther said. “Nobody wanted to take responsibility for that.”

At Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, officials said that economic incentives still drive hospitals to think that more is better.

“We have excellent patient outcomes, but it’s at a very high cost,” said Dr. Harry Sax, executive vice chairman for surgery at Cedars-Sinai. “There is still a continued financial incentive to do that test, do that procedure and do something more.”

In addition to financial motives, Sax said, many physicians still practice defensive medicine out of fear of malpractice litigation. Also, some patients and their families expect antibiotics to be prescribed for a sore throat or a CT scan for a bump on the head.

To cut down on needless care, Cedars-Sinai arranged for doctors to be alerted electronically when they ordered tests or drugs that run contrary to 18 Choosing Wisely recommendations.

The hospital analyzed alerts from 26,424 patient encounters from 2013 to 2016. All of the guidelines were followed in 6 percent of those cases, or 1,591 encounters.

Sax said Cedars-Sinai studied the rate of complications, readmissions, length of stay and direct cost of care among the patients in whose cases the guidelines were followed and compared those outcomes with cases where adherence was less than 50 percent.

In the group that didn’t follow the guidelines, patients had a 14 percent higher incidence of readmission and 29 percent higher risk of complications. Those complications and longer stays increased the cost of care by 7 percent, according to the hospital.

In 2013, the first year of implementation of Choosing Wisely guidelines, Cedars-Sinai said it avoided $6 million in medical spending.

For perspective, Cedars-Sinai is one the largest hospitals in the nation with $3.3 billion in revenue for the fiscal year ending June 30. It reported net income of $301 million.

In Northern California, Sutter has incorporated more than 130 Choosing Wisely recommendations as part of a broader effort to reduce variation in care. In all, Sutter said, it has saved about $66 million since 2011.

That’s a significant sum. However, during the same period, Sutter reported $2.7 billion in profits. Last year alone, it posted an operating profit of $554 million on revenue of nearly $12 billion.

Giusto said her team of employees tasked with changing physician behavior and eliminating these variations is separate from administrators who are focused on maximizing reimbursement. She said there can be conflicting forces within a hospital.

“We get real excited about a project with [emergency department] doctors on reducing CT scans for abdominal pain,” said Giusto, director of Sutter’s office of patient experience. “Then I can hear the administration say that was a fee-for-service patient. I just lost money, right?”

Giusto meets with doctors to present data on how many tests or prescriptions they order and how that compares to others. At one clinic, she shared slides showing that some doctors were ordering more than 70 opioid pills at a time while others prescribed fewer than 20. In response, Sutter set a goal of 28 tablets in hopes of reducing opioid abuse.

“Most of the physicians changed,” Giusto said. “But there were still two who said, ‘Screw it. I’m going to keep doing it.’”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, an editorially independent service of the California Health Care Foundation.

Categories: Cost and Quality, Health Industry

Tags: Electronic Health Records, Hospitals


Thank You Mr Terhune and KHN.

Jazz Break: Bill Connors: Step It

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