Discrimination by database

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/31/magazine/how-do-you-define-a-gang-member.html

How Do You Define a Gang Member?

Laws across the country are being used to target young men who fit the description for gang affiliation. But what if they aren’t what they seem?

The State Legislature responded with the Street Terrorism Enforcement and Protection Act (STEP Act), Statute 186.22 of the penal code, which, for the first time, legally defined “gang” in the state of California: a formal or informal group of three or more, sharing a common identifying name, symbol or sign, and whose primary activity is crime. The law augments a prison sentence, adding anywhere from two years to life, depending on the severity of the underlying conviction… Similar laws are now in place in 31 states across the country…

“The only way a jury is ever going to be able to connect something as minor as spray painting over a wall to a murder conviction is by adding a gang enhancement.” …

In Stanislaus County, as in many counties in California and across the United States, law-enforcement officers keep a database of individuals that they have identified as gang members. From their point of view, these lists are vital and necessary, but activists argue that they can be discriminatory. Researchers have found that white gang membership tends to be underestimated and undercounted, while the opposite is true for black and Latino youth. In 1997, California created a statewide database, called CalGang, and by 2012, according to documents obtained by the Youth Justice Coalition, there were more than 200,000 individuals named in it (roughly the same number as the population of Modesto), including some as young as 10. Statewide, 66 percent were Latino, and one in 10 of all African-Americans in Los Angeles County between the ages of 20 and 24 were on the list…

Just because you’re white, or a chronic pain patient, don’t think this kind of discrimination isn’t coming our way through the soon-to-be nationwide PDMPs.  In fact, there will be millions of names included in this database of people who aren’t even chronic pain patients — it will include anyone who filled a prescription for pain medication, even if it was just one time.  If you are included in this database, your electronic health record will always indicate that you’ve taken pain medication, along with any other drugs that states deem fit to include in the database.

“We thought the original writing of that bill was bad,” he said. “It made being a gang member a crime, and that flies in the face of the Constitution, in my mind. What’s to stop the Boy Scouts from being considered a gang?” …

Young men and women are bundled into the broad category of “gang member” all the time, based on photos like the ones shown at Sebourn’s trial; based on their wearing this color or that one; based, essentially, on a misunderstanding of how difficult these neighborhoods really are for youth. “Posing in a picture, acting cool or acting tough can be a navigation strategy,” Raju said. “That may not mean they want problems; in fact, it may mean the opposite.” …

Black and Latino inmates account for more than 90 percent of inmates with gang enhancements; fewer than 3 percent are white…

Obamacare exchanges help, but confused consumers are still spending too much

http://www.publicintegrity.org

That said, buying coverage post-Obamacare is no walk in the park. It’s useful to think of the American health insurance marketplace, even with the consumer protections in the law, as a big casino—but without the ambience and excitement. And it’s also useful to think of many American health insurance shoppers as first- timers in Las Vegas. They might get lucky, but the odds are with the house…

One of the reasons growing numbers of us are underinsured, as I wrote last week, is because we made bad choices when picking health plans. The researchers who conducted the NBER study found that the choices made by health plan enrollees “reflect a severe deficit in health insurance literacy and naïve considerations of health risk and price, rather than a sensible comparison of plan value.” They also found that older workers, women, and low earners were especially likely to choose unwisely…

Insurance companies deciding which healthcare services are essential

https://catchafallingstarbook.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/pirates-sell-insurance-as-an-act-of-evil/comment-page-1/#comment-1347

I am practically bankrupted by five ER visits in the last four years. Only one of those was mine. Health insurance does not approve ER costs for a whole list of health problems…

Aetna… er, I mean Faetna, decided that we could only use doctors that were associated with the same hospital where we visited the ER. Well, I asked them to give me names of the doctors who qualified. I got three names. I made an appointment. We were filling out the paperwork in the doctor’s office twenty minutes before seeing the doctor. The receptionist interrupted after I had half-way finished the mountainous paperwork to tell me the insurance had rejected payment. This doctor that THEY had recommended to me was not a part of the approved network. They took Faetna insurance, but Faetna refused to pay. The same day I called the other doctors on the list. No doctor recommended to me by the insurance company was part of the required plan. There were no doctors in the city who did qualify…

Okay. It can’t get worse. We still had the therapist who was working miracles for my son. He took Faetna insurance. There was no problem there, right? But wait. The pirate captains of Faetna took another look. They started rejecting his claims too. Soon there was a huge yellow envelope full of demands for clinical records to justify the need for the therapist. I went to the ER, to the wonderful doctor, to the hospital in Denton where they were still taking my money away from me, and to the therapist himself. We gathered documents. The lovely hospital charged me $50 for paperwork and made me drive all the way there to Denton twice to accomplish it. I got all the materials compiled, overnighted them to the insurance company’s disapproval department, and everything should’ve been fine. But. of course, it wasn’t. The claims for services were denied. I am expected to pay out of pocket. They found no clinical evidence that the services were essential and they insisted I pay the bills without help from them…

Under comments:

authormbeyer
May 28, 2015 at 8:44 pm
Am I a great satirist or what? As soon as I posted this post I received an email that the Pirates of Faetna… er, Aetna? were so ashamed they reversed their decision about the therapist and agreed to pay for continued visits. Of course, the therapist called them yesterday and made the case himself. Maybe that helped.

silentlyheardonce
May 29, 2015 at 3:25 pm
I’ve heard horror stories from Aetna. But it’s insurance itself. I use to get extra help to pay for my medications. I got extra help for 4 years. This year they say I make too much money on SS to get extra help. In a month or so I’m going to tumble in the donut hole. I’m making sure life insurance premiums are paid up so my family can drop me in the ground. It is f’ed up.

Awesome Atheist Ernie Chambers

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2015/05/27/nebraska-just-repealed-the-death-penalty-thanks-to-its-atheist-state-senator/

Nebraska Just Repealed the Death Penalty Thanks to Its Atheist State Senator

He’s the one who introduced the bill in January — something he did unsuccessfully 37 times before…

He introduced a bill last year, LB675, that would eliminate a state property-tax exemption for religious organizations — essentially taxing churches. The bill itself was a riot because all Chambers did was cross out the word “religious” from the current list of groups exempt from paying property taxes…

http://fusion.net/story/140807/meet-ernie-chambers-who-led-nebraskas-death-penalty-ban-and-also-sued-god-once/

“Miracle Mineral Solution” promoter convicted of selling bleach as a miracle cure

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/miracle-mineral-solution-promoter-convicted-of-selling-bleach-as-a-miracle-cure-052915.html

You wouldn’t normally think of industrial bleach as being a miracle cure. Or any kind of cure for that matter. But that didn’t stop Louis Daniel Smith from selling many gallons of the stuff by labeling it “Miracle Mineral Solution.”

A federal jury in Washington state sat through seven days of testimony, alleging that Smith, 45, of Spokane, sold the toxic liquid as a miracle cure for numerous diseases and illnesses, including cancer, AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, lyme disease, asthma and the common cold…

In 2010, the FDA said it had received several reports of health injuries from consumers using the product, including severe nausea, vomiting, and life-threatening low blood pressure from dehydration. Consumers who have MMS should stop using it immediately and throw it away, the FDA said…

According to the instructions that Smith provided, diarrhea and vomiting were all signs that the miracle cure was working. The instructions also stated that despite a risk of possible brain damage, the product might still be appropriate for pregnant women or infants who were seriously ill…

Funny how easy it is to find statistics on the number of people who die from drug overdoses, but nothing is mentioned in this article about how many people died from drinking this product during the four years it was being sold.

Service members to get $60 million in student loan refunds

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/news/service-members-to-get-60-million-in-student-load-refunds-052915.html

Nearly 78,000 members of the U.S. military will be getting checks ranging from $10 to more than $100,000. The checks represent excessive interest charges imposed by Navient Corp. when it was servicing student loans as part of Sallie Mae. The checks, totaling about $60 million, are scheduled to be mailed on June 12 and will average $771. Check amounts will depend on how long the interest rate exceeded 6% and by how much, and on the types of military documentation the service member provided…

The United States alleged that Navient engaged in a nationwide pattern, dating as far back as 2005, of violating the SCRA by failing to provide members of the military the 6% interest rate cap to which they were entitled for loans that were incurred before the military service began…

How hard was it to see that for the past 10 years, the interest rate being charged on these loans was over 6%?

My response from Medicare/CMS

https://painkills2.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/risk-is-stressful/

The above link is the letter I sent to Medicare/CMS and the Social Security Administration.  I checked my mail yesterday and found this undated postcard (see photo) with the following boxes checked:

CMS does not have jurisdiction over this matter.  We have referred your correspondence to the appropriate office.  For additional questions, please contact:

Social Security
4433 Jager Drive NE
Rio Rancho, NM 87144
Telephone: 1-800-772-1213

Referring my correspondence from March to the “appropriate office” tells me nothing and doesn’t provide any help or assistance.  Is the Social Security office in Rio Rancho required to respond to my correspondence from 3 months ago?  Are there any rules that say it has to respond at all?

I tried to contact you by telephone, but was unsuccessful.  If you still need assistance with a Medicare specific issue, please contact me at:  410-786-0525, Liza Dawkins

I wonder how many people on Medicare don’t have a phone, like me?  Seriously, trying to communicate with Medicare and Social Security is like trying to talk to a ghost.  Perhaps what I really need is a Ouija board.

If I still need assistance? Tell me, Medicare and Social Security, what do you know about intractable pain, the war against pain patients, medical cannabis refugees, poverty, suicidal ideation, and Unum? Can you assist me with any of those problems?

And can the Social Security office in Rio Rancho add TMJ to the federal Listing of Impairments? Does this office have the authority to change my Form SSA-831?  Can it pre-approve a visit to the doctor to certify me for the Medical Cannabis Program?  Does it have access to a pain specialist who can review my file?  Does it have the authority to request and pay for a Functional Capacity Examination?  Can the Rio Rancho office tell me if Medicare covers the medical services required under New Mexico’s right-to-die law?

To Medicare and Social Security:  How many people have died waiting for a response from your agencies?

A New Study Shows that Anti-Cannabis Claims are Wrong. Again.

http://iheartintelligence.com/2015/05/24/a-new-study-shows-that-anti-cannabis-claims-are-wrong-again/

A recent study that was published in the Psychiatric Research Journal is shaking up claims made by drug prohibitionists’ that cannabis usage is responsible for psychotic episodes in teenagers. As it turns out, that simply isn’t the case. Sorry, anti-cannabis crowd, science wins again.

As it turns out, the research done by the Center for Brain and Cognitive Development, Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck, University of London, the University of Oxford and the University of Leeds has shown that although there is a correlation between cannabis usage and psychotic episodes, cannabis is not the CAUSE of the psychotic episodes. By interviewing a group of over 4,800 twins, the study concluded that just because a teen smoked cannabis or had a psychotic episode of some kind, one did not cause the other.

What they did find is that there were several environmental factors ranging from poverty to bullying that lead to both cannabis use and psychotic episodes…

Kolodny and the VA speak at Georgetown University conference

It’s so sad that even a place like Georgetown University is hosting a quack like Kolodny.

https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/medthread/

Click to access R3D%20Abstracts.pdf

Also speaking at the conference:

Managing chronic pain: A case study of the potential of comparative effectiveness research
Carolyn Clancy MD, Department of Veterans Affairs

http://www.news8000.com/news/va-to-release-opiate-management-tool-ahead-of-tomah-results/31691556

Dr. Carolyn Clancy, interim secretary for health for the Department of Veterans Affairs, announced the new Opioid Therapy Risk Report on Monday. Clancy said it will allow doctors to better monitor their patients’ opiate prescriptions, as the report allows VA providers to review all pertinent clinical data related to pain treatment in one place…

Clancy said since the VA established the Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) in 2012, there are currently:

91,614 fewer patients receiving opioids;
29,281 fewer patients receiving opioids and benzodiazepines together;
71,255 more patients on opioids that have had a urine drug screen to help guide treatment decisions;
67,466 fewer patients on long-term opioid therapy

I can see that there are a lot of veterans out there who are now suffering and part of the war against pain patients.  Funny that these statistics say nothing about how veterans in pain are handling this change in treatments, just highlighting decreases in the use of prescription medications.

http://wuwm.com/post/congressional-hearing-alleged-painkiller-abuse-tomah-va-starts-monday

Carolyn Clancy, Interim Under Secretary for Health for the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, recently told the Senate Veterans Committee that the number of veterans who suffer from chronic pain appears daunting. She put the rate, among those returning from service in the Middle East, at 60 percent…

“Here is an instance of excessive quantities of a particular drug doing absolutely horrific damage to our nation’s heroes,” according to Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee… “We know that 22 veterans everyday commit suicide, and many of them have suffered from over-prescription of opioids.

Blaming the suicide rate on opioids doesn’t really address the fact that veterans are suffering because politicians sent them to war in the first place.  They’ve returned broken and damaged, both physically and mentally, and to deny them treatment is just plain cruel.  Once again, the problem is not drugs.

Dr. G. Caleb Alexander says some VAs have been leaning away from the use of narcotics to control pain, when possible. “Things such as physical therapy or biofeedback or acupuncture and the like. To some degree, it depends on the type of pain,” Alexander said.

Tell me, Dr. Alexander, how successful are these treatments compared to pain medications? Sounds like you’re just asking for an increase in the suicide rate for veterans, especially since the VA refuses to prescribe medical cannabis.

Kolodny says no painkillers for intractable pain

http://www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/05/alabama_doctors_busted_in_fede.html

Birmingham diabetes doctor Peter Alan Lodewick wrote a number of prescriptions for pain killers in the past two years.

He wrote them for his housekeeper, Margaret, her son Willie, Willie’s daughter Raven, Willie’s girlfriend Susie, and four other people, according to his plea agreement.

Specifically, Lodewick wrote prescriptions for the powerful opiates oxycodone, morphine sulfate, norcos, and the narcotic stimulant adderall, his plea agreement states. He wrote about 390 prescriptions for about 22,796 pills from January 2013 to December 2014…

Alabama has seen a rising problem with opiate addiction and painkiller prescription rates that are the highest in the nation. With 400 pain clinics and a lucrative black market, Lodewick is hardly alone…

Population of Alabama in 2014:  4.849 million.  That’s 12,000 people per pain clinic.

Dr. Andrew Kolodny, the New York-based president of Physicians for Responsible Opiod Prescribing, said that most doctors who overprescribe opiates are responsible practitioners, albeit naïve to the often ruinous and overpowering effects of chemical addiction. But he called the others, who knowingly and freely dispense the pills, “the Dr. Feelgoods.”

“They’re doing it because there’s a really good model there,” Kolodny said. “They have patients who never miss an opportunity. They have patients who will pay whatever price and will pay cash.  “Except for the fact you have a high rate of overdose death in patient population, it works out well for them.”

It’s funny how the media never fact-checks what Mr. Kolodny has to say.  A high rate of overdose deaths in which patient population?  Chronic pain patients?  Those who suffer from addiction?  Because there’s not a “high” rate of overdose deaths in either population.

Robert Thomas Jenkins, now serving time in Elmore Correctional Facility, filed a federal lawsuit last June alleging that Lodewick prescribed him pain pills that made him “severely ill and physically dependent on these drugs.” …

The lawsuit states that Lodewick continued to write prescriptions for Jenkins during monthly visits to Lodewick’s private office on Montevallo Road for about a year. Jenkins argues that Lodewick never examined him. Jenkins asserts that he paid Lodewick in cash on three to four occasions.

But in an interview with AL.com, Lawler dismissed the allegations as the “biggest crock of (crap) he had ever heard.”

Lawler, whose family owns Lawler Manufacturing in Lincoln, said that he was a former patient and friend of Lodewick. He recalled getting lunch with the recently arraigned doctor once a week at Ruby Tuesday.

At the time, Lawler said that Lodewick wrote him prescriptions for pain killers he takes as a result of more than 20 surgeries he has had related to Crohn’s disease and a childhood lawn mower accident that left him with a partially amputated right foot…

Kolodny credits the explosion in prescriptions to a philosophical change in the 1990s that coincided with the launch of OxyContin, an extended release form of the painkiller oxycodone. Doctors began to prescribe painkillers to treat patients with intractable pain, rather than reserving the powerful drug for patients with late-stage terminal illnesses, he said…

It’s hard not to hope that one day, Kolodny will suffer from an intractable pain condition.  I’m sure he’ll change his tune when he’s the one suffering.  And if only terminal patients are allowed pain medications, then this country is going to have millions of people filing for disability.  Of course, we’ll also have to cut back on surgeries — any kind of surgery.

It’s too bad that no one in the medical industry will stand up to Kolodny.  It’s shameful that no one in the medical industry is on the side of patients.  I don’t think doctors really understand the wide gulf opening up between doctors and patients, and how the war against pain patients will ultimately affect every doctor.

Because, guess what, doctors?  We don’t fucking need you anymore.  We’ve got all the medical information we need at the touch of our fingertips.  All you’re doing is pushing patients into the underground drug market, which will continue to grow and grow, while your businesses stagnate then decline.  There’s going to be a revolution, and no, it won’t be televised.  Nobody trusts the media anymore, or big pharma, and doctors will be next.