Tags: Indiana

Americans are Now Traveling Overseas for Surgery

Growing up I recall hearing stories of how wealthy foreigners would frequently travel all the way to these United States in order to receive top notch medical attention. Fast forward a decade or two, and all I hear about now is how it is us Americans being forced abroad in order to receive affordable care. The article below from the New York Times, “In Need of a New Hip, but Priced Out of the U.S.” is a fantastic, but depressing read on the subject.

We learn about a hip and knee implant cartel of five companies, kickbacks to surgeons, salespeople in the operating room, massive bureaucratic red tape and rampant price gouging, in complete contrast to the Hippocratic Oath. This is whythe list price of a total hip implant increased nearly 300 percent from 1998 to 2011.” While this is an extraordinarily complicated subject, one on which I claim zero expertise, one thing is for certain. If a U.S. citizen has to travel to Belgium to implant a medical device made right here in the USA, we have a very, very serious problem. From the New York Times:

WARSAW, Ind. — Michael Shopenn’s artificial hip was made by a company based in this remote town, a global center of joint manufacturing. But he had to fly to Europe to have it installed.

Desperate to find an affordable solution, he reached out to a sailing buddy with friends at a medical device manufacturer, which arranged to provide his local hospital with an implant at what was described as the “list price” of $13,000, with no markup. But when the hospital’s finance office estimated that the hospital charges would run another $65,000, not including the surgeon’s fee, he knew he had to think outside the box, and outside the country.

Makers of artificial implants — the biggest single cost of most joint replacement surgeries — have proved particularly adept at commanding inflated prices, according to health economists. Multiple intermediaries then mark up the charges. While Mr. Shopenn was offered an implant in the United States for $13,000, many privately insured patients are billed two to nearly three times that amount.

An artificial hip, however, costs only about $350 to manufacture in the United States, according to Dr. Blair Rhode, an orthopedist and entrepreneur whose company is developing generic implants.

So why are implant list prices so high, and rising by more than 5 percent a year? In the United States, nearly all hip and knee implants — sterilized pieces of tooled metal, plastic or ceramics — are made by five companies, which some economists describe as a cartel. Manufacturers tweak old models and patent the changes as new products, with ever-bigger price tags.

Generic or foreign-made joint implants have been kept out of the United States by trade policy, patents and an expensive Food and Drug Administration approval process that deters start-ups from entering the market. The “companies defend this turf ferociously,” said Dr. Peter M. Cram, a physician at the University of Iowa medical school who studies the costs of health care.

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States Move to Criminalize Whistleblowing on Food Fraud and Animal Cruelty

In today’s America it’s no longer about doing the right thing.  It’s about covering up the wrong thing.  It’s about protecting the rich and powerful at all costs and criminalizing and destroying those that dare to challenge them. With all the recent food fraud recently and the realization that there appears to actually be no such thing as “white tuna,” you might expect to see new regulations that ensure food safety and better practices within the production chain. Not so.  In fact, some states are moving in the complete opposite direction.  From Think Progress we learn about so called “ag-gag” bills:

As state legislatures begin their 2013 sessions, a flurry of new “ag gag” bills to protect factory farms from potential undercover whistleblowers have been introduced in 5 states. This week, the Indiana Senate is debating a proposal to criminalize taking photographs or videos inside an agricultural or industrial operation without permission.

Senate Bill 373 is the first of two ag gag bills introduced during Indiana’s 2013 session. New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming and Arkansas are also considering them.

Since trespassing is already illegal, ag gag laws can only have one clear motive: to punish whistleblowers, advocates, and investigative reporters who use undercover recordings to reveal the abysmal conditions in which our food is produced. Undercover investigations have captured factory farms all over the country abusing livestock, passing off sick cattle as healthy, and discharging unregulated amounts of animal manure, which the US Geological Survey identified as the largest source of nitrogen pollution in the country.

Indeed, factory farms have largely escaped regulatory and legal scrutiny. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency abandoned an effort to require these operations to report even basic information like location, number of animals, and amount of manure discharged.  Meanwhile, the meat lobby’s grip on lawmakers is so powerful that the USDA was pressured into apologizing for an internal “Meatless Monday” last year by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who claimed the optional vegetarian day was a full-scale attack on agriculture.

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