for $900 million worth of healthcare fraud
The Justice Department announced it is charging hundreds of individuals
across the country with committing Medicare fraud worth hundreds of millions
It's the largest takedown in history, both in terms of the number of people
charged and the loss amount, according to the Justice Department.
The majority of the cases being prosecuted involve separate fraudulent
billings to Medicare, Medicaid or both for treatments that were never
In one case, a Detroit clinic that was actually a front for a narcotics
diversion scheme billed Medicare for more than $36 million, the Justice
Department said. A doctor in Texas has been charged with participating in
schemes to bill Medicare for "medically unnecessary home health services
that were often not provided."
And in Florida, the owner of several infusion clinics is accused by the
federal government of defrauding medicare out of over $8 million for a
scheme involving the reimbursement for expensive intravenous drugs that were
never actually purchased and never given to patients.
The defendants are charged with numerous crimes, including conspiracy to
commit healthcare fraud, violations of anti-kickback statutes, money
laundering and aggravated identity theft.
The Justice Department says that 301 people across the country have been
charged with about $900 million in false billing - both records for the
Medicare Fraud Strike Force, which carried out the "unprecedented nationwide
Much of the fraud involved home healthcare agencies - and those types of
services have been identified as particularly vulnerable to fraud, according
to the HHS Department's inspector general.
In conjunction with the arrests, the HHS inspector general released a study
saying that more than $10 billion was made in improper payments in home
healthcare in the 2015 financial year. It also identified 27 so-called
"hotspots" in 12 places where it believes home health care fraud is
committed more often.
CNN for the story.
AstraZeneca's nasal spray flu vaccine as ineffective
U.S. health officials have advised doctors not to use AstraZeneca's FluMist
in the upcoming flu season based on three years of U.S. data showing that
the nasal spray vaccine is not effective at preventing influenza.
The decision, announced late Wednesday, was based on a review by the
Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) - a panel of experts
that advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - showing
the vaccine did not offer adequate protection.
As a result of the move, the CDC said it will be working with manufacturers
throughout the summer to ensure there is enough alternative vaccine supply.
AstraZeneca said it would take an $80 million writedown on stocks of its
FluMist Quadrivalent vaccine as a result of the decision. The loss of the
vaccine may be a problem for some pediatric practices that have already
ordered supplies for the upcoming flu season.
FluMist is currently the only licensed flu vaccine that does not require a
shot, making it a favored choice by parents of young children.
In the past year, among children aged 2 to 17, FluMist was only 3 percent
effective, meaning it offered "no protective benefit," the CDC said. That
compared with conventional flu shots, which were 63 percent effective
against any flu virus among children in this age group.
AstraZeneca said the CDC data contrasted with its own studies as well as
preliminary independent findings by public health authorities in other
countries suggesting the vaccine was 46 to 58 percent effective overall
against flu strains during the 2015-2016 season.
The CDC said FluMist made up about 8 percent of the total projected supply
of 176 million doses of flu vaccine for the upcoming flu season, and it
comprised a third of all flu vaccine given to children aged 2 to 17.
Reuters for the story.
for safety with the Now! Test
Healthmark has released the new NOW! Test to enable the verification of the
cleaning process for flexible endoscopes which are a challenge to clean and
Modern machines such as AERâ€™s are effective tools for rendering scopes safe
for use on the next patient, but how do you determine if the process was
effective? The new NOW! Test is a simple and rapid test that checks for Gram
negative bacteria in about 12 hours, helping to ensure that it is safe to
use on the next patient.
Utilizing a unique enzyme detection method, the easy to read fluorometer
checks for the Gram negative bacterial growth (<10cfu) by reading telltale
fluorescence in the recaptured water. If the fluorometer reading is positive
for Gram negative bacteria, reprocess the endoscope following manufacturer
guidelines prior to use.
Healthmark for more information.
Report: Some SPF
50 sunscreens really SPF 8
That SPF 50 sunscreen that you just put on may actually be an SPF 8. Thatâ€™s
according to Consumer Reports, which recently tested 65 sunscreens
and found that 43 percent of them failed to meet the SPF claim on the label.
â€śThree of them fell far short, with an SPF of less than 15,â€ť the publication
notes in its July issue. â€śThatâ€™s not enough protection, and it could leave
you vulnerable to sunburn and possible long-term skin damage, such as
wrinkles or skin cancer."
Suncreens that were way off from their claimed SPF included CVS Kids Sun
Lotion SPF 50 and Banana Boat Kids Tear-Free, Sting-Free Lotion SPF 50,
which both tested SPF 8. Yes to Cucumbers Natural SPF 30 tested SPF 14.
Louisville dermatologist Mark Waldman of Advanced Dermatology said he was
surprised that some of the sunscreens were so far off the mark in the
Consumer Reports testing.
â€śIf someone said theyâ€™re a 50 (SPF) and theyâ€™re a 40, we can live with
that because itâ€™s not terrible; itâ€™s above a 30 (SPF),â€ť Waldman said. â€śBut
when someone says theyâ€™re a 50 (SPF) and theyâ€™re an 8 or a 20...thatâ€™s a
big, big difference.â€ť
Waldman suggests wearing sunscreens that have a stated SPF of at least 30.
Consumer Reports said it may benefit you to look for sunscreens with higher
SPF numbers, such as 40 or more. That way, â€śeven if a product doesnâ€™t
deliver its claimed SPF, youâ€™ll have a better chance of getting a minimum
level of coverage,â€ť the publication noted.
Chemical sunscreens tend to outperform mineral ones that usually contain
only titanium dioxide, zinc oxide or both as active ingredients, Consumer
Reports said. "In fact, not a single one (mineral sunscreen) made our list
of recommended sunscreens this year (or in years past), in part because only
four of 13 met their promised SPF," the publication stated.
To earn a recommendation from the publication, products had to meet their
SPF claim, provide excellent or very good UVA and UVB protection and get an
overall score higher than 80.
If you have kids, keep in mind that the American Academy of Dermatology
generally suggests waiting until a child is age six-months or older before
putting sunscreen on them. Until then, protect them with clothing - making
sure they don't overheat - and by putting them in the shade.
the Courier-Journal for the story.
The US healthcare
sector emits more greenhouse gas than the entire UK
If the U.S. healthcare sector were ranked as a nation, it would be the
world's 13th-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, more than all of the UK, a
new study finds.
"Unfortunately, in our quest to take care of individual patients, we're
causing this undue harm," said coauthor Dr. Jodi Sherman, from Yale School
of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. While training to become an
anesthesiologist, Sherman saw what she described as a disturbing amount of
waste in the operating room.
In 2009, when she was a senior resident at Stanford University, she gave a
talk on healthcare pollution. The other doctors challenged her about the
magnitude of the problem. She looked for data but found none. So she
enlisted environmental engineer Matthew Eckelman, and the two began
quantifying healthcare pollution.
Their new study, published in PLoS ONE, estimates that damage from
pollutants connected to healthcare leads to an annual loss of 405,000 to
470,000 years of healthy life, or so-called disability-adjusted life years.
The loss equates to roughly the same number of Americans as die every year
from preventable medical errors: 44,000 to 98,000, the researchers say.
Moreover, the pollution is growing. In the past 10 years, greenhouse gas
emissions for the U.S. healthcare sector shot up by more than 30 percent,
bringing the total to nearly 10 percent of the nation's 2013 emissions, the
Sherman and Eckelman, a professor at Northeastern University in Boston, used
an economic model based on federal data to calculate healthcare sector
pollutants from 2003 to 2013. They estimated emissions from heating and
cooling, electricity and energy-intensive goods and services in hospitals,
doctors' offices, nursing homes, pharmaceutical and medical-device
manufacturers as well as government programs like Medicaid. Then they
assessed public health impacts.
Prior research had calculated that healthcare activities emit 8 percent of
the nation's greenhouse gas emissions, the authors write. But other
pollutants from the healthcare industry have not been previously reported.
The new study looks beyond the carbon footprint. It found that direct and
indirect emissions from healthcare caused 12 percent of acid rain, 10
percent of smog formation and 9 percent of respiratory disease from
particulate matter in 2013.
The researchers say there's a "critical knowledge gap" in the medical
community about the health consequences of unnecessary waste, and they urge
resource-conservation education and leadership.
"Virtually everything is disposable, from linens to unused drugs that were
opened and never administered. Probably every physician would agree they see
enormous amounts of waste and disposables, and they just don't know what to
do about it," Sherman said. "You certainly need to use sterile and
disposable goods," she said. "But this trend is just over the top."
Business Insider for the story.
patients who received omega-3 supplementation experience reduced hospital
A new meta-analysis published in Clinical Nutrition found that
cardiac surgery patients who received omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids
(compared to placebo) in advance of surgery experienced reduced
postoperative cardiac arrhythmias and significantly reduced the length of
hospital stay by up to 2.4 days. The results are based on 11 RCT's with 1038
"Omega-3s are well known for their benefits on cardiovascular health,
including a reduced risk of arrhythmias and reduced mortality in patients
with recent myocardial infarction or cardiac failure," said co-author Dr.
Pascal L. Langlois from the Department of Anesthesiology and Reanimation,
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Sherbrooke University.
"Furthermore, they exhibit interesting anti-inflammatory properties and
modulate the immune system."
This study implies a reduction in hospital utilization and overall
healthcare costs, and supports an existing body of research demonstrating
the heart health benefits of omega-3s.
The reduced length of hospital stay in this study was likely associated with
the tendency of the omega-3 group to experience a reduction in postoperative
atrial fibrillation, according to the authors. The exact mechanism
associated with this benefit is unknown, but it is widely believed to be due
to the omega-3s' anti-inflammatory and anti-arrhythmic properties.
News Medical for the study.
$30.2 billion out-of-pocket on complementary health approaches
Americans spent $30.2 billion â€” $28.3 billion for adults and $1.9 billion
for children â€” out-of-pocket on complementary health approaches, according
to a nationwide survey. These approaches include a group of diverse medical
and health care systems, practices, and products such as herbal supplements,
meditation, chiropractic, and yoga. This amount represents 9.2 percent of
all out-of-pocket spending by Americans on health care and 1.1 percent of
total health care spending.
These findings come from an analysis by the National Center for
Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, based on data from a special supplement â€” on use of
complementary health approaches â€” to the 2012 National Health Interview
Survey (NHIS). The NHIS is a large survey conducted annually by CDC's
National Center for Health Statistics. NCCIH is part of the National
Institutes of Health.
â€śWith so many Americans using and spending money on complementary health
approaches, it is extremely important for us to provide the public with
evidence-based information to help inform decisions,â€ť said Josephine P.
Briggs, M.D., director of NCCIH. â€śThis underscores the importance of
conducting rigorous research to know whether the products and practices
being used are safe and effective.â€ť
The survey showed:
Americans spent $14.7 billion out-of-pocket on visits to complementary
practitioners such as chiropractors, acupuncturists or massage therapists.
That is almost 30 percent of what they spent out-of-pocket on services by
conventional physicians. They spent more on visits to complementary
practitioners than on natural product supplements or self-care purchases,
and the mean annual out-of-pocket expenditure for practitioner visits was
Americans spent $12.8 billion out-of-pocket on natural product
supplements, which was about one-quarter of what they spent out-of-pocket
on prescription drugs. The mean annual out-of-pocket expenditure in this
category was about $368.
Total spending on purchases related to self-care approaches (for example
self-help materials, such as books or CDs, related to complementary health
topics) was $2.7 billion, and the mean annual out-of-pocket expenditure
per user was $257.
As family income went up, out-of-pocket spending on complementary
approaches went up significantly. The average per user out-of-pocket
expenditure for complementary health approaches was $435 for people with
family incomes of less than $25,000, and $590 for those with family
incomes of $100,000 or more. Out-of-pocket expenditures for visits to
complementary practitioners averaged $314 for people with family incomes
of less than $25,000 and $518 for those with family incomes of $100,000 or
NIH for the report.
covers his laptop camera. You should consider it, too.
Mark Zuckerberg is one of the most powerful men in the world because
billions of people give Facebook, which he founded, free access to their
personal data. In return, users receive carefully curated snapshots of his
life: baby photos, mundane office tours and the occasional 5K.
This week, observers were reminded that Mr. Zuckerberg, 32, is not just a
normal guy who enjoys running and quiet dinners with friends. In a photo
posted to his Facebook account, he celebrated the growing user base of
Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. An eagle-eyed Twitter user named
Chris Olson noticed that in the imageâ€™s background, his laptop camera and
microphone jack appeared to be covered with tape.
The taped-over camera and microphone jack are usually a signal that someone
is concerned, perhaps only vaguely, about hackersâ€™ gaining access to his or
her devices by using remote-access trojans â€” a process called â€śratting.â€ť
(Remote access is not limited to ratters: According to a cache of National
Security Agency documents leaked by Edward J. Snowden, at least two
government-designed programs were devised to take over computer cameras and
Security experts supported the taping, for a few good reasons: The first is
that Mr. Zuckerberg is a high-value target; The second is that covering
photo, video and audio portals has long been a basic and cheap security
safeguard; Third, Mr. Zuckerberg is not immune to security breaches.
â€śCovering the camera is a very common security measure,â€ť Lysa Myers, a
security researcher at the data security firm ESET, said in an email. â€śIf
you were to walk around a security conference, you would have an easier time
counting devices that donâ€™t have something over the camera.â€ť
A recent hacking of his Twitter and LinkedIn accounts shows that he most
likely committed two basic privacy faux pas: He may have used the same
password across several websites and did not use two-factor authentication.
Experts donâ€™t have a good estimate for how often such attacks occur, but
according to a 2015 report released by the nonprofit Digital Citizens
Alliance, the practice is a growing problem for consumers, especially young
women. The report also said that trojans account for some 70 percent of all
Visit the New York Times for the story.