New York Health Act could help reduce overdoses

first_imgCategories: Editorial, OpinionLast month, President Donald Trump’s bipartisan commission on opioid abuse released its long-awaited report on the crisis, and requested Congress provide funding to implement its recommendations.President Trump even called the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. This declaration is years overdue.A total of 64,000 Americans died as a result of drug overdoses last year — up from 52,400 the previous year.The most recent estimates indicate that our state saw 3,650 fatal overdoses in 2016, 29 of which took place in Schenectady County.These are depressing statistics amidst a tragic story with no end in sight. This would be paid for via a small tax hike that would replace the need for costly premiums and other health care expenses.What is medically necessary would be up to patients and doctors – not private insurance or the size of your wallet. This is a complex situation, and there is no silver bullet. Sometimes opioids are needed, and sometimes alternatives are more appropriate.What’s medically necessary is ultimately a question for patients and doctors.The Legislature should remove the profit motives of insurance companies from the equation – by regulation or by providing comprehensive public health insurance for all New Yorkers.Steve Keller is a regular contributor to the Sunday Opinion section. He works as an unpaid volunteer with the Campaign for New York Health, which is advocating for this bill’s passage.More from The Daily Gazette:EDITORIAL: Thruway tax unfair to working motoristsEDITORIAL: Beware of voter intimidationEDITORIAL: Urgent: Today is the last day to complete the censusEDITORIAL: Find a way to get family members into nursing homesFoss: Should main downtown branch of the Schenectady County Public Library reopen? Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill last year that removed many of the barriers preventing or delaying individuals from getting addiction treatment or overdose-reversing drugs that save lives.Now it’s time to go further.The Legislature should require insurance companies to automatically cover a wider range of non-opioid pain treatments — no questions asked. There is, of course, one snag.Access is great, but there’s still an economic barrier: If patients can’t afford exorbitant deductibles, co-pays and out-of-pocket payments, the cheaper and more dangerous opioid option might still be the only choice.We can remedy this by passing the New York Health Act in the new year.This bill, which has already passed the Assembly, would set up a public health insurance system similar to Medicare for All, under which treatment would simply be provided if you need it. So how did we get here? Most experts agree the current epidemic began in the 1990s, when pharmaceutical companies increasingly marketed opioids for pain relief, and doctors became more willing to prescribe them.Now, an astounding 289 million opioid prescriptions are issued each year. Of course, these prescriptions are not exclusively used by those for whom they’re written.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that while about a quarter of people abusing opioids use their own medication, half acquire the drugs from someone they know. Regardless of who is ultimately getting the opioids, when the prescription runs out, some percentage of people are left with an addiction.Rather than getting a new script from a doctor, it can be easier and cheaper to turn to illegal drugs, including heroin.center_img Sometimes, insurance companies add unnecessary complication — or even block the best treatment altogether. In September, The New York Times and ProPublica published a piece revealing how health insurance companies often encourage prescription of dangerous opioids over safer, albeit more expensive, alternatives.Instead of immediately paying for safer drugs, they require prior authorization, barely recompense plan holders or don’t cover alternatives at all.Some insurance companies even require patients to go through the more dangerous drugs before they get to the non-opioids – just because the dangerous ones are cheap. This means that when patients need pain medication urgently, it can be easier to go straight to opioids. None of this is surprising.Insurance companies have a single mission, and it’s not to provide the best care – it’s to take in as much money and pay out as little in benefits as possible. Good for you if your insurer says they’ll pay for the safer but more expensive drugs your doctor recommends. But if your insurer is cheap, it’ll be opioids or nothing — unless you want to put your life-altering pain aside, hold off on medication and try to shop around for a better insurance company.Though the president’s commission has identified these insurance practices as part of the opioid problem, New York shouldn’t wait on the federal government to do something about it. When street dealers add in extremely toxic compounds like fentanyl, it makes an already dangerous situation even more addictive and even more deadly.This, experts say, is the root of the current crisis: proliferation of legal drugs acting as a gateway to harder, more dangerous ones.Clearly, in combination with increased access to treatment and rehabilitation, we must curb prescription of unnecessary opioids as much as possible. Yes, there will obviously always be a need for pain treatment.But sometimes opioids are more than is necessary — or they’re simply ineffective. In such cases, it’s better to seek alternatives like buprenorphine (a safer opioid), lidocaine, acetaminophen/ibuprofen combinations or even physical therapy. It’s a multifaceted decision that’s different for each person. Doctors and patients need to have serious conversations about the appropriate treatments for each individual’s pain. But it’s not always that simple.last_img read more

Scottish quango launches massive planning overhaul

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Suburbs fighting back against Trafford Centre

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Mason Owen buyout forms niche retail firm

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Noé makes £400m play for Derwent

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Countryside gets £450m London resi nod

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Trump downplays epidemic fears as virus spreads around world

first_imgPresident Donald Trump has played down fears of a major coronavirus outbreak in the United States, even as infections ricochet around the world, prompting Saudi Arabia to ban pilgrims from visiting Islam’s holiest sites.China is no longer the only breeding ground for the deadly virus as countries fret over possible contagion coming from other hotbeds of infection, including Iran, South Korea and Italy.There are now more daily cases being recorded outside China than inside the country, where the virus first emerged in December, according to the World Health Organization. The US and other countries are also bracing for more cases to be imported from abroad, with growing concern for poorer nations with weak health care systems.With the virus spreading in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia suspended visas for visits to Islam’s holiest sites for the “umrah” pilgrimage, an apparently unprecedented move, raising questions over the hajj which starts in July.The foreign ministry said it was also suspending visas for tourists visiting from countries where the new virus is a “danger”.Several governments have now also advised against travel to Italy — which has 400 cases and 12 deaths. Iran’s neighbors have shut their borders, while Mongolia has suspended flights from South Korea and Japan. More than 2,700 people have died in China and some 78,000 have been infected. There have been more than 50 deaths and 3,600 cases in dozens of other countries, raising fears of a pandemic.”I think that there’s a chance that it could get worse, a chance it could get fairly substantially worse, but nothing’s inevitable,” Trump told reporters at the White House.His comments contradicted US health officials who urged Americans to be ready to cancel mass gatherings and work from home. There are 60 cases in the US so far.Following Trump’s upbeat assessment, the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said it had detected the first case of unknown origin in the country, signaling that the virus may be spreading within communities. Infections outside China Trump said the US was considering travel restrictions on Italy and South Korea, which has almost 1,600 cases, the highest number outside China. The US already restricts arrivals from China.Even China — which sealed off an entire province and shut down cities across the country to contain the virus — is now worried about importing cases and ordered people arriving in Beijing from virus-hit countries to go into 14-day self-quarantine.The virus is believed to have originated in a market in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where it is suspected of having hopped from animal to human before spreading across the country and proliferating abroad.China reported 29 more deaths Thursday — its lowest daily tally since January — and 433 new cases, most of them in hard-hit Hubei province and well below massive increases from just a week ago.Zhong Nanshan, a respected scientist who advises the government, said the country would have had much fewer cases if action had been taken as early as December — a rare critique from a prominent insider.Hubei officials have been accused of initially covering up the outbreak and silencing a whistleblowing doctor who later died from the disease.Nevertheless, Zhong said he expected China to bring the epidemic under control by late April.But other countries have now become sources of concern.In Latin America’s first case, the 61-year-old patient had travelled to Italy’s Lombardy region.In Romania, a man was infected after coming in contact with a visiting Italian.Countries from Denmark to Spain and Algeria have also reported infections linked to Italy.The first cases in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Estonia involved people who had been in Iran.Iran has emerged as a major hotspot in the region, where 22 people have succumbed to the disease — the biggest death toll outside China. The Islamic Republic imposed domestic travel restrictions for people with confirmed or suspected cases and slapped curbs on visits to major Muslim pilgrimage sites, but it said it was not quarantining cities.center_img Topics : ‘No panic’Fears over the epidemic’s spread have rocked global markets in recent days, while sports matches and festivals across Europe have been cancelled.The US and South Korea’s militaries on Thursday postponed forthcoming joint exercises because of the outbreak.A Six Nations rugby match between Italy and Ireland in Dublin on March 7 has been called off, and next month’s alpine skiing World Cup Finals in Italy will be held without fans on the slopes.The WHO has urged countries to prepare for a potential pandemic, though it stopped short of declaring one.Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, however, said his government was “effectively operating now on the basis that there is one — a pandemic”.But EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides appealed for calm.”This is a situation of concern, but we must not give in to panic,” Kyriakides said.last_img read more

Argentina, Chile confirm first coronavirus cases

first_imgArgentina and Chile both said on Tuesday they had confirmed their first case of the novel coronavirus in patients who recently returned from travels.A 43-year-old infected Argentine man had returned from Italy on March 1, while a 33-year-old Chilean man had spent a month in southeast Asia.Health Minister Gines Gonzalez Garcia said the Argentine patient has been in isolation since presenting himself to a private health clinic in Buenos Aires the day he returned. “We’ve identified a first case. It’s a patient who came from Italy” but had also traveled around other parts of Europe, said Gonzalez Garcia.The minister, who added that “fortunately the case is not complicated,” said Argentina was prepared to tackle the virus.”There are countries that have managed to prevent the spread and other countries that haven’t,” said Gonzalez Garcia.”I have every hope and belief that this will be contained.” Chile’s Health Minister Jaime Manalich said the 33-year-old patient had been taken to a hospital in the city of Talca, around 350 kilometers to the south of the capital Santiago.He had mainly spent time in Singapore and arrived back in Chile on February 25.The Talca hospital’s director, Alfredo Donoso, said the patient only started exhibiting coronavirus symptoms a week after returning to Chile, although those were “quite light.””He was admitted with a high fever, but then that became normal and he is now totally free of symptoms here in the Talca hospital and is in isolation,” said Donoso.The patient is due to undergo some tests before being allowed to go home.The two new cases brings the total number in Latin America to 17, with Ecuador (seven) and Mexico (five) the worst affected countries.Health officials have been scrambling to contain the spread of the virus that first erupted in China and has so far killed more than 3,000 people worldwide. Mainland China alone has recorded more than 80,000 cases and 2,943 deaths alone. Elsewhere, the main countries affected are South Korea (5,186 cases, 28 deaths), Italy (2,502 cases, 79 deaths) and Iran (2,336 cases, 77 deaths).center_img Topics :last_img read more

Trump hails rival Joe Biden’s ‘incredible comeback’

first_img“Had she gotten out, it would have been a very different situation, I think. It would have been a very different night.”Trump also had a typically bitter appraisal of billionaire Mike Bloomberg’s flat performance, despite having spent a record hundreds of millions of his own dollars on creating a campaign.Bloomberg quit the race on Wednesday, throwing his support and likely bottomless funding behind Biden.Trump dismissed the importance of this, saying “he’s going to try and save face by putting some money into Biden’s campaign. We’ll see what happens. I don’t think that’s going to have an impact.””He’s doing that because he’s spiteful, he’s a spiteful guy, I know him well,” Trump said. “He made a fool out of himself.”Topics : In his first public comments on the dramatic events of Super Tuesday — other than a series of mocking tweets — Trump also said that Sanders could easily have won if liberal Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren had dropped out earlier, thereby not splitting his vote.Trump noted that decisions by two centrists — Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar — to drop out and endorse Biden had electrified the previously struggling vice president’s campaign.Had Warren done something similar to help Sanders, then the self-described democratic socialist, who is calling for a political revolution, “would have won a lot of states.””She was really a spoiler, because other people got out and those votes went to Joe. Those people really helped Joe, you know, by getting out early,” Trump said. President Donald Trump on Wednesday hailed Democrat Joe Biden’s “incredible comeback” in the primaries race and signaled how he will attack the new frontrunner, saying he was surrounded by far leftists.”It was a great comeback for Joe Biden, an incredible comeback when you think about it,” Trump told reporters at the White House the morning after the Democrats’ Super Tuesday polls.Biden is running as a moderate, in contrast to his leftist rival Bernie Sanders, but Trump insisted that some of the former vice president’s “handlers are further left than Bernie. That’s pretty scary.”last_img read more

Ex-Manchester United striker Berbatov says Liverpool fully deserve title

first_imgFormer Manchester United striker Dimitar Berbatov said their traditional foes Liverpool deserve to be crowned Premier League champions and it would be unfair on the Anfield side if the season cannot be completed due to the coronavirus outbreak.The campaign has been suspended with the league saying it was keeping the restart date under “constant review”.Liverpool, who have a 25-point advantage over reigning champions Manchester City and nine games left, need six more points to guarantee lifting their first title in 30 years. “People are suggesting to give the title to Liverpool, and honestly they deserve it the way they had been playing, nobody was going to catch them,” Berbatov, who scored 56 goals in four seasons at United told Betfair.”With the way they play their games, the football they produced and how far they are in front, they fully deserve the title this season.”While there has been speculation about a reduced season or even abandoning the campaign, the Premier League said the aim was still to complete all remaining league and cup matches.”However, any return to play will only be with the full support of Government and when medical guidance allows,” the league said in a statement on Friday.Ex-Bulgaria striker Berbatov, who also played for Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham in the English top flight, said he did not know which decision about completing the season would be the right one, adding “whatever is decided won’t be so popular”.In 2010 Berbatov became the first United player to score a hat-trick against arch-rivals Liverpool in 64 years as the home side enjoyed a thrilling 3-2 victory at Old Trafford.”It’s so strange, and it will be unfair on them (Liverpool) if the season is voided, they will be so disappointed,” he said.Topics :last_img read more