Insurance coverage

States Act to Close Gaps in Medical Insurance Coverage for Rideshares

Stateline covers a complexity of legal coverage for rideshare passengers who are injured in incidents. Meanwhile, researchers have found that eating avocados can significantly reduce heart attack risk in both men and women when avocados replace certain other foods.

Stateline: Rideshare Passengers Could Be Stuck With Medical Bills In Crash

In the early hours of September 12, 2020, Denver Chief Brian Fritts, 32, was riding in the backseat of a Lyft car when another vehicle crashed into it and drove off, leaving him with six crushed vertebrae and a broken jaw. His life was never the same again. Neither did his wallet. A loophole in Colorado’s rideshare insurance laws left him without payment to cover his medical bills and other expenses. He owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, much of which was not covered by Medicaid, his health insurance. “I can’t sit down; I can’t stay up very long,” he told the Colorado legislature this month during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. And, he said, he needs more surgery to fix his crooked jaw, a procedure he said he couldn’t afford. (Povitch, 03/29)

In other public health news –

CNN: Avocados lower heart attack risk, study finds

According to a new study, eating avocados reduces the risk of heart attack in both men and women, including when eaten in place of butter, cheese or processed meat. Cardiovascular disease is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, claiming nearly 18 million lives each year, according to the World Health Organization. In the US alone, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says heart disease kills every 36 seconds. Eating at least two servings of avocado per week reduces the risk of having a heart attack by 21% compared to avoiding or rarely eating avocados. However, there was no equivalent benefit in reducing stroke risk, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association. (LaMotte, 03/30)

The New York Times: Does moderate alcohol consumption protect your heart? Genetic study offers new answer

Last week, two patients asked Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Stanley L. Hazen how much alcohol would be good for their heart health. He gave them both well accepted medical advice – an average of about one drink a day helps the heart. “I didn’t think twice about it,” he said. Then he saw an article published in JAMA Network Open whose findings changed his thinking about what to tell patients. The newspaper, he says, “totally changed my life. His conclusion: there is no level of alcohol consumption that does not confer risk of heart disease. (Kolata, 3/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Positive drug tests among US workers hit highest level in two decades

The percentage of US workers testing positive for the drug hit a two-decade high last year, due to a rise in positive marijuana tests as companies may have relaxed testing policies amid labor shortages -work at the national level. Of the more than six million general labor urine tests that Quest Diagnostics Inc., one of the nation’s largest drug testing labs, screened for marijuana last year, 3 .9% came back positive, an increase of more than 8% from 2020, according to Quest’s Annual Drug Testing Index. That figure is up 50% since 2017. (Feuer, 3/29)

The Washington Post: The chronically ill face life-and-death challenges due to pandemic shortages

Crystal Evans lives in constant fear of bacteria growing inside the silicone tube that connects her trachea to the ventilator that pumps air into her lungs. Before the pandemic, the 40-year-old with a progressive neuromuscular disease followed a tedious routine: she carefully changed the plastic circuits that carry ventilator air five times a month to keep them sterile. She also exchanged the silicone tracheostomy tube several times a month. Now, however, these tasks have become infinitely more difficult. A shortage of medical-grade silicone and plastic used for tubing means she has to make do with just one new circuit a month. (Shepherd, 3/29)

KHN: Autism diagnosis and treatment times have lengthened further during the pandemic

Wylie James Prescott, 3, had to wait more than a year after his autism diagnosis to start behavioral therapy, even though research shows early autism treatment can be crucial for long-term development children. Her mother, Brandie Kurtz, said her therapy was only recently approved by Georgia’s Medicaid program, despite her continued requests. “I know insurance, so it’s even more frustrating,” said Kurtz, who works at a doctor’s office near her home in rural Wrens, Georgia. These frustrations are all too familiar to parents who have a child with autism, a complex, lifelong disorder. And the pandemic has exacerbated the already difficult process of obtaining services. (Miller and Gold, 3/30)

And more on the Oscars controversy –

BuzzFeed: What People With Alopecia Think About This Chris Rock Joke

For the 6.8 million people with alopecia in the United States, it was Pinkett Smith’s face when the joke fell, not the slap, that was the important part. Alopecia is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system mistakenly attacks hair follicles, triggering a spectrum of hair loss anywhere on the body. It is unpredictable and can happen to anyone at any time, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity or medical condition. (Cameroon, 03/29)

The Washington Post: Why a single slap hit so many

Psychologists and violence experts are not surprised by the strong emotions generated by the incident, and their variety. “The current complexity centers around the discussions and discussions we have about race, gender, and disability…and survival,” said Apryl Alexander, associate professor of psychology at the University of Denver. “All of these things combined impacted the lens in which we saw this unfortunate event.” (Chiu, 03/29)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.