The V.A. Refuses To Pay Their Own Bills: Yet It Is Your Credit Rating That Gets Tanked

The V.A. Refuses To Pay Their Own Bills: Yet It Is Your Credit Rating That Gets Tanked

This post today is a first hand story, not a second, third or any other kind. I know this story is 100% true because it is my own story. There are quite a few issues that I could talk with you about concerning the VA but for the purpose of keeping this post to readable length I am only going to talk about my largest medical bill that is on my personal credit. I have a hospital bill among other medical bills from an event that happened on September 13th, 2011 in N.W. Atlanta Georgia. I had blacked-out face first into an exterior steel doors steel hinges, made me even uglier than I used to be. I got awaken by three of the workers there where I was at. I then drove myself to a clinic there locally where once I had gone inside I blacked out again there. It was only about a quarter of a mile from the clinic to the huge Medical Center Hospital so I was taken by ambulance (unconscious) to the ER. It was three days before I remember anything, I was there five days total and their bill was $60,000 and some change. On day three once I had gotten my consciousness back I remember a few things the Doctor told me about my condition when I came into the ER. I was told that besides not being awake that both of my kidneys had shut down and that my BP was in the 50/20 range and dropping. So, was this hospital bill something that the VA should have paid for? Under the agreement that the VA has with America’s Veterans, this definitely qualified as a life or death emergency wouldn’t it? O, by the way, the reason that my BP tanked the way it did? The Georgia Doctors said that the VA had me on four times too much blood-pressure medicine and that it had kicked me down, very obviously (my opinion) once again, the VA Doctors almost killed me, again.

 

To make this a shorter story the VA has time and again refused to pay the hospital the money owed them. I have been told that it is their opinion that I could have made it to the closest VA, really! Thus being I could have made it to the Atlanta VA Hospital many miles away, it is my bill, not theirs, really! (This is how local Doctors, Clinics, Ambulance services, and Hospitals are being treated all over Our Nation by the VA, REALLY). Besides the fact that these fine people who kept you alive not getting paid for their work preformed, now the bills show up on your credit report. Why doesn’t it show up on the VA’s credit report and leave the people’s credit report alone? If the bill by law belongs to the VA why can that bill be held against the credit and good standing of a person when it is plainly not the persons bill?

 

In this closing paragraph I would like to give you their best slap in the face, your credit. Last summer my wife and I bought a home for the first time in our lives (I did pay off a house for an x-wife but it was never in my name). This $60,000 hospital is on my credit, I have challenged it a couple of times to no avail. This debt made my credit rating dive to about 680 and this forced me to have to go through the VA Loan Program to qualify for a home loan. I am not going to say that the VA system is all bad or that all of their employees are bad, that is not true. I believe I would not be alive today if it weren’t for the VA yet at the same time they have almost killed me several times through their ignorance and apathy (from some). So, what can a little person do when Goliath’s big brother won’t even pay his obligated debts and decides to dump his garbage on you? The only answer I could think of was to throw in my two cents worth on this subject matter which is now finally in the national news through this little blog in which I get to speak with you in.  I hope you have a great week, stay safe, God’s blessings I pray to each of you.

 

 

Heroin: What The Hell Are We Doing To Yourselves Folks?

Heroin: What The Hell Are We Doing To Yourselves Folks?

 

For those of you who do not know me from this blog I will tell you up front that what I am going to say if from my life’s experiences now being over 60 years old. I have never stuck a needle in myself for the purpose of getting some kind of a high, or even to decrease my own pain. I have had medical people do their thing quite a few times where I felt like a wore out pin-cushion before I got out of their care, but I have never stuck myself. I really hope that I do not end up needing Insulin shots someday. But, I have had quite a few folks whom I quickly found out where poking needles in themselves when they would get home from work or on the weekends for the purpose of getting a high was part of their normal day. As I set and watched quite a few people poking themselves or having their friends do it for them and putting them in very painful places, I had to wonder how, how and why they are where they are at this point in their lives? We hear on the news quite often now how Heroin is a major epidemic in many places in America today. I did not know until about a year ago that heroin is actually a very cheep costing drug, I had always though it would be a very expensive drug until I found out it is made from Morphine.

 

For those of you who have decided to first put a needle in yourself, I’m not talking about the first time you let someone else do it to/for you, I’m asking about the first time you yourself stuck a needle in yourself for the purpose of getting high, was it that? Was it in an attempt to get out of some type of pain, mental or physical? If there are ten million people in America alone that put that first drug, that first needle, in our-self, by our-self, are there ten million different stories? Stories of loss, of pain, of stupidity? In the ‘wired world’ about everyone has to have heard a lot of really bad things about this drug getting a power over you that you can no longer control so why? Why did you do that to yourself? All of the people who I knew way back then are gone now, old memories, I don’t know of any that made it anywhere near fifty. I have seen a few cases where people gradually got off of the drugs they were shooting up by turning more and more to the use of marijuana to calm themselves and start to see the world clearer and got themselves off of their own personal demon. I have learned and seen that marijuana is really a ‘step down drug’ that does help some folks, this ‘medication’ being illegal is insane and inhumane. There is another absolute fact and that is where Marijuana is a legal drug, pain pill use goes way down. Heroin or Morphine pills or how about the God-given medicine instead of the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on these pills, and then there is this Demon called Heroin that is killing so many people. The ‘War On Drugs’ got this part backwards folks. Drugs like Heroin are a disease on the human race as are these millions of ‘Pill Heads’ that the system is helping fan the flames of.

Brooking’s Institute looks at the human side of medical cannabis policy

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTE)

 

FIXGOV

In a new documentary short, Brooking’s looks at the human side of medical cannabis policy

John Hudak and George Burroughs

Medical cannabis is an increasingly available, alternative medicine that tens of thousands of Americans are turning to in an effort to get relief from their symptoms. Jennifer Collins is one such patient. On Wednesday, Brookings released “The Life She Deserves,” a documentary short profiling Jennifer’s struggle with an epilepsy disorder and with the public policies that have stood between her and the medical intervention her doctors recommended. In Brookings’s first use of this medium, the film tells both a personal and a policy story, highlighting the human side of a public policy failure.

Jennifer’s Story

At a young age, Jennifer was diagnosed with Jeavons Syndrome, an epilepsy disorder characterized by frequent seizures that often present as a fluttering of the eyes. During these seizures, Jennifer loses awareness of her surroundings. Those smaller seizures—which can number in the hundreds per day—can also cluster into a more serious and dangerous grand mal seizure, of which Jennifer has suffered many.

With the diagnosis, Jennifer’s doctors began a standard pharmaceutical regimen that ultimately culminated in more than a dozen pills daily and maximum adult doses of powerful anti-seizure medications. Those medicines came with side effects that included mania and suicidal ideation. Ultimately, pharmaceuticals were unable to help with Jennifer’s seizures and the side effects became overwhelming. Desperate for a solution, Jennifer’s parents read online about children moving to Colorado to access non-intoxicating, cannabis-based medicines to treat conditions like hers.

“The Life She Deserves” profiles the difficult choices the Collins family faced and explores what many patients and families sacrifice in order to get medical relief. Whether it is for a child with epilepsy, a young woman battling breast cancer, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, or an elderly woman with chronic arthritis, accessing medical cannabis often requires weighing steep costs against the benefits.

Jennifer is a unique individual who has bravely fought both a chronic condition and a dysfunctional public policy system from a young age. Her story tells us as much about a strong young woman from Virginia facing a significant, ongoing health challenge as it does about a system of laws in which federal policy contradicts both itself and numerous state laws. Her story is one that is relatable to patients and the family members, friends, and colleagues of patients who see what Jennifer and her family have seen: cannabis-based medicines can provide relief in some patients. However, Jennifer’s story is not a unique one.

“The Life She Deserves” shows the overwhelming challenges that government can pose when it comes between doctors and patients, researchers and science. The film also highlights what has become a new normal in this country: the medical cannabis industry. Cannabis growers and sellers are not a group of sinister drug peddlers, operating in the shadows. The film highlights how a husband-wife duo responsibly cultivate cannabis in a heavily regulated system. And the seller is a rabbi who, inspired by his father-in-law’s decades-long battle with MS, opened a family business where he dispenses cannabis to a wide variety of patients—just a stone’s throw from the same institutions of government that label him a narco-trafficker.

Remarkably, in 2018, the idea of medical cannabis has become normal and mainstream. But as we explore in “The Life She Deserves,” the health challenges that draw people to it are devastating and the failure to implement effective policies forces them to make major sacrifices in order to access treatment they need.

A new format for Brookings analysis

It was clear that Brookings needed to explore a new medium beyond the white paper in order to peel back the stigma that continually cloaks medical cannabis. By producing a documentary, we were able to sit across the kitchen table from Beth and Pat Collins, at their home as they shared their difficult journey. We learned what the viewers of this film quickly learn: they’re just two parents who want to give their daughter a normal life. Because of this medium’s ability to create intimacy, the viewer gets see how government policy and the human experience collide to tell a compelling story. And Brookings is in a unique position for storytelling. The institution delivers in-depth analysis that can be presented with the human experience, positive or negative. What Brookings needed was a vehicle for such work. The documentary is precisely that vehicle.

In addition to home videos of Jen’s childhood and footage of Beth Collins testifying at the state legislature, maybe the most poignant moments in the film are of silence. In “The Life She Deserves” Jen reflects on the long road she’s traveled and where she is headed. When she pauses to collect her thoughts, in that silence we can see the severity of what she has been through—an emotion that words could not capture. At that moment we get a rigorously honest look at the pain she has experienced and the strength and courage it took to survive and talk about it. This is the power of storytelling and this is the power of the documentary. We live in a time when many in our country—on both sides of the aisle—see many areas of public policy as broken. Like Jen, millions of Americans feel the effects of those policy failures every day. The opportunity for effective policy storytelling has never been greater, and at Brookings we’re looking forward to telling many more.

Medical Cannabis: A Broken Policy

Authors

To those familiar with the world of medical cannabis, it is no secret that public policy in this area is broken. We have written extensively at Brookings about the numerous policy problems including banking, taxes, interstate access, and others. “The Life She Deserves” focuses on some of the most glaring issues facing patients themselves—an often-overlooked area. And the main issue that impacts patients, even more than access, is how little is known about how to maximize the benefits of cannabis to treat different conditions effectively. The U.S. government has made expanding that knowledge extraordinarily difficult.

Beyond the U.S. government declaring that the cannabis is illegal, federal policy also adds layers of bureaucracy that make research into the medical value of cannabis much harder. In fact, researching cannabis is more bureaucratically challenging than researching any other substance designated Schedule I—the nation’s highest level of drug control.

There is no excuse for a government that makes research more difficult to conduct. Those efforts are anti-science and ensure that politics influences the pursuit of scientific answers. Compounding the problem is that as more states pass reforms that label cannabis as medicine, there is increased demand for answers about the substance’s medical value. There is an ever-present and growing need to ask more questions about cannabis, not fewer. As more patients use this substance in an effort to relieve symptoms, the federal government should be committed to helping understand this area of science.

After all, what could the federal government fear from more research? In fact, no one in the nation—regardless of views on cannabis—should oppose expanded research. As we have written before, if you are an avowed opponent of cannabis and believe it is dangerous, it has no medical value, is highly addicting, and is a gateway drug, you should encourage more research that will demonstrate those findings. Those findings would be a wakeup call to many patients and, more importantly, to policy makers at the state level. For those who support medical cannabis and believe it is a miracle drug that can cure everything from a cough to cancer, you, too, should demand more research to demonstrate not simply medical value, but the precise ways in which cannabis interacts with bodily systems to provide relief and cures. Finally, if you don’t really care about cannabis, the current policy should bother you. Federal government intervention in science should terrify you.

When government impedes researchers from asking the questions they believe are important and conducting research in ways that their expertise and medical literature suggest are critical, the substance should not matter. The principle matters. In a time of an unpopular president, an embarrassingly unpopular Congress, and trust in government at near-historic lows, who should you trust to steer the ship of science: a physician and medical researcher from Michigan or a guy who happens to represent Kalamazoo in Congress?

As Patrick and Beth Collins note in “The Life She Deserves,” one of the biggest challenges facing medical cannabis patients is a lack of understanding about exactly which cannabis-based products assist with which conditions. There is also a deficit of information about dosing, interactions, side effects, and a host of other characteristics that patients are used to knowing about medicines that they take. Part of the blame rests with states moving forward to bring to market cannabis-based medicines without their enduring the normal regulatory processes we expect in the United States. However, much of the blame rests with a federal government that has allowed a racially-motivated, institutionally perpetuated policy overwhelm a commonsense approach that would remove unnecessary bureaucracy from blocking research.

Many patients will tell you that there is no question that cannabis helps them (although there are a number of patients who will also say that it does little for them). The biggest question that remains, however, is whether the federal government will stop politicizing research and help facilitate answers to the questions that patients are demanding.

The human cost of leaving patients and families to fend for themselves is clear, in Jen’s case as we see in “The Life She Deserves,” and in countless other households.

How Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use; Saves Lives, Money

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘INSURANCE JOURNAL’)

(SIMPLY PUT: JEFF SESSIONS AND DONALD TRUMP ARE IDIOTS AND MORONS ON POWER TRIPS)

How Medical Marijuana Reduces Opioid Use; Saves Lives, Money

By  | April 3, 2018

Medical marijuana laws could be a boon to those battling the opioid epidemic, according to researchers who have identified a link between increased access to medical marijuana and a reduction in opioid prescriptions.

The studies suggest medical marijuana laws (MMLs) have helped save and could continue to save thousands of lives and billions of dollars now being lost to opioid addiction.

There is a downside: The promise of MMLs in reducing opioid use shows up thus far in urban areas, but not in rural America.

The marijuana laws have an effect similar to when any replacement for a drug is introduced, say researchers. In this case, marijuana appears to be a substitute for opioids as a pain medication in many cases.

This week the JAMA’s Journal of Internal Medicine published two studies that conclude that medical marijuana (or medical cannabis) laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescriptions. One study looked at Medicare Part D patient data and the other at Medicaid enrollee data.

The Medicare study (Association Between US State Medical Cannabis Laws and Opioid Prescribing in the Medicare Part D Population by Ashley C. Bradford, BA; W. David Bradford, PhD; Amanda Abraham, PhD; and Grace Bagwell Adams, PhD, at the University of Georgia) found that opioid prescriptions fell in states that permit medical marijuana. Prescriptions filled for all opioids decreased by 2.11 million daily doses per year from an average of 23.08 million daily doses per year when a state instituted any medical cannabis law. Prescriptions for all opioids decreased by 3.742 million daily doses per year when medical cannabis dispensaries opened.

A second JAMA Journal study (Association of Medical and Adult-Use Marijuana Laws With Opioid Prescribing for Medicaid Enrollees, by Hefei Wen, PhD, and Jason M. Hockenberry, PhD, Department of Health Management & Policy, University of Kentucky College of Public Health) found that “medical and adult-use marijuana laws have the potential to reduce opioid prescribing for Medicaid enrollees, a segment of population with disproportionately high risk for chronic pain, opioid use disorder, and opioid overdose.” Using Medicaid prescription data for 2011 to 2016, the researchers found lower opioid prescribing rates where there were medical marijuana laws (5.88 percent lower) and adult-use marijuana laws (6.38 percent lower).

One of the MML researchers, Dr. W. David Bradford, discussed his past and recent research into medical marijuana and opioid prescriptions as well as other research at the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) annual symposium last week in Boston.

Among Bradford’s observations: the effect of MMLs on lowering opioid prescribing, while encouraging, is not fairly distributed.

“All of this is happening in urban areas. We can find no benefit, in this or any of our studies in rural America. As is often the case, people in rural sections of the country are getting a little left out from innovations,” Bradford said.

Bradford is the George D. Busbee Chair in Public Policy at the University of Georgia and former director and founder of the Center for Health Economic Policy Studies at the Medical University of South Carolina. He has been a visiting faculty member at Yale Medical School, and a tenured faculty member in the Department of Economics at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Bradford has over 70 publications.

Bradford and his fellow researchers, including his daughter who is also a professor, looked at whether medical marijuana is being used as a substitute for other pain medications including opioids, as well as the effect this usage has on spending and on opioid mortality.

“We wanted to compare changes in pain medication use for people in states that don’t have medical cannabis and how those changes compare to the changes for people in states with medical cannabis laws,” he said of their first foray into the field.

They considered whether the state allows home cultivation or requires dispensaries. With dispensary-based distribution, it’s a lot easier to have “surety of the supply, a lot easier to get very finely defined hybrids that have the particular mix of cannabinoids,” according to Bradford.

They reviewed Medicare Part D enrollee data from 2010 to 2014 and then later updated this to include 2015 data. The number of states with an MML grew from 15 in 2010 to 24 over these years. They compared physician prescriptions in states with and without an MML for nine drug groupings: anxiety, depression, glaucoma, nausea, pain, psychosis, seizures, sleep disorders and spasticity.

In their analysis, they found that the use of prescription pain drugs fell significantly after a medical marijuana law went into effect. There were 1,230 fewer annual doses for all pain medications for these conditions per physician under all medical marijuana laws. They found 2,338 fewer daily doses per year for dispensary-based laws and 1,193 fewer daily doses per year for home-cultivation-only laws.

In their recent follow-up research, they focused specifically on opioid prescriptions. They found about a nine percent reduction in opioid prescriptions under any MML – but a higher 14 percent reduction in states with dispensaries. There was about a seven percent reduction in home cultivation states.

As Bradford puts it, when MMLs are implemented, use of prescription drugs falls “just as would happen if any effective new drug were approved by the FDA [Federal Drug Administration].”

Bradford and his colleagues did similar research using Medicaid data and came to the same conclusion that MMLs reduce use of prescriptions and opioids.

However, one troubling finding is that nearly all of the effect is happening in counties with more than 50,000 residents. “There was no benefit for rural counties,” he said.

They also calculated the financial impact. The combined 2014 savings to Medicare and Medicaid were $1.04 billion for states that had MMLs. Bradford said this could have been savings of $3.4 billion if all states had an MML.

“So these are nontrivial savings to Medicaid and Medicare – about one and a half percent of prescription spending is possibly diverted away from the programs,” he said, noting that the enrollees are the ones paying for the marijuana, not the payers.

Opioid-Related Deaths

They also have conducted research that is under review on the effect of MMLs on opioid-related deaths, using data on all non-heroin opiate related deaths for all 3,144 counties in the U.S. from 2000 to 2015. For all prescription opioid related deaths, they found: statistically significant reductions in mortality associated with any MML for all years from 2010 to 2015 in all counties together and no statistically significant effects in rural counties. For only non-synthetic opioid related deaths (i.e., no fentanyl) they found statistically significant reductions in mortality associated with any MML and with dispensary-based laws for all years from 2010 to 2015 in all counties together.

“We’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of a 20 to 30 percent reduction in mortality over what it would be,” Bradford said.

Bradford referred to a 2014 study by researchers at Albert Einstein Medical School in New York that also found a connection between MML states and a reduction in opioid deaths. This study (Study on the relationship between medical cannabis laws and opioid analgesic overdose deaths) reviewed 1999-2010 data from 23 states with MMLs. The authors compared opioid overdose death rates in states with medical cannabis programs to overdose deaths rates in states with no cannabis laws. They found about a 25 percent reduction, which translated to an estimated 1,729 fewer deaths than expected. The authors excluded opioid deaths from suicide and included overdose deaths related to heroin, since heroin and prescription opioid use are interrelated for some individuals.

“It looks like access to cannabis, when you design the policies appropriately, can save both lives and money,” Bradford told the WCRI audience.

“But again, in rural counties, there is zero estimated effect. We’re not finding any benefit in terms of mortality for the rural counties,” he reiterated.

Federal Marijuana Policy

Currently cannabis is listed in the Controlled Substances Act under Schedule 1, which means that it is a drug along with LSD, peyote heroin and others that have been “deemed to have no medically recognized uses and a high potential for abuse and therefore completely illegal.” It’s the most restrictive category. Physicians cannot prescribe cannabis, people cannot possess it, no one can sell it under federal law.

The view that marijuana has no medically recognized uses was challenged in January of 2017, when the National Academy of Scientific Engineering and Medicine published what Bradford considers a landmark study. The NAS reviewed more than 10,000 peer-reviewed clinical publications to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to draw conclusions regarding the medical application of cannabis.

“What they concluded is that there is indeed conclusive evidence that there are benefits to cannabis for chronic pain in adults, for nausea associated with chemotherapy and for spasticity and seizures. There is moderate evidence for many other conditions,” Bradford said.

The 2017 NAS report is “quite good evidence that cannabis is useful and, of course, what this implies is that a fine reading of the Controlled Substances Act would reschedule cannabis away from Schedule 1 and then to probably a 3 or a 4. That would be a level that physicians could prescribe it and could get involved.”

The Trump Administration has taken a harder line against legalized marijuana than did the Obama Administration, thereby complicating how medical marijuana laws and usage may play out. Currently 29 states and D.C., representing two-thirds of the U.S. population, have some form of medical cannabis law that runs counter to federal policy.

Public opinion on the subject has largely been supportive of legalizing marijuana for medical use. A January Quinnipiac Poll found that 91 percent of Americans support allowing people with their doctor’s assistance to get access to cannabis. The same poll found voters oppose 70 to 23 percent enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized medical or recreational marijuana.

Workers’ Comp Reimbursement

The workers’ compensation industry has generally been focused on the impact of medical marijuana on employees and safety in the workplace. As Bradford noted, patients, not insurers, are typically the ones now paying for their medical marijuana, even where it is a replacement for an opioid prescription.

There have been several court decisions approving reimbursement by health insurers or self-insured employers but for the most part states have remained silent on the matter of if and when reimbursement by an insurer or workers’ compensation carrier is allowed or required.

However, even in this uncertain legal environment, medical marijuana is gaining traction as an accepted treatment paid for by workers’ compensation, at least anecdotally, according to experts in a recent Claims Journal interview.

Brian Allen, vice president of government affairs for Mitchell, and Mark Pew, senior vice president of PRIUM, a division of Genex Services, said there is some reimbursement for medical marijuana being done on a voluntary basis when it is deemed a reasonable and necessary treatment. “The decision is really based on whether that patient is achieving benefit from it,” Pew said.

Pew said that carriers paying for medical marijuana treatment are not necessarily making it public.

When such cases reach courts, Allen thinks judges will be reluctant to get in the middle of a doctor-patient relationship. “I think the courts are going to defer to the doctors every time,” said Allen.

Pew agrees. “I think any court is probably going to lean towards the anecdotal story of the individual patient and if it’s helping with their pain and it’s reasonable and necessary based on the advice of doctors in that state,” he told Claims Journal. “I would assume that most states are going to come to that same conclusion.”

While marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, the Trump Administration has indicated that marijuana enforcement will be at the discretion of local assistant U.S. attorneys. Allen believes it’s unlikely they will pursue a medical marijuana case, unless there is some “egregious abuse.”

Both agree that for marijuana to become a more widely accepted alternative to opioids, researchers will have to shed light on the drug’s side effects. “They talk about the pluses. We really don’t hear a lot about the minuses, and we know there are some out there,” Allen said.

Pew believes more research needs to be done into the many chemicals within marijuana. “Just saying we’re going to reclassify marijuana or make it legal — it’s much more complicated,” Pew said.

Related:

Marijuana legalization could help offset opioid epidemic, studies find

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Marijuana legalization could help offset opioid epidemic, studies find

  • Researchers compared prescription patterns in states with and without medical cannabis laws
  • States with medical marijuana had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year
  • Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws

(CNN)Experts have proposed using medical marijuana to help Americans struggling with opioid addiction. Now, two studies suggest that there is merit to that strategy.

The studies, published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, compared opioid prescription patterns in states that have enacted medical cannabis laws with those that have not. One of the studies looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicare Part D between 2010 and 2015, while the other looked at opioid prescriptions covered by Medicaid between 2011 and 2016.
The researchers found that states that allow the use of cannabis for medical purposes had 2.21 million fewer daily doses of opioids prescribed per year under Medicare Part D, compared with those states without medical cannabis laws. Opioid prescriptions under Medicaid also dropped by 5.88% in states with medical cannabis laws compared with states without such laws, according to the studies.
“This study adds one more brick in the wall in the argument that cannabis clearly has medical applications,” said David Bradford, professor of public administration and policy at the University of Georgia and a lead author of the Medicare study.
“And for pain patients in particular, our work adds to the argument that cannabis can be effective.”
Medicare Part D, the optional prescription drug benefit plan for those enrolled in Medicare, covers more than 42 million Americans, including those 65 or older. Medicaid provides health coverage to more than 73 million low-income individuals in the US, according to the program’s website.
“Medicare and Medicaid publishes this data, and we’re free to use it, and anyone who’s interested can download the data,” Bradford said. “But that means that we don’t know what’s going on with the privately insured and the uninsured population, and for that, I’m afraid the data sets are proprietary and expensive.”

‘This crisis is very real’

The new research comes as the United States remains entangled in the worst opioid epidemic the world has ever seen. Opioid overdose has risen dramatically over the past 15 years and has been implicated in over 500,000 deaths since 2000 — more than the number of Americans killed in World War II.
“As somebody who treats patients with opioid use disorders, this crisis is very real. These patients die every day, and it’s quite shocking in many ways,” said Dr. Kevin Hill, an addiction psychiatrist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, who was not involved in the new studies.
“We have had overuse of certain prescription opioids over the years, and it’s certainly contributed to the opioid crisis that we’re feeling,” he added. “I don’t think that’s the only reason, but certainly, it was too easy at many points to get prescriptions for opioids.”
Today, more than 90 Americans a day die from opioid overdose, resulting in more than 42,000 deaths per year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Opioid overdose recently overtook vehicular accidents and shooting deaths as the most common cause of accidental death in the United States, the CDC says.
Like opioids, marijuana has been shown to be effective in treating chronic pain as well as other conditions such as seizures, multiple sclerosis and certain mental disorders, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Research suggests that the cannabinoid and opioid receptor systems rely on common signaling pathways in the brain, including the dopamine reward system that is central to drug tolerance, dependence and addiction.
“All drugs of abuse operate using some shared pathways. For example, cannabinoid receptors and opioid receptors coincidentally happen to be located very close by in many places in the brain,” Hill said. “So it stands to reason that a medication that affects one system might affect the other.”
But unlike opioids, marijuana has little addiction potential, and virtually no deaths from marijuana overdose have been reported in the United States, according to Bradford.
“No one has ever died of cannabis, so it has many safety advantages over opiates,” Bradford said. “And to the extent that we’re trying to manage the opiate crisis, cannabis is a potential tool.”

Comparing states with and without medical marijuana laws

In order to evaluate whether medical marijuana could function as an effective and safe alternative to opioids, the two teams of researchers looked at whether opioid prescriptions were lower in states that had active medical cannabis laws and whether those states that enacted these laws during the study period saw reductions in opioid prescriptions.
Both teams, in fact, did find that opioid prescriptions were significantly lower in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws. The team that looked at Medicaid patients also found that the four states that switched from medical use only to recreational use — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — saw further reductions in opioid prescriptions, according to Hefei Wen, assistant professor of health management and policy at the University of Kentucky and a lead author on the Medicaid study.
“We saw a 9% or 10% reduction (in opioid prescriptions) in Colorado and Oregon,” Wen said. “And in Alaska and Washington, the magnitude was a little bit smaller but still significant.”
The first state in the United States to legalize marijuana for medicinal use was California, in 1996. Since then, 29 states and the District of Columbia have approved some form of legalized cannabis. All of these states include chronic pain — either directly or indirectly — in the list of approved medical conditions for marijuana use, according to Bradford.
The details of the medical cannabis laws were found to have a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns, the researchers found. States that permitted recreational use, for example, saw an additional 6.38% reduction in opioid prescriptions under Medicaid compared with those states that permitted marijuana only for medical use, according to Wen.
The method of procurement also had a significant impact on opioid prescription patterns. States that permitted medical dispensaries — regulated shops that people can visit to purchase cannabis products — had 3.742 million fewer opioid prescriptions filled per year under Medicare Part D, while those that allowed only home cultivation had 1.792 million fewer opioid prescriptions per year.
“We found that there was about a 14.5% reduction in any opiate use when dispensaries were turned on — and that was statistically significant — and about a 7% reduction in any opiate use when home cultivation only was turned on,” Bradford said. “So dispensaries are much more powerful in terms of shifting people away from the use of opiates.”
The impact of these laws also differed based on the class of opioid prescribed. Specifically, states with medical cannabis laws saw 20.7% fewer morphine prescriptions and 17.4% fewer hydrocodone prescriptions compared with states that did not have these laws, according to Bradford.
Fentanyl prescriptions under Medicare Part D also dropped by 8.5% in states that had enacted medical cannabis laws, though the difference was not statistically significant, Bradford said. Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid, like heroin, that can be prescribed legally by physicians. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, and even a small amount can be fatal, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“I know that many people, including the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, are skeptical of cannabis,” Bradford said. “But, you know, the attorney general needs to be terrified of fentanyl.”

‘A call to action’

This is not the first time researchers have found a link between marijuana legalization and decreased opioid use. A 2014 study showed that states with medical cannabis laws had 24.8% fewer opioid overdose deaths between 1999 and 2010. A study in 2017 also found that the legalization of recreational marijuana in Colorado in 2012 reversed the state’s upward trend in opioid-related deaths.
“There is a growing body of scientific literature suggesting that legal access to marijuana can reduce the use of opioids as well as opioid-related overdose deaths,” said Melissa Moore, New York deputy state director for the Drug Policy Alliance. “In states with medical marijuana laws, we have already seen decreased admissions for opioid-related treatment and dramatically reduced rates of opioid overdoses.”
Some skeptics, though, argue that marijuana legalization could actually worsen the opioid epidemic. Another 2017 study, for example, showed a positive association between illicit cannabis use and opioid use disorders in the United States. But there may be an important difference between illicit cannabis use and legalized cannabis use, according to Hill.
“As we have all of these states implementing these policies, it’s imperative that we do more research,” Hill said. “We need to study the effects of these policies, and we really haven’t done it to the degree that we should.”
The two recent studies looked only at patients enrolled in Medicaid and Medicare Part D, meaning the results may not be generalizable to the entire US population.
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But both Hill and Moore agree that as more states debate the merits of legalizing marijuana in the coming months and years, more research will be needed to create consistency between cannabis science and cannabis policy.
“There is a great deal of movement in the Northeast, with New Hampshire and New Jersey being well-positioned to legalize adult use,” Moore said. “I believe there are also ballot measures to legalize marijuana in Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Nebraska and South Dakota as well that voters will decide on in Fall 2018.”
Hill called the new research “a call to action” and added, “we should be studying these policies. But unfortunately, the policies have far outpaced the science at this point.”

Kentucky Becomes First State to Adopt New Medicaid Work Requirement

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announces federal approval of Kentucky's Medicaid waiver in Frankfort, Ky on Jan. 12, 2018
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin announces federal approval of Kentucky’s Medicaid waiver in Frankfort, Ky on Jan. 12, 2018
Alex Slitz—Lexington Herald-Leader/AP

By ALANA ABRAMSON

10:50 AM EST

The state of Kentucky has become the first to adopt the Trump administration’s new policy of imposing work requirements as a precondition of receiving Medicaid benefits.

Consequently, residents of Kentucky who are on Medicaid and considered healthy enough to work, must now comply with certain requirements to receive the health care provided by the government program.

The Trump administration announced on January 11 that states could impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. One day later, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved a waiver for Kentucky adopting that new policy for the next five years. Under the program, which officially starts in July, Medicaid beneficiaries between the ages of 19 and 64 who do not meet exemption requirements must complete at least 80 hours per month of “community engagement,” which includes work, school, job skills training, or community service. If they do not complete the requirements, Medicaid eligibility will be suspended. The program exempts several categories of recipients, including pregnant women, those diagnosed as “medically frail,” primary caregivers, and former foster care youth.

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“It will be transformational,” Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin said in an announcement Friday. “Transformational in all the right ways, in good ways, in powerful ways.”

More than 2 million people are on Medicaid in Kentucky, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is nearly one quarter of the state’s population. Kentucky was among the 33 states to adopt the Medicaid expansion program that is a cornerstone of the Affordable Care Act enacted under the Obama administration, but Bevin has been seeking to implement these changes since he was elected in 2015.

Bevin also defended the program from criticism that it was essentially punishing lower income people, and insisted that the program will only impact those who are physically able to work. The recipients of the program who are unable to comply with the new regulations, he said, will remain unaffected.

“This idea that somehow we are punishing people, that this will be a detriment to people I think is a huge huge misunderstanding of what people need,” he said, noting that he himself came from a low-income family. “There is dignity associated with owning the value of something you receive.”

 

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Stop Charging Rape Victims for Post-Assault Medical Care

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘CARE2’)

 

Stop Charging Rape Victims for Post-Assault Medical Care

34,075 SUPPORTERS
35,000 GOAL

According to current law, you can be billed for medical treatment you received after a rape. Let’s take a moment to let that sink in. Right now, the government allows hospitals to charge rape victims and their private insurers for additional costs after a rape. Thus one’s emotional trauma can often come with a high financial burden.

Currently, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), requires states to pay for rape kits. But there are often extra costs that are passed on to the victim. Pain medication, antibiotics, HIV prevention drugs, emergency contraceptives and other treatments aren’t guaranteed by the VAWA and they are not cheap. In fact, in 2013, women victims of rape paid out nearly 1.26 million dollars to cover extra medical costs. That’s nearly $1000 per person.

In no other instance are victims of violent crimes responsible for footing the bill for injuries the incurred. Rape victims shouldn’t be charged either.

The VAWA is up for reauthorization next year and it is time that Congress put an end to this practice by updating VAWA’s language to ensure all rape-related medical expenses are covered by the state.

Please sign this petition to voice your support for an updated VAWA that covers all rape-related medical expenses are covered by the states.

Dear Congress:

The Violence Against Women Act provides victims of sexual assault, rape and violence with the rights they deserve after such a harrowing experience. Yet, I recently learned that rape victims can actually be billed for the medical treatment they require after an assault. This is not the case for other violent crime victims and it shouldn’t be the case with rape victims. Please rectify this by updating the VAWA to ensure the state covers all rape-related medical expenses a victim may incur.

[Your comments here]

Sincerely,

[your name]

Texas House Passes Bill To Make Women Buy ‘Rape Insurance’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘NEWS.GROUPSPEAK’)

 

The most populous Republican state in the country, the good ole’ state of Texas, has passed a bill in the House of Representatives that will essentially force women to buy rape insurance if they seek to have an abortion.

Critics of the bill are calling it especially cruel and a detriment to women’s health in general. If put into law, the bill will take effect as soon as Dec. 1 and force women to buy supplemental plans if they wish to have abortions, even if induced by rape.

Considering the Senate has already passed a very similar measure, and Governor Greg Abbott has already come out publicly showing his support, it’s only a matter of time before the bill gets signed.

“Women and parents will be faced with the horrific decision of having to purchase ‘rape insurance’ to cover them if they are victimized,” Democratic Representative Chris Turner said in a statement. “This is not only ridiculous, but it is cruel.”

“No woman plans to be raped. No parent plans for their child to be a victim of incest.” The idea that a woman would be forced to consider purchasing for herself – or a parent would be forced to purchase for their child – essentially a rape insurance policy should be abhorrent.”

The bill’s sponsor, Republican John Smithee, says it’s not that simple, though.

“It’s a question of economic freedom and freedom in general. This isn’t about who can get an abortion. It is about who is forced to pay for an abortion.”

By that, he means, he doesn’t want opponents of abortion being forced to subsidize it.

But, looking at it a different way, it will force women to completely absorb the costs of abortion. Every male in Texas with an insurance plan won’t have to pay into the pool of funds helping to support its costs. That will cost women more, which is another way for Texas Republicans to make women’s health care more expensive.

Also – if women don’t buy the supplemental insurance, which many lawmakers are betting that they won’t – it will make getting an abortion that much more unlikely.

“This bill takes us backwards,” said Rep. Ina Minjarez, D-San Antonio. “This bill is about denying Texas women their right to a safe abortion.”

Currently, 10 other states ban private insurance plans from covering abortions. Texas is about to be added to that list.

 

Republican Christians: Quit Being Hypocrites, Put Up, Or Shut Up

 

I use the name Truth Troubles for this Blog Site for a reason, it is because in many cases the ‘truth’ can be inconvenient for our ego’s. Politicians are great at telling people they are speaking the truth on a subject matter when in fact only about 1% of what they are saying is actually the truth. You see, that is speaking the truth, they just don’t tell you about the 99% BS that goes along with their version. When you step on the witness stand in a court room you are told to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God. Folks, that, is the only truth, God’s truth, not some version or percent of it.

 

In November of 2016 ‘we the people’ mainly had two horrible habitual liars to choose as our President, which one was the worse for our Country, that is debatable. Weather the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is the most evil is also easily debatable, personally I have no faith in either of them to ever be truthful with the American people. The Democratic Party and their platform of supporting abortion at will make it impossible for many Christians to vote for a Democrat knowing that they will endorse this policy. Yet this article today isn’t about the Christians who vote for Democrats, today, this article is about the Republican Party and their own ‘unholy’ policies.

 

I say unholy policies because of their own ‘platform’ issues. This newest Republican Tax Plan is a good example of the cold-hearted nature of their base beliefs. This Bill is 1,997 pages long, the reason is simple, there are many items other than changing the Tax Code in that Bill. If it were just a simply straight forward Tax Code Bill how many pages would it be? Really, think about it, should it be more than 2 pages, 5, or maybe 10? How about even 100 pages, you can put a lot of words in 100 pages. In this bill are items like not reimbursing teachers for the supplies they have to buy out of their own pockets so their classrooms can have the basic supplies they need. Also items like stopping assistance to the ‘Meals on Wheels’ program which helps feed the poorest of the poor ‘shut in’s’. Also stopping all the funding for PBS. Stopping many of the Federal Grants for poor kids to help them go to College thus also massively hurting thousands of Colleges and Universities. In this Bill is also massive cuts to Medicaid and Medicare which will cause many millions of Americas poorest people to lose their only Insurance. This will also cause many small hospitals around the Nation to have to close as people will again be having to go to their E.R. services when they get sick or injured and when these people can not pay their bills, the Hospitals will go out of business.

 

The Lord tells us all to be kind and charitable, giving and loving. The Republican Party very plainly caters only to the wealthiest 10% or so of our population. Think about this one fact for a moment please, I was born back in the mid 1950’s, in my lifetime there has not been one single minimum wage increase when there has been a Republican in the White House, not one. Trickle down economics does not work folks. It is like saying that the richest folks will be gracious and allow some of the crumbs to be swept onto the floor so the poor don’t starve to death. And the only reason they allow the crumbs is because the working class is the ones who make the products that make the rich, richer. If the people starve to death it might hurt their profit margins. If you think I am being to hard on some folks just think about the Stock Market for a moment. President Trump likes to talk about how well the Market is doing and that is a good thing folks, but the trouble is that it is a horrible thing for the people who can’t afford massive amounts of those Stocks. When a company lays off hundreds or thousands of employees their Stock value goes up right away. When a company moves out of the U.S. to a ‘Third World’ country for cheaper labor costs, their Stock value goes up right away. When Wal-Mart and Target recently gave all of their employees a raise, their Stock value went down right away.

 

Most of us know that many of the largest American companies are flooded in cash right now and that this cash is sitting in offshore banks. This is not illegal if they have followed all of the existing laws in their putting it there, in fact that is quite smart of them. If the CEO’s weren’t taking advantage of these loopholes their stock holders would vote them out of a job. I have heard several times on different news programs where Executives have commented that they have no place to invest this money so they are just hanging onto it as they are looking for better ‘deals’. So, this talk about caring about the wages and living conditions of the working class is really just a bunch of BS. If these companies were paying better wages and benefits to their workers then the whole economy would prosper. If the government actually raised the taxes on the major companies and closed off all of their built-in loop holes then the Nation could invest in our Nations roads, bridges, city infrastructures, education system and health care system.

 

The Democratic Party has lots of its own sins but as I said this article today is about some of the sins of the Republican Party and the Christians who keep putting their ‘Name, their stamp of approval’ to them. If you are a Christian and you are a voter and you choose to vote for any Republican then it is your Christian duty to insist that the Republican politicians start acting like God-fearing Christians or make it very plain that they no longer have your vote. Charity, kindness, love, compassion are staples of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Folks, the teachings of the Republican Party are exactly the opposite of the teachings of Jesus! So, if you are a Christian and your are a voter, start acting like you know and care about the teachings of Christ and force the hand of these Republican politicians. Either that or simply quit supporting them, otherwise we are nothing but a hypocrite, we are not a follower of the teaching of Christ!

The Unneeded Poor WILL BE Exterminated

The Unneeded Poor WILL BE Exterminated

 

In this article today I am going to write it as a proverbial ‘Devils Advocate’. What I mean by this is that this is not something that I want to happen yet I am making the argument to you that it is very much a possible reality as the human race continues to degenerate.

 

When it comes to politics I am an ‘Independent’, neither a Democrat nor a Republican. I believe that both of those major parties are about as crooked at the top levels as they can find a way to be. When you are a person like Hillary or Bill Clinton or a Trump or a Bush I believe that they have proven themselves to be the type of people who will do anything to win or to enrich themselves. In the past day or so thousands of documents dubbed the ‘Paradise Papers’ have surfaced showing how the super wealthy cheat their country and their people out of tax revenues. Last year the same type thing happened with the ‘Panama Papers.’ These documents show that not only are many of the ‘super wealthy’ cheating on their taxes, they also show how intertwined they are with world leaders, government officials, and the super huge global companies as they all seek to scratch each other’s backs in their efforts to get even richer.

 

Back in the mid-1970’s you used to hear people talking on the radio and TV how with the ‘new technologies’ how people were only going to be only having to work 4 day weeks because the machines will allow us to get as much done in 4 days as was currently being done in the 5 day work week. How foolish these ‘talking heads’ were. If you are the employer why would you give up the chance to make an extra 20% each week by giving your employees an extra day off? Especially if your company is on the Stock Exchange, your stockholders would quickly replace you. The business world, especially those on the Stock Exchange are only concerned about one thing, higher profits. If you have ever paid any attention at all to the stock market, you should have noticed how little these people think of the people who are actually making the products. When two companies merge the value of the stock goes up. Why, because the next thing that will happen is the new Board of Directors will be getting rid of many ‘unneeded’ employees. Doing this means that the company will take those wages as pure profit, increasing the value of its stock. When a company decides to get rid of employees, the stock value goes up. When a company breaks a Union, the stock value goes up. During these events, you should also have seen that the Board of Directors salaries and bonuses go up. When a company moves their production factories to a ‘third world’ country where they can fire all of their American workers and get child slave labor to do all the production, stock values, and executive compensation goes up.

 

The world as you know has a population growth that is unsustainable yet at this same time machines and robots (AI) are taking more and more jobs away from workers. From a business standpoint, having machines replace human workers is a very wise thing to do, and it increases your stock value and the bosses salaries and compensation. If they invest in machines they can get rid of the overhead cost of having human employees. Think about it, no more salaries to pay, no benefit packages to pay like Workers Comp, vacation pay, health insurance, retirement benefits, paid sick days, you can’t be sued by a computer, no OSHA regulations to adhere to. Folks, the list goes on and on.

 

Our planet has about seven billion people on it right now, look at the slave labor around the world right now, from Africa to Asia to the Middle-East and yes, here in the U.S. also. Is slave labor legal in a lot of these countries? No, but it still goes on. You may say why, why does it still go on but the answer is simple, pay as little for the labor as possible to increase the profits at the top and to the stockholders. You may say now wait a moment, slaves don’t cost anything but this is not totally true. Slaves still have to get some food and some water or they will die or become too weak to do the work. The more slaves you have in the ‘waiting room’ the less you have to supply to each one each day. Why, because it is in your financial best interest if all of the ‘extras’ die. If the ‘extras’ aren’t dying fast enough on their own, you assist them.

 

If the Earth has seven billion people but can only sustain six billion people because there is no way to produce enough food, what happens to the extra billion people? Who do you think are going to be the ones that are starved to death? Hint, it is not going to be the super rich who basically own everything, it will be the poorest of the poor who will be eliminated. During the early Republican Primaries last year a former ‘Speaker of the House’ Newt Gingrich spelled out the perfect Republican ‘wish list.’ As you probably know the majority of the Republicans in the Congress and the Senate, and this President wants to cut the national deficit by cutting programs like food stamps to the poor and cutting way back on Medicare, Medicaid, meals on wheels, school lunch programs and Social Security. Folks, who need these programs the most? Mr. Gingrich in a TV program last year went even further. Mr. Gingrich consider all of these programs to be ‘welfare’, yet he went further, he called military retirement pay, VA disability compensation and the VA itself ‘welfare’ programs and he said that all of these ‘Welfare’ programs need to be eliminated. There was one thing that he did not include in his list of welfare programs, that was Congressional, Senate, and Presidential retirement pay and benefits, go figure. He has been receiving taxpayer-paid benefits for decades, but I guess that doesn’t count.

 

Back in the 1950’s the top end national tax rate was 90%, during that time the U.S. was able to build city infrastructures, a National Highway program unequaled in the whole world as well as thousands of new bridges and dams. Now, our roads, bridges, dams, and cities are falling apart, why is this? Now the top end tax rate has been 35% and the President is pushing a top end tax rate of 20%. This is at the same time that corporations are swimming in cash and as they say, with nowhere to spend it. About six months ago, I think it was on CNN, that they reported that U.S. companies have about 13 Trillion Dollars sitting in offshore accounts. So, what do these Republican lawmakers want to do, take even more money out of the economy and give it to these same folks who are destroying our country from the inside? It is also these same benefactors who are filling the pockets of these same evil politicians.

 

Back in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s in China Chairman Mao put a starvation policy in place against the citizens of China. The reason was simple, 500 million people are easier to control than one billion people. Folks, these are just things that I have seen, heard, and read throughout my 60+ years. You don’t have to agree with anything that I have written in this article today, but I hope that I have been able to at least get you to think about these issues.