Heathy Life News

Pandemic Delays Federal Probe Into Medicare Advantage Health Plans

Federal health officials, citing a need to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic, have temporarily halted some efforts to recover hundreds of millions of dollars in overpayments made to Medicare Advantage health plans.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services says the decision will allow insurers and the agency to “focus on patient care,” and will last “until after the public health emergency has ended.”

Critics aren’t convinced that’s a wise idea.

“Some loosening of regulations during a crisis is necessary. But is this an abdication of oversight?” asked David Lipschutz, associate director and a senior policy attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “This is a serious concern we will have to grapple with at some point.”

Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private health insurers under contracts with Medicare. They treat more than 24 million Americans, most of them seniors at a relatively high risk of serious health complications

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Postcard From The Edge: L.A. Street Vendors Who Can’t Stop Working

LOS ANGELES — One day last week, on a sunny, beautiful Los Angeles afternoon, 23-year-old Alex Salvador Morales set up shop on a sidewalk near downtown, selling freshly cut pineapple, mango and watermelon in quart-sized plastic cups for $5.

Before the pandemic, fruit stands like his dotted streets on days like this, one every few blocks on the busy stretches. With millions of people staying home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, however, business was so bad that many of Salvador Morales’ fellow fruit vendors hadn’t bothered to show up.

But Salvador Morales said he couldn’t afford to stop working because his family in Guatemala counts on him to send money back home. He also needs to pay his rent. It was due last Wednesday, and he didn’t have enough to pitch in his $500 for the apartment he shares with a roommate.

With the surrounding streets mostly empty, Salvador Morales had

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‘When It Starts Getting Into Your Local Hospital, It Becomes Real’

The folding chairs outside the windows appeared late last month, after the maintenance staff at St. James Parish Hospital labeled each window with a patient room number so families and friends could at least see their loved ones battling COVID-19.

Yet even this small solace the Louisiana rural hospital can offer is tainted for clinical nurse educator Leslie Fisher. She has to remind the family members to take shifts to properly social distance from one another — even when their loved ones could be in their final moments.

The difficult conversations feel unceasingly cruel, she said, but she feels she has an obligation to protect these people, too. All she can do is look them in the eyes and say, “I’m so, so sorry.”

Folding chairs outside the hospital’s windows allow families and friends to see their loved ones battling COVID-19.

This is the new normal for St. James Parish

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California Hospitals Face Surge With Proven Fixes And Some Hail Marys

California’s hospitals thought they were ready for the next big disaster.

They’ve retrofitted their buildings to withstand a major earthquake and  whisked patients out of danger during deadly wildfires. They’ve kept patients alive with backup generators amid sweeping power shutoffs and trained their staff to thwart would-be shooters.

But nothing has prepared them for a crisis of the magnitude facing hospitals today.

“We’re in a battle with an unseen enemy, and we have to be fully mobilized in a way that’s never been seen in our careers,” said Dr. Stephen Parodi, an infectious disease expert for Kaiser Permanente in California. (Kaiser Health News, which produces California Healthline, is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.)

As California enters the most critical period in the state’s battle against COVID-19, the state’s 416 hospitals — big and small, public and private — are

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