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5 posts from March 2022


Prof. Laura Katz Olson Discusses Her Just-Published, "Ethically Challenged: Private Equity Storms US Health Care" (March 30th)

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In her just published Johns Hopkins University Press book, "Ethically Challenged, Private Equity Storms US Health Care," Professor Olson’s describes how and why Private Equity (PE) firms over the past forty years have purchased an ever-increasing number of acute and post-acute providers, physician groups, dental practices and a long list of health care ancillary services and what impacts PE firms have had/are having on the affordability and delivery of health care.  In 2020, PE constituted a $5 trillion industry with approximately 3,750 firms owning over 8,000 companies.  The US has the most corporatized healthcare system in the world.  

This 39 minute interview begins with Prof. Olson explaining briefly what prompted her to research and write the book.  She moves on to providing an overview of how PE firms operate or what's their playbook, briefly notes as an example the demise Philly's Hahnemann University Hospital's, discusses the effect PE ownership has on health care delivery, explains the "corporate practice of medicine" doctrine, discusses what she learned from physicians who sold their practices to PE, Congressional efforts to reform the PE industry including the "Stop Wall Street Looting Act," PE-related surprise billing legislation, PE performance during the pandemic, and suggests further policy reforms to better policy PE investments in healthcare.                       

Laura Katz Olson is a Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University.  She earned her undergraduate degree at the City College of New York (CCNY) and her Ph.D. in political science at the University of Colorado Boulder.  Professor Olson has published nine books, the most recent of which is Elder Care Journey: A View from the Front Lines (SUNY Press, 2016).  Her other books include: The Politics of Medicaid (Columbia University Press); The Political Laura-photo-web Economy of Aging: The State, Private Power and Social Welfare; Aging and Public Policy: The Politics of Growing Old in America; The Graying of the World: Who Will Take Care of the Frail Elderly; Age Through Ethnic Lenses: Caring for the Elderly in a Multicultural Society; The Not So Golden Year: Caregiving, the Frail Elderly and the Long-Term Care Establishment; The Handbook of Long-Term Care Administration and Policy; and Heart Sounds (her first novel)She has been a Scholar at the Social Security Administration, a Gerontological Fellow and a Fulbright Scholar.  She also has lectured throughout Pennsylvania on Social Security, Medicare and Long-term Care policies.  Professor Olson is on the editorial board of the Journal of Aging Studies and New Political Science.

Information concerning Prof. Olson's book is at: https://www.press.jhu.edu/books/title/12719/ethically-challenged.  


Professor Katheleen Mullan Harris Discusses the NAS Report, "High and Rising Mortality Rates Among Working-Age Adults" (March 23)

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This discussion intends to bring listeners more up to date regarding declining life expectancy in the US via discussion of the National Academy of Sciences' 2021 consensus report, "High and Rising Mortality Rates Among Working-Age Adults."  This interview builds upon previous related discussions including my 2013 interview with Dr. Steven Woolf regarding the IOM’s related report, “Shorter Lives, Poorer Health,”  my January 2021 follow up interview with Dr. Woolf, my Brian Alexander interview in June 2021, my Professors Gibson-Davis and Hill interview last September and my Prof Carol Graham interview last November.   

During this 39 minute interview Prof Harris begins by providing an overview of the report's findings, e.g., what explains the increase in working age mortality and what subpopulations are being impacted.  She then discusses US life expectancy compared to other, like countries, the significant variation in life expectancy within the US, e.g., richest v. poorest 1%, she discusses the report's chapter ten, "the relationship between economic factors and mortality," discusses her related Senate HELP Committee testimony from last July touches on mental health, her related Senate HELP Subcommittee testimony last July especially her noting higher rates of disease among younger adults (think: living in an obesogenic environment) and her view regarding what policy reforms the report's findings suggest.        

Kathleen Mullan Harris is the James E. Haar Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Adjunct Professor of Public Policy.  She was awarded the Golden Goose Award from the US Harrisk Congress for major breakthroughs in medicine, social behavior, and technological research and the Irene Taeuber Award from the Population Association of America in recognition of original and important contributions to the scientific study of population.  Dr. Harris is past president of the Population Association of America, past president of the Interdisciplinary Association of Population Health Science, and an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The NAS report is at: https://www.nap.edu/download/25976

Professor Mullan Harris's related July 2021 Senate HELP Committee testimony is at: https://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Harris10.pdf


255th Podcast Interview: Dr. Lise van Susteren Discusses the Psychological Effects of the Climate Crisis (March 18th)

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In a survey published late last year in The Lancet Planetary Health, coauthored by Dr. van Susteren, 10,000, 16-25 year olds across 10 countries including the US were surveyed to assess their level of climate anxiety and the beliefs about government responses to the climate crisis.  The survey found: 75% thought the climate crisis posed a frightening future; 66% were left afraid, anxious or sad; 60% were very or extremely worried about global warming; and, 56% thought humanity is consequently doomed.   Concerning governments' response to the climate crisis: 65% agreed governments were failing them; 64% agreed governments were lying about climate crisis-related impacts; and, 60% agreed they were dismissing their distress.  Suicides in the US have increased by 33% overall since 1999 and by twice this percent for 10-24 year olds.  Today, suicide is a leading cause of death in the US.   

During this 33 minute interview Dr. van Susteren begins by describing what is eco-anxiety and how does it manifests.  The discussion moves on to her assessment of David Buckel's widely reported 2018 suicide, where is the psychological field regarding recognizing climate anxiety in the DSM-5, what explains professional medical associations hesitance in addressing the climate crisis and the Biden administration's and the World Health Organization's refusal to declare a climate emergency, she explains the work of her cofounded organizations, Climate Psychiatry and the Climate Psychology Alliance - North America, addresses how best to respond to experiencing a weather disaster event, and finally she encourages those disturbed by the climate crisis to take action.            

Dr. Lise van Susteren is a general and forensic psychiatrist in Washington, DC, and an  expert on the physical and psychological impacts of climate change. In 2011 she co-authored "The Psychological Effects of Global Warming on the U.S. - Why the US Mental Health System Is Not Prepared".  Van Susteren is a Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Download Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University and has been a consultant to the Executive Branch of the US government profiling world leaders. After receiving her medical degree from the University of Paris she practiced medicine in West Africa, at community health centers and homeless shelters in the metropolitan Washington DC.  In addition to community organizing on climate issues, van Susteren serves on the Boards of Earth Day Network, Physicians for Social Responsibility and is a co-founder of "Climate Psychiatry Alliance," and of “Climate Psychology Alliance – North America,"  Van Susteren is the expert witness on the psychological damages to young people from inaction on climate in Juliana v US, in Held v Montana and in the European Court of Human Rights.  She is a frequent contributor on television, radio and in the print media.  In 2006 Dr. van Susteren sought the Democratic nomination to the US Senate from Maryland.  Her book, “Emotional Inflammation – Discover Your Triggers and Reclaim Your Equilibrium During Anxious Times” was published in April 2020.

The Lancet published survey is at: https://www.thelancet.com/action/showPdf?pii=S2542-5196%2821%2900278-3.  

Dr. van Susteren's letter to the editor of  The New York Times regarding David Buckel's 2018 suicide, discussed during this podcast, it is at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/18/opinion/suicide-environmental-protest.html

If you are experiencing climate crisis despair and would like to reach out to Dr. van Susteren, her email address is: lvs350@me.com.  


The Lown Institute's Dr. Vikas Saini and Ms. Judith Garber Discuss Nonprofit Hospital CEO Compensation (March 7th)

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Listeners of this podcast are aware the US suffers from extreme wealth and income inequality.  (E.g., see my “The Unrecognized Tragedy of Working Class Immiseration” STAT News essay posted here on December 31st.)  Concerning CEO compensation in the health care industry, the highest ten paid CEO’s in 2020 were paid an average of $20 million.  By comparison, according to 2020 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a BS nurse is $80,000.    

During this 33 minute conversation Dr. Saini and Ms. Garber discuss CEO bonuses during the pandemic, discuss generally CEO compensation as an outlier in the nonprofit sector, discuss the substance of their research findings including what explains CEO compensation and conclude by discussing what criteria should be used in calculating CEO compensation.   

Dr. Vikas Saini, a clinical cardiologist, is President of the Lown Institute.   Previously he has taught and conducted research at Download Harvard.   Prior still he was in private practice for over 15 years on Cape Cod where he also founded Aspect Medical Systems.  Dr. Saini is an expert o optimal medical management of cardiologic conditions, medical overuse, hospital performance and evaluation.  He has presented his research at professional meetings around the world. 


Judith Garber is a Senior Policy Analyst at the Lown Institute.  She joined the Lown team in 2016, after receiving her Master of Public Policy degree from the Heller School of Social Policy.  She previously worked at the  AspenDownload 
Aspen Institute Financial Security Program, the Midas Collaborative, and Pearson Education.   She has a BA in American Studies and Political Science from Rutgers University.   

Saini and Garber's article, "Nonprofit Hospital CEO Compensation: How Much Is Enough? "  It's at: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/forefront.20220208.925255.   

Information on the Lown Institute is at: https://lowninstitute.org/.    


The Latest IPCC Report on the Climate Crisis, an "Atlas of Human Suffering" (February 28th)

Listeners are well aware I spend considerable time discussing the climate crisis.  Again, if it's not successfully addressed nothing else matters.    

Yesterday, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest report that the UN Secretary General aptly termed an "atlas of human suffering."   The report's 35 page summary is here:  https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6wg2/pdf/IPCC_AR6_WGII_SummaryForPolicymakers.pdf

Sadly but to no surprise, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with jurisdiction over health, health insurance, biomedical research, the environment, clean air & the climate crisis, had nothing to say about yesterday’s report, i.e., the committee did not issue a related press release.  E&C did announce on March 9th it was holding a hearing on Daylight Savings Time.  Appreciate the irony.  As for the Senate HELP, or public health, Committee, as I was told last night by majority staff, "the Burrs [staff for Richard Burr, the Ranking Minority member] simply won’t deal with us on climate."  

Concerning the IPCC report , the last sentence of the 3,500 report’s summary reads: “Any further delay in concerted anticipatory global action on adaptation and mitigation will miss a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.”

Among innumerable findings, here’s SPM.B.1.4: “Climate change has adversely affected physical health of people globally (very high confidence) and mental health of people in the assessed regions (very high confidence). Climate change impacts on health are mediated through natural and human systems, including economic and social conditions and disruptions (high confidence). In all regions extreme heat events have resulted in human mortality and morbidity (very high confidence). The occurrence of climate-related food-borne and water-borne diseases has increased (very high confidence). The incidence of vector-borne diseases has increased from range expansion and/or increased reproduction of disease vectors (high confidence). Animal and human diseases, including zoonoses, are emerging in new areas (high confidence). Water and food-borne disease risks have increased regionally from climate-sensitive aquatic pathogens, including Vibrio spp. (high confidence), and from toxic substances from harmful freshwater cyanobacteria (medium confidence). Although diarrheal diseases have decreased globally, higher temperatures, increased rain and flooding have increased the occurrence of diarrheal diseases, including cholera (very high confidence) and other gastrointestinal infections (high confidence). In assessed regions, some mental health challenges are associated with increasing temperatures (high confidence), trauma from weather and climate extreme events (very high confidence), and loss of livelihoods and culture (high confidence). Increased exposure to wildfire smoke, atmospheric dust, and aeroallergens have been associated with climate-sensitive cardiovascular and respiratory distress (high confidence). Health services have been disrupted by extreme events such as floods (high confidence).”  

Needless to say I highly recommend reading the report's summary.