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Wisconsin hospital files 200 debt lawsuits during pandemic

Alysa Gummow didn’t know what to think in October when the letters from law firms arrived in the mail. She had filed for bankruptcy in 2017 to restructure nearly $50,000 in debt — mostly from an earlier hip surgery. But that was resolved. Why was she getting these letters now?

The 37-year-old learned that Froedtert South hospital in Kenosha, Wis., was suing her to recover about $1,000 in separate bills that her health insurance didn’t cover.

A maskless man visited her home a few days later to make the lawsuit official, delivering the message: “You’ve been served.”

In April, Froedtert South said it would make debt lawsuits “rare” during the pandemic. But the hospital has since filed at least 231 lawsuits in small claims court against debtors like Gummow. It filed more in 2020 than it did in 2019 — 314, compared to 282.

This year’s lawsuits collectively seek to

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The hospital autopsy, a fading practice, revealed secrets of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has helped revive the autopsy.

When the virus first arrived in U.S. hospitals, doctors could only guess what was causing its strange constellation of symptoms: What could explain why patients were losing their sense of smell and taste, developing skin rashes, struggling to breathe and reporting memory loss on top of flu-like coughs and aches?

At hospital morgues, which have been steadily losing prominence and funding over several decades, pathologists were busily dissecting the disease’s first victims — and finding some answers.

“We were getting emails from clinicians, kind of desperate, asking, ‘What are you seeing?'” said NYU Langone’s Dr. Amy Rapkiewicz. ‘Autopsy,’ she pointed out, means to see for yourself. “That’s exactly what we had to do.”

Early autopsies of deceased patients confirmed the coronavirus does not just cause respiratory disease, but can also attack other vital organs. They also led doctors to try blood thinners

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Hospital price variation exacerbates health inequities

As hospitals leverage their market power to increase prices, they use their financial gains to attract more privately insured patients and divert Medicaid beneficiaries, exacerbating health inequities, according to new research.

Well-capitalized hospitals tend to invest in staff, facility upgrades and acquisitions that draw more lucrative privately insured patients and further augment their leverage. This cycle of price discrimination segregates local markets, often funneling Blacks and Hispanics—who are two-and-a-half times more likely to rely on Medicaid coverage than whites—to hospitals with lower quality scores, according to a new commentary published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

More than 80% of white Americans were covered by an employer or Medicare as of 2018, compared with only 62% of Black Americans and 52% of Hispanic Americans, researchers found.

Higher-quality hospitals tend to serve more commercially insured patients. In Los Angeles, for instance, hospitals with clinical quality above the national median allocate

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COVID-19 surprise billing ban in 2020 may offer lessons for 2022

Complying with a balance billing ban is easier for larger organizations with more sophisticated systems, said Erin Fuse Brown, an associate professor of law at Georgia State University. The pilot could produce insights about how well patients were protected from surprise bills and how much insurers actually paid providers, but observing state legislation such as a new surprise billing law in Indiana could be more instructive, Fuse Brown said.

The White House official said the COVID-19 surprise billing ban could be a “very ripe research opportunity,” and that the lack of substantive pushback from healthcare providers could be a positive sign for more comprehensive reform.

However, there are limits to the conclusions that can be drawn from such a narrow policy.

For one, it is unclear exactly how many providers were affected by the ban. According to HHS data, 394,146 providers with unique tax identification numbers had agreed to the

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Trump threatens to torpedo COVID relief with new demands

President Donald Trump late Tuesday threatened to torpedo Congress’ massive pandemic relief package in the midst of a raging pandemic and deep economic uncertainty, suddenly demanding changes fellow Republicans have opposed.

Trump assailed the bipartisan $900 billion package in a video he tweeted out Tuesday night and suggested he may not sign it. He said the bill would deliver too much money to foreign countries, but not enough to Americans.

The bill provides for a $600 payment to most Americans, but Trump said he is asking Congress to amend the bill and “increase the ridiculously low $600 to $2,000, or $4,000 for a couple. I am also asking Congress to get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill.”

The relief package was part of a hard-fought compromise bill that includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains

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New strain of COVID-19 is driving South Africa’s resurgence

South Africa has announced that a new variant of the COVID-19 virus is driving the country’s current resurgence of the disease, which is seeing higher numbers of confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

The new variant, known as 501.V2, is dominant among new confirmed infections in South Africa, according to health officials and scientists leading the country’s virus strategy.

“It is still very early but at this stage, the preliminary data suggests the virus that is now dominating in the second wave is spreading faster than the first wave,” Professor Salim Abdool Karim, chairman of the government’s Ministerial Advisory Committee, said in a briefing to journalists.

South Africa may see “many more cases” in the new wave than it experienced in the first surge of the disease, said Abdool Karim.

South Africa currently has more than 8,500 people hospitalized with COVID-19, surpassing the previous high of 8,300 recorded in August.

“We

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