It’s ‘no surprise’ we’re seeing coronavirus surge in Republican areas, ER doctor explains

Despite the fact that there are nearly 8 million cases of coronavirus in the U.S., the pandemic is still heavily politicized in the country. 

President Trump largely eschews mask wearing and falsely claimed during a town hall this week that “85% of the people wearing masks catch” Covid-19 despite becoming infected and sick himself. And amid the president’s behavior on a national stage, Republican-leaning areas of the U.S. are now experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases. 

“To the extent that public health measures have become politicized, it really should be no surprise that we see that the spread of the disease also runs along political lines,” Dr. Steven McDonald, a New York-based emergency medicine physician, said on Yahoo Finance’s The Ticker (video above). “When you have a Republican president telling Republican supporters that mask wearing is not necessary, even after he’s had coronavirus from a maskless event, it’s no surprise that we see surges in Republican areas.”

Data compiled by web developer Dan Goodspeed shows just how badly Republican-leaning areas have been hit in the last four months as compared to Democratic-leaning states:

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. since June. (Dan Goodspeed/New York Times data)
Coronavirus cases in the U.S. since June. (Dan Goodspeed/New York Times data)

‘The rise in the death rate will be soon to follow’

Coronavirus initially spread quickly on the American West coast and the Northeast, with New York City becoming the global epicenter for a time, before transmission declined rapidly after governors implemented statewide mask mandates and stay-at-home orders.

The South experienced its own wave of cases after governors lifted restrictions early into the pandemic, and transmission remains troublingly high in that region. In recent months, coronavirus spread as moved across the Midwest. Now, states in the West including Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Idaho are seeing their own spikes in cases amid lax social distancing policies.

“The concern there is that these are geographies that don’t have the same density of hospitals and doctors as you do in the Northeast or the metropolitan South or California,” he said. “New York was completely overwhelmed — but at the same time, we have many many hospitals in the New York City metropolitan area. That’s really not the case where the disease is now surging and so, that means that critical patients have fewer critical beds that they can be slotted to. That makes me very nervous.”

There are over 7.9 million cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)
There are over 7.9 million cases in the U.S. (Graphic: David Foster/Yahoo Finance)

North Dakota and South Dakota currently have the most confirmed cases per capita among U.S. states, according to data from the New York Times. South Dakota’s governor, Kristi Noem, a Republican and staunch Trump supporter, declined to impose any mask mandate or business restrictions within her state. She’s also attributed the surge in cases to increased testing, although that doesn’t account for the surge in hospitalizations her state is also experiencing. 

“People are acknowledging that the hospitalization rate is increasing,” McDonald said. “First you see the rise in cases, then the rise in hospitalizations, then the

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Insured Patients Are Getting Surprise Bills After Colonoscopies | Health News

By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

FRIDAY, Oct. 16, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Many Americans who get recommended colon cancer screening may end up with “surprise” medical bills, a new study suggests.

Looking at insurance claims for more than 1.1 million elective colonoscopies, researchers found that 12% involved out-of-network charges.

That’s concerning, the study authors said, because those patients may well have faced bills averaging $400 for a procedure they thought was covered.

The issue has received much media attention of late. Surprise billing happens when insured people receive treatment from a provider in their health plan’s contracted network, but someone on the medical team is not in-network.

The insurance plan may pay part of that provider’s charges, but generally not all. So the patient often ends up with an unexpected bill for the rest.

Often, surprise bills are related to elective surgery — a situation in which patients pick their surgeon and hospital but have no choice about other providers involved in their care. Those providers, such as assistant surgeons, anesthesiologists and radiologists, may be out-of-network, the researchers explained.

But the new study shows the problem extends to screening colonoscopy, a recommended way to catch colon cancer early.

“We want to bring attention to this,” said lead researcher Dr. James Scheiman, chief of gastroenterology at University of Virginia Health in Charlottesville. “There really has been no assessment of the scope of the problem.”

The concern is that some folks will be deterred from getting colon cancer screening, he said.

Experts recommend that people at average risk of colon cancer begin screening at age 45 or 50. That can be done various ways, and a colonoscopy every 10 years is one option. During the procedure, the doctor can not only detect cancer, but also remove any pre-cancerous growths.

“We know it works,” Scheiman said. “We can’t let out-of-pocket costs keep people from this potentially life-saving screening.”

The findings — published online Oct. 12 in Annals of Internal Medicine — are based on claims from a large national health insurance plan. Scheiman’s team focused on more than 1.1 million elective colonoscopies where the facility and the doctor performing the procedure were in the health plan’s network.

Despite that, one in eight claims included out-of-network charges. That translated to nearly 136,000 colonoscopies for which patients potentially received a surprise bill. (There was no way to determine how many patients actually did, Scheiman said.)

Those out-of-network charges were typically around $1,000. Accounting for the portion the insurer would likely pay, the researchers estimated that the typical surprise bill would be about $400.

Overall, anesthesiologists and pathologists (doctors who study tissue samples) accounted for most out-of-network charges, the investigators found.

And that’s no surprise, said Loren Adler, associate director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, in Washington, D.C.

In general, Adler said, surprise bills come from a limited number of specialties — the providers patients do not choose. Emergency room doctors, anesthesiologists, radiologists and pathologists — as well as ambulance services —

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