Although the technology to keep kidney patients alive through dialysis had arrived, it was still unattainable for all but a lucky few.
Patient on dialysis (image Razor Gator)
by Robin Fields, ProPublica
In 1972, after a month of deliberation, Congress launched the nation’s most ambitious experiment in universal health care: a change to the Social Security Act that granted comprehensive coverage under Medicare to virtually anyone diagnosed with kidney failure, regardless of age or income.
It was a supremely hopeful moment. Although the technology to keep kidney patients alive through dialysis had arrived, it was still unattainable for all but a lucky few. At one hospital, a death panel — or “God committee” in the parlance of the time — was deciding who got it and who didn’t. The new program would help about 11,000 Americans, just for starters. For a modest initial price tag of $135 million, it would cover not only their dialysis and transplants, but all of their medical needs. Some consider it the closest that the United States has come to socialized medicine.
Now, almost four decades later, a program once envisioned as a model for a national health care system has evolved into a hulking monster. Taxpayers spend more than $20 billion a year to care for those on dialysis — about $77,000 per patient, more, by some accounts, than any other nation. Yet the United States continues to have one of the industrialized world’s highest mortality rates for dialysis care. Even taking into account differences in patient characteristics, studies suggest that if our system performed as well as Italy’s, or France’s, or Japan’s, thousands fewer patients would die each year. Continue reading →
Three years before Pakistani terrorists struck Mumbai in 2008, federal agents in New York City investigated a tip that an American businessman was training in Pakistan with the group that later executed the attack.
Mumbai attack on Taj Mahal Hotel image, Israpundit
The previously undisclosed allegations against David Coleman Headley, who became a key figure in the plot that killed 166 people, came from his wife after a domestic dispute that resulted in his arrest in 2005.
In three interviews with federal agents, Headley’s wife said that he was an active militant in the terrorist group Lashkar-i-Taiba, had trained extensively in its Pakistani camps, and had shopped for night vision goggles and other equipment, according to officials and sources close to the case. The wife, whom ProPublica is not identifying to protect her safety, also told agents that Headley had bragged of working as a paid U.S. informant while he trained with the terrorists in Pakistan, according to a person close to the case.
Federal officials say the FBI “looked into” the tip, but they declined to say what, if any, action was taken. Headley was jailed briefly in New York on charges of domestic assault, but was not prosecuted. He wasn’t captured until 11 months after the Mumbai attack, when British intelligence alerted U.S. authorities that he was in contact with al Qaeda operatives in Europe. Continue reading →
The federal agency that administers Medicare and Medicaid contributed to gaps in a national database of disciplined health care providers when it failed to report disciplinary actions as required by law, a new investigation found.
Significant gaps in the decades-old database came to light earlier this year when ProPublica found that many states hadn’t been reporting disciplinary actions taken against doctors, nurses, therapists and other health practitioners as required.
But the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a federal agency that’s part of the Department of Health and Human Services, essentially undermined its own department’s efforts to manage and maintain the federal database.
The new investigation was conducted by the department’s inspector general. It found that CMS, which oversees health care programs serving about 45 million Medicare beneficiaries and 59 million Medicaid beneficiaries, took disciplinary action against numerous bad medical providers but did not report those actionsto the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank. Continue reading →
Much of what is on Wikileaks is already in circulation but not in one place
Australian founder of whistleblowing website, 'WikiLeaks', Julian Assange, holds up a copy of today's Guardian newspaper during a press conference in London on July 26, 2010. (LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)
This morning, The New York Times , England’s The Guardian  and Germany’s Der Spiegel  published reports on what’s been termed the “War Logs”—nearly 92,000 documents about the war in Afghanistan made public by WikiLeaks. To put the leaked documents in context, we pulled together some of the best, past reporting on the main themes in the reports.
Pakistan’s influence on Afghanistan
The documents suggest  that Pakistan’s intelligence service has been aiding the Taliban and the Afghan insurgency. (See some of the documents here .) At the heart of this debate is the question Dexter Filkins posed in his Pulitzer-Prize winning coverage  in late 2007: “Whose side is Pakistan really on?” Continue reading →
The following year, a Washington Post series about substandard conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital described the plight of several soldiers with brain injuries.Members of Congress responded by dedicating more than $1.7 billion to research and treatment of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress, a psychological disorder common among soldiers returning from war. They passed a law requiring the military to test soldiers’ cognitive functions before and after deployment so brain injuries wouldn’t go undetected.
Military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, part 1 of 2
William Fraas during occupational therapy at Mentis Neuro Rehabilitation Center in El Paso, Texas. Fraas survived several roadside blasts in Iraq, but suffered brain damage. (Blake Gordon/Aurora Photos)
ProPublica - WASHINGTON, D.C.–The military medical system is failing to diagnose brain injuries in troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom receive little or no treatment for lingering health problems, an investigation by ProPublica and NPR has found.
So-called mild traumatic brain injury has been called one of the wars’ signature wounds. Shock waves from roadside bombs can ripple through soldiers’ brains, causing damage that sometimes leaves no visible scars but may cause lasting mental and physical harm.
Officially, military figures say about 115,000 troops have suffered mild traumatic brain injuries since the wars began. But top Army officials acknowledged in interviews that those statistics likely understate the true toll. Tens of thousands of troops with such wounds have gone uncounted, according to unpublished military research obtained by ProPublica and NPR. Continue reading →