Nysha Recent News

Public Health and Policy

Upped Social Security recipient protections now law

Washington, D.C. — After unanimous approval by Congress, the Strengthening Protections for Social Security Beneficiaries Act of 2018 was signed into law by President Donald Trump on April 13.


Under the new law, individuals tasked with handling Social Security payments for people with disabilities—representative payees (“rep payees”)—will be subject to greater scrutiny.  The law specifically bars people with certain types of criminal convictions from being rep payees.


The measure also eliminates the requirement that parents or spouses living with a person with a disability complete an annual accounting form for representative payees.  It blocks people who have representative payees themselves from serving in that capacity for others. And it also allows Social Security recipients to make a list of their preferred payees in order of preference.


According to the Social Security Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, some 6.2 million individuals or organizations act as representative payees on behalf of about 8 million beneficiaries. Such representatives are assigned if the agency determines that a person’s mental or physical condition prevents them from being able to manage their benefits.



With bugs and hygiene, public restroom air dryers blow it

Hamden, Connecticut — The next time you use that public facility at an airport or medical office and feel like helping the environment, skip that hot-air hand dryer and reach for the paper towel.


That’s because yet another study, this one by Quinnipiac University, finds that restroom air dryers—invented long ago to reduce paper usage as well as germ proliferation—actually spread a lot of germs, especially onto your hands after you’ve washed them.


In the study, published recently in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, researchers compared different bacteria culture plates that had been exposed to dryer-blown air or general restroom air.


The plates exposed to hot air from hand dryers grew an average of 18 to 60 colonies of bacteria, while those exposed to general restroom air grew an average of one or less.


At least four other studies since 2014 have come to the same conclusion: restroom hand dryers spread more germs than paper towels.



House defeats ‘right-to-try’ experimental drug legislation

Washington, D.C. — On March 13, the House defeated a “right to try” bill that would allow seriously ill patients to get experimental therapies without receiving permission from the FDA.  The legislation failed on a vote of 259 to 140.


The FDA’s existing expanded-access program, which gets over 1,000 requests a year for experimental drugs, already approves 99 percent of such appeals.


The Senate passed a similar measure last summer that was pushed by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).  Thirty-eight states have passed right-to-try laws, and a federal law would block the government from preventing patients from taking advantage of them.


The vote came after a spirited debate in which supportive lawmakers portrayed the measure, which had been strongly backed by the White House, as a last chance at survival for desperately ill patients.  Congressional opponents, along with over 75 patient groups, said the bill would weaken critical FDA protections without addressing the fundamental obstacles to experimental drugs.



Study reveals drivers of U.S. healthcare spending

Cambridge, Massachusetts — A Harvard study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that the U.S. spends nearly twice as much as ten high-income countries on medical care and performed less well on many population health outcomes.


According to the research, the median per capita spending in the U.S. was $9,403.  Sweden was second-highest at $6,808.  The United Kingdom was the lowest, at $3,377.


But researchers also found that the notions that the U.S. spends money on too many doctor visits, hospitalizations, procedures and specialists, and spends too little on social services that could mitigate healthcare needs—may be wrong.  Instead, they found that prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals and devices, and administrative costs appear to be the main drivers of the differences in spending.



FDA sued for delaying e-cig regulations

Washington, D.C. — Several major public health groups sued the FDA in March for delaying certain rules for electronic cigarettes (e-cigs), saying that consumers as a result will be exposed for years to “lethal and addictive components” in tobacco products.


The lawsuit is challenging an agency decision last summer to grant lengthy deadline extensions to manufacturers seeking FDA approval for their products. Originally, the companies were required to submit such product-review applications by August 2018 for any item that went on the market after February 2007. The revised timeline changed that to August 2021 for cigars and August 2022 for e-cigarettes.


The organizations suing include the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Heart Association, American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Truth Initiative.