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5-Star Friday: Our staff has your Fourth of July reading right here!

5-star fridayAs we head into Independence Day weekend, it’s a time for Americans to reflect on the many things we have to be proud of in this country. But we also have things that need to be fixed. Some problems — like our health care delivery system — are daunting, complex, and arguably urgent.

It’s often said, “you can’t fix a problem until you understand it.”  Writers who take on complex health care issues — like those we feature below — and make them easier for the rest of us to understand, are to be commended … and read.


Michael Joyce | Multimedia Producer

A Doctor’s View of Obamacare & Trumpcare From Rural Georgia • by Charles Bethea • The New Yorker

It seems most of the health care stories I read are sourced from urban, multi-specialty medical centers where the patients are insured and receive their high tech care from adequately paid physicians.

Michael Joyce

But there’s another perspective that most of us aren’t familiar with. Maybe we don’t want to see it or, at least, admit it exists in our $3 trillion health care industry (give or take a few billion).

Freelancer Charles Bethea shares the story and insights of Dr. Karen Kinsell, a Columbia-trained physician who sees patients in a former Tastee-Freez in Clay County, Georgia (“It’s a bad place to live, which is why I moved here. I was looking for a place that needed me”). She sees 30-35 patients a day, almost half have no insurance, and she’ll take $10 a visit if the patient can afford it.

Suffice to say her take on how Obamacare did or didn’t work – and what Trumpcare promises — is one that doesn’t get heard enough, but should carry tremendous weight.


Gary Schwitzer | Publisher

In The End, Even The Middle Class Would Feel GOP Squeeze On Nursing Home Care • by Jordan Rau • Kaiser Health News

Gary Schwitzer

You may think Medicaid is just an insurance program for low income women and children. If so, Rau’s piece may be an eye-opener.  He reports that Medicaid pays for about two-thirds of the 1.4 million American elderly people in nursing homes. Two money quotes:

  • “Moms and kids aren’t where the money is,” said Damon Terzaghi, a senior director at the National Association of States United for Aging and Disabilities, a group that represents state agencies that manage programs for these populations or advocate for them. “If you’re going to cut that much money out, it’s going to be coming from older people and people with disabilities.”
  • “These folks have worked their whole lives, some with pretty strenuous jobs, and paid into the system,” (a nursing supervisor at one nursing home) said. But with changes looming, she said, “it may be a system that fails them.”

Another example of the fine reporting by Kaiser Health News.


Joy Victory | Deputy Managing Editor

The Wellness Epidemic • by Amy Larocca • New York Magazine

Joy Victory

In this piece, Larocca explores an intriguing question: In our increasingly have-or-have-not world–especially when it comes to healthcare–why do the haves still seek out questionable but often expensive wellness cures? She speaks to a range of sources–from those who fully embrace ideas like juice cleanses and “vagina jade eggs” to those who consider a lot of it mostly just “batshit crazy.”

Larocca looks at the current wellness fads through the filter of those who read Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop.com site, and how over time the site has shifted from fun things Paltrow likes, to self-improvement advice and a related (and huge) e-commerce section. It’s no coincidence, Larocca posits, that Goop came about at the same time pharma began to exert increasing control over our medical care. She writes:

“Goop became less about hotels and restaurants and more about chakras and thyroids, with the implication that maybe what’s actually standing between you and your inner Gwyneth is some mysterious virus that your overextended, pharmaceutically corrupt doctor is too narrow-minded to address.”


Jill U. Adams | Associate Editor

Meet The People Doing Poop Transplants The Government Doesn’t Want Them To • Nidhi Subbaraman • BuzzFeed News

An in-depth look at a barely regulated experimental procedure — fecal transplants. As Subbaraman writes, “It’s difficult, after all, and perhaps futile, to control a ‘drug’ that’s so abundant, free, and 100% natural.”

Readers meet a patient (a 6-year-old boy with autism and constipation), a donor (a healthy-eating fitness trainer), and a doctor who avoids FDA trouble by teaching patients how to do the transplants themselves. Other voices advocate for caution against the procedure, which seems alternately disgusting, crazy, and intriguing. Compelling stories, superbly reported.


Also worth noting…

Buzzfeed earned a 5-star review this week, for an explainer on female condoms. Our reviewers were especially pleased to see an in-depth discussion of the cost and availability of this lesser-known contraception.

You can find more 5-star offerings HERE.

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