Consumer Health Digest #17-02

Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
January 8, 2017

Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by Stephen Barrett, M.D., with help from William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H. It summarizes scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; Web site evaluations; recommended and nonrecommended books; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making.

Obama cautions about Affordable Care Act repeal. The New England Journal of Medicine has published outgoing President Barack Obama's view that repealing the Affordable Care Act without a clear and suitable replacement would pose severe risks to tens of millions of Americans. It states:

[The] approach of "repeal first and replace later" is, simply put, irresponsible—and could slowly bleed the health care system that all of us depend on. . . . . If a repeal with a delay is enacted, the health care system will be standing on the edge of a cliff, resulting in uncertainty and, in some cases, harm beginning immediately. Insurance companies may not want to participate in the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2018 or may significantly increase prices to prepare for changes in the next year or two, partly to try to avoid the blame for any change that is unpopular. Physician practices may stop investing in new approaches to care coordination if Medicare's Innovation Center is eliminated. Hospitals may have to cut back services and jobs in the short run in anticipation of the surge in uncompensated care that will result from rolling back the Medicaid expansion. Employers may have to reduce raises or delay hiring to plan for faster growth in health care costs without the current law's cost-saving incentives. And people with preexisting conditions may fear losing lifesaving health care that may no longer be affordable or accessible.

The full text of the article—which is not copyrighted—is posted to Insurance Reform Watch. Along the same lines, University of North Carolina professor Jonathan Oberlender, Ph.D., noted that "Talking about repealing the ACA is much easier than actually repealing and replacing it" and that president-elect Donald Trump's reform vision "remains largely a mystery." [Oberlender J. The end of Obamacare. New England Journal of Medicine 376:1-3, 2017]

TV pitchman loses final appeal. The U.S. Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of Kevin Trudeau, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence for criminal contempt of court. Trudeau, who was commonly referred to as an "infomercial king," repeatedly violated Federal Trade Commission orders to stop misrepresenting what he marketed and hid assets to avoid making court-ordered restitution. [Barrett S. Kevin Trudeau's sordid regulatory history. Casewatch, Jan 8, 2017] The Appeals Court order notes that "Trudeau's bag of tricks contains something to relieve almost any ailment or burden." The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to review the Appeals verdict. This week it was revealed that Trudeau did not pay one of his legal teams for work done when the FTC was trying to locate Trudeau's assets and that the courts have ruled that the firm was not entitled to be paid ahead of Trudeau's victims. [Bushey C. Infomercial king Kevin Trudeau hasn't paid his lawyers. Crain's Chicago Business, Jan 3, 2017] Trudeau's tentative prison release date is July 18, 2022.

"Doctor of Pastoral Medicine" arrested. Chiropractor James J. Martin, who had purported to treat patients for diabetes and other medical conditions under his "license" from the Pastoral Medical Association, has been charged with practicing medicine without a license, grand theft (for taking money from 11 patients), and misrepresenting himself as a physician. [Barrett S. James Martin, D.C., Disciplined twice for misleading advertising and arrested for grand theft. Casewatch, Jan 8, 2017] CBS Sacramento also reported that at least 9 patients are suing Martin. In 2012 and 2013, California's Board of Chiropractic Examiners fined him for making claims in his chiropractic practice that the board regarded as unsubstantiated, fabulous, sensational, and/or false. Rather than stopping, he began doing business as "Dr. James Martin, D.PSc." and advertising on his main Web site that he "performs extremely comprehensive saliva hormone testing, comprehensive blood testing, stool analysis, inflammation testing, autoimmune antibody testing, food sensitivity testing not typically performed by traditional medicine . . . to uncover . . . underlying reasons for many conditions like type 2 diabetes, auto immune thyroid conditions, vertigo, dizziness, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, chronic pain, insomnia and a number of other health conditions." Martin's "D.PSc." designation and "license" were issued by the Pastoral Medical Association (PMA), which claims that its members have a legal right to offer health care and advice to patients who join the association. Several states have taken civil actions against practitioners who used PMA's credentials, but California is the first to bring a criminal charge.

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This page was posted on January 8, 2017.