Consumer Health Digest #20-31
Your Weekly Update of News and Reviews
August 9, 2020
Consumer Health Digest is a free weekly e-mail newsletter edited by William M. London, Ed.D., M.P.H., with help from Stephen Barrett, M.D. 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. Its primary focus is on health, but occasionally it includes non-health scams and practical tips.
Excessive billing for COVID-19 testing exposed. A report from the Kaiser Family Foundation has revealed wide variation in the list prices advertised by hospitals in the U.S. for COVID-19 diagnostic and antibody tests. Provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act have been inadequate to remove cost barriers to people getting tested. [Kurani N. and others. COVID-19 test prices and payment policy. Petersen-KFF Health System Tracker, July 15, 2020] The reasons include:
- Requirements on health plans to cover COVID-19 test-related services are limited.
- For out-of-network COVID-19 tests, private plans are required to pay the full price that is posted online.
- Federal law does not require out-of-network providers to bill insurance directly for COVID-19 tests.
- Federal coverage requirements apply only to individualized diagnostic testing, but not when conducted as part of employee "return to work" programs.
- Federal requirements to cover COVID-19 tests do not apply to all private plans.
- While the laws made resources available to finance free testing for uninsured individuals, they don't guarantee them access to free COVID-19 testing.
Egregious examples of excessive billing for out-of-network COVID-19 testing have been publicized in Texas. [Allen M. Texas woman goes for $175 COVID-19 test and ends up with $2,479 in charges. Click2Houston.com, Aug 3, 2020] Consumers are advised to: (a) confirm their coverage in advance of getting tested, (b) check for government resources for testing, (c) appeal surprise medical bills, and (d) beware of testing scams. [Rosato D. How 'free' coronavirus testing has become the new surprise medical bill. Consumer Reports, July 27, 2020]
Promoter of silver products to cure COVID-19 indicted. Gordon H. Pedersen has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Salt Lake City on one count of mail fraud, two counts of wire fraud, and four counts of introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud and mislead. He is alleged to have: (a) fraudulently promoted and sold ingestible silver-based products via the Internet as a cure for COVID-19 despite having no evidence that his products could treat or cure the disease, and (b) claimed to be a physician and worn a stethoscope and white lab coat in videos and photos posted on the Internet to further his alleged fraud scheme. A civil restraining order has shut down Pedersen's cure-all claims. He now faces criminal charges. In a related matter, the company Pedersen previously co-owned, My Doctor Suggests LLC, has agreed to plead guilty to a one-count criminal information which includes a civil consent order requiring the company to cease fraudulently labeling its products and to issue full refunds to affected consumers. The company allegedly worked with Pedersen and his company GP Silver LLC on the fraudulent scheme. It has severed ties with Pedersen and agreed to cooperate in his prosecution. The U.S. Department of Justice anticipates that My Doctor Suggests will plead guilty to a single misdemeanor count of distributing misbranded drug products in interstate commerce in violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. [Utah man posing as medical doctor to sell baseless coronavirus cure indicted on fraud charges. US DOJ news release, July 28, 2020]
Income claims for Beautycounter distributors scrutinized. Although the 2019 income disclosure statement of the make-up and skin care multi-level marketing company Beautycounter reveals that distributors tend not to make much money, an investigation by TruthInAdvertising.org found more than 100 examples online of Beautycounter and/or its distributors making high income claims. More than half of those claims have since been taken down. [The ugly truth about Beautycounter. TINA.org, July 17, 2020]
Historic chiropractic anti-drug propaganda exposed. Chirobase has spotlighted campaigns in 1972 and 1985 by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) to undermine public trust in medical treatment and encourage chiropractic treatment instead. [Barrett S. The American Chiropractic Association's improper attack on prescription drug use. Chirobase, July 31, 2020] The ACA's 1985 Speaking and Personal Betterment Guide included a script for a ten-minute talk titled "Beware of All Drugs and Medications." Associated "Pill Popper" radio and TV spots asked whether America was becoming "a land of strong pills . . . and weak people." A patient-education pamphlet titled Beware of Overuse of Drugs that had a similar message. Dr. Stephen Barrett has concluded that almost all statements in the speaker script were false or misleading. He advises:
The drug marketplace does have problems. But the best way to avoid them is not to avoid all drugs but to use the services of doctors who can sort out the facts and determine which treatments would be best for their patients. Chiropractic bad-mouthing can safely be ignored.
YouTube removes anti-mask video. YouTube has removed 24 copies of a video in which Kelly Victory, M.D. asserted that (a) COVID-19 is less serious than generally believed, (b) social distancing is not necessary, (c) wearing a mask does more harm than good, and (d) Americans should feel "secure and confident to fully return to your lives, your businesses, schools, and places of worship without fear and without limitations." The video had more than 700,000 views before YouTube removed it for violating its COVID-19 medical misinformation policy. Dr. Barrett has posted background information about Victory and a detailed analysis of the video. [Barrett S. A skeptical look at Kelly Victory, M.D. Quackwatch, July 23, 2020]
This page was posted on August 10, 2020.