5 Reasons Millennials Should Destroy The Concept Of Marriage

When you are young and free, the summer is a time to be off school, travel, and lament that you aren’t beach-body ready. But once you get a bit older, summer means one thing: Wedding season. Just, so many goddamn weddings. Whether it’s traveling to a destination wedding, sitting through an hour-long mass, or just hanging out in someone’s backyard, you are expected to be there, smile, and bring a gravy boat for the happy couple that will undoubtedly never be used.

But … what if we just got rid of the institution all together? Don’t worry, I’m not some bitter spinster, I’ve been happily married for ten years. But bear with me here, because for millennials, it might make more sense to just stop getting married once and for all. Here’s why.

5

Society Is Failing At It

Let’s say you’re in high school and you really, really suck at math. You never get better than a D on any of your tests. But you decide you want to study math in college. Then you want to go on and get a master’s degree, and even a PhD. Everyone around you is trying to talk you out of it: your friends, your parents, your creepy guidance counselor that keeps touching your knee. But you are insistent. How crazy would that be? Now pretend math is actually marriage. Because society is totally failing at it, yet we keep trying to make it work.

The divorce rate in America is estimated to be between 40 and 50 percent. For millennials, it might end up being even worse thanks to all the divorces our parents went through. If your parents got divorced, you are up to 60 percent more likely to get divorced yourself. It’s called “intergenerational transmission of divorce,” and it means that your parents pass on divorce to their kids just like they do other terrible things like heart disease or ginger hair.

Then there are the infamous “starter marriages.” These are marriages between people in their 20s that usually last less than five years and don’t involve children. The problem with these is that getting divorced once means you will probably divorce again. 67 percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages end in divorce. A recent survey of millennials found that 43 percent of them would like a starter marriage that could be either “renewed” or easily dissolved after two years. 36 percent thought that marriage licenses should be treated like mortgages, on fixed year terms that have to be “renegotiated” once they run out. If this is how we really think marriage should be approached, why have it at all? Why not just live together for as long as you want, and if you break up there is no legal aspect involved?

4

It Fixes Some Legal Issues With Other Types of Relationships

Remember way back in the hot summer of 2015, when it seemed like Obama would be president forever and gay people finally got the right to get married? It was the end of a decades-long slog toward equality, and there was every chance it wouldn’t happen. Until the decision was released, people still thought the five conservative judges might block marriage equality. Fortunately, one of them flipped. But it is easy to forget just how long and hard the fight was, and how close it came to not happening.

Within hours of the decision, think pieces appeared on the “next logical step”: legalizing polygamy. Now, we’re not talking about weird old guys in cults forcing dozens of underage girls to marry them. This is about three or more consenting adults who want to be, for lack of a better word, a couple. Is there really anything wrong with that? If there is anyone out there who loves to cook and clean and maybe knows how to fix cars, I would gladly welcome you into my marriage. In 2015, only 16 percent of people found polygamy “morally acceptable” but that was more than double the 7 percent who thought so in 2001. But it will be another long hill to climb before any case on polygamy gets to the Supreme Court. The simplest way to fix this? Take the legal aspect of marriage out of the picture entirely.

This will work for millennials as well, who are more likely to be in polyamorous relationships than any other group. According to one poll, only 51 percent of people under 30 say that their perfect relationship would be completely monogamous. This is compared to the 70 percent of people over 65 who only want to bump uglies with one person at a time. If we get rid of marriage, millennials can form lasting relationships with any number of people and have them all be equally important.

3

It Ends The Wedding-Industrial Complex

You can’t spend an hour online without finding some millennial talking about the unfairness of student debt. And they’re right, it sucks to start adulthood with negative money if panhandling wasn’t your dream in life. Now that you’ve graduated, you’re right in the sweet spot, age wise, for marriage. Time to bust out the calculator.

According to a survey of 13,000 brides and grooms who got married in 2016, the average American wedding now costs over $35,000. That doesn’t even include costs like the engagement ring, the honeymoon, and the interest you will be paying for years. And sure, some people’s parents pay for their big day, but not everyone is that lucky, which is why a full one-third of couples go into debt to pay for their wedding.

That is worse than it sounds. Money is the biggest cause of stress in a marriage. According to a study of 4,500 couples, money arguments last longer and are more intense than fights over anything else. And if you fight about money issues early on in your marriage, the same study shows you are more likely to end up divorced. One older study found that 10 percent of people broke up mainly because of financial problems, and a whopping 57 percent said it was a primary cause of their divorce. Suddenly that $35,000 party you put on your credit cards isn’t looking like such a brilliant idea.

Look, I get it. Women especially are conditioned to want the big day. I used to buy wedding magazines with my friends and have fun imagining. If you are madly in love with someone you want to show everyone just how huge your love is by proving it with an even bigger wedding. But why do we need to prove anything? If you love someone and are a happy, functional couple, you are proving how committed you are to everyone already. We don’t need weddings to do that. You don’t need to put yourself at the risk of divorce if you never spend the money and never even get married. You can still stay together as long as you want, and have an even better chance of lasting if you don’t start off with money issues and fights about whether or not you invite your fiance’s racist uncle.

2

We’re Already Putting It Off Longer Than Ever

Marriage ages for millennials is already higher than any other generation. These days the average woman gets married at 26.5 and the average man at 29. But that is just the average. In some places, as many as 81 percent of young people are single.

And this might not change much according to one study. The researchers determined that unless marriage rates changed drastically in the near future, up to one-third of millennials will never get married. And those that do find it less important than other generations. Gone is the time where you had to be married to live with someone, or even have a kid with them.

Millennials are putting off marriage for lots of reasons. Some have no money to pay for a wedding (see the wedding-industrial complex above.) Some want to be able to own a house. Others want to live with a partner for a few years first. That might all sound fine, but there are dangers if marriage is still your final goal. Living with someone prior to getting hitched makes you 8 percent more likely to get divorced than people who don’t. And if you put off marriage for too long the same thing happens. Your risk of divorce rises by 5 percent for every year you wait after 32. You know how to avoid divorce? Don’t get married. If we are putting it off for so long already, and so many people will end up single anyway, why not just end the institution once and for all?

1

It Might Be The Natural Way

Thanks to Marilyn Monroe everyone knows about the supposed seven-year itch. But surely that was just made up for a movie, right? No way does everyone want to cheat on their spouses after being tied down for less than a decade.

Wrong. It just takes even less time than seven years. One study looked at animals and found that many of them are serial monogamists. They stay with one partner just long enough to have and raise their children, and then once they fly the nest (in some cases literally) they move on to another mate. Then the same researcher looked at humans and found that in more primitive societies, the same thing often happens. Once a child is four, and is weaned and old enough to be looked after by older siblings or grandparents, the parents move on and find new partners. Biologically, this is a good thing, since having children with different genetic makeups means at least one is likely to be healthy enough to make it to adulthood.

And our biological urge to split up after four years carries over into more advanced civilizations. The study found that four years is peak divorce time for couples. Something about that time makes us want to run off and find a heartier mate. So why tie ourselves down for life when our biology might be telling us to end things much, much sooner? We could take the idea of the starter marriage, get rid of the legal aspect, and expand it throughout our lives. You could find one person to party with in your twenties, then someone more responsible to have kids with, and finally someone fun and financially stable to enjoy your retirement with. It won’t be slutty if we all start doing it.

When you think about it, no other area of life expects you to stay in it forever. Friendships come and go, as do jobs. Why are we expected to legally bind ourselves to one person for life? No one should have to smell the same person’s farts for that long.

Kathy wrote a very funny book called FUNERALS TO DIE FOR and you can buy it here. Or follow her on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter.

Read more: http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-legitimate-reasons-that-marriage-should-be-abolished/

HIV/AIDS Is No Longer The Biggest Killer In Africa

Complications from HIV/AIDS are no longer the biggest killer in Africa and deaths from malaria are down. However, it isn’t all good news.

Although this is undoubtedly an optimistic development, the latest statistics show an unwelcome rise in “lifestyle diseases”, much like the ones we see throughout the Western world.

The data, processed by the fact-checking NGO Africa Check, comes from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest available information on deaths in the Africa region.

In 2012, more than 1.1 million people in Africa were known to have died due to complications from HIV/AIDS. By 2015, this number declined to an estimated 760,000 deaths due to HIV/AIDS complications (the latest data available). Much of this is thanks to the huge amount of time and money put into raising awareness, changing perceptions, contraception, and medical treatments.

HIV/AIDS complications remain a prominent threat and are still the second-leading cause of death in Africa. The leading cause of death is now lower respiratory tract infections, such as bronchitis and pneumonia, which kill over 1 million Africans each year.

The third highest cause of death was diarrhea, although figures are down to 643,000 deaths per year compared to 725,000 in 2010. Worldwide, 88 percent of diarrhoeal deaths are caused by a virus, bacteria, or parasite picked up from drinking unsafe water, poor sanitation, or insufficient hygiene.

At number four, stroke deaths increased over the past five years from 406,595 (4.4 percent of deaths) to 451,000 deaths (4.9 percent) in 2015.

Malaria, now accounting for just 403,000 deaths, is no longer in the “top 5” leading causes of death. However, taking its place in the top 5 is ischaemic heart disease. This is a condition in which the flow of blood is restricted to the heart muscle due to the narrowing arteries and build up of fatty deposits. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking or high cholesterol, are strongly associated with it. It remains one of the biggest causes of death across many Western nations.

Along with strokes and heart disease, another noncommunicable disease on the up is liver cirrhosis, most often associated with heavy drinking. Unfortunately, these kinds of “lifestyle diseases” often go hand-in-hand with increased urbanization and improved standards of living, just as Africa has seen over the past decades.

The next leading causes of death in the region were tuberculosis (456,000), malaria (403,000), pre-term birth complications (344,000), birth asphyxia or trauma (321,000), and road injury (269,000).

 

Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/hivaid-is-no-longer-the-biggest-killer-in-africa/

Eve Walkers story is a cautionary tale about keeping family health secrets.

When Eve Walker was 12, she lost her sister Louise to a devastating tragedy.

Eve looked up to 16-year-old Louise. “She was so beautiful and so popular. But we fought like cats and dogs,” Eve laughs. One night, Louise left the house to go to a party. Next thing Eve remembers, her parents were screaming.

“They rushed out the door,” she says. “When my parents came back, they told us that my sister had died.” Devastated, the Walkers grieved silently — never explaining to Eve what, exactly, had happened to Louise.

Flash-forward nearly 16 years to when Eve started having odd, unexplainable symptoms — tiredness, tingling — that left her feeling unsettled. Because her parents had never explained the cause of Louise’s death, it didn’t occur to Eve that her symptoms might be related.

All photos courtesy of Eve Walker.

As her symptoms continued to increase, Eve thought them odd but not enough to be concerned. She ignored them — until she couldn’t.

It started with having a hard time climbing stairs and inclines. Her breath became labored even though she was perfectly fit. She felt strange and fatigued.

One day, her legs seemed to stop working. “I could barely pick them up. They felt like steel,” she says.

Her symptoms persisted, and Eve persisted in ignoring them.

Then one night it all came together. “I felt like something bit me on my leg,” she says. “It was a pain that shot up my leg and my arm and I remember feeling it in my face and my jaw.” That’s when all of her symptoms — the shortness of breath, the heaviness in her limbs, the tingling pain in her body — suddenly clicked.

She called a neighbor and said, “I think I’m having a heart attack.”

Luckily, Eve made it to the hospital in time to get help — and to learn what had been causing her strange symptoms for so long.

“They told me I’d had a heart attack, and they told me I had heart disease,” Eve says. She learned that she had been living with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a disease that makes the heart muscle abnormally thick and makes it difficult for the body to pump blood.

She started on medication, became more careful with her diet, avoided placing a strain on her body with rigorous exercise, and committed to keeping the doctor’s appointments necessary to making sure she wasn’t in danger of a cardiac event. Ultimately, she had a defibrillator put in that would restart her heart automatically should anything happen.

It was around that time that a doctor also had her finally look into her family history.

“It wasn’t until I was 40 years old that I learned my sister died of heart disease,” Eve says.

Had she known all along what had happened to Louise, Eve might have been able to get checked for her own symptoms earlier and avoided the narrow miss of her heart attack entirely. As it stands, she’s lucky to be here today.

Though she wishes she’d known about her family’s secret, Eve understands why her parents didn’t share it. “I didn’t blame them,” she says. “I mean, they lost a child. Maybe it was just too painful to talk about. Maybe they didn’t have the right words.”

Now, Eve dedicates her time to making sure others know the dangers of not looking into your family’s past.

She’s a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” initiative, which is working to help end heart disease and strokes among women. And she’s already seen her work pay off firsthand.

“One of the women was with us as an advocate because her mother died of a heart attack,” Eve says. One evening, when the group found out that the woman herself had not been checked for her own heart health, Eve urged her to do so. “Sure enough, she had some sort of heart disease and needed to get on medication immediately.”

For many families and individuals, looking into potentially dangerous health history can be scary, so it’s avoided. But Eve says it’s better to just bite the bullet. Know your four health numbers — your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and Body Mass Index (BMI) — and get regular check-ups, especially if you’re feeling strange. Don’t put off seeing a doctor.

“You’ve got to face it to fix it,” Eve says. “That’s the bottom line!”

Learn more about how to take control of your health at Cigna.com/TakeControl.

Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/eve-walkers-health-story-is-a-cautionary-tale-about-keeping-family-secrets

‘Fat but fit’ still risk heart disease – BBC News

Image copyright Getty Images

People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of heart disease even if they appear medically healthy, experts are warning.

The work, in the European Heart Journal, is further evidence against the idea people can be “fat but fit”.

The researchers studied health data on more than half a million people in 10 European countries, including the UK.

Normal blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels were no assurance of good heart health among obese people.

After a follow-up period of more than 12 years, 7,637 of the people in the study had developed heart disease.

Weight appeared to be a risk factor.

In the study, people who were overweight or obese but had healthy blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol readings were about 28% more likely to develop heart disease than individuals with similar readings and a healthy bodyweight.

Being fat and “metabolically unhealthy” – having high blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar – was riskier still.

Are you a healthy weight for your height?

The researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge say the findings are a reminder that carrying too much fat can store up health problems for the future.

Dr Ioanna Tzoulaki, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “I think there is no longer this concept of healthy obese.

“If anything, our study shows that people with excess weight who might be classed as ‘healthy’ haven’t yet developed an unhealthy metabolic profile.

“That comes later in the timeline, then they have an event, such as a heart attack.”

Image copyright Getty Images

According to the researchers, the excess weight itself may not be increasing the risk of heart disease directly, but rather over time through mechanisms such as increased blood pressure and high glucose.

Prof Metin Avkiran, from the British Heart Foundation, which part-funded the research, said: “The take-home message here is that maintaining a healthy body weight is a key step towards maintaining a healthy heart.”

Related Topics

Read more: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-40921856

6 Enormous Dick Moves From Big Pharma (You Never Noticed)

For being the industry that provides us with both life-saving drugs and boner pills, Big Pharma sure gets a lot of hate. But it turns out they’re even better at sucking than we thought, filling their day-to-day lives with lots of little acts of douchebaggery to keep us miserable through all of our waking moments. For example …

6

Pfizer Sold Viagra To Millions Of Men Instead Of Treating Their Heart Disease

Years of toxic masculinity and lazy sitcom jokes have thoroughly convinced men that if their penises don’t work, it’s the end of the world. Fortunately for the 30 million men with erectile dysfunction in the U.S., pharma giant Pfizer can cure what ails you. Just stock up on Viagra, and your little guy will keep going and going and going, right up to the moment you die of heart disease.

Viagra, the blue pill that lets you drill, might be one of the grandest and most successful acts of bullshit marketing in history. Until about 25 years ago, pharmacy companies were saying that impotence only affected 10-20 million men, and most of them were too old to worry or care about it. But in 1994, researchers Edward Laumann and John Gagnon (who were conveniently on Pfizer’s payroll) put out a study claiming that 30-50 percent of adults were sexually dissatisfied, which seems a lot harder to scientifically quantify than real medical conditions. For all we know, that study only proves that 30-50 percent of men couldn’t resist making a crack about their wives when asked by two dudes how their sex lives were.


Lying pfucks.

Laumann and Gagnon later expanded on this study to claim that 43 percent of women and 31 percent of men were not just sexually dissatisfied, but in fact dysfunctional. Pfizer ran with this, using the studies to claim that 30 million American men suffered from a term that everyone is now familiar with: “erectile dysfunction.” That dubious study, combined with urologist Irwin Goldstein (who was also on Pfizer’s payroll) saying that impotence was a major health concern, mean it’s no surprise that Pfizer made a billion dollars off of Viagra in a few months, giving them yet another bulge in their pants to be proud about.

But the real crime here is that all this focus on regaining strong, lasting erections has obscured the real issue: If you’re having problems with your penis, the problem is rarely about your penis. It probably can be traced to your heart or brain, which we’ve been told are more important organs. Men usually suffer from impotence because of issues related to strokes or heart disease — both of which can be triggered if you’re having marathon sex hopped up on boner pills. In 1998, Pfizer was forced to add warning labels to the famous pill, which solved the problem forever, because everyone reads those. But before they did that, over 130 men died because Pfizer had convinced them to not seek true medical help, and they did so while getting busy. We’re surprised the company didn’t simply commission another study claiming that 30-50 percent of those men’s dying words were “Totally worth it.”

5

Painkiller Companies Are Trying To Keep Marijuana Illegal

Marijuana, to put it in medical terms, is the shit. It’s basically magic if you’re going through chemotherapy, being the only known drug which both reduces nausea and increases appetite. It also reduces pain, helps you sleep, and improves your mood. It also helps you see colors — like, really see colors. Also, just … outer space, man.

Not everyone is happy about the medical properties of marijuana, though. Pharmaceutical companies are used to selling painkillers and other drugs for large amounts of money, and they don’t want to share their profits with a bunch of stoners. They’re right to be worried, too. States that have legalized medical marijuana see a notable drop in pharmaceutical drug sales, especially painkillers. In those same states, opioid overdoses have dropped by 25 percent. But if you think fewer people dying of drug overdoses is a good thing, you’re never going to get anywhere in the pharmaceutical game.

In 2016, when eight different states approved measures to legalize marijuana in one form or another, Arizona was one state that resisted.

Business Insider
“Arizona: Still slightly cooler than Utah!”

That might have something to do with Insys Therapeutics, a company which manufactures a painkiller specifically for cancer patients, which poured $500,000 in campaign funds into an organization opposing the measure to legalize pot. Of course, when they were asked about it, they claimed that … oh, they admitted outright that it was because they would make less money. They seemed baffled by the idea that they couldn’t own the painkiller market, since they were owning Congress perfectly fine.

However, realizing they’re probably next on the list of things Millennials are killing, these companies are taking a page out of Pfizer’s (and Big Tobacco’s) books and paying experts to tell everyone that marijuana is dangerous. Dr. Herbert Kleber of Columbia University has made plenty of appearances on NPR, CNBC, and CBS News, talking out of his ass about how addictive marijuana is and how it will lead to a public health crisis. What they never seem to mention, though, is that he’s been paid by numerous drug companies, including the makers of OxyContin. And if the makers of New Heroin are paying you to say weed is dangerous, you might as well roll that PhD into a big fat blunt and smoke it.

4

Purdue Pharma Marketed OxyContin Specifically To Skeezy Doctors

OxyContin is probably the most widely prescribed drug that will absolutely fuck you up sideways. It will get rid of your pain, along with all your other senses and any connection to the real world. It can also cause nausea, heart failure, death, and worst of all, the hiccups. And as you probably already know by now, it’s as addictive as heroin, with similar withdrawal symptoms, like fever, nausea, panic attacks, and writing terrible poetry. How in the hell did a drug this dangerous manage to get into the hands of so many people? Via doctors, of course.

OxyContin was made available to the public in 1996, making $45 million in sales in its first year. By 2000, only four years later, it was making an astonishing $1.1 billion for its manufacturer, Purdue Pharma. Coincidentally, in that timespan, there was a massive increase in the number of doctors prescribing OxyContin for everything from back pain to arthritis to stubbed toes to “thought they saw a spider.” That’s because Purdue had an ingenious plan to recruit not just any doctors, but the right kind of doctors. Instead of chasing every Tom, Dick, and Jan wearing a stethoscope, the company started keeping records of thousands of quacks who were already pushing much more painkillers than the average doc. Once they’d found their pill monkeys, it was a simple matter of getting them to switch brands.

Whether those doctors were sleazy or living somewhere with a high density of people with bad backs didn’t matter to Purdue. For the ones who cared enough to inquire after the addictive properties of the drug, Purdue’s sales reps came up with a pretty inventive solution: They lied. They claimed that the potential for OxyContin addiction was “less than 1 percent,” and even made this a major part of their marketing to physicians. As we now know, the addictive potential of the drug is in truth closer to a hundred million percent, but we’d hate to be splitting hairs.

In 2007, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to lying about how safe OxyContin was, paying a $600 million fine for creating a “corporate culture that allowed this product to be misbranded with the intent to defraud and mislead.” This taught the company a valuable lesson for about ten seconds, which is roughly the time it now takes for them to earn that much profit. And if it breaks your heart to know that a company can get away with creating a nationwide health crisis for less than they probably spend on Christmas bonuses, Purdue has precisely the pill for that.

3

India Is Flooding The U.S. Market With Counterfeit Medicine That Doesn’t Work

We do at least have one recourse from the highly expensive drugs that line the mysterious back shelves of the pharmacy: sweet, sweet generic brands. If you can’t afford the big name, you can get something that works almost exactly the same for a fraction of the price, allowing you to stave off liver disease and still afford luxuries like bread. Finally, the free market delivers a solution that works! Also, your generic drugs are probably counterfeit.

Right now, 40 percent of all generic drugs sold in the United States are made in India, which has its own version of Big Pharma. And the World Health Organization estimates that 20 percent of their drugs are fake. So does that mean that the drugs don’t work, or that they are cheap knockoffs of commercial drugs? Yes.

Indian law states that while the process of making a drug is patented, the drug itself is not. This means that anyone who reverse-engineers a Viagra, or something less important like cancer drugs, can manufacture it on their own and sell it. Without any decent checks and balances, this means anyone with a chemistry kit can claim they’ve cracked OxyContin and ship it off to the rest of the world. After some of these drugs were finally tested, a number of them (ranging from 12-20 percent) were found to have no active ingredients whatsoever, making them as effective as Styrofoam. They weren’t all floppy boner pills, either. These scams includes fake cancer drugs and antibiotics for sick infants, which is a move so comically evil you’d expect to see it in an episode of Jonny Quest.

Ranbaxy
“Actually, that ‘v’ is a typo. Our bad.”

This lack of oversight is what makes selling fake drugs such a huge industry. Ten percent of the world’s drug trade is made up of counterfeits, and this economy’s growing at an estimated 25 percent per year. The FDA here in the USA is finally starting to crack down on this, springing surprise inspections on Indian plants and fining manufacturer Ranbaxy a whopping $500 million for their lies. Their response was to ask the FDA commissioner to keep letting them sell their fake drugs to the American public. After all, how else were they going to afford that fine?

There’s an even worse side of this, however. The explosion of drugs has led to a large increase in pollution from pharmaceutical factories. As if regular pollution isn’t bad enough, pharmapollution can lead to increased antibiotic resistance among bacteria, leading to superbugs that can’t be treated easily. So not only are these fake drugs ineffective, but they’re also making real drugs less effective. Why raise the bar when you can just lower the other ones, right?

2

An American Nonprofit Institute Harvested Ecuadorian Natives For Profit

Biopiracy, contrary to what the name conjures, isn’t the act of performing naval raids on Whole Foods shipments. It’s stealing people’s genetic information without their permission. And when we say people, we mean a people, like the time in the early ’90s when the Coriell Medical Institute stole blood from a native Ecuadorian tribe.

In 1990 and 1991, Coriell partnered with the Maxus Energy Corporation and Harvard University to draw thousands of blood samples from 600 members of the Huaorani tribe in Ecuador, which comes out to “several pints of blood” per person. Under 20 percent of the participants agreed to the procedure, so enjoy lying awake thinking of how a shadowy cabal of rich institutions would obtain the blood of 480 people without their permission. They also helped themselves to some tissue samples, because hey, they were already down in the creepy blood dungeon, so why not?

Kate Fisher
“They stole my genetic makeup and I didn’t even get a stupid T-shirt.”

Regardless of how they got the blood, all of the “participants” were told that their samples would be analyzed for personal medical examinations, and then Coriell did not do that. The samples were instead sold to research labs around the world, including Harvard (which hopefully got a henchman discount). Over the next 22 years, 31 research papers were written about the discoveries made from the Huaorani blood and tissue samples, and not a penny of the deserved royalties ever made it back to the tribe.

Why did Coriell go to so much trouble? Apparently, there are many scientists around the world who think the Huaorani tribe have very particular genetic mutations which make them immune to diseases like hepatitis. Being able to replicate this immunity would be revolutionary, but scientists still have yet to prove the link, even 25 years after the Great People Harvesting. As for what happened to the Huaorani, we’re not really sure, because almost every fact on their Wikipedia page has “[citation needed]” next to it. That might be a scarier sentence than the one with “blood dungeon” in it.

1

Synthes Conducted Secret “Bone Cement” Experiments That Killed Five People

When you’re creating something that’s intended to cure people, it’s best to make extra-sure that it doesn’t kill them instead. That’s why pharmaceutical drugs go through many rigorous rounds of testing, with control groups and consent forms and all that, to ensure that we’re curing AIDS and not turning it into Super AIDS. Or you could be like Synthes, and not give a fuck and straight-up inject cement into people’s spines.

Synthes is a medical company that injected cement into people’s spines, because we really can’t say that enough. The product in question was Norian XR, a special kind of cement which apparently could turn into bone if it was injected into a human skeleton. Normally, a product that dangerous and invasive would have to go through expensive medical trials, finding patients desperate enough to try out an experimental new procedure that could potentially kill them. But Synthes decided that due diligence is for suckers, and went ahead with their own illegal trials. After all, how could shoving experimental putty directly into someone’s spine ever go wrong?

Between 2002 and 2004, Synthes injected cement into an unknown number of patients without their permission, mainly by tricking hospitals into using Norian XR and lying about how safe and legal the concoction was. Some scientists quickly raised warnings about how the drug could potentially cause fatal blood clots, and the FDA requested that Synthes holy shit not do this, but the pharma company gave them both the middle finger and proceeded anyway. The results weren’t good: Five people ended up dying on the operating table as a result of the Norian XR injection, which even Synthes had to admit that was a mixed bag.

In 2009, the Department of Justice formally accused Synthes of injecting cement into people’s spines Four executives ended up pleading guilty to obscure misdemeanor charges, and amazingly, all of them actually went to jail. Of course, what was waiting for them on the other side wasn’t humility, but fat stacks of cash, as Synthes was later sold to Johnson & Johnson for over $20 billion. Here’s hoping those executives spent every day in prison getting punched right in their spines.

Also check out 5 Terrible Secrets Big Drug Companies Don’t Want You to Know and 5 Awful Things I Learned About Drugs Working At A Pharmacy.

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Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_24999_6-evil-af-supervillain-schemes-pulled-by-big-pharma.html

Use neuroscience to convince your boss to let you nap at work

Image: Orlova Kristina/mashable

 A nap can be a beautiful thing when we feel our brain slowly grinding to a halt. Whether it’s a siesta to shake off a food coma, a daytime doze on a lazy Sunday, or an all-out nap orgy with friends or loved ones, we arise feeling replenished, recharged, and ready to take action.
Unfortunately, not very many bosses see any correlation between snoring and success. Only a handful of organization—Ben & Jerry’s, Nike, Zappos, Google, and The Huffington Post, to name a few—currently see naps as smart business. They’ve invested in nap pods and massage chairs because they know that, when it comes to boosting productivity and creativity in the workplace, naps can be just what the doctor ordered.

If you aren’t among the lucky few who work for nap-friendly bosses, you’ve come to the right place for advice. I’m a Harvard Medical School neuroscientist who firmly believes in the power of the unfocused mind, and my goal is to have every business on Earth — including your employer — embrace naps as a vital part of the workday.  

The neurology of naps

First, allow me to clarify a few things and offer a bit of a disclaimer. 

Not all naps are equal, and not all brains are equal. Everyone will respond differently to napping, as some brains are more energy-efficient than others. For instance, a 15-minute catnap might give Sally the salesperson three extra hours of battery life, but it will only provide Mary the marketer with one extra hour of productivity. 
Science also offers us some words of caution. Unhealthy napping habits may increase the risk of diabetesmuscle aches, and heart disease. People who use long, frequent naps as a substitute for sleep, for example, seem to get ill more often. 

On the other hand, strategic napping is scientifically proven to provide countless benefits. To get your boss on board, approach him or her with these three compelling science-backed arguments: 

1. Naps will re-engage our team

Employee disengagement has officially become an epidemic in America, with Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace Report revealing that 51 percent of today’s workforce members are disengaged from their jobs. Chances are good that your employer’s no exception to this trend. 

Your boss is probably trying to re-engage the team by preaching (and rewarding) immense focus and tireless, around-the-clock hard work. However, you need to explain to him or her that the human brain operates at its best when it’s encouraged to oscillate between focus and unfocus. 

Though naps may not seem very engaging, brain science tells us a vastly different story. While you’re asleep, your brain’s focus circuits get some much-needed rest, but believe it or not, other parts of your brain kick into overdrive. In fact, the brain consumes more energy during a nap than it does while you’re awake — and the bulk of this energy is devoted toward regions that promote self-awareness and emotional control. Therefore, naps don’t just help us think better; they help us feel better (especially morning naps). 

A well-rested focus circuit, paired with a greater sense of self, is a recipe for engagement in the workplace. All it takes is five to 15 minutes per day.  

2. Naps will help us innovate

In today’s ever-changing business world, innovation is what keeps companies afloat. Creative energy must flow through every department, and it’s up to your boss to foster an atmosphere that encourages this. 

Perhaps he or she bought beanbag chairs, ping-pong tables, and colorful artwork in an attempt to stimulate creative thought, but few things come close to sparking creativity like a nap does. Explain to your boss that naps will help your team navigate complex taskssharpen its thinking, and keep a keen eye on its competition. Naps drop drawbridges between seemingly disconnected thoughts and allow for new insights to emerge.

Keep in mind, however, that in order to reap the full creative benefits of napping, it’s best to devote 90 minutes to each snooze. This may require a rejiggering of the workday; perhaps your company could lengthen its lunch break to promote midday napping, and then extend its office hours a bit to make up for it. 

Napping helps people freshen up their ideas and gain sudden, unexpected insights. On a companywide basis, they can give a business just the creative edge it needs to thrive.  

3. All the cool kids are napping

It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s most endearing and innovative companies were among the first to embrace napping as a viable business strategy. This is the wave of the future, and your boss will be in great company if he or she hops aboard today. Current and prospective employees will be thrilled by the idea of working in a progressive environment that mirrors the likes of Google. 

But it also goes beyond business. Some of the world’s most inspiring minds were also known nappers. Salvador Dalí, Ludwig van Beethoven, Aristotle, Albert Einstein, and Thomas Edison power-napped their way to universal reverence, and even presidents Kennedy, Reagan, and Clinton were fans of the practice. 

If your boss still doesn’t see napping as legit, sign and circulate this nap petition amongst your co-workers. It will give your group even more cred, and your boss may be more open to listening.

Strategic napping is productivity in disguise — and it’s time for your boss to recognize this fact. Thanks to science, we can now unmask the hidden benefits of naps and bring a whole new meaning to “sleeping on the job.” 

Srini Pillay, M.D., is the CEO of NeuroBusiness Group and the award-winning author of numerous books, including the upcoming book “Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind,” available for preorder wherever books are sold, “Life Unlocked: 7 Revolutionary Lessons to Overcome Fear,” and “Your Brain and Business: The Neuroscience of Great Leaders.” He also serves as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and teaches in the Executive Education Program at Harvard Business School. 

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/24/nap-at-work-yes-you-definitely-should/

6 million middle-aged people take no exercise

Public Health Englands research suggests large numbers of adults do not walk for 10 minutes at a time once a month

About 6 million middle-aged people in England are endangering their health by not taking so much as a brisk walk once a month, government advisers have said.

Clinicians said such a lack of exercise increases an individuals risk of prematurely developing serious health conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and cancer.

Public Health England (PHE) said 41% of the 15.3 million English adults aged 40 to 60 walk less than 10 minutes continuously each month at a brisk pace of at least 3mph.

PHE has launched a health campaign targeting the sedentary middle-aged by encouraging them to walk to the shop instead of using a car and to take up walking on lunch breaks to add many healthy years to their lives.

Health leaders believe that 10 minutes walking a day is likely to be seen as achievable by people who are chronically inactive and that the health benefits include increased fitness, improved mood, a healthier body weight and a 15% reduction in the risk of dying prematurely.

PHE said walking required no skill, facilities or equipment and was more accessible and acceptable than other forms of physical activity for most people. Guidance issued by the UKs four chief medical officers in 2011 instructed the British population on how much exercise they should be participating in each week.

They said that adults should do at least two and a half hours of moderately intensive activity a week.

The PHE report said a quarter of the English population are inactive, doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. For some of these individuals 150 minutes may seem an unrealistic aim, according to the PHE report.

PHEs One You campaign is urging those people to take up the challenge of walking briskly for 10 minutes a day. As part of the drive it has released the Active 10 app which will help users achieve the goal and GPs will be recommending it to their patients to help build up their activity levels.

Dr Jenny Harries, the deputy medical director of PHE, said: I know first hand that juggling the priorities of everyday life often means exercise takes a back seat.
Walking to the shops instead of driving or going for a brisk 10-minute walk on your lunch break each day can add many healthy years to your life. The Active 10 app is a free and easy way to help anyone build more brisk walking into their daily routine.

Prof Sir Muir Gray, a clinical adviser for the Active 10 app and the One You campaign, added: We all know physical activity is good for your health but for the first time were seeing the effects that easily achievable changes can make. By walking just 10 continuous minutes at a brisk pace every day, an individual can reduce their risk of early death by 15%.

They can also prevent or delay the onset of disability and further reduce their risk of serious health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, dementia and some cancers.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/aug/24/around-6-million-middle-aged-english-people-take-no-exercise

6 Stupid Things Movie Villains Did (For No Apparent Reason)

Movie villains are known for talking too much or underestimating the hero or just entering into conflicts they have no hope of winning. Some bad guys are given every opportunity and every planet-smashing super weapon necessary to win and still find a way to screw it up. In fact, looking back on it, it seems like these particular villains went into their dastardly schemes determined to fail — or to at least extend the story to feature length.

6

Skyfall‘s Villain Shits The Bed In The First 5 Minutes Of The Movie

Bond villains are megalomaniacs with huge, insane plans — plans far too large to include petty details like “prevent James Bond from killing me.” Bond villains forget this detail even in movies like GoldenEye where they know about and particularly hate James Bond. The point is, not including an anti-007 section of their plan is where they’ve all gone wrong.

Which is why it’s strange in Skyfall when the villain Raoul Silva fucks himself over before James Bond even hears about him.

Unlike the other bad guys in the series who want to ransom the world or cover every woman in gold or whatever, Silva is on a personal crusade to murder Bond’s cranky boss M. And he absolutely could have in the first five minutes of the film when he blew up her office but at the exact time he knew she wouldn’t be there?


“Oh no, did the office blow up? Right at the start of happy hour?”

At first one might assume he did this to torture her. But is blowing up someone’s workplace really the best way to do that? Most mornings, if you opened an email that said, “office just exploded. don’t bother coming in today,” you might consider it the greatest news you’ve ever received. But besides the fact that this would be a strange way to torture your enemy, it’s pretty clear Silva really wanted her dead and simply screwed up. Because for the entire rest of the movie, he makes attempt after attempt on her life in increasingly contrived ways. He’s not a man trying to destroy the things M loves most. He’s just bad at murder.

He continues to fail to kill her while she’s in locations way, way easier to rig with explosives than the headquarters of the most secret division of the British Secret Services. And this long saga of heavily planned assassination attempts ends when M is shot not in a personal confrontation with Javier Bardem’s weird hair, but because of a random stray bullet from a random henchman. It’s like setting up the ultimate laser death trap, waiting for days, then finding out your intended victim died of heart disease and their dying words were about how they didn’t remember you.

So yes, Silva’s misuse of a surefire way to kill his main target five minutes into the movie was pretty stupid. And all his failures after that were kind of stupid. But there is a silver lining! By underestimating M’s ability to survive random encounters with random henchmen, he succeeded in making Bond the completely disposable sex object in his own movie. Which is maybe the most poetic revenge any 007 villain has ever pulled off.

5

The Green Goblin Is Terrible At Picking Out Bombs

The Green Goblin from the first Spider-Man movie is an enhanced superhuman, which is already more powerful than, say, an overweight normal guy with robot arms. But in addition to his powers, he also has a sweet hoverboard and an arsenal of ludicrously lethal weapons. Seriously, look at this grenade he made:

Those guys got turned into collapsing skeletons by a bomb so powerful it didn’t even need to explode to turn them into dust. It kills human clothes, human flesh, and absolutely nothing else. It didn’t even get goo on that banner. When you saw that nightmare bomb go off, you knew Spider-Man was doomed. What’s the melt radius on it? Can Spider-Man jump away that fast? Spider-Man is going to die!

Except he obviously didn’t. Luckily for him, the Goblin is polite enough to never use that super skeleton bomb again in the movie. For the final showdown, he instead goes with a totally ordinary kind of bomb. Except we shouldn’t say ordinary. He used a bomb that absolutely exploded right on Spider-Man’s face and didn’t kill him.

The crappy firecracker bomb looks like it’s about the same size and weight as the amazing skeleton-making one, so why bother with it? A classic explosion is always handy, but this grenade seems barely able to cleave through a spandex face mask. It’s not like you could use it to blow the door off a bank vault. If it were a regular, not-exploding ball of metal it would have hurt Spider-Man more. Here’s his face mere days after it went off right on it:

Maybe you’re thinking, “Spider-Man is just really tough!” Well, fine. It seems strange for him to be grenade-proof and also have a special sense that warns him about grenades, but FINE. He should still be nude. Unless Aunt May was secretly sewing Stark Industries-grade fabric into Peter’s face mask and body stocking, it’s hard to explain why that goblin bomb didn’t shred his entire costume off. The conclusion is clear: Science and logic demand a fully nude Spider-Man climax.

4

The Kraken in Pirates Of The Caribbean Just Decides To Let The Good Guys Win

What do you think a normal boat fight is like for a Kraken? We’ll tell you: It comes up from the impossible depths and shatters your puny ship in about two seconds. Then its powerful tentacles crush the life from you the way Dead Man’s Chest crushed your love of pirate movies.

Maybe it was too late into the scriptwriting process when the writers realized they had created a creature that Jack Sparrow could never even dream of beating? Unlikely odds can be fun, but if Jack Sparrow had six weeks to hack at the Kraken with his cute little sword, there would still be enough Kraken left to turn him into a sack of wet bone splinters and drag into the abyss. The Kraken is so OP they had the villains in the sequel pointlessly kill it off just so audiences didn’t keep asking “Why don’t they just use the Kraken to win everything ever?”


Along with a line about their world getting less interesting — which we kinda figured out already, thanks.

But what about before the beast was conveniently killed by a thin premise? It was there and they still had to find a way for Jack Sparrow to deal with the fucking thing for an entire movie. So what did they do? They had the thing get lazier and lazier.

When the Kraken first appears it’s obvious no one in the ocean can deal with the thing. It wipes out a ship instantly. In its second appearance, the Kraken still takes out a ship in under a minute, but at least takes enough time to show audiences how he performs his disappearing-ship magic trick. But by the final battle, it’s like the Kraken has gone on strike or recently had its monster heart broken. It slowly and lovingly wraps its tentacles around Johnny Depp’s boat as if all the previously destroyed ships were misunderstandings. Maybe over enthusiastic hugs? Maybe something … more?


“Is the Kraken attacking or giving us a massage … Oh no. Oh dear god, no!”

The Kraken is just a monster, so it’s hard to believe he was taking longer to crush the ship because he was enjoying watching the heroes (and shitty Jack Sparrow) devise and put into practice a plan so half-assed that not even Sparrow on his drunkest day or Johnny Depp on his most regular day would have ever believed it could hurt the Kraken. A movie really shouldn’t end with the main enemy gently letting the heroes win.

3

Voldemort Acts In A Totally Non-Voldemort-ish Way At The Worst Possible Moment

Lord Voldemort is arguably the deadliest wizard in the world of Harry Potter, especially when he’s in possession of the Elder Wand, which in Deathly Hallows Part 2, he totally is. He has spent his entire life concocting schemes to become immortal which includes eliminating anyone who he considers a threat. He’s not shy about murdering his enemies, very much including children enemies, but in the final deciding battle he suddenly changes his policy.

Up until then, every spell Voldemort throws at least tries to kill its target. Sure, he does some possession and things like that, but usually just as a more complicated way of killing people. So it’s pretty strange that during the battle of Hogwarts, the showdown of the entire series, Neville Longbottom comes at him with the very sword he’s specifically worried about, and Voldemort decides to use a non-lethal shove spell.

Weirder still, the books specifically tell us that master wizards like Voldemort don’t need to loudly pronounce words like regular wizards in order to cast spells. So while it makes no sense for him to not kill Neville, it makes even less sense that he’s screaming a bunch of crap while he doesn’t do it. The obvious solution, his trademark green death zap, would have been easier, faster, and more instinctive. It’s the Wizard Finals — get your head in the game, Voldemort.

2

Gaston Brought A Bow To A Gun Fight

We’ve covered before how Gaston managed to get dealt one of the most brutal deaths ever to befall a Disney villain. But, then again, he was basically going up against a gorilla-wolf-bear with the intelligence of a man. He never really had a chance. He couldn’t have killed Beast even with all the skills the townspeople sang about — his wrestling, his biting, his shooting, his expectorating, his antler decorating … wait, what was that middle one? Shooting?

Yes, in the middle of his musical number about how great he is, we very clearly see Gaston fire his musket three times in a single second without needing to reload. All three bullets go into a beer barrel across the room and he’s such a famously good shot that all of the men, standing right fucking next to it, are completely used to it. This is so normal for them they catch the escaping beer before it splashes onto the counter. So this is a man not only good with a gun, but also willing to shoot it often and for any possible occasion. He uses his gun to open beer. So of course, when it comes time for him to hunt a creature strong and fierce beyond reason, he takes … a bow and arrow?

Walt Disney Pictures
You dumbass.

Are we expected to believe he only uses his gun for serving drinks and not killing supernatural monsters? Let’s assume for a minute it’s some kind of hunter thing — like it’s better sport to use a bow. Fine, hypothetical devil’s advocate. Then how do you explain this painting of him in his chamber of gruesome animal heads? Behold, definitive proof Gaston is just a dumbass:

Walt Disney Pictures
Also, where did he find a bald eagle and a turkey to shoot in France?

He absolutely used that rifle to kill all those animals, and is proud enough of that he had a painting made about it. So it would make no sense to use a bow to hunt the biggest game he’d ever come across? And it’s not like he has any issues about fighting dirty. His own theme song has a line about how he bites during wrestling matches, and he stabs Beast in the back later in the movie. It happens right before he accidentally loses his grip and falls to his death like a stupid bitch.

If he’d had his rifle with him at any point, he could have shot Beast in the head from across the roof and called it a day. Of course, then it would be a movie about how handsome, clever, popular men are better for women than monstrous kidnappers who talk to furniture.

1

In Rogue One, The Empire Prefers To Mess With The Rebels, Not Stop Them

The Empire’s troops might not be able to hit anything with their lasers or block stick attacks with their armor, but they at least seem to want their enemies dead. That’s not exactly the case in Rogue One. In the final scene, we see Vader himself being sent to deal with the rebels desperately trying to get the Death Star plans to Princess CGI Monster Organa.

In an awesome, awesome scene, Vader mercilessly wades through the rebels and then suddenly gets stopped in his tracks by an ordinary space door. It’s an obstacle that wouldn’t have stood up to several seconds of casual light-sabering, but it holds him there long enough for the rebels to escape. Not by zipping into hyperspace, but by slowly flying away from Vader as he grumpily watches.

The pace of the whole thing gave us enough time to notice that the Empire knew exactly what the rebels had stolen, what they were planning to with it, and exactly which ship held it. Why send Vader at all? For a fun light saber fight? Thanks, but why not blow the thing up from space? It’s just a CR90 Corellian Corvette! You think its adorable little pair of turbo lasers are going to hold off a star destroyer? Or even a single TIE interceptor? Fucking Cornelius Evazan and Ponda Baba could have taken out that Corellian Corvette.

Or, you could have used the Death Star’s laser on it, considering how much it stood to benefit from not getting blown up by information leaks. Instead of, you know, using it on a comms station after it had already served its purpose and been retaken by your own forces. The Empire made so many goddamn willfully bad decisions, and for what? To make sure to set up a sequel that already happened 40 years ago? Have you lost your mind, CGI Monster Moff Tarkin?

For more bad guys who probably should’ve worked at a Taco Bell or something, check out 6 Villain Plans That Make Absolutely No Sense and 6 Famous Movie Villains Whose Evil Schemes Make Zero Sense.

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Read more: http://www.cracked.com/article_24910_6-famous-movie-villains-who-half-assed-their-evil-schemes.html

Pediatricians say Florida hurt sick kids to help big GOP donors

St. Augustine, Florida (CNN)When he was 11 years old, LJ Stroud of St. Augustine, Florida, had a tooth emerge in a place where no tooth belongs: the roof of his mouth.

With her son in terrible pain, Meredith Stroud arranged for surgeries to fix his problems.
But just days before the procedures were to take place, the surgeons’ office called to cancel them.
Like nearly half of all children in Florida, LJ is on Medicaid, which has several types of insurance plans. The state had switched LJ to a new plan, and his surgeons didn’t take it.

    Doctors: ‘Trick question’ hurt sick kids

LJ wasn’t alone. In the spring and summer of 2015, the state switched more than 13,000 children out of a highly respected program called Children’s Medical Services, or CMS, a part of Florida Medicaid. Children on this plan have serious health problems including birth defects, heart disease, diabetes and blindness.
The state moved the children to other Medicaid insurance plans that don’t specialize in caring for very sick children.
Stroud says that for her son, the consequences were devastating. Despite hours of phone calls, she says, she couldn’t find surgeons on his new insurance plan willing to do the highly specialized procedures he needed. Over the next seven months, her son lost 10 pounds, quit the football team and often missed school.
“He was in pain every day,” Stroud said. “I just felt so helpless. It’s such a horrible feeling where you can’t help your kid.”
LJ filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida, and he was eventually placed back on Children’s Medical Services and received the care he needed. But some Florida pediatricians worry about other children with special health care needs who, two years later, are still off the program.
The doctors aren’t just worried; they’re angry.
First, the data analysis the state used to justify switching the children is “inaccurate” and “bizarre,” according to the researcher who wrote the software used in that analysis.
Second, the screening tool the state used to select which children would be kicked off the program has been called “completely invalid” and “a perversion of science” by top experts in children with special health care needs.
Third, in fall 2015, a state administrative law judge ruled that the Department of Health should stop using the screening tool because it was unlawful. However, even after the judge issued his decision, the department didn’t automatically re-enroll the children or even reach out to the families directly to let them know that re-enrollment was a possibility.
Finally, parents and Florida pediatricians raise questions about the true reasons why Florida’s Republican administration switched the children’s health plans. They question whether it was to financially reward insurance companies that had donated millions of dollars to the Republican Party of Florida.
“This was a way for the politicians to repay the entities that had contributed to their political campaigns and their political success, and it’s the children who suffered,” said Dr. Louis St. Petery, former executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Experts outside Florida are also disturbed that the children were switched out of CMS, a program that’s served as a model for other states for more than 40 years.
“CMS is well-known and well-respected,” said Dr. James Perrin, professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “It’s one of the earlier programs to build in assurances that these kids get the kind of care they need.”
“These are the sickest and most vulnerable kids, and (changing their insurance) can mean life or death for them,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown University. “This is really very troubling.”
Dr. Rishi Agrawal, an associate professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, agreed, adding that Florida should have more carefully considered how the insurance switch would affect the children’s health care.
“The process in Florida was particularly abrupt and poorly executed,” he said.
Mara Gambineri, a spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said that “at no time (during the insurance switch) did children go without medically necessary services.”
State officials, including a spokesman for Governor Rick Scott’s office, initially declined to comment directly on the pediatricians’ and parents’ concerns that the children might have been switched to benefit contributors to the Republican Party of Florida. On Friday, after this story was published, the Florida Department of Health released a statement asserting that such a claim “is 100 percent false.”
“The department’s number one priority is protecting the health and well-being of all Florida residents, especially children with special health care needs,” Gambineri wrote in an earlier email. “The department remains committed to providing quality health care services to Florida’s children with special health care needs.”

A mother’s anguish

In spring 2015, LJ’s mother received a phone call from a nurse at the Florida Department of Health.
Stroud had no idea that one word she would say to that nurse — just one single word — would cause her son months of pain and suffering.
The nurse asked Stroud a series of questions, including whether LJ was limited in his ability to do things other children could do.
Despite his birth defect, LJ goes to school and plays with friends, so she answered no.
Stroud says that because of that answer, LJ lost his insurance with CMS, the program that has cared for children with special health care needs in Florida for 40 years, and was put on a different Medicaid insurance plan.
LJ was one of 13,074 Florida children kicked off CMS — that’s about one in five children in the program — as a result of the telephone survey, according to a presentation, testimony and a letter from Florida’s top health officials.
    Stroud thinks back to her answer to the nurse’s question about limitations.
    “That question’s not fair,” Stroud said of the one that got her child kicked off CMS. “What [the Florida Department of Health] did was totally wrong.”
    “It was a trick question,” she added.

    Pediatrician: ‘A truly duplicitous question’

    Experts agree with her.
    “I personally find it pretty astonishing that they can take a survey question like that and use it to justify the de-enrolling of these kids,” said Dr. Jay Berry, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School who studies policies for children with special health care needs.
    What Florida did was “completely invalid,” added Dr. John Neff, professor emeritus of pediatrics at the University of Washington, another expert on children with special health care needs.
    The pediatricians explained that many children with serious and chronic medical conditions — such as cleft lip and palate, HIV, diabetes and cystic fibrosis — are often able to do things other children can do. However, they still require extensive and highly specialized medical care.
    The question the Florida Department of Health nurses asked — “Is your child limited or prevented in any way in his or her ability to do the things most children of the same age can do?” — would lead to disqualifying children who truly have special medical needs from a program designed for them, said Stephen Blumberg, associate director for science at the National Center for Health Statistics and one of the world’s leading experts on the epidemiology of children with special health care needs.

    “Is your child limited or prevented in any way in his or her ability to do the things most children of the same age can do?”

    “You would get false negatives. Your conclusion would be that a child does not have special health care needs when, in fact, the child does,” he added.
    The Department of Health no longer uses the same screening method that resulted in 13,074 children being removed from CMS.
    “It is unfortunate the negativity surrounding this issue is a continued topic of inquiry, as the department and our stakeholders have put in a significant amount of time and effort to move past this issue for the benefit of the children we serve,” wrote Gambineri, the Department of Health spokeswoman.
    But pediatricians in Florida point out that many children who were removed from Children’s Medical Services using the controversial questionnaire were never put back on.
    “This was a truly duplicitous question,” said Dr. Philip Colaizzo, a pediatrician in Jupiter, Florida, who said that many of his patients with special health care needs were taken off CMS. “It was a trick question.”
    “It’s a perversion of science,” said Dr. Jeffrey Goldhagen, professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and medical director of the Bower Lyman Center for Medically Complex Children at Wolfson Children’s Hospital.
    Goldhagen added that he was speaking for himself and not the institutions where he works.
    “It was a scam job,” added Dr. Nancy Wright, a pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee who said that dozens of her patients with diabetes were removed from the program.
    “They really tried their darnedest to kick the kids out of CMS,” added Dr. Carrol Fenn, an orthodontist in West Palm Beach. “They’ve messed up kids’ lives.”
    “They’re the most vulnerable of our population, and that they can be booted off the plan that was designed to help them is just amazing. How can someone in an office make a decision like that?” asked Dr. John Obi, an adjunct clinical professor in plastic surgery at the University of Florida, who operates on children with cleft lip and palate.
    “I congratulate whoever came up with that question,” he added wryly. “If you want to exclude virtually anybody, that’s the way to do it.”

    Johns Hopkins expert: ‘I’m speechless’

    Christina Bethell’s team came up with that question — and she’s furious.
    Bethell is a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She and her team spent many years and millions of dollars coming up with the right questions to accurately identify children across the United States who might have special health care needs.
    The list of questions — known as the Children with Special Health Care Needs Screener — is publicly available on the Hopkins website. Many state and federal agencies use it to help decide which children might benefit from special health services.
    The Florida Department of Health, however, used the questions to do something completely different: to kick children out of a program.
    That’s scientifically invalid, Bethell said. Using the questions that way — especially the question about limitations — would lead to denying children with special health care needs the services they require.
    “I’m speechless,” she said.
    To make matters worse, Bethell said, Florida repeatedly and publicly cited research done by her group at Hopkins — the Children and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative — to support the children’s removal from CMS.
    “I feel really manipulated,” she said.
    She thinks of the children who were taken off CMS and fumes that the tool used to remove them was her own work.
    “I’m angry,” she said. “And I’m crestfallen for these families.”

    Grave consequences for Florida children

    The Shabanehs in Tallahassee are one of those families.
    Aref Shabaneh, 8, is blind, and his sister, Yasmeen, 11, is severely visually impaired. Their mother, Reema Shabaneh, says they were kicked off CMS in 2015.
    Shabaneh says she told the Florida Department of Health nurse that they didn’t have limitations.
    “Aref wants to do everything by himself,” she said. “He can play ball with friends. The ball has a bell, so he can hear it coming.”
    After they were kicked off CMS, Shabaneh said, she couldn’t find an ophthalmologist on the new insurance plan willing to care for her children.
      “I was so scared,” she said.
      When Jennifer Rodriguez received the phone call from the Department of Health nurse, she said, she told the nurse she didn’t know how to answer the question about limitations. Her son, Alejandro, suffers from a congenital heart defect, asthma and kidney problems. Sometimes, his heart races and he has trouble breathing, but other times, he feels up to playing soccer with his friends.
      “When I tried to explain the answer, she cut me off and said she was just doing her job and needed a yes or a no,” she said.
      Rodriguez says she answered that her son, who was 10 at the time, did not have limitations. He then lost his CMS coverage.
      “It makes me angry, because you would think that since he’s seeing a cardiologist, a nephrologist, a urologist and an asthma doctor, they would see he’s not your average child,” she said.
      LJ, Alejandro and the Shabaneh children filed lawsuits and were put back on CMS. They were represented by the Public Interest Law Center at Florida State University.
      Many Florida pediatricians say their patients also suffered when they were taken off CMS and put on other Medicaid plans. The doctors say those other plans typically have fewer pediatric specialists than CMS, which specializes in caring for very sick children.
      Dr. Lisa Cosgrove, a pediatrician in Merritt Island, Florida, said she had a difficult time finding an orthopedist to treat a 6-year-old with a broken elbow who had been taken off CMS. The girl ended up having surgery later than she should have and now can’t extend her elbow all the way.
      She said a baby born with a clubfoot also suffered because she couldn’t find an orthopedist willing to take the baby’s plan. The baby couldn’t have the necessary casts to twist the foot back into place and may need surgery, Cosgrove said.
      Dr. Elizabeth Curry, a pediatrician in Port St. Joe, Florida, said that last year, she took care of a baby whose eye wiggled back and forth involuntarily, which can be a sign of a brain tumor.
      Curry said it took her more than a month to find an ophthalmologist willing to take the baby’s Medicaid plan — and the doctor she finally found was three hours away, in Pensacola.
      Fortunately, the baby turned out to be fine.
      “This child could have had cancer. That’s a kid who should have seen a doctor right away,” Curry said. “I feel terrible for these children. It makes me so angry.”
      Because of problems like these, switching the children’s insurance “was a complete dereliction of Florida’s responsibility to children,” said Goldhagen, the professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
      Gambineri, the spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health, said the children didn’t suffer as a result of the switch, because the insurance plans they were moved to were “more than capable” of caring for them. She added that even before the 13,074 children were switched, those plans cared for tens of thousands of children with special health needs.
      Other pediatricians agree that plans besides CMS have done a good job of caring for these very sick children.
      The other plans “do a pretty good job with our families,” said Dr. Karalee Kulek-Luzey, medical director of the Pediatric Health Care Alliance, a group practice with multiple locations in the Tampa area. “They’re working really hard.”
      “For the most part, they do a good job,” said Dr. Michael Freimark, a pediatrician in Plantation, Florida.
      “We have a good relationship with the plans,” said Dr. Michael Gervasi, president and chief executive officer of the Florida Community Health Centers, a large medical practice with offices in several counties. Most of the time, he said, the plans take care of the children’s needs, but if there’s ever a problem, his practice contacts the plan, and they fix it.

      Florida’s ‘outreach’ to experts

      In January 2016, about eight months after the Florida Department of Health started to move the 13,074 children out of CMS, Jennifer Tschetter, then the department’s chief operating officer, testified before the state legislature. She said that the decision to use the Hopkins screening tool was made “in consultation with … national experts.”
      But it remains unclear who those experts were.
      Tschetter, who has since left state government, did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
      Gambineri, the Florida health department spokeswoman, said the department did “research” into what Louisiana, California, Texas and New York “were doing and experiences they had in regard to clinical eligibility for children with special health care needs.”
      When asked for the names of individuals Florida consulted in those states, Gambineri didn’t respond.
      Gambineri added that “outreach” was made to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.
      An official at that agency said she spoke with a Florida health official.
      Dr. Marie Mann, senior medical adviser in the Division of Services for Children with Special Health Needs at the federal agency’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau, said she spoke with Kelli Stannard, then interim chief, bureau of network operations, at CMS.
      Mann says she told Stannard she couldn’t give her any guidance.
      “I told her I was not in a position to provide advice,” Mann said.
      Mann said she suggested that Florida health officials reach out to Daniel Armstrong and Dr. Jeffrey Brosco, director and associate director respectively of the Mailman Center for Child Development at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
      “We will make sure they’re both involved in this review process,” Stannard wrote back to Mann in an email obtained by CNN under the Freedom of Information Act.
      CNN asked Gambineri, the department spokeswoman, whether the department ever reached out to Armstrong to review and make recommendations on using the telephone survey to screen children out of CMS.
      “Not to our knowledge,” Gambineri answered.
      “I played no role in the decision-making process related to the use of the tool for the Children’s Medical Services program,” Armstrong wrote in an email to CNN.
      Brosco said he told the Department of Health that in his opinion, a child should not be kicked off CMS based on a parent’s answer to the question about the child’s limitations.
      “I gave them my feedback, and they said, ‘thank you for your work,’ ” Brosco said.
      In July, Brosco was named the Florida Department of Health’s deputy secretary for CMS.

        Christmas shopping at the Florida Mall

        Despite the lack of support from the very experts they’d consulted, Florida health officials forged ahead with using the phone survey to disqualify children from CMS.
        They had a schedule to stick to.
        In November 2014, state officials set out to “go live” with the phone survey in six months, according to a timeline developed by the state and obtained by CNN under the Freedom of Information Act.
        Before implementing the surveys, the officials gave themselves 21 days to “solicit feedback from the field” about the questions they would ask the parents.
        One of the first things they did was to ask one of the state’s most experienced pediatricians to leave a meeting.
        It was St. Petery, who at the time was the executive vice president of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and who has an encyclopedic knowledge of Medicaid rules and regulations. He’d served as interim director of CMS for six months during the mid-1970s.
        He’d also been a thorn in the side of the state Department of Health for years. He’d been instrumental in a lawsuit that accused the state of failing to reimburse doctors properly in the Medicaid program and to ensure that children receive adequate care.
        His side eventually won that lawsuit, and the American Academy of Pediatrics gave him a prestigious award for being “a tireless advocate for children’s health and well-being.”
        On December 13, 2014, St. Petery showed up at the Department of Health meeting. It was for the regional medical directors of CMS, the group of pediatricians who help run the program. St. Petery wasn’t one of the directors, but he’d been attending their meetings for many years in his role with the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
        St. Petery said that just before the meeting started, Tschetter, then the department’s chief operating officer, approached him.
        “She said, didn’t I want to go Christmas shopping at the Florida Mall?” St. Petery remembered. The mall was adjacent to the conference center in Orlando where the meeting was taking place.
        St. Petery said he told Tschetter that he hates shopping, especially around the holidays, and wanted to stay at the meeting.
        “I protested. I asked her, is this meeting not in the sunshine?” he said, referring to Florida’s Sunshine Law, which gives the public the right to access most government meetings.
        “After she told me for the third time to leave, I decided not to create a scene,” he said.
        St. Petery got up and left.
        Other doctors watched the action, stunned.
        “We were all kind of shaking,” said Dr. Barbara Rumberger, one of the CMS regional medical directors who attended the meeting.
        After St. Petery departed, health officials explained that they would start screening children off of CMS. Their justification: a new analysis showing that half the children on CMS might not belong there.
        There are no minutes for this meeting, according to Department of Health officials, but a year later, Tschetter presented similar data to the Florida Legislature.

        A ‘totally inaccurate’ analysis

        By Florida law, a child can be in CMS only if he or she has a “chronic and serious” condition requiring health care “of a type or amount beyond that which is generally required by children.”
        The analysis Tschetter presented showed that about half of the children on CMS had lower than average risk scores, an assessment of how much a patient uses health care services.
        Tschetter called these results “surprising.” By legislative mandate, children on CMS are supposed to have health needs greater those of other children.
        “The analysis made clear, certainly to the department, that we were not meeting legislative direction: (that) the children in the plan have both chronic and serious health care conditions,” Tschetter told legislators. “It was clear to the department that something had to be done, because complying with legislative direction is certainly not optional.”
        But an expert who developed the software Florida used to make that data analysis said the state did its calculations incorrectly.
        “It’s totally inaccurate,” said Todd Gilmer, co-developer of the Chronic Illness and Disability Payment System and chief of the division of health policy at the University of California, San Diego.
        Gilmer’s software, which is used by dozens of state Medicaid programs, tracks patients’ diagnoses and their prescription drug use to calculate risk scores for each individual.
        After viewing Florida officials’ analysis of the data, he said they made two errors when they calculated that half the children on CMS had below-average risk scores.
        First, he explained that his software relies on doctors’ diagnoses, and Florida failed to account for the fact that doctors frequently don’t document a child’s full diagnosis in the medical record. For example, if a quadriplegic child goes to the doctor because of bedsores, doctors often write down the reason the child came in — the bedsores — instead of the more serious diagnosis of quadriplegia.
        Second, he said, Florida did the wrong calculation for disabled children, who represent 40% of the patients on CMS, according to Mallory McManus, a spokeswoman for Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration.
        He said his software compares disabled children with each other. Even the ones who fall in the lower half of the risk-score spectrum still have serious and chronic illnesses, he said, such as HIV or heart failure.
        He said that what Florida did was akin to assembling a group of people who are over 7 feet tall and calling the bottom half of that group short.
        Gilmer called Florida’s analysis “kind of bizarre” and said he was disappointed to see his software “misapplied” by the Florida Department of Health.
        Spokeswomen for the Florida Department of Health and the Agency for Health Care Administration did not respond directly to Gilmer’s criticism.
          Gambineri, the health department spokeswoman, said that the department no longer uses the screening method that it used in 2015 and that parents can ask to have their children re-screened at any time.
          “Our mission is now and has always been to provide the best health care possible to the populations that we serve,” McManus wrote in an email.

          Pediatrician: ‘We were just irrelevant’

          Pediatricians say that by the time the Department of Health meeting was held at the Orlando conference center at the end of 2014, they felt like Florida was dead-set on screening a large number of children off CMS.
          They said state officials didn’t listen to their concerns, even though they were stated repeatedly, both in person and in writing.
          At the meeting, health officials asked the pediatricians to tell them what was on their minds, according to Rumberger, one of the doctors who was there.
          She said she and her colleagues brought up concerns that children might be taken off CMS inappropriately.
          The Department of Health official wrote down what the doctors said on pieces of paper taped to the wall, Rumberger said. The official then told the doctors that these were issues to discuss at another time.
          “She said, ‘We’re going to park these. We’re putting these ideas in the parking lot for some time, and we’re not talking about these things today,’ ” Rumberger remembered, adding that she was speaking on behalf of herself and not in her role as a CMS regional medical director.
          “We were all amazed at what they did,” she added.
          A few months later, the state held a series of telephone conference calls with the same CMS regional medical directors.
          “They didn’t ask us ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Do you have any suggestions?’ ” Rumberger said. “It was just ‘This is how we’re going to do it.’ It was clear they didn’t want to have a free discussion.”
          “It appears to be a very conscious decision to not get input and not receive any dissension,” said Goldhagen, the professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida. “We were just irrelevant.”
          Dr. Rex Northup, another CMS regional medical director and associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine, agrees.
          “It was like, ‘When we want your opinion on a given topic, we’ll let you know, and we’ll provide that opinion to you,’ ” Northup said, adding that he speaks for himself and not the university or any other institution.
          Several doctors present on those conference calls said they voiced their concerns anyway.
          There’s no record of these concerns. According to the Florida Department of Health, no minutes were taken of these phone conferences.
          CNN asked the Florida Department of Health about the meeting where St. Petery was asked to leave and about doctors’ complaints that the state steamrolled through a screening tool that would harm sick children.
          “When CMS began the process of implementing a new screening tool in 2014, the department may have underestimated the need for stakeholder input and the time required to obtain feedback and ensure our community was comfortable with the mechanisms for determining clinical eligibility,” responded Gambineri, the Department of Health spokeswoman.
          She added that the department has “engaged our stakeholders using several methods” including public meetings to solicit input from patients, parents and providers and “remains open to feedback and input in order to best serve children with serious and chronic medical conditions.”
          True to its schedule, the state started screening children off CMS in May 2015.
          Florida pediatricians repeatedly told the state that it was hurting sick, vulnerable children.
          In August 2015, Goldhagen, Rumberger, Northup and 11 other doctors with positions at CMS wrote a letter to a Department of Health official saying the screening process was “flawed” and was removing too many children.
          The doctors did not receive a response, Goldhagen said.
          Two months later, St. Petery wrote to Department of Health officials, sharply criticizing the use of the screening tool.
          He said he never received a response, either.
          Curry, the Port Saint Joe pediatrician who practices in a rural area of the Florida Panhandle, said she also complained to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration about children being kicked off CMS, along with other issues affecting children on Medicaid.
          She said the agency worked with her on some of the other issues but didn’t respond to her complaints about the children being taken off CMS.
          “Our Agency has been in contact with the provider and is working with the health plan to resolve what issues might be resolved,” wrote McManus, the agency spokeswoman.
          Curry said she took her complaints even higher.
          “I even called the governor’s office once and left a message,” she said. “I admit that I finally gave up. I’m just trying to take care of my patients.”
          Pediatricians interviewed for this story said they felt pressure from the state not to speak to the media about the removal of the children from CMS.
          On November 15, 2016, Dr. John Curran, then the Florida Department of Health’s deputy secretary for CMS, said on a conference call that a CNN reporter was working on this story, according to several doctors on the call.
          That evening, a department official wrote an email to the doctors who’d been on the call. It advised these pediatricians that prior to responding to media inquiries, they should contact the department’s communications director.
          “I’m going to be so fired for saying all these things,” Rumberger said.
          But she and other pediatricians say they’re speaking up because they feel that the Department of Health hurt children because they didn’t listen to their concerns.
          They say it could be because pediatricians don’t tend to have millions of dollars to donate to political campaigns.
          But insurance companies do.

          ‘Like a plot in a Carl Hiaasen novel’

          All of this — the telephone survey, the question about limitations, the analysis that’s been called flawed — leaves many Florida parents and pediatricians suspicious about why the state wanted to take 13,074 children off CMS and why it worked so hard and so quickly to do it.
          Switching the children from CMS to the other Medicaid plans didn’t save taxpayers money, according to McManus, the agency spokeswoman.
          The doctors wonder, then, whether the inspiration for the change was political: to send taxpayers’ dollars to generous donors to the Florida Republican Party.
          CMS is a public program; it’s not owned by a private insurance company.
          When the children were taken off CMS, they were switched to 11 insurance plans that are owned by private companies. The parent companies of nine of those 11 plans donated a total of more than $8 million to Florida Republican Party committees in the five years before the children were switched.
          “I knew it had to be about money,” said Wright, the pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee who said that dozens of her patients had their insurance switched. “This sounds very believable for Florida, and I’m from Florida.”
          “When this was all unfolding, I told my office manager, ‘I feel like we’re in a plot in a Carl Hiaasen novel,’ ” she added, referring to the Miami Herald columnist who writes about politics and corruption in Florida.
          The companies that own the nine insurance plans contributed $8.6 million to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014, according to an analysis done for CNN by the National Institute on Money in State Politics, a nonpartisan nonprofit group.
          Here’s a breakdown of how much money each insurance company with a Medicaid contract contributed to Florida Republican Party committees from 2010 to 2014:
          • $5.9 million from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. Florida True Health is an affiliate of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. At the time the money was contributed, Florida True Health owned 40% of Prestige Health Choice, which has a Medicaid contract with the state of Florida. In 2015, Florida True Health purchased Prestige outright.
          • $90,000 from Simply Health, which owns a Medicaid plan called Better Health.
          • $849,433 from Miguel Fernandez, the former chairman of Simply Health. In addition, Fernandez donated about $1.3 million to Scott’s Let’s Get to Work political action committee from 2010 to 2014.

          Insurance companies’ outsize contributions to Florida Republicans

          Nearly all states pay insurance companies to insure some of their Medicaid patients; this is not unique to Florida.
          And insurance companies often contribute money to state political parties. That’s not unique to Florida, either.
          What is unusual is the size of the contributions, even for a large state.
          Take UnitedHealthcare, an insurance giant with business in all 50 states. From 2010 to 2014, United contributed $442,500 to Florida Republican Party committees, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
          The company’s next largest contribution to any other state political party was $145,000 to California Democrats — less than half the Florida amount.
          Humana, another insurance company with a national reach, gave substantially more money to Florida Republican Party committees than to any other state political party committees.
          From 2010 to 2014, Humana donated $482,815 to Florida Republican Party committees. Its next largest contribution was $213,823 to Florida Democrats. The next largest contribution after that was $22,000 to the Illinois GOP, less than one-20th the size of the contribution to Florida Republicans.
          Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida gave Florida Republican Party committees $5.9 million from 2010 to 2014 and gave Florida Democrats $1.8 million. The next largest contribution after that from any other Blue Cross and Blue Shield company in the United States was $730,696 from Blue Shield of California to Democrats in that state — about one-eighth the size of the contribution to Florida Republicans.

          Florida’s payments to the insurance companies

          Nearly all states pay private insurance companies monthly premiums to insure Medicaid patients. It’s become big business.
          The Florida Department of Health declined to say how much it paid the private insurance companies to insure the 13,074 children when they were switched out of CMS.
          “If they got 13,000 new kids, (it’s) that times however many dollars per member per month,” St. Petery said. “I think that’s a lot of money when you start talking about that many kids.”
          These children came from CMS, a Medicaid program for sick children, and the state pays insurance companies more money to care for such children.
          This is how it works, according to McManus, the spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.
          Florida takes a look at all the people who’ve signed up with an insurance company and calculates a risk score for that group based on factors such as the age of the enrollees in the plan and their health conditions.
          A plan with the lowest risk score has a “typical population” and might be paid a rate of, for example, $320 per person per month, McManus said. A plan with sicker enrollees might have a risk score that’s twice as high and so would be paid $640 per person per month, she added.
          The numbers can get even higher from there.
          “The state will pay a pretty good rate for these children,” said Agrawal, the pediatrician at Northwestern who studies health care systems for children with special medical needs.
          “They could get paid thousands more per month for a child with serious medical needs,” said Steve Schramm, founder and managing director of Optumas, a health care consulting group.
          “The enhanced reimbursement may be 10 times what the insurance companies get for a well child,” said Goldhagen, former director of Florida’s Duval County Health Department.
          Sick children are, of course, also costlier for insurance companies because they need more care. But insurance plans monitor that care to manage costs.
          “Plans have gotten very sophisticated in their ability to manage very sick kids, so their willingness to take very sick kids is great,” said Jeff Myers, president and CEO of Medicaid Health Plans of America, an industry group representing insurance companies.
          Pediatricians questioned whether such outsize political donations were an attempt to gain influence and favor with Florida’s Republican administration, which orchestrated the transfer of the children out of CMS and to the private companies.
          “It certainly raises a lot of suspicion and concern,” said Northup, the associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.
          “Why would they make contributions in the hundreds of thousands and the millions to Florida Republicans? Why would they be so uniquely committed to Republicans in Florida? It gives one pause,” he added. “If you follow the money, at the very least, it’s worrisome.”
          “It’s the left-hand-washing-the-right-hand kind of business,” said Dr. Joseph Chiaro, who was Florida’s deputy secretary of health from 2005 to 2011. “It breaks my heart.”
          Six Florida pediatricians gathered in Orlando to tell CNN their concerns. They practice in rural, suburban and urban areas. Some of them are Republicans, and others are Democrats.
          They said they feared that big donors had influence on the state’s decision-making process and that in many cases, the children suffered as a result.
          “I don’t see this in writing anywhere, but my impression is, this was a way for political payback at the expense of the sickest of the Medicaid children,” St. Petery said.
          “It just comes back to money or power. It’s not about health care for the children,” said Wright, the pediatric endocrinologist in Tallahassee.
          “Just follow the money,” said Colaizzo, who runs a rural health care clinic in Pahokee, Florida.
          State leaders “don’t give a damn about the kids. They don’t give a damn about the families,” said Dr. Marcy Howard, a pediatrician in Crystal River, Florida.

          State officials and insurance companies respond

          McManus, the spokeswoman for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, wrote in an email.”The Statewide Medicaid Managed Care program was designed to provide comprehensive care to recipients through high quality health plans with a payment structure designed to ensure that plans paid an appropriate rate based on the health conditions of those enrolled in their plan.”
          “The program currently covers more than 2 million of Florida’s children, offers the strongest provider network and access standards in program history, and provides families with a choice of high quality, nationally accredited plans so that they can choose the plan that best suits their needs, including specialty plans for those who qualify,” she added.
          CNN reached out to officials at all nine insurance companies. Two responded.
          “WellCare contributes to a variety of organizations that shape health care policy, including the Florida Republican Party committees, the Democratic Party committees and those without political affiliation,” wrote Alissa Lawver, a spokeswoman for WellCare. “The company also discloses and publicly reports all political contributions on its website above and beyond the requirements of state and federal law. As a provider of managed care, WellCare is committed to partnering with the state of Florida to provide access to quality, affordable health care solutions for the state’s most vulnerable populations. We maintain a robust provider network and offer comprehensive care management services to create personalized, coordinated care plans to help improve and maintain the health of families and children across the state.”
          She added that WellCare has accountability to Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, “which provides careful oversight of the state’s Medicaid program to ensure all members, including children that transitioned from Children’s Medical Services, receive access to the right care, at the right time and in the most appropriate setting.”
          Ethan Slavin, a spokesman for Aetna, said the company makes “donations to campaigns for both major political parties to support and address issues that impact our customers and members.”
          He added that “we are required to meet state rules and regulations regarding our network of health care providers and are consistently compliant with those requirements” and that “we regularly work with our members, health care providers and the state of Florida to move children with special health care needs into the Children’s Medical Services program, when appropriate and in the best interest of our members. Our integrated care management program regularly identifies these children and assists in this process.”
          Miguel “Mike” Fernandez, founder and former chairman of Better Health, said he had contributed several million dollars to both Republicans and Democrats. He added that states move Medicaid patients into the care of private companies so they can “move the risk off their financial books.”

          A victory for Florida families

          Many pediatricians use strong language to describe their anger and frustration with the Florida Department of Health and what it did in 2015 to the 13,074 children.
          “This has just been a nightmare, and we’re still experiencing the fallout,” said Dr. Toni Richards-Rowley, treasurer of the Florida chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
          “It’s disgusting,” said Cosgrove, the pediatrician in Merritt Island. “It’s all about money and not looking out for the children.”
          “Honestly, it makes me want to puke,” said Lida Sarnecky, nurse manager of the team at the University of Florida that takes care of children with cleft lip and palate.
          “In my heart, what I want to do is go down to Governor Scott’s office and ask him, ‘What if this were your child or grandchild who couldn’t receive the care they needed? How would you feel then?’ ” she said.
          By June 2015, some Florida parents had had enough.
          Five children, including Alejandro Rodriguez, and Yasmeen and Aref Shabaneh, sued the state Department of Health to get it to stop using the telephone questionnaire to take patients off CMS, claiming that the state Department of Health hadn’t gone through formal rulemaking procedures.
          The children won.
          The state didn’t fight the ruling. Instead, it came up with a new way to screen children for the program — one that doesn’t rely on a telephone surv

          Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/health/florida-sick-kids-insurance-eprise/index.html

          Is coconut oil healthy?

          (CNN)According to a recent survey, 72% of Americans think coconut oil is a healthy food.

          But despite popular health claims about coconut oil, a report from the American Heart Association recently advised against its use, stating that it increases LDL cholesterol (a cause of cardiovascular disease) and has no known offsetting effects.
          “There are many claims being made about coconut oil being wonderful for lots of different things, but we really don’t have any evidence of long-term health benefits,” said Dr. Walter C. Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
            How exactly, then, does coconut oil rank among oils?
            “Coconut oil is somewhere in the middle of the spectrum in terms of types of fats. It’s probably better than partially hydrogenated oils (which are) high in trans fats but not as good as the more unsaturated plant oils that have proven health benefits, like olive and canola oil,” Willett said.
            “It’s probably not quite as ‘bad’ as butter but not as good as extra virgin olive oil,” agreed Kevin Klatt, a molecular nutrition researcher at Cornell University who is studying the metabolic effects of coconut oil.
            Klatt cautions that we should not develop too strong of an opinion about coconut oil without more data. “But at the same time, you have to be evidence-based … and (currently), the evidence reflects benefits for olive oil, fish, nuts and seeds — so that should be the focus in the diet.”

            What’s in coconut oil?

            Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the fruit. It contains mostly saturated fat, which is also found in large quantities in butter and red meat. Like other saturated fats, coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol associated with increased risk of heart disease. In fact, coconut oil has more saturated fat and raises LDL more than butter, according to Willett.
            But coconut oil does a particularly nice job of raising HDL, the “good” cholesterol, especially when replacing carbohydrates in the diet. This may be due to its high content of a fatty acid known as lauric acid.
            “Coconut oil is half lauric acid, which is a little bit unique,” Klatt said, as the acid seems to raise HDL more than other saturated fats and is rarely found in such high amounts in foods.
            Still, though the increase in HDL seen with consumption of coconut oil may offset some of the disease risk, it’s still not as good as consuming unsaturated oils, which not only raise HDL but lower LDL, according to Willett.
            Complicating matters is the fact that we still don’t know for sure what exactly a high HDL translates to in terms of health risk. “There’s been debate about the role of HDL,” Willett cautioned. “Partly because there are many forms of HDL which have different health consequences … which has made the water murky.”
            For example, there are different forms of HDL that do different things. One role is to help take LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream. “But some forms of HDL don’t do that,” Willett said, “so we don’t know for sure that higher HDL is better.”
            And while it’s true that an elevated LDL level is only a risk factor for heart disease and doesn’t always translate to heart attacks, it’s still cause for concern. “High LDL is a risk factor, but it strongly predicts negative health events,” Willett said.
            There is extremely preliminary evidence that the increase in LDL may not be as pronounced if one consumes extra virgin coconut oil instead of refined coconut oil, according to Klatt. For example, polyphenols present in unrefined oils may help to blunt the effects on LDL. But “the effects of extra virgin compared to refined coconut oil and other common oils require further study,” he cautioned.

            Coconut oil and weight loss

            Some research suggests that coconut oil may be helpful in reducing belly fat, at least in the short term. One study found that coconut oil was associated with reduced waist circumference (belly fat) compared with soybean oil. Participants also consumed a lot more fiber, followed a low-calorie diet and walked for about an hour each day.
            “Even if coconut oil does help reduce belly fat, it doesn’t necessarily outweigh the concern about its effect on lipids, specifically LDL,” Klatt said.
            Other research has touted benefits such as increased metabolism, reduced appetite or improved cognitive function associated with fats known as MCTs, or medium chain triglycerides, which are present in coconut oil.
            “You can’t infer from … studies what coconut oil will and will not do. We need better controlled trials,” Klatt said. “Right now, the internet is jumping the gun and going way beyond the evidence.”

            Coco-calories

            Like other oils, coconut oil is calorie-dense, which means consuming large amounts without reducing other calorie sources can lead to weight gain. Just one tablespoon has 120 calories, about the same as a large apple or four cups of air-popped popcorn.
            “Oil is a really easy way to increase the energy density of a food. Things like almonds have a lot of fat, but it’s easier to overeat pure oil than overeat pure almonds,” Klatt said.
            In small amounts, however, coconut oil can have a place in one’s diet.
            “It’s not that you have to absolutely avoid coconut oil but rather limit coconut oil to where you really need that special flavor, like for Thai food or for baking a special dessert,” Willett said.

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            “If you love using butter and need a hard fat, coconut oil may be a better choice and is certainly fine to consume occasionally, when a recipe calls for it,” Klatt added.
            But for day-to-day use, vegetable oils such as olive, canola or soybean oil, along with nuts and seeds, should be your primary fats. “These have better effects on blood cholesterol and long-term studies showing reduced risk of heart disease,” Willett said.

            Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2017/08/18/health/coconut-oil-healthy-food-drayer/index.html