What We're Reading: Medical Bankruptcy Protection; Clean Water in N.C.; Representation in Clinical Trials

With healthcare costs growing, a bipartisan group of senators has unveiled draft legislation that would protect patients from surprise bills and prevent medical bankruptcies; at least 17 hog-waste lagoons may have released feces and urine into flood waters in North Carolina, putting people at risk of viruses, parasitic infections, and rashes; African Americans accounted for fewer than 5% of patients in 24 trials for cancer drugs approved since 2015.

Senators Introduce Plan to Protect Against Medical Bankruptcy

With healthcare costs growing, a bipartisan group of senators has unveiled draft legislation that would protect patients from surprise bills and prevent medical bankruptcies. According to Kaiser Health News, the legislation targets charges from hospitals or doctors who are not in a patient’s insurance network when a patient is treated in an emergency situation. The bill is being sponsored by Senators Michael Bennett, D-Colorado; Tom Carper, D-Delaware; Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Claire McCaskill, D-Montana; and Todd Young, R-Indiana.

Hurricane Florence Flooding Brings Clean Water Concerns

At least 17 hog-waste lagoons may have released feces and urine into flood waters in North Carolina resulting from Hurricane Florence. The state has about 3300 hog-waste lagoons and another 55 were near overflowing, reported Bloomberg. Waste contains E. coli and bacteria, and humans who come into contact with it could contract viruses, parasitic infections, and rashes. There are concerns that dead livestock, such as hogs and chicken, will also contaminate the waters, as well as raw sewage that was released into lakes, streams, and streets due to power loss and flooding.

Black Patients Starkly Underrepresented in Cancer Clinical Trials

Although African Americans make up 13.4% of the US population, they only accounted for fewer than 5% of patients in 24 trials for cancer drugs approved since 2015. This racial disparity means that even if a drug does well in trial, it may be unclear how well it will do in black patients, according to an investigation by STAT and Propublica. In addition, black patients who are seriously ill and have no other treatment options are not getting access to experimental, potentially life-extending, drugs. African Americans weren’t alone—other minorities were also underrepresented in US trials, according to the analysis. For instance, while Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up about 2% of the US population, nearly two-thirds of trials analyzed didn’t have any of these individuals enrolled.