What We're Reading: Overdose Deaths Increase; Verma in Hot Water; Seniors' Health Threatened

Opioid overdose deaths rose to a new record in 2019 after dropping in 2018; CMS Administrator Seema Verma was investigated for mishandling taxpayer dollars; a new report shows the many risks seniors face if children return to school.

Half of Overdose Deaths in 2019 Due to Opioids

Fentanyl, synthetic opioid, cocaine, and methamphetamine overdoses caused the deaths of a record 71,000 Americans in 2019, reported the Associated Press, following a pre—coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) dip in 2018, with fentanyl and synthetic opioids alone responsible for half. These data from the CDC also show an overall rise in overdose deaths in 30 states. Experts believe the US opioid crisis is rooted in prescriptions opioid painkillers and that despite eased government restrictions for buprenorphine and methadone enabling recovery, the pandemic could be increasing demand because more people are experiencing despair and anxiety.

Did Seema Verma Show Favoritism in Contract Dealings?

Embattled CMS Administrator Seema Verma and her potential mishandling of government contracts were the subject of a recent 15-month investigation by the HHS inspector general, according to POLITICO. Verma, who is in charge of running Medicare and Medicaid, has already testified to there being nothing wrong with the contract dealings, in the investigation originally opened in April 2019. However, HHS’ 70-page report says she wasted taxpayer dollars by hand-picking outsiders to handle media appearances, speech writing, and event organization instead of using CMS’ more than 200 in-house communication officials.

Will Children Returning to School Endanger Seniors’ Lives?

Close to 3.3 million elderly individuals 65 years and older share their homes with children ages 5 to 18 years, while 4.1 million children of the same age share their homes with these older adults, detailed a new Kaiser Family Foundation report. The report raises concerns on children potentially contracting COVID-19 when schools reopen, and bringing it into their homes, although they have a lesser risk of infection and suffer milder symptoms. Older adults of color may face a higher risk in this regard, because they are more likely to live with school-aged children and the pandemic has already disproportionately affected their health.