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Two healthcare orgs in trouble for internet trackers
Plus: Predictions on the State of the Union
It is Friday, 3 February 2023 and this is the Friday Pulse Check from www.FLATLINING.net and Fulcrum Strategies. Our news section is tech-heavy with stories about trackers and artificial intelligence and then I have some predictions about the State of the Union next week. Plus, much-needed medical aid reaches some of the hardest-hit areas of Ukraine and COVID-19 vaccines will be sold at “commercial prices” this summer.
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In the news:
OH hospital being sued over Meta Pixel
Christ Hospital in Cincinnati, OH is being sued over its alleged use of Meta Pixel on its website. According to the suit, the hospital’s website has a search engine that allows patients to search for and make appointments with physicians in their system. The plaintiff alleges Christ Hospital “secretly deployed” a Meta Pixel, a tracker developed by Meta (META 0.00%↑) that disseminates the information it collects to third-party advertisers to allow for targeted advertisements. The suit also alleges the patient information in Epic’s MyChart could also be compromised by the tracker. The search engine’s use of the tracker is a gray area when it comes to HIPPA violations, but if its being used in MyChart, that would be a clear violation of HHS’ warning last year about the use of Meta Pixel or other trackers. Read more from WCPO Cincinnatti.
GoodRx fined by FTC for sharing data with Facebook and Google
Similarly, GoodRx, the pharmacy discount card that cuts out pharmacy benefit managers, repeatedly shared sensitive consumer information with Facebook, Google, and other advertising platforms without the users’ knowledge or consent. In a statement, GoodRx says “[W]e admit no wrongdoing” and that they “proactively addressed” the issue three years ago. The Federal Trade Commission has fined them $1.5 million and a pending court order will bar them from sharing user health data for advertising purposes. Read more from CBS News.
If you’re the kind of person who worries about having your information tracked and shared online, there are a number of simple things you can do to make your browsing experience more private. Use a search engine that doesn’t track user data (such as DuckDuckGo) or adjust your browser settings to block ad trackers.
Medical journals prohibit the use of ChatGPT
Last week I shared that ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence chatbot developed by OpenAI in California, had passed the exams required to become a licensed physician in the US. The publishers of some major medical and science journals are now prohibiting its use for journal articles; specifically, ChatGPT cannot be listed as an author on a paper. The editor-in-chief of Science said it amounts to plagiarism and violates their policy that all authors must be accountable for their work. Read more in the Guardian.
Other items of interest:
The FLATLINING Podcast
This week, we looked back at some of President Biden’s campaign promises that related to healthcare. Then-candidate Joe Biden wanted a few things:
Lower the Medicare enrollment age
Add a public option to the Affordable Care Act
Strengthen subsidy provisions in the Affordable Care Act
End surprise billing
Lower the cost of prescription drugs
As I reviewed them on the program, I would say Biden has gotten three out of the five done (though I might disagree with how they were done or if they were the right solution).
Check out my analysis on the FLATLINING Podcast.
Predictions for the SotU
The President’s State of the Union address is scheduled for next week. As we did last year, FLATLINING will be covering his speech and the Republican response, which this time is to be from Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
I expect President Biden will hail the Inflation Reduction Act for allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drugs – though that prevision begins in 2026 – and that he will praise the price cap on insulin.
Unlike last year, though, he is facing a divided Congress. No longer will Nancy Pelosi be sitting behind him. Instead, he has to come to the table with Republicans and Speaker Kevin McCarthy. I predict he will call for some sort of unity, expanding Medicare and Medicaid, though most of his speech will be centered on the economy and the debt ceiling because he and his speech writers know that nothing about healthcare will get done in the next few years.
I sincerely hope that Governor Sanders’ response will be more substantive than that of Governor Kim Reynolds’ response last year. Republicans have made the culture war their identity now and that might help them win on issues like public education and breaking up big tech, but only if they drop COVID-19 from their storybooks.
As Yasmeen Abutaleb, Rachel Roubein, and Isaac Arnsdorf wrote in the Washington Post this week, activist Republicans are still harboring anger and resentment at government policies that aimed to curb the pandemic, such as vaccine mandates (which are legal), school closures, and mask requirements. All the while, they ignore the fact that masks are now few and far between, most businesses and schools are open, and people learned to live with it.
It's not just this country that they complain about. I even heard some of the women on FOX News’ daytime talk show “Outnumbered” say that mask mandates and vaccine checks are still the norm across Canada. I went to several Canadian provinces on multiple trips last year; that wasn’t the case.
COVID-19 has become part of their culture war identity. They made it a fundraising platform in the 2020 election and a campaign platform in the 2022 midterms.
I’ll grant that some of the culture war items could be winning issues for them; COVID-19 is not. If they learned their lesson though from the November elections, then they know they have to surgically remove it from their platform. Maybe Governor Sanders can do that as she sets the tone for the next few years of Republican policy. We’ll be watching on Tuesday night.
You can watch too here:
Today, medicines, roofing repair kits, bottled water, and solar lamps were delivered to the town of Hulyaipole in the Zaporizhia region of Ukraine. Since March 2022, Hulyaipole and other nearby communities have been without power because of Russian shelling. Another convoy delivered trauma and emergency surgery kits to the residents of Torestsk. Read more from UN News.
You probably heard this week that the Biden administration announced plans to end the COVID-19 public health emergency on May 11 (another reason Republicans need to stop talk about “endless” health emergencies). While this ends some pandemic era powers of the government it also means they will no longer be footing the bill for COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer (PFE 0.00%↑) told shareholders this week that they expect to sell their Comirnaty vaccine and Paxlovid pills “at commercial prices” to consumers this week. As Ron and I have discussed on the podcast, however, these will probably be covered by most insurances like the flu shot and be free or low cost to most patients. The Food and Drug Administration says that even though the public health emergency is ending, emergency use authorizations will remain in effect, similar to drugs to treat Zika and anthrax remain available. Read more from CBS News.
Have a good weekend,