Good morning. Best wishes to Sen. Johnny Isakson, who announced yesterday that he's retiring at the end of the year because of health reasons.
Situational awareness: Juul is pushing a new age-verifying checkout system in retail stores to prevent teens from buying e-cigarettes, WSJ reports.
Today's word count is 903 words, or ~3 minutes.
Market power, state laws, location and population wealth often dictate how well hospitals do. That's why local politics matter just as much, if not more, to the industry than what's going on at the federal level, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
How it works: Look to Colorado, where the University of Colorado Health holds one of the highest profit margins in the country and controls large shares of inpatient and outpatient services throughout the state.
By the numbers: UCHealth had a 13.3% operating margin in its 2019 fiscal year.
The big picture: "Hospital systems have consolidated and merged to a point where they really have the leverage over the (insurance) networks. They are the ones dictating the prices," said Merrit Quarum, CEO of medical billing audit firm WellRithms.
Colorado is also a particularly lucrative market. The state's median income is higher than the U.S. average, and UCHealth's suburban facilities are located in affluent areas with high rates of commercial insurance.
UCHealth declined several interview requests but said in a statement that it offers "competitive prices."
Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were "food insecure" in 2017, according to a study by Feeding America. This translates to 5.5 million seniors — a number that has more than doubled since 2001, Time reports with Kaiser Health News.
The number of hungry seniors has risen along with our awareness of the social determinants of health.
Details: Hunger among seniors is the worst in the South and the Southwest, Time and KHN report. It's also worse among black and Latino seniors than among whites.
The outlook: As America gets grayer, the number of seniors receiving home-delivered meals through a federal program has dropped.
The bottom line: "Even if it rarely kills directly, hunger can complicate illness and kill slowly," Ungar and Lieberman write.
Photo: Media for Medical/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Low back pain is one of the most common reasons why people visit their doctor, and it also frequently leads to over-treatment, Undark reports.
Why it matters: Unnecessary care can be expensive and wasteful, but in this case, it can also have adverse health impacts on patients.
Unless patients present with symptoms of a serious problem, it's recommended that doctors wait 6 weeks before ordering imaging. In the meantime, patients should wait for the pain to go away by itself.
Between the lines: Financial incentives partially explain why over-treatment happens so often.
Go deeper: The U.S. has the worst patients in the world
Pinterest said yesterday that it will start showing only information from health organizations when people search for vaccine information, AP reports.
Vaccine misinformation has spread via social media, and experts worry that it's dissuading parents from vaccinating their children.
The number of people taking antidepressants for long periods of time is going up, and experts are concerned about whether the risks of long-term use negate the rewards, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Recent studies have suggested that antidepressant use leads to higher risk of heart attacks, strokes and death. But even the longest studies looking at the drugs' effects have only followed patients for a couple of years.
Yes, but: While some patients may be receiving prescriptions for drugs that they'd be better off without, other people with depression and anxiety who should be receiving treatment aren't.