Weekend update

Congress returns to work on Capitol Hill this week. The House and Senate appropriations committees are beginning a series of hearings on FY 2017 appropriations.  The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is holding its third hearing on the OPM data breach on Wednesday morning. 

On the cybersecurity problems front, CBS News reports that a Los Angeles hospital paid hackers $17,000 in Bitcoin ransom to unlock its unlawfully encrypted Thelectronic medical records system.

CBS News correspondent Carter Evans reports that according to a source familiar with the investigation, the hospital paid the ransom before contacting law enforcement. “If they decided to pay the ransom, it probably means that they didn’t have very good backups, they weren’t able to recover the data, and that the data would have been lost if they didn’t pay the ransom,” Dave Kennedy, CEO of the information security firm TrustedSec, told CBS News.

A report from Intel Corp.’s McAfee Labs released in November said the number of ransomware attacks is expected to grow even more in 2016 because of increased sophistication in the software used to do it. The company estimates that on average, 3 percent of users with infected machines pay a ransom.

The Washington Post reports at length this morning on efforts to treat the causes rather than the symptoms of mental illness.

The[se] efforts have been bolstered by advances in technology and imaging that now allow scientists not only to see deeper into the brain, but also to study single brain cells to determine which circuits and neurons underlie specific mental and emotional states. Many of these advances come from fields as disparate as physics and electrical engineering — as well as the new field of optogenetics, which uses light to manipulate neurons.

Best of luck.

Finally the Wall Street Journal reported last week on the cash economy for healthcare which exists beside insurance coverage. Oddly enough, before the Affordable Care Act, hospitals charged their highest rates to the uninsured. Now that health insurance is mandated, hospitals and other providers are willing to negotiate services like MRIs for cash.  Go figure. Not suprisingly, some of the change was encouraged by the zany ACA itself, and of course there’s a website for those who want to pay cash for their surgical procedure.