Weekend update

Congress remains out of session until September 6.  The President tops Modern Healthcare’s list of people who currently have the most influence on the U.S. health system.  The HHS Secretary, the acting CMS administrator, the Attorney General, and the Chief Justice also are up toward the top of the list. Missing from the list on the government side are the two other members of the Affordable Care Act triumvirate – the Labor Secretary and tie Internal Revenue Commissioner.  The list is mystifying to the FEHBlog. 

The Washington Post has another article today on the health problems afflicting rural Americans.  This article concerns McCreary County, Kentucky.

Over the last 15 years, McCreary County has seen a 75 percent increase in the mortality rate for white women between the ages of 35 and 59, one of the highest increases in the nation, according to a Washington Post analysis of national mortality rates. The analysis also showed that the mortality rate for similarly aged white women nationally increased 23 percent; for white men increased 16 percent; for black women decreased 10 percent; for black men decreased 20 percent; for Hispanic women decreased 11 percent; and for Hispanic men decreased 16 percent.

Strangely, this series of lengthy articles generally does not dig into the problems or suggest solutions.   The FEHBlog suggests that time is better spent reading Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

The Wall Street Journal attributes the rapid increase in ransomware crime to better encryption (which criminals seem to use more than others) and more widespread use of Bitcoin.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said ransomware attacks cost victims $209 million in the first three months of the year, including costs, such as lost productivity and staff time to recover files, that is an average of about $333,000 an incident, based on complaints that it has received. The total is up from $24 million for all of 2015, or about $10,000 an infection, the FBI said. * * *

Ransomware is deviously simple. Often after tricking the victim into clicking on a malicious link or attachment, the software then encrypts files—often targeting Microsoft Office documents—and displays a message with instructions to recover them. A ransomware maker who calls himself “The Rainmaker” offers a $39 version of his software on hacker forums. A Microsoft spokesman said, “We are committed to helping protect our customers, and Office includes features to help prevent macro-malware infections.” 

Many ransomware attacks exploit known bugs in software, and attackers depend on people not installing updates. Criminals find ransomware easier and more profitable than other scams, such as breaking into consumers’ computers and stealing money via online banking, said Juan Andres Guerrero-Saade, a researcher with Kaspersky Lab ZAO. 

What a mess.