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3 Billion Fewer Birds in United States, Canada and Mexico than 1970

A report in the journal Science says there are 3 billion fewer birds in the United States, Canada and Mexico than 1970 — a 29% drop

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Birds, United States, Canada
FILE - A western meadowlark sings in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo., April 14, 2019. According to a study, there are 3 billion fewer wild birds in North America than in 1970. VOA

If the skies above North America seem quieter, it’s because of the massive drop in the bird population in the past 50 years. Birds.

A report in the journal Science says there are 3 billion fewer birds in the United States, Canada and Mexico than 1970 — a 29% drop.

Conservationists call it a widespread ecological crisis.

“One of the scary things about the results is that it is happening right under our eyes. We might not even notice it until it is too late,” lead author of the study Kenneth Rosenberg of Cornell University says.

Birds, United States, Canada

If the skies above North America seem quieter, it’s because of the massive drop in the bird population in the past 50 years. Pixabay

More than 90% of the losses were among 12 species with the common house sparrow at the top of the list.

The experts blame the disappearance of natural meadows and grasslands in favor of farmland for the drop.

They also say pesticides are killing the insects that many birds use for food.

“We see fields of corn and other crops right up to the horizon. Everything is sanitized and mechanized. There’s no room left for birds, fauna, and nature,” Rosenberg said.

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The study also cites free-roaming domestic cats and birds slamming into windows that reflect the sky.

But the study says the duck and goose population has actually grown since 1970 because of less hunting and more protective measures.

Ornithologists say the drop in bird populations can be reversed by simple measures including keeping pet cats inside, window treatments that can prevent birds flying into them, and avoiding pesticides and insecticides. (VOA)

Next Story

Over One Third of Healthcare Costs in the U.S. Goes to Bureaucracy: Study

U.S. insurers and providers spent more than $800 billion in 2017 on administration, or nearly $2,500 per person

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Healthcare
The reason why administrative costs in U.S.A are so high are because the insurance companies and healthcare providers are engaged in a tug of war. Pixabay

U.S. insurers and providers spent more than $800 billion in 2017 on administration, or nearly $2,500 per person — more than four times the per-capita administrative costs in Canada’s single-payer system, a new study finds.

Over one third of all healthcare costs in the U.S. were due to insurance company overhead and provider time spent on billing, versus about 17% spent on administration in Canada, researchers reported in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Cutting U.S. administrative costs to the $550 per capita (in 2017 U.S. dollars) level in Canada could save more than $600 billion, the researchers say.

“The average American is paying more than $2,000 a year for useless bureaucracy,” said lead author Dr. David Himmelstein, a distinguished professor of public health at the City University of New York at Hunter College in New York City and a lecturer at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Healthcare costs
Over one third of all healthcare costs in the U.S. were due to insurance company overhead and provider time spent on billing. Pixabay

“That money could be spent for care if we had a ‘Medicare for all program’,” Himmelstein said.

To calculate the difference in administrative costs between the U.S. and Canadian systems, Himmelstein and colleagues examined Medicare filings made by hospitals and nursing homes.

For physicians, the researchers used information from surveys and census data on employment and wages to estimate costs. The Canadian data came from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and an insurance trade association.

United States vs. Canada

When the researchers broke down the 2017 per-capita health administration costs in both countries, they found that insurer overhead accounted for $844 in the U.S. versus $146 in Canada; hospital administration was $933 versus $196; nursing home, home care and hospice administration was $255 versus $123; and physicians’ insurance-related costs were $465 versus $87 They also found there had been a 3.2% increase in U.S. administrative costs since 1999, most of which was ascribed to the expansion of Medicare and Medicaid managed-care plans.

Overhead of private Medicare Advantage plans, which now cover about a third of Medicare enrollees, is six-fold higher than traditional Medicare (12.3% versus 2%), they report. That 2% is comparable to the overhead in the Canadian system.

Why are administrative costs so high in the U.S.?

It’s because the insurance companies and health care providers are engaged in a tug of war, each trying in its own way to game the system, Himmelstein said. How a patient’s treatment is coded can make a huge difference in the amount insurance companies pay. For example, Hammerstein said, if a patient comes in because of heart failure and the visit is coded as an acute exacerbation of the condition, the payment is significantly higher than if the visit is simply coded as heart failure.

More and more paperwork required

“It’s clear that healthcare costs in the U.S. have soared,” said Dr. Albert Wu, an internist and professor of health policy and management. VOA

This upcoding of patient visits has led insurance companies to require more and more paperwork backing up each diagnosis, Himmelstein said. The result is more hours that healthcare providers need to put in to deal with billing.

“(One study) looked at how many characters were included in an average physician’s note in the U.S. and in other countries,” Himmelstein pointed out. “Notes from U.S. physicians were four times longer to meet the bureaucratic requirements of the payment system.”

The new study is “the first analysis of administrative costs in the U.S. and Canada in almost 20 years,” said Dr. Albert Wu, an internist and professor of health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore. “It’s an important paper.”

‘Inefficient and wasteful’  system

“It’s clear that health costs in the U.S. have soared,” Wu said. “We’re paying for an inefficient and wasteful fee-for-services system.”

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“Some folks estimate that the U.S. would save $628 billion if administrative costs were as low as they are in Canada,” said Jamie Daw, an assistant professor of health policy and management at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

“That’s a staggering amount,” Daw said in an email. “It’s more than enough to pay for all of Medicaid spending or nearly enough to cover all out-of-pocket and prescription drug spending by Americans.” (VOA)