Consolidation among benefit managers gave them more leverage over pharmacies to drive prices lower. (CVS merged with a large benefits manager in 2007.)

Big drugstore chains often responded by trying to rein in labor costs, according to William Doucette, a professor of pharmacy practice at the University of Iowa. Several pharmacists who worked at Walgreens and CVS said the formulas their companies used to allocate labor resulted in low levels of staffing that were extremely difficult to increase.

According to documents provided by a former CVS pharmacist, managers are motivated by bonuses to stay within these aggressive targets. CVS said it made staffing decisions to ensure “the safe and accurate filling of prescriptions.”

The day that Dr. Poole began seriously reconsidering her CVS job in Tuscaloosa came in May 2021 when, nearly eight months pregnant, she fainted at work.

The loss of consciousness was nothing serious in itself — she and the baby were unharmed, and an adjustment to her blood-pressure medication solved the problem. Much more alarming to her was what the episode said about working conditions: Despite the additional responsibilities of the pandemic, like coronavirus vaccines and catering to Covid-19 patients, there was no co-worker around to notice that she had hit the deck.

contract signed in March by a union of Chicago-area Walgreens pharmacists reflected a similar approach. It provided maximum base pay of $64.50 per hour, the same as the previous contract, but lowered the starting wage from $58 per hour to $49.55 per hour by September. (Like many retail pharmacists, the union members also receive bonuses.)

CVS and Walgreens said they had made hiring pharmacists a priority during the pandemic — CVS said it employed nearly 6 percent more pharmacists today than it did in early 2020; Walgreens declined to provide a figure. CVS said its compensation was “very competitive” for pharmacists, and Walgreens cited “ongoing phased wage increases”; both chains have offered signing bonuses to recruit pharmacists. The Chicago union said Walgreens had recently offered to raise pay for about one-quarter of its lowest-paid members.

To explain the wage stagnation of upper-middle-class workers during the pandemic, some economists have suggested that affluent workers are willing to accept lower wage growth for the ability to work from home. Dr. Katz, of Harvard, said the wages of many affluent workers might simply be slower to adjust to inflation than the wages of lower-paid workers.

But Marshall Steinbaum, an economist at the University of Utah, said the fact that upper-middle-class workers were not able to claim a larger share of last year’s exceptionally high corporate profits “speaks to the disempowerment of workers at all levels of status.”

change in state regulations would allow pharmacy technicians to administer shots. “They expected the techs to transition into that role,” Dr. Knolhoff said.

Overall, the industry added more than 20,000 technicians — an increase of about 5 percent — from 2020 to 2021. In that time, prescription volume increased roughly the same percentage, according to data from Barclays.

The effective replacement of higher-paid workers with lower-paid workers has also occurred in other sectors, such as higher education. But at drugstores, where pharmacists must sign off on every prescription, this shift has left little margin for error.

In August 2020, Dr. Wommack, the Walgreens pharmacist in Missouri, got Covid. A colleague covered her first two days out but couldn’t cover the third, at which point the store simply closed because there was no backup plan.

Several pharmacists said they were especially concerned that understaffing had put patients at risk, given the potentially deadly consequences of mix-ups. “It was so mentally taxing,” said Dr. Poole, the Tuscaloosa pharmacist. “Every day, I was like: I hope I don’t kill anyone.”

Asked about safety and staffing, CVS and Walgreens said they had made changes, like automating routine tasks, to help pharmacists focus on the most important aspects of their jobs.

Many pharmacists contacted for this article quit rather than face this persistent dread, often taking lower-paying positions.

Still, none had regrets about the decision to leave. “I was 4,000 pounds lighter the moment I sent my resignation email in,” said Dr. Wommack, who left the company in May 2021 and now works at a small community hospital.

As for the medication she had taken for depression and anxiety while at Walgreens, she said, “Shortly after I stopped working there, I stopped taking those pills.”


>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

The Biden Administration To End ‘Remain In Mexico’ Border Policy

President Biden and his administration are ending the “Remain in Mexico” border policy, that the Trump administration started.

Since 2019 migrants trying to win asylum in the U.S. have waited out their cases in Mexico, under the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols.  

The policy, instituted during the Trump administration, included about 70,000 migrants, who critics say were sitting ducks in dangerous drug cartel-dominated Mexican border cities. 

The Biden administration sought to do away with the policy when it assumed control. But lawsuits by Republican-controlled states, namely Texas and Missouri, blocked winding down the policy until the Supreme Court sided with the White House in July.  

The U.S. government is still expelling the vast majority of migrants who cross the southwest border illegally under the pandemic-related public health order called Title 42.  

From October of 2021 until June, the Department of Homeland Security says it has recorded almost 1.75 million encounters with migrants along the southwest border. Many of those are repeat attempts to gain entry into the U.S.  

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spent billions along the border, deploying state police and the National Guard to try to enforce immigration laws at a state level.  

He’s also ordered the busing of some migrants, those who are allowed to stay after crossing into the U.S. under humanitarian exemptions.  

They are coming from cities like Del Rio or Eagle Pass, Texas, which have scant infrastructure to cope with migrant relief, to places like New York and Washington D.C.  

Reports show that in May and June the state spent more than a million dollars sending thousands of migrants out of Texas to, “bring the border to Biden.” 

KXA in Dallas reported that the trips amounted to $1,400 per person. 

An immigrant rights advocate in Washington says the idea behind the busing is mean-spirited and in reality has the opposite effect the governor intended.

Abel Nuñez is the executive director at Central American Research Center in D.C.

“It’s a political stunt. It’s a cruel political stunt because he’s basically weaponizing, you know, immigrants and aiming them at,” said Nuñuz. “The immigrants in the buses, when they realize, you know, that they’re kind of political pawns, on sort of a larger argument. They may not be happy about that, but they’re happy that they’re closer to their final destination.”



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Missouri AG Eric Schmitt Beats Eric Greitens In GOP Senate Primary

Schmitt had more votes than U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Greitens combined, turning what was expected to be a tight race into a blowout.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday with surprising ease, ending months of worry among GOP leaders that scandal-scarred former Gov. Eric Greitens might win the primary and jeopardize what should be a reliably red seat in November.

In November, Schmitt will be opposed by Anheuser-Busch beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine, who defeated Marine veteran Lucas Kunce and nine others in the Democratic primary. Both also face a challenge from a well-funded independent, John Wood, who has the financial backing of former Sen. John Danforth.

With nearly 90% of results in, Schmitt had more votes than his nearest two competitors — U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Greitens — combined, turning what was expected to be a tight race into a blowout.

“I’m proud of my working-class roots, and I’m going to Washington to fight for working families, defeating socialism, and leading the fight to save America,” Schmitt said in his victory speech in suburban St. Louis.

Greitens told a downcast crowd in another St. Louis suburb to “go home with strength and pride.”

“God has a plan,” Greitens said. “It doesn’t always work on our timeline, but it does work on his. Sometimes we have to practice patience.”

Greitens resigned four years ago following a sex scandal, two criminal charges that were eventually dropped and a legislative investigation that could have led to impeachment hearings. This year, his ex-wife accused him of abuse.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s announcement last year that he would not seek a third term set off a frenzy for his job, with nearly three dozen people in the two major parties filing to run.

Schmitt defeated a field that also included Hartzler, U.S. Rep. Billy Long and Mark McCloskey, who gained notoriety in 2020 when he and his wife pointed guns at racial injustice protesters outside their home.

Voter Darrel Durham, a 63-year-old heavy equipment operator from Columbia, said he thinks Schmitt can bring a new voice to Washington.

“I like all of his positions on draining the swamp,” Durham said.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump expressed support for “ERIC,” presumably meaning either Schmitt or Greitens, without picking between them. Comedian and Navy veteran Eric McElroy was also on the ballot in the GOP primary.

“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote.

Voter Richard Greenup, a 66-year-old computer programmer from Columbia, said he wants “somebody that’s going to support Trump” and that he chose Schmitt over Greitens because, “good or bad, Schmitt, I don’t think, has that baggage.”

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes scholar, had been governor for a year when in January 2018 he confirmed a TV report about a 2015 extramarital affair. He was subsequently charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a nude photo of the woman and using it to keep her quiet. That charge was dropped months later amid allegations that the chief investigator and local prosecutor mishandled the investigation.

Greitens, 48, says he was the victim of a political hit.

He faced a second charge accusing him of illegally using a donor list from a charity he founded to raise money for his campaign. That was dropped when he resigned in June 2018 after the Missouri House began an impeachment investigation.

Greitens has denied the abuse allegations from his ex-wife that she made in an affidavit in a child custody case. She cited one instance where he allegedly slapped their then-3-year-old son’s face and yanked him by the hair. In another, she accused him of pushing her to the ground.

Greitens also drew criticism for a June campaign video showing him brandishing a shotgun and declaring he’s hunting RINOs, or “Republicans in name only.”

Schmitt, 47, has gained attention for lawsuits that critics contend are politically motivated. He sued China over the coronavirus; school districts over mask mandates; and the city of St. Louis over its plan to provide $1 million for women to travel out of state for abortions.

“I’ve always been a fighter and as your attorney general I have fought in court to protect those liberties,” Schmitt said in his victory speech, citing mask and vaccine mandates, among other things.

Valentine, 65, is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., the longtime chair and CEO of Anheuser-Busch who built the St. Louis-based company into the world’s largest beermaker. The brewery was sold to InBev in 2008. Valentine said she entered the race after witnessing the “division in our country and the vitriol in our politics.”

“After hundreds of career politicians, it’s time for a nurse in the Senate,” Valentine said in a victory speech.

Bob Westlake, 67, and his wife, Mary Jo, 69, both voted for Valentine. The Chesterfield couple liked her push for better health care coverage.

“Health care is a big deal to us,” Bob Westlake said, adding that they have a daughter with a chronic illness and that he and his wife are on Medicare.

Kunce, 39, lost despite the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Kunce served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Kunce fashioned himself as a populist.

Wood’s entry into the race created new drama. Wood, 52, is a lifelong Republican, former U.S. attorney and most recently a top investigator for the U.S. House committee examining the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Danforth’s PAC has pledged to spend up to $20 million in support of Wood’s campaign.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Kansans Are Voting To Alter The Language Of Abortion In The State

Kansas is the first state to vote on altering the language of the state constitution on abortion, since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Elections in ruby red Kansas don’t normally have much drama. But that’s not the case this time. Tuesday voters will decide who should decide the state’s abortion rights — and it could have rippled effects across the country.  

Vania Soto, a muralist, spends her evenings creating murals all over the Kansas City area to remind people  of what’s at stake. 

“It’s very stressful to think that that freedom is on the line. It’s heartbreaking to think that we’re going backwards,” Soto said.  

Kansans are voting to alter the language of the state constitution — making it the first state to vote on abortion since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. 

“I want them to take this as an empowerment and to know that they’re not alone. There’s a whole community, even businesses that are not afraid to speak out loud or to put something as dramatic as a uterus in their windows to let their customers know that they’re with us,” Soto said. 

The question voters will answer on the ballot is a bit confusing. A yes vote means there is no constitutional right to an abortion. A no vote means there is. If it passes, the veto-proof, Republican-controlled legislature can write laws about abortion. And while advocates for the measure are downplaying what they’ll do, Sandy Brown, the president of the Kansas Abortion Fund, says legislators have made it pretty clear. 

“Who can trust their word at this point? We’ve already seen the language. We’ve already seen what is ready to be drawn up. It’s just a matter of time if we lose,” Brown said. 

This amendment didn’t just spring up in light of the Supreme Court’s decision – it’s been in the works for about three years. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that the state constitution’s Bill of Rights “affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body.”  

Brittany Jones says that decision impacted this issue beyond the sunflower state. 

“Because of that ruling, we were even more a destination for abortion. And that’s why it’s even more important that we passed this, to protect our state from becoming another unlimited, unregulated destination state,” Jones said.  

And it’s only been exacerbated by the overturning of Roe. Missouri and Oklahoma have already outlawed abortion, and women in Iowa and Nebraska will likely see restrictions soon. 

“Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, all of those patients are now coming to Kansas. There are only so many doctors who can provide abortion care. There’s a there’s a scarcity of medical staff. And many of those patients are coming from other states. And they’re stretched thin,” Brown continued. 

While Kansans haven’t sent a Democrat to Washington in almost nine decades, a recent poll shows Kansans are sharply divided on this issue. 49% agree with the recent Supreme Court decision, compared with 46% who don’t — and that number is reflected in polling on this amendment. About a third of Kansans believe there should be no restrictions on abortion.  

The vote is expected to be close. Both sides including the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City, have poured millions into these campaigns, and it appears to have worked. Voter registration and early voting turnout skyrocketed in what normally would be a quiet primary cycle.  

“This is a case where every single vote counts, every one,” Brown said.  



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Kansas Voters To Decide On Abortion Rights

and Associated Press
August 2, 2022

Voters are deciding Tuesday on an amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would allow state lawmakers to further restrict or ban abortions.

Kansas on Tuesday is holding the nation’s first test of voter feelings about the recent overturning of Roe v. Wade, with people deciding whether to allow their conservative legislature to further restrict or ban abortion.

The referendum on the proposed anti-abortion amendment to the Kansas Constitution is being closely watched as a barometer of liberal and moderate voters’ anger over the June ruling overturning the nationwide right to abortion. But the outcome might not reflect broader sentiments about the issue in the country as a whole, given how conservative Kansas is and how twice as many Republicans as Democrats have voted in its August primaries over the past decade.

Supporters of the measure wouldn’t say before the vote whether they intend to pursue a ban if it passes, but they’ve spent decades pushing for new restrictions on a nearly annual basis and many other states in the Midwest and South have banned abortion in recent weeks. By not stating their position, they were seeking to win over voters who favored some restrictions but not an outright ban.

Abortion rights advocates expect the legislature to ban abortion if the ballot measure passes, and the state saw a surge in early voting with an electorate more Democratic than usual.

The Kansas measure would add language to the state constitution saying that it doesn’t grant a right to abortion, which would allow lawmakers to regulate it as they see fit.

The Kansas measure is a response to a state Supreme Court decision in 2019 declaring that access to abortion is a matter of bodily autonomy and a “fundamental” right under the state’s Bill of Rights.

Both sides together have spent more than $14 million on their campaigns. Abortion providers and abortion rights groups were key donors for the “no” side, while Catholic dioceses heavily funded the “yes” campaign.

Kansas doesn’t ban most abortions until the 22nd week of pregnancy. But a law that would prohibit the most common second-trimester procedure and another that would set special health regulations for abortion providers remain on hold because of legal challenges.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Missouri Couple Shares Abortion Story

For families considering an abortion, the issue can be very complicated. One couple details traveling to different states and spending thousands.

Angela and Justin Orel are settling into their new house in suburban Kansas City, MO with their first child, Avett, and chocolate lab, Lucy.   

They moved to a bigger house at the end of last year with hopes of expanding their family, and they got pregnant even sooner than they planned. 

“I just went into like a normal OB appointment and found out, so it was kind of exciting,” Angela said. “And I was so excited. I just called him by afterwards. And I was like, ‘I have news.'”

“I just knew,” Justin said. 

Everything seemed normal for the first few months of pregnancy. And at 18 weeks, Angela’s OB recommended doing a standard test for genetic problems and abnormalities.  

“Anything over 35 is considered a geriatric pregnancy, which is a low blow, but that’s what they call it. And so I’m 36,” said Angela 

That’s when everything changed. 

“We got the call from the OB saying, you know ‘Your test is positive, but don’t get too alarmed. There’s a high false positivity rate with this test. So we’d like you to come back in and just do it again,'” said Angela. 

The second test was also positive, and then two specialists confirmed their worst case scenario. 

“And that was the spina bifida and basically the physical and mental disabilities. And also on top of that, the craniosynostosis,” said Angela. 

Their first child, Avett, also had craniosynostosis, meaning his skull fused together too early. But that’s fixable with surgery. 

The severe spina bifida diagnosis was a different story. It’s a major birth defect of the spinal cord, and it often comes alongside hydrocephalus, which is a buildup of fluid around the brain. 

“And there was already showing significant signs of that to the point it was actually causing the brain to fall down the spinal column, like into the throat,” said Angela. 

The damage already done to their fetus’ spine was unrepairable. 

“Maybe, potentially, they could have some use of their legs to basically being a quadriplegic and anything in between. And we don’t know exactly where that was going to be,” Justin said. “And that was probably the hardest part. And it was the same with the cognitive impairment, and could be something small that goes along with it. But there certainly would be some because they could already see that some damage had been done.”

Initially, they prepared for a drastic change in their family’s life, and they didn’t know that an abortion was an option. 

“For sure one of us would probably have to quit their jobs and stay at home full time, which we probably wouldn’t be able to afford this house. So then we’d have to sell it and not that any of that matters, but it’s just like the domino effect,” said Angela. 

Angela grew up alongside a second cousin with severe spina bifida, so she’s seen how living with the disease can impact the whole family. 

“She’s in her mid 40s now and growing up with her and seeing the struggles of everyday life — it’s heartbreaking,” Angela added. 

That firsthand knowledge, combined with concerns about the quality of life for Avett and their entire family weighed heavily on their ultimate decision to have an abortion. 

“Almost, in a way, I felt like we were saving everyone from having to go through that, which I felt was even harder than to terminate when we did,” said Angela 

“There was no good choice,” Justin said. “There wasn’t like a right and wrong decision. There was just two [expletive] options.”

At about 20 weeks pregnant, they knew they needed to move fast. But they couldn’t get an appointment on Kansas or Missouri side of the state line before legal limits kicked in. So they drove across the state to Illinois, but the first clinic they visited was a no-go.    

“That particular clinic did not have any anesthesiologist on staff. And so they could not sedate you,” Angela said. 

“There was no way to tell how much pain you’d experience physically, on top of the emotional trauma that would go with it,” Justin added. 

They drove four hours back home without getting the procedure done. They got a new appointment at a different location, and the next week drove back across the state again. The medical and travel costs were almost $6,000, and nothing was covered by health insurance.   

“None of it was cheap,” Justin said. “And I think we count ourselves very lucky that we were able to afford it and be flexible enough with work with both of our jobs, giving us the time off and having family to take care of [our son Avett] while we’re gone for a few days.”

They’ve never second guessed their choice to terminate. 

“I think I’m finally kind of at the point where I’m feeling happier again,” Angela said. “I know, we made the right decision for us. I do.”

But they still think about the baby they’ll never get a chance to meet. 



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Harris To Announce $1B To States For Floods, Extreme Heat

By Associated Press
August 1, 2022

The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.

The White House is making more than $1 billion available to states to address flooding and extreme heat exacerbated by climate change.

Vice President Kamala Harris is set to announce the grant programs Monday at an event in Miami with the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other officials. The competitive grants will help communities across the nation prepare for and respond to climate-related disasters.

“We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are here, and that we must invest in building resilience to protect our communities, infrastructure and economy,” the White House said in a statement.

The announcement comes as the death toll from massive flooding in Kentucky continued to climb on Sunday amid a renewed threat of more heavy rains. In the West, wildfires in California and Montana exploded in size amid windy, hot conditions, encroaching on neighborhoods and forcing evacuation orders.

Multiple Western states continued heat advisories amid a prolonged drought that has dried reservoirs and threatened communities across the region.

Harris will visit the National Hurricane Center for a briefing by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and FEMA. She also will visit Florida International University, where she is expected to address extreme weather events across the country, including the flooding in Kentucky and Missouri and the wildfires in California.

President Joe Biden announced last month that the administration will spend $2.3 billion to help communities cope with soaring temperatures through programs administered by FEMA, the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies. The move doubles spending on the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, program, which supports states, local communities, tribes and territories on projects to reduce climate-related hazards and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.

“Communities across our nation are experiencing first-hand the devastating impacts of the climate change and the related extreme weather events that follow — more energized hurricanes with deadlier storm surges, increased flooding and a wildfire season that’s become a year-long threat,” FEMA head Deanne Criswell said.

The funding to be announced Monday will “help to ensure that our most vulnerable communities are not left behind, with hundreds of millions of dollars ultimately going directly to the communities that need it most,” Criswell said.

A total of $1 billion will be made available through the BRIC program, with another $160 million to be offered for flood mitigation assistance, officials said.

Jacksonville, Florida, was among cities that received money under the BRIC program last year. The city was awarded $23 million for flood mitigation and stormwater infrastructure. Jacksonville, the largest city in Florida, sits in a humid, subtropical region along the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean, making it vulnerable to flooding when stormwater basins reach capacity. The city experiences frequent flooding and is at risk for increased major storms.

The South Florida Water Management District in Miami-Dade County received $50 million for flood mitigation and pump station repairs. Real estate development along the city’s fast-growing waterfront has created a high-risk flood zone for communities in the city and put pressure on existing systems, making repairs to existing structures an urgent need, officials said.

The Biden administration has launched a series of actions intended to reduce heat-related illness and protect public health, including a proposed workplace heat standard.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.



>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<