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Instead of giving me a COVID-19 test, my hospital blindsided me with bills

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Melissa Szymanski in 2020 in Windsor, Connecticut.

I never imagined that the worst part of having a terrible case of COVID-19 was going to be fighting my price-gouging hospital.

I am a school teacher in Windsor, Connecticut, where I teach band to fourth and fifth graders. In late March I had all the symptoms of COVID-19 — trouble breathing, cough, high fever. I called my doctor, who referred me to get a COVID test.

However, I didn’t qualify at that time because the state was short on tests and I was not in a high-risk group, like people who are over 65 years old, immunocompromised, or work as a health care or front line worker. When my symptoms got worse, my doctor suggested I get a chest X-ray. Since I was turned away from an urgent care clinic because they didn’t have enough personal protective equipment to treat additional patients, I went to the emergency room at Hartford Hospital.

I really wanted a COVID test, too. I understood that, because of the pandemic and an agreement between the state and many insurers, these tests were free for patients. But I never got a COVID test.

Coronavirus: Some school districts are willing to open up public schools — for a price

Instead, the hospital gave me an electrocardiogram (EKG), a chest X-ray, IV fluids, a flu test, a pregnancy test, and later a bill for $5,000, of which $3,500 was my responsibility. I can’t afford that on my teacher’s salary.

Not incidentally, in May, I tested positive for having antibodies to COVID, proving I almost certainly had it. I have since donated plasma twice, further confirming I have the antibodies. Had the hospital tested and treated me for COVID, my portion of the bill would have been a lot less, if not completely covered.

Let patients make an informed choice

I feel violated and bullied by a hospital system I want to be able to trust. Is it too much to ask that our health care providers tell us what tests they recommend, why they recommend those tests, the total price of the services, and how much we will be expected to pay with insurance and let us decide if we want the treatment?

Teachers in the classroom are on the front lines. We are with your children. We need to be protected and to feel safe turning to a health system we want to believe is on our side, and not designed to take advantage of us.

Weigh the risks, benefits: Reopen schools and let parents decide how to educate their children in COVID-19 pandemic

Thankfully, I have recovered fully from my illness and am back in the classroom this fall on a hybrid schedule doing what I love. But I have not recovered financially. 

I have been working with my insurance company and Hartford Hospital to challenge this bill and resubmit it as COVID-related treatment. While everyone I have worked with has been helpful, we did not make much progress until I got my state insurance department involved. That has helped resolve some of the bill, but no one should have to go to these lengths.

Melissa Szymanski in 2020 in Windsor, Connecticut.

Whether we’re in the midst of a pandemic or not, every American deserves to be protected from outrageous health care bills they cannot foresee.

Price transparency in health care would put an end to this. The United States Senate is currently considering a bill that would require hospitals and insurance companies to show their prices to patients upfront. Hospitals and insurance companies are fighting against this right for us to know prices.

Sadly, I now know why.

Melissa Szymanski of Glastonbury, Connecticut, is a school teacher in Windsor, Connecticut. 

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID patient: Lack of health care price transparency burns patients

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Maine lobster business salvaged its summer despite pandemic

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The crew on a lobster boat hauls traps at sunrise, Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, off Portland, Maine. The state's lobster fishermen braced for a difficult summer this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the season was unexpectedly decent. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s lobster fishermen braced for a difficult summer this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, but then the unexpected happened. They kept catching lobsters, and people kept buying them.

The pandemic has posed significant challenges for the state’s lobster fishery, which is the nation’s largest, but members of the industry reported a steady catch and reasonable prices at the docks. Prices for consumers and wholesalers were low in the early part of the summer but picked up in August to be about on par with a typical summer.

The Maine lobster industry is in the midst of a multiyear boom, and fishermen have caught more than 100 million pounds (45,360,000 kilograms) for a record nine years in a row.

It’s hard to guess whether they’ll reach that total again, but summer 2020 hasn’t been half bad for a season in which many fishermen expected collapse, said Kristan Porter, president of the Maine Lobstermen’s Association.

“Especially early in the season when nothing was open, no restaurants were open. We were thinking it would be a complete disaster,” Porter said. “If it stays like this, we can struggle through and have a season, and then get ready to fish next year.”

Lobster fishermen harvest the seafood species using underwater traps, and the busiest part of the season is the summer. Maine’s lobster fishery is by far the largest in the country. Lobsters are also closely tied to tourism in Maine, which also took a hit from the pandemic.

The lobster industry was apparently helped by the fact that many consumers who typically eat lobster in restaurants started buying them retail, said John Sackton, an industry analyst and founder of SeafoodNews.com. The catch might have been less than recent summers, but that kept prices from falling, he said.

Live lobsters were selling in the $8 range in the wholesale market in mid-September, not too far off from recent seasons.

“Even with Maine travel and quarantine restrictions, there was probably heavier tourist usage in Maine than it appeared that there would be,” Sackton said.

Some lobster businesses pivoted to a direct-to-consumer model during the early stages of the pandemic in an attempt to keep moving product. That allowed the industry to weather the months in which shipping was disrupted and restaurants were almost completely shut down. And lobsters remained easy to find in Maine supermarkets throughout the summer.

Farther from home, the slow reemergence of China as a market for the seafood also bodes well for the lobster business’s future, industry members said.

Lobster has been a major piece of President Donald Trump’s trade hostilities with China. The U.S. shipped almost $26 million in lobster to China through July — far less than the record year of 2018 but more than $6.5 million ahead of the 2019 pace.

That allowed Stephanie Nadeau, owner of The Lobster Co. in Arundel, to rehire most of her crew, which she laid off during the disruptions of the trade war. It has been a hectic year, she said, but the increase in international shipping is a positive sign.

“It’s like riding a bucking bronco,” she said. “You never know which way the bronco’s going to break.”

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What We Learned About Akoustis Technologies’ (NASDAQ:AKTS) CEO Compensation

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What We Learned About Akoustis Technologies' (NASDAQ:AKTS) CEO Compensation

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7 Sin Stocks To Buy That Will Outperform the S&P 500

While the S&P 500 and a wide range of stocks continue their September slide, many investors are understandably jittery, wondering if a second market crash is coming this year. In response, they’re searching for industries that can offer more stability, but also growth and income over the coming quarters. One such group are the so-called “sin stocks,” which benefit when humans indulge in vices.Although there may be different definitions of sin stocks, these businesses include those in alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, gambling, adult entertainment, weapons and defense industries. What is viewed as a sin stock today may also change over time.Recent research by David Blitzo of Robeco Asset Management in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Frank J. Fabozzi of EDHEC Business School in Nice, France, highlights how “various studies … [of] the historical performance of sin stocks … [show] they have delivered significantly positive abnormal returns.”InvestorPlace – Stock Market News, Stock Advice & Trading TipsThat is to say, sin stocks outperform the broader market time and again, and that isn’t based on one study; it’s based on many studies, by different researchers at different times.Sales figures from companies back up the anecdotal evidence that even in economically difficult periods, tobacco and alcohol consumption remain fairly stable. In fact, during the early weeks of the pandemic, alcohol sales in the U.S. increased by 27%. * 7 Hot Stocks to Buy on Robinhood Now Therefore, for investors whose convictions allow them to invest in these firms, such stocks can provide meaningful diversification during volatile market periods. On the other hand, some sin stocks, particularly casino stocks, have suffered greatly as gambling locations remain closed due to lockdowns.With all that in mind, here are seven sin stocks to invest for the long-run: * Advisor Shares Vice ETF (NASDAQ:ACT) * Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ) * ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (NYSEARCA:MJ) * iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (CBOE:ITA) * Smith & Wesson (NASDAQ:SWBI) * VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF (NASDAQ:BJK) * Vanguard Consumer Staples Index Fund ETF (NYSEARCA:VDC)Most sin industry stocks also bear juicy dividends. Thus, they could be appropriate for investors seeking passive income, especially in a low-interest environment such as this. Sin Stocks to Buy: Advisor Shares Vice ETF (ACT)Source: Shutterstock 52-Week Range: $16.16 – 26.95Dividend Yield: 2.41%Net Expense Ratio: 0.99 % per yearOur first choice is an exchange-traded fund (ETF), best for investors who would rather not risk capital on one company. The AdvisorShares Vice ETF concentrates mainly on U.S.-listed alcohol and tobacco companies. It may also hold stocks of firms conducting federally legal cannabis business, per the U.S. government.As regular InvestorPlace readers likely know, marijuana remains illegal at the federal level in the U.S. At the state level, legal status depends on the laws of the individual state. Outside of Canada, which was the first G7 country to nationally legalize cannabis, the size of the legalized marijuana industry remains very small. Yet that market is expected to reach $40 billion by 2023.In terms of ETF composition, cannabis-related firms top the list with a 40.9% weighting. Next are alcohol (27.1%), Restaurant & Entertainment (12.2%), and Tobacco with Cannabis Exposure (11.3%). Close to 80% of the companies come from North America, followed by Europe (13.3%).ACT’s top ten holdings comprise around 60% of total net assets, which stand close to $10 million. ACT’s top five companies are Boston Beer (NYSE:SAM), Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE:TMO), Abbott Laboratories (NYSE:ABT), Turning Point Brands (NYSE:TPB) and Abbvie (NYSE:ABBV). A closer examination of the holdings shows that there is considerable emphasis on life-sciences. For example, in Canada, Thermo Fisher undertakes cannabis compliance activities. Another holding is Scotts Miracle-Gro (NYSE:SMG), which is known for its fertilizer products, used by marijuana producers.So far in 2020, the fund is up around 3%. Yet since the lows seen in early spring, ACT is up around 55%. In fact, on September 16, it hit a 52-week high.Any decline toward the $22.5-level would make the fund more attractive for long-term investors. However, we’d like to underscore the high management fee as well as the fact that it is still a smaller size fund. Constellation Brands (STZ)Source: ShinoStock / Shutterstock.com 52-Week Range: $104.28 – $210.65Dividend Yield: 1.62%Victor, New York-headquartered Constellation Brands’ website highlights that it is the fastest-growing large consumer packaged goods (CPG) company in the U.S. at the retail level. And in addition to the U.S., the global alcoholic beverage company has operations in Mexico, New Zealand and Italy as well.The group produces and markets beer, wine and a diverse range of spirits. Several of its well-known brands include Corona, Modelo, Pacifico, Robert Mondavi, SVEDKA Vodka, Casa Noble Tequila and High West Whiskey.In 2018, Constellation Brands took a considerable stake in Canada-based Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC), providing the company with managerial and financial backing. There may be investors who are hoping that Constellation Brands, which holds a 38% stake in the company, will acquire the remaining shares of Canopy Growth. Given the question marks surrounding the cannabis industry and the global economy, we don’t expect such an acquisition to happen in the near-term.Year-to-date (YTD) the stock is down about 2%. Part of the weakness in price may come from the fact that its wine and spirits business has seen lower shipments in 2020. But the beer business is strong, posting the tenth consecutive year of rising shipments. * 7 Hot Stocks to Buy on Robinhood Now Since the lows seen in March, the shares are up about 80%. As a result of the rapid increase, forward P/E and P/S ratios have also been pushed up, standing at 20.75 and 4.33 respectively. We’d look to buy the shares around $170. ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF (MJ)Source: Shutterstock 52-Week Range: $8.81 – $23.44Dividend Yield: 10.76%Expense Ratio: 0.75%Our next choice is an ETF from the cannabis space. The ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF tracks the Prime Alternative Harvest index. MJ stock invests in companies that have exposure to global medicinal and recreational cannabis legalization moves.Pharmaceuticals (56.4%), Tobacco (24.7%) and Biotechnology (9.1%) are the top 3 sectors for MJ, which has 35 holdings. The top ten holdings comprise about 60% of total net assets, which are around $550 million. MJ’s top five companies are GW Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:GWPH), Cronos Group (NASDAQ:CRON), Canopy Growth (NYSE:CGC), Corbus Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:CRBP) and Aurora Cannabis (NYSE:ACB).It’s important to note that U.K.-based GW Pharmaceuticals, a leading cannabinoid-focused biotech company, is MJ’s largest holding, accounting for 11.1% of its assets. Its drugs are widely used to treat spasms in multiple sclerosis patients. The fund also owns shares of the companies providing ancillary products and services to the cannabis companies.So far in 2020, Canada-based marijuana stocks have been plumbing new lows. Producing cannabis is capital-intensive, meaning pot firms make substantial initial and ongoing investments. These companies are also vulnerable to supply and demand issues.Over the past year, a wide range of Canadian regulatory logjams have resulted in supply problems for companies like Cronos, Canopy Growth, and Aurora Cannabis. Plus, most of the demand for cannabis is currently limited to Canada where there is still a resilient black market. As a result, the next few months may see consolidation in the industry north of the border.YTD, the fund is down about 36%. It is likely that MJ may re-test its lows seen earlier in March. Investors who are able to spare risk capital may consider investing for the long-run around $7.5. iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF (ITA)Source: Shutterstock 52-Week Range: $112.47 – $240.62Dividend Yield: 2.26%Expense Ratio: 0.42%The iShares U.S. Aerospace & Defense ETF provides exposure to U.S. companies that manufacture commercial and military aircrafts and other defense equipment. ITA, which has 35 holdings, tracks the Dow Jones U.S. Select Aerospace & Defense Index.The top ten companies comprise 75% of net assets under management, which stand close to $2.7 billion. Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT), Raytheon Technologies (NYSE:RTX) and Boeing (NYSE:BA) are the top three holdings for ITA. Put another way, investors are relying on a few major players for returns. * 7 Hot Stocks to Buy on Robinhood Now Many analysts concur that U.S. defense spending is likely to remain high. However, the headwinds affecting orders, especially for Boeing, may stay with us for some time. This fact is potentially already reflected in the price, which is down close to 30% YTD.Contrarian and dividend-seeking investors may find this fund appealing. Smith & Wesson (SWBI)Source: Supakorn Pe / Shutterstock.com 52-Week Range: $4.16 – $22.40Dividend Yield: 1.26%Springfield, Massachusetts-based firearms manufacturer Smith & Wesson is our next stock. The company was founded in 1852. Earlier in August, it spun off American Outdoor Brands (NASDAQ:AOUT) as a separate entity.In August, the company released FY 2020 annual report and highlighted that nationwide firearm demand remained extremely high. Sales numbers and anecdotal evidence suggest that guns have recently been flying off the shelves in many parts of the country.During the year, the group introduced 230 new firearms. A third of those were brand new products, while the rest were line extensions. Net sales for the fiscal year were $678.4 million, an increase of 6.3% from a year ago. The firearms segment gross sales represented a 10% increase over fiscal 2019 sales. The company’s gross margins have been climbing and now stand at a robust 40.2%.YTD, SWBI shares are up close to 70%. The upcoming U.S. Presidential election may bring volatility in the stock price. However, long-term investors may consider buying the dips. Its P/S and P/B ratios stand out, at 1.01 and 1.95 respectively. VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF (BJK)Source: Shutterstock 52 Week Range: $ 20.02 – 43.73Dividend Yield: 3.23%Expense Ratio: 0.65%The VanEck Vectors Gaming ETF provides exposure to companies in the global gaming industry. That includes casinos and casino hotels, sports betting, lottery and gaming services, and gaming technology and equipment.BJK, which has 42 holdings, tracks the MVIS Global Gaming Index. The top sector allocation is Consumer Discretionary (91.1%), followed by Real Estate (9.2%).The top ten holdings constitute over 55% of net assets, which stand around $53 million. Flutter Entertainment (OTC:PDYPY), Galaxy Entertainment Group (OTC:GXYEF) and Draftkings (NASDAQ:DKNG) are the top three firms in BJK.At present, in the U.S., DraftKings and FanDuel, which is part of Europe-based Flutter Entertainment, are the two main online platforms for sports and sports fantasy betting. DKNG stock, which went public in late April, is up over 400%. Flutter Entertainment, which is one of the largest gambling companies in the world by revenue, is also up about 23%. * 7 Hot Stocks to Buy on Robinhood Now However, the fund as a whole is down about 9% so far in 2020. Investors who want to capitalize on the potential of sports betting as well as the growth in fantasy sports both in the U.S. and worldwide may want to do further due diligence on the fund. We’d look to buy the dips. Vanguard Consumer Staples Index Fund ETF (VDC)Source: Shutterstock 52-week range: $120.70-$172.31Dividend Yield: 3.05%Expense Ratio: 0.10% per yearOur final pick is another ETF. However, it’s not a pure play on sin stocks. Instead the Vanguard Consumer Staples Index Fund ETF provides exposure to a range of large-, mid-, and small-cap U.S. stocks in the consumer staples sector. As a result, this fund is defensive in nature.VDC, which has has 94 holdings, tracks the Spliced US IMI Consumer Staples 25/50 Index. The most important sectors (by weighting) are Household Products, Soft Drinks, Packaged Foods & Meats and Hypermarkets & Super Centers. In total, these four sectors make up about three-quarters of the fund.The top ten holdings comprise 65% of total net assets, which stand at $6.5 billion. These are businesses with competitive positions and strong balance sheets and revenue streams. Among those ten companies are two businesses that would be considered sin stocks, i.e., Philip Morris International (NYSE:PM) and Altria (NYSE:MO).Phillip Morris International is a global cigarette and tobacco manufacturing company, whose products are sold in over 180 countries outside the U.S. The most recognized brand is Marlboro. Altria’s subsidiaries, on the other hand, include Philip Morris USA, which is engaged in the manufacture and sale of cigarettes in the U.S. as well as several other brands which manufacture, produce and market tobacco products and wine.In 2020, the fund has returned about 0.3%, i.e. it’s flat. Given the health and economic uncertainties due to the pandemic, market participants may consider allocating some capital into VDC. We’d look to buy the dips, especially around $155 or below.On the date of publication, Tezcan Gecgil did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article.Tezcan Gecgil has worked in investment management for over two decades in the U.S. and U.K. In addition to formal higher education in the field, she has also completed all 3 levels of the Chartered Market Technician (CMT) examination. Her passion is for options trading based on technical analysis of fundamentally strong companies. She especially enjoys setting up weekly covered calls for income generation. She also publishes educational articles on long-term investing. More From InvestorPlace * Why Everyone Is Investing in 5G All WRONG * America’s 1 Stock Picker Reveals His Next 1,000% Winner * Revolutionary Tech Behind 5G Rollout Is Being Pioneered By This 1 Company * Radical New Battery Could Dismantle Oil Markets The post 7 Sin Stocks To Buy That Will Outperform the S&P 500 appeared first on InvestorPlace.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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Remains of 117 Chinese soldiers killed in Korean War returned

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Remains of 117 Chinese soldiers killed in Korean War returned
Chinese honor guard members put caskets containing the remains of Chinese soldiers in a cargo airplane during the handing over ceremony – South Korea Defense Ministry

The remains of 117 Chinese soldiers who died in the 1950-53 Korean War were returned to China on Sunday in an annual repatriation delayed this year by the coronavirus outbreak.

South Korea handed over the remains at a ceremony at Incheon airport outside Seoul, and a Chinese military transport plane flew them to Shenyang, a northeastern Chinese city near the North Korean border.

Chinese soldiers fought on the North Korean side against US-led forces in the South during the war on the Korean Peninsula.

Most of the 117 remains were found in the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea. It was the seventh annual repatriation, and the largest since the 437 returned in the first one in 2014. In all, the remains of 716 Chinese soldiers have been sent back.

This year’s return, originally planned for the spring, was postponed for several months because of the spread of Covid-19.

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Christine founded Sports Grind Entertainment with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered Sports news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research.

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