Mega-insurance companies versus mega-health care systems

Two big health insurance mergers are in the works: Aetna plans to buy Humana for $33 billion, and Anthem will take over Cigna for a whopping $54.2 billion.

The number of major health insurers in the US will soon be three, down from five.

So much for more competition, huh?

What’s happening in the health care delivery system mirrors the insurance industry. The biggest health care corporations are furiously buying up smaller hospitals and physicians’ groups.

From their points of view, it makes sense: Each side believes being bigger will give them the upper hand in reimbursement negotiations (that is, … Continue reading

Overuse of antipsychotics in teenagers

I read a disturbing bit of news a couple of weeks ago: Antipsychotic use rising among teens and young adults.

A growing number of teens and young adults are being prescribed antipsychotics, a new study suggests.

In particular, it appears they’re being used to treat attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – a condition for which the powerful drugs are not approved.

The study mentioned was recently published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Antipsychotics include such heavily-marketed drugs as Abilify (aripiprazole), Risperdal (risperidone), Seroquel (quetiapine) and Zyprexa (olanzapine).

Related posts:

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Cover your a** health care

“Cover-your-ass health care” or “save-my-ass medicine” are terms used to describe all the extra diagnostic tests (blood tests, CT scans, MRIs, etc.) ordered by physicians to rule out possible (but unlikely) life-threatening conditions.

Such as going to the emergency department with a headache and getting a CT scan to rule out an aneurysm or a brain tumor.

Or, as in this video example, being worked up for a heart attack when the most likely diagnosis is a simple case of heartburn. (Warning: video contains some bad language!)

The ER physician in the video is certainly … Continue reading

Save your money – Fish oil supplements

I confess.

I once bought an enormous jar of fish oil supplements from Costco—and then let it sit in a cabinet mostly untouched until well past its expiration date. (I hate taking pills.)

That was doubly wasteful on my part. Not only for ignoring the capsules once I’d bought them, but for buying them in the first place.

recent article in the business pages of the Washington Post marveled that the fish oil supplement industry is booming despite any solid evidence that fish oil supplements work as claimed.

People in the United States spend about $1.2 billion annually for

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Antibiotics vs. surgery for appendicitis

I’m very much in the “less is more” camp when it comes to medical care.

So it would seem I would be very interested in the latest research out of Finland that shows, at first glance, antibiotics to be as effective as surgery in treating appendicitis.

Avoiding surgery should be a good thing, right?

This study was published last month in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association). Many news media picked up and reported the story, some even saying antibiotic therapy could become the new normal for treating appendicitis as, they said, it is safer and cheaper.

But … Continue reading

Nexium and heart attack risk

nexiumLast month a medical journal published a study out of Stanford that links the use of Nexium (esomeprazole) and other proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) with an increased risk of heart attack.

This is another study that used “big data”—the information from thousands (if not millions) of patients’ electronic health records—to identify risks from drugs and other medical treatments.

Nexium, or “the Purple Pill”, is widely prescribed to treat heartburn and gastroesophogeal reflux disease (GERD). Other commonly used PPIs include Prevacid (lansoprazole) and Prilosec (omeprazole). These drugs are also readily available over-the-counter, and are heavily marketed to the general population.… Continue reading

No shortage of bureaucrats

A picture (or a graph) is worth a thousand words.

too many administrators

We might be facing a physician shortage, but apparently not an administrative one. Top-heavy management is another reason health care continues to cost more and more, and physicians feel more crushed by bureaucracy and paperwork.

Related post: ICD-10 and crazy diagnosis codes

The graph is from Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), a group that supports a single-payer or “Medicare for all” health care system.

I found it through a post on KevinMD that questions whether a single-payer system will really cut down the amount of administrative … Continue reading

Too much vitamin B12

Last weekend my husband participated in a golf tournament. It was sponsored by Costco, and each player received a swag bag of Costco merchandise.

When he got home, my husband and I took a look at his “gifts.” I couldn’t help but laugh.

  • OptiFiber Natural Fiber Supplement
  • Body & Soul My Vision Health Eye Vitamins
  • Natrol Fast Dissolve Melatonin
  • Focus Factor Brain Health Supplement
  • Testosterone Support For Men Supplement
  • Slice of Life Energy Boost Gummy Vitamins With B12
  • ZipFizz Healthy Energy Drink Mix With Vitamin B12
  • Oh, and some golf balls and tees

The organizers of that tournament knew their … Continue reading

What is the Isabel symptom checker?

Making the correct diagnosis in a timely manner is crucial. It not only avoids lots of unnecessary (and expensive) tests, but gets the appropriate treatment started more quickly.

But making a diagnosis can be difficult. And one of the leading causes of medical malpractice suits is “failure to diagnose”; that’s why so many cases of indigestion are worked up as potential heart attacks, or headaches for aneurysms or tumors.

Many patients (and physicians) turn to apps or online tools to help make a diagnosis. Unfortunately, Harvard just published a study that shows these tools are only right about half the … Continue reading

Cancer doctor’s fraud sends him to prison

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Dr. Farid Fata, the Michigan oncologist who has been on trial for bilking millions of dollars out of Medicare and other insurance companies.

Worse than the fraud is that he actually falsely diagnosed patients with cancer and/or treated them unnecessarily with expensive, harmful chemotherapy drugs.

The good news is that he has been sentenced to 45 years in a federal prison.

U.S. District Judge Paul Borman this week heard stories of brittle bones and fried organs as patients chillingly described the effects of excessive chemotherapy at the hands of Dr. Farid

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