More find health care unaffordable, are underinsured

Despite reforms, health care is less affordable for many

CBS News and The New York Times recently conducted a poll and I found the results both interesting and alarming (although not surprising).

Fifty-two percent of Americans say they find basic medical care affordable, but that’s down from 61 percent last December. Today, for 46 percent of Americans, paying for medical care is a hardship, up 10 points.

Most attribute the rise of out-of-pocket costs to more expensive medical treatment, rather than an increase in the amount of treatment they are receiving.

When Americans are asked about some specific ways they

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Lack of transparency keeps medical costs high

Profits stay high, too

On Monday, the New York Times published another brilliant piece by Elisabeth Rosenthal in her series “Paying Till it Hurts.”

Testing has become to the United States’ medical system what liquor is to the hospitality industry: a profit center with large and often arbitrary markups. From a medical perspective, blood work, tests and scans are tools to help physicians diagnose and monitor disease. But from a business perspective, they are opportunities to bring in revenue.

And American doctors, clinics and hospitals tend to order lots of tests. “It’s one of the most lucrative revenue streams they

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Two reasons why we spend too much on health care

One: Doctors order too much

A primary care physician, thinking he was sending a patient for a simple evaluation by a specialist (that was his first mistake), shares this:

A few months ago I assessed a patient with dementia.  I dutifully ordered the appropriate blood testing and MRI.  As I delved further into the history, I was concerned that there may be a component of depression. Pseudodementia (memory disturbance and dementia like symptoms caused by depression) can often mimic classic Alzheimer’s disease, but resolves with proper treatment.  The best way to differentiate these two syndromes is neuropsychological testing.  I

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More ways to save money on generics

I posted a couple weeks ago about how the prices of many generic drugs have been rising to crazy heights over the last 18 months.

Here’s another post by a health care advocate with some more tips for trying to save money on generics.

Unless your health plan’s drug formulary covers your medication, you might be out of luck. A drug formulary is a list of prescription drugs, both generic and brand, that are preferred by your health plan.

If you’re shopping for health plans now during open open enrollment (November through February, 2015) you might ask if the medications

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Flu vaccine advisory from the CDC

Not as effective, but still helpful

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a health advisory. It appears this year’s flu vaccine is not a great genetic match for the majority of flu cases seen thus far. This is called a virus “drift.”

That’s too bad, but because the flu vaccine is made before the flu season starts, it’s always a bit of an educated guess. Some years are a better match than others.

Related post: Get your seasonal flu shot

The media has been reporting that the vaccine is less effective this year, and perhaps you … Continue reading

Vitamin D testing and supplements

Lack of support for vitamin D

I’ve written several posts on vitamin D. That’s because it’s one of my pet peeves.

Why?

Because there was a lot of hype surrounding it several years ago when it became the latest health care fad. Suddenly a low vitamin D level was suspected of contributing to many types of cancer and chronic diseases. Physicians began testing everyone’s vitamin D levels and recommending vitamin D supplements, either over-the-counter or a stronger prescription form.

Further research on vitamin D, however, has not provided evidence that general screening for low vitamin D levels is helpful, … Continue reading

Save money – Cleaning for a Reason

cleaning for a reasonFree housecleaning for women undergoing cancer treatment

I write a lot of posts complaining about the high cost of health care, and cancer care specifically.

Related post: The high costs of cancer drugs

So it’s a nice change to be able to give a shout out to a non-profit group that seeks to take some of the burden off women with cancer.

Finances aside, cancer treatment can be a huge drain on an individual’s or family’s time and energy. Keeping up with house cleaning chores is often the first thing to go, and few families can afford house cleaning … Continue reading

Prices continue to increase for generics

genericsA worrisome trend for generics

A year ago I posted about my surprise when my husband’s prescription for levothyroxine, a generic drug, suddenly increased in price by 200%.

After a little investigative work, I discovered the reason for the sudden price hike was a shortage of the drug, which I was told would resolve within a few months.

Ha.

Actually, the shortage was resolved as promised. The price, however, has remained stubbornly high. In fact, it is about 700% more expensive now than it was 18 months ago ($40 for 30 days rather than $5 for 30 days).

Levothyroxine is … Continue reading

Obamacare, taxes and subsidies

An email from a friend this weekend made it clear that many people don’t understand how the much-lauded Obamacare subsidies work.

That’s understandable, if they are not directly affected. However, it seems even those who qualify for and receive subsidies don’t necessarily understand how they work.

The devil is in the details, as they say, and Obamacare is nothing if not full of fine print and unintended consequences.

Unfortunately, not knowing the details of how the subsidies work will result in nasty financial surprises for some families, especially when tax time rolls around next year.

Related posts:

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Harvoni, Solvadi and hepatitis C screening

harvoni hepatitis c treatmentNew treatments for hepatitis C

I read an article online the other day in which the author practically shouted at her readers to “Run as fast as you can to your doctor’s office and get screened for hepatitis C!”

OK, what she actually wrote was:

Overall, the outlook for patients with hepatitis C is much better than it was just a couple of years ago. So if you’re a baby boomer who hasn’t been screened for hepatitis C yet, don’t wait. 

Still, let’s step back and look at the big picture.

Hepatitis C screening has been in the news a … Continue reading