Annual exams vs. annual wellness visits

Happy New (Calendar) Year!

It’s the start of a new year or, in health insurance lingo, the start of a new calendar year deductible. I’m reposting this from last January, because this month is the best time to start trying to schedule that annual exam or annual wellness visit (it could take weeks, after all, to get an appointment!)

I usually advise people to get any screening tests or annual exams done early in the year, just in case an abnormality is found and more testing/treatment is necessary.

Especially with the current trend towards enormous deductibles (up to $14,300 for Continue reading

Statins versus lifestyle changes

statins and lifestyle changesPhysicians don’t agree on statin use

This subject came up in my family recently after my husband’s last annual exam. He has always had borderline high cholesterol, and as the “target” or ideal cholesterol level keeps falling, his cholesterol seems to be rising.

His primary care provider immediately told him he should take a statin.

“Hold the door!” I said, when he told me his doctor’s recommendation. “Let’s think about this a little more.”

I know there are two schools of thought about statins: those researchers and physicians who think statins are so wonderful they would like to put them … Continue reading

My favorite healthcare books and gifts for 2016

I’m spending the day online getting some gift shopping done, and I thought I’d post about some of the healthcare books and gifts I’m buying for friends and family this year.

I use Amazon a lot (Prime, so I get free 2-day shipping), and I have to include a disclosure here that the following links will take you to my Amazon Associates page. That said, I’m not trying to make any money with my blog, so if you can find these products for better prices elsewhere, great!

For the sleep deprived

As someone who has battled insomnia most of her … Continue reading

Stay healthy – Toy safety tips

December is Safe Toys and Gifts Month!

Miami Children’s Hospital has a great public service video with toy safety tips.

 

My local pediatric hospital, Seattle Children’s, has a webpage devoted to toy safety and safety tips, including how to choose age-appropriate gifts, how to recognize potential dangers, and how to keep toys in good condition to keep them safe.

They also offer links to toy and gift suggestions for different age groups.

The sponsor of Safe Toys and Gifts Month, Prevent Blindness, has this toy safety list on its website:

Before purchasing

Continue reading

LASIK – Know the risks

lasikLASIK isn’t a cure all

LASIK has tempted me.

I’ve been nearsighted almost my entire life, and began wearing glasses when I was 5.

I would love to wake up in the morning and not have to fumble for my glasses, or worry about my lenses getting wet in the rain or fogging up when I come in from the cold.

I would love to say goodbye to irritating contact lenses, and the yearly expense of buying contact solution, new lenses and some years new eyeglasses. They’re expensive and I don’t have vision insurance.

But the truth is LASIK isn’t … Continue reading

Budget-busting prescription drugs

Taxpayers footing the bill

I watched this on my local news the other night: Runaway drug price hikes squeeze Washington’s budget.

Our state is one that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), so I knew we were spending a lot. But I had no idea now much. Through the first 9 months of 2016, my state has spent $1.1 billion on prescription drugs.

Not total medical care. Just prescription drugs.

And Washington is not the only state facing a fiscal nightmare because of skyrocketing drug costs.

Almost half of that spending is for the really high-priced specialty … Continue reading

Choosing Wisely – Use less healthcare

My goal for 2017? Use as little healthcare as possible

How will healthcare change under a new president and political party?

That’s a question I can’t answer. As I wrote in my last post, both candidates had multiple-point plans to tweak/improve/repeal/replace the Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA or Obamacare.

But I don’t know what will change or when.

What I know for sure is that for 2017 my premiums will be 20% more expensive, my co-insurance and co-pays will be higher, and my current primary care doctor will no longer be in-network.

I can and will shop around … Continue reading

Election day and healthcare 2016

american-flagI started this blog four years ago, the day after President Obama won the general election. I needed an instrument to give voice to my frustrations and fears about the direction of our country’s health and healthcare policy.

I just re-read what I wrote back then:

So, the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare, as it’s commonly known), having survived its precipitous birth and a few close-calls with death, is poised to enter a prolonged and awkward adolescence.

I am not a huge fan of Obamacare because it seems to be more health insurance reform than health care reform.

Continue reading

“Bridge Over Diagnosis”

I’m going with an overdiagnosis theme this week.

Here’s the latest healthcare parody video from pharmacy professor James McCormack, as he continues his much-appreciated effort to raise awareness of overscreening, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment in this country.

As usual, this video is full of supporting statistics and excerpts from leading healthcare journals, so take time to pause the video and really understand the information being shared.

As I said in a previous post, overdiagnosis and the resulting unnecessary treatments cost hundreds of billions of dollars every year.

Equally bad, if not worse, I think, is … Continue reading

Risk Benefit Theater – Screening mammograms

I’m all about high-value, evidence-based healthcare.

I’ve written a lot of posts about the problems, including high costs, of overscreening and overtreating. (We spend hundreds of billions of dollars every year on unnecessary healthcare!)

So I love this video by Andrew Lazris, MD, and Erik Rifkin, PhD. They use the visual of 1000 women sitting in a theater to illustrate why screening mammograms are not the life savers many women think they are.

A picture (or video) is worth a thousand words, isn’t it?

I understand Lazris and Rifkin want to create more videos to … Continue reading

Life Line Community Healthcare and Life Line Screening

Buyer Beware

I’ve posted before about the limitations of Life Line Screening.

The screening tests they offer in their basic “wellness” package are either not recommended at all because they aren’t effective screening tools (carotid ultrasound), or are not recommended for the general public (abdominal aortic aneurysm ultrasound). Please read my previous post for more information on that: Don’t reach for Life Line Screenings

Screening tests are best discussed with your primary care physician. He or she will help you know which tests are right for you—based on your age, health history and family history—as well as how often they … Continue reading

National Prescription Drug Take Back Day

What’s in your medicine cabinet?

I admit it.

I have a few old pill bottles stashed in a kitchen cupboard. These are mostly leftover pain meds dating back several years to when my son had his wisdom teeth removed, or my husband had his thyroid taken out.

I need to get rid of them.

drug take back dayLuckily, this Saturday, October 22, from 10 am to 2 pm, is the semi-annual National Prescription Drug Take Back Day sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

On Saturday, local law enforcement agencies will partner with the DEA to act as drop-off sites for unused … Continue reading

Think Pink? Think twice!

think pinkI just returned from an errand to the bank where I saw a huge cardboard advertisement for a pink-ribboned Susan G. Komen credit card. That reminded me that October (or Pinktober) is all about Think Pink and breast cancer awareness.

But be aware that there are less-than-worthy charities and lots of for-profit merchandising, too. This post from last October has excellent links to help you know if a charity deserves your money. FN

Profiting from breast cancer?

I know October is all about the color pink and supporting breast cancer, but don’t be too hasty giving your money away, … Continue reading

Costs of Care story contest – Tell your story

And maybe win a prize!

Have you or a family member been the victim of crazy medical expenses? Or are you a healthcare provider who has witnessed again and again unreasonable and unfair healthcare costs?

Have you just been waiting for the chance to share your experience with a wider audience?

If so, then the healthcare advocacy group, Costs of Care, wants you to submit your story to its annual Story Contest.

Your story should be 750 words or less, and it should “focus on experiences that illustrate the challenges or opportunities to make healthcare more affordable.” (Check out… Continue reading

Do you know your drug formulary?

drug formularyThe shrinking drug formulary

Insurance companies have several ways to cut their costs.

We are all familiar with higher premiums, higher co-pays, increased deductibles, and narrower provider networks. These will all be apparent when we look at our policies for 2017.

A lesser-known strategy is to remove high-cost drugs from the drug formulary—the list of medications that insurance will cover.

Insurance companies typically work with a pharmacy benefits manager, or PBM, which acts as the middleman to negotiate drug prices with drugmakers.

Exploding drug costs

The Affordable Care Act made it mandatory that health insurance plans offer prescription drug … Continue reading