Several years ago, when my son was in middle school, he developed a nasty sinus infection. He didn’t have a fever, and I suspected it was a viral infection that would run its course unaided. I told him this, but he was unimpressed.
Partly to make him feel better, and partly because I wanted my diagnosis confirmed, I made an appointment for him to see our pediatrician.
I had a good relationship with our pediatrician. We shared the same philosophy of watchful waiting and not rushing to order unnecessary tests and prescribe unnecessary drugs.
Unfortunately, it was his day off. … Continue reading
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You have probably seen this warning many times, but perhaps never paused to consider what it meant. Or, maybe you haven’t seen it, because it usually appears in very fine print and is only obvious if you are looking for it.
What is it, what does it mean, and why is it important?
In 1994 congress enacted the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA), effectively allowing any product under the broad classification of … Continue reading
Three years ago, my husband nearly died because of a series of medical mistakes. Although no one was guilty of clear medical malpractice (grossly negligent care resulting in harm), the hospital’s attempts to cut costs, a physician’s careless instructions, and a firewall of inflexible receptionists who refused to let me speak with a doctor led to a 911 call, a trip to the ER, and a 3-day stay in the ICU.
Luckily, he survived. But the resulting medical bills, as you can imagine, were enormous. And completely preventable.
Would it shock you to know that in 1999 the Institute of … Continue reading
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), small businesses and individuals will be offered “robust” coverage and “affordable” premiums on the soon-to-be-running health insurance exchanges.
By grouping together these two traditionally under-served populations, the risk pool will become large enough (theoretically) to allow everyone (most notably those with pre-existing conditions) access to health insurance, and will help keep premiums affordable (again, theoretically).
But there is a problem: small businesses are jumping ship.
According to the National Review Online, “Small firms and the specialized insurers that serve them may have found the lifeboats (to borrow Texas governor Rick Perry’s comparison of … Continue reading
For the last 15 years, my family has purchased an individual health insurance policy. Individual plans, as opposed to employer-based insurance, usually don’t cover vision. We could buy a separate vision policy, but in an average year the premiums would cost more than our annual eye exams, glasses and contacts combined.
Even Medicare doesn’t pay for routine eye exams and corrective lenses, except one pair after cataract surgery.
Of course, eye diseases and injuries (your mother always told you not to run with pointy objects, didn’t she?) are covered as medical care.
But I’ve always wondered why screening exams for … Continue reading
I am a child of the 70’s, and I remember the thrill of being able to stay up past my bedtime, on occasion, to watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show. So it was with sadness that I read the recent news that Valerie Harper, aka Mary’s best friend Rhoda, had been diagnosed with a rare and incurable form of brain cancer.
I watched her interviewed on television and was moved by her spirit, her humor, and her eloquence. “While you’re living, LIVE!” she entreats the audience.
In another post about end-of-life stuff, I quoted a doctor saying that … Continue reading
Out of sight, out of mind
The other day I was cleaning out a kitchen cupboard and unearthed an economy-sized bottle of calcium tablets. Oops! I should be taking one or two of those every day.
Or should I?
Everyone knows calcium is necessary for bone health. Most women have been told by their doctors that they need extra calcium after menopause because without estrogen’s help, bones do not absorb it well. Low calcium leads to osteoporosis, which leads to broken bones, which lead to huge health care costs. Oh no!
Too much of a good thing—or the wrong thing
… Continue reading
During the presidential campaign last year, Paul Ryan, the vice-presidential candidate, presented his plan for what we all know is much-needed Medicare reform (too many baby boomers; too little money). Under his plan, seniors would choose a “Medicare certified” private health insurance plan and, depending on the senior’s income, a percentage of the premium would be subsidized.
His plan sounds a lot like the new health insurance exchanges that are set to begin in 2014, doesn’t it?
Yesterday, an article on the National Review Online caught my attention because the author presented a compelling scenario by which the government could … Continue reading
Probiotics are of limited use
As a nurse, I often give patients the advice to eat yogurt when taking antibiotics to decrease the risk of developing diarrhea or, in women, vaginal yeast infections.
Why yogurt? Because it contains live, beneficial micro-organisms—now called probiotics—that are thought to replenish the “good” bacteria incidentally killed when taking antibiotics. In theory, eating yogurt makes sense. At best, it helps; at worse, you get a tasty snack with some extra calcium.
In the last few years, however, I have seen probiotic-laced products (fortified yogurt, snack bars, capsules) account for an increasingly large part of the … Continue reading
In another bit of good news this week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that Americans are actually eating less fast food. Since 2006, an American adult’s total daily calories from fast food has dropped from 12.8% to 11.3%.
This number, although small, surprised me. It is no secret that America is in an obesity epidemic; more than one-third of adults meet the definition of obesity with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or higher. In children, the obesity rate is about 15%.
Obesity is tied to all sorts of chronic health problems such as heart disease, … Continue reading
Last fall I blogged about an inherent unfairness in our health insurance system. (I know, there’s more than one.) In short, those with employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) generally have lower premiums, lower out-of-pocket costs, and better coverage than those of us that buy health insurance through the individual market.
With the new insurance exchanges, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is supposed to decrease costs and improve coverage. Because of the law’s mandates for preventive services and essential benefits, coverage will be more equitable with the large, ESI plans. Whether premiums will be more affordable continues to be a topic of much … Continue reading
I was surprised recently when I read the following article on Kaiser Health News: Nursing moms get free breast pumps from health law.
So I went to Healthcare.gov, the official website of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and found the expanded list of essential benefits/preventive services for women that went into effect on August 1, 2012. Breast pumps, listed under “Breastfeeding Support, Supplies and Counseling,” are indeed considered “preventive” and must be covered without cost sharing (co-pays or deductibles).
According to the factsheet: “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive measures mothers can take to protect … Continue reading
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) was created by the health reform law and enacted in 2010 to provide coverage for low and moderate-income people who could not buy health insurance because of a pre-existing condition—the “uninsurables”.
The plan was to be funded through 2013 until the law’s signature provision—that insurers could no longer exclude those with pre-existing conditions—kicked in on January 1, 2014.
Sadly, the plan has already run out of money and enrollment was suspended February 16th, leaving many thousands without access to health coverage until at least 2014.
Related story from Kaiser Health News: Feds increase … Continue reading
Few things make me crazier about health care in the media than reading back-to-back, conflicting stories.
For example, last week I read the article A drink a day linked to healthy aging. A few days later I read Even a drink a day boosts cancer death risk, alcohol study finds.
Like many Americans, I enjoy a glass of wine with dinner and the occasional beer or cocktail when I’m out with friends. What’s a girl to do?
First, take a closer look at the studies.
These studies are “observational”. That is, participants fill out questionnaires over an extended … Continue reading
I laughed the other day when I read a post on the blog Science-Based Medicine. The author denounced the all powerful Dr. Mehmet Oz for his frequent promotion of “miracle” products on his eponymous show, and commented that:
This constant drive for miracles must keep the producers in a perpetual panic. They need at least five miracles per week.
Which episode incited the author’s scorn? “Dr. Oz’s 13 Miracles for 2013.” Wow, that’s a lot of miracles.
Related post from Science-Based Medicine: Dr. Mehmet Oz completes his journey to the Dark Side
Like snake oil salesmen of old, the … Continue reading