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

Know CPR? Get the Pulse Point app

Pulse Point saves a life!

A recent news story here in Seattle caught my eye: Off-duty doctor gets Pulse Point app alert, saves man’s life

pulse pointDouglas Stine was driving with co-workers along Aurora Ave. on Monday when he started gasping for air and lost consciousness, the result of a heart condition.

The other workers called 911, but help arrived minutes before the paramedics.

Dr. Matt Gittinger, a UW medicine physician at Harborview, happened to be at his dining room table catching up on work when he saw an alert on his phone.

“I was out of my front door within

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What defines a “healthy” food to you?

The FDA wants your input!

Add your comment here: Use of the Term “Healthy” in the Labeling of Human Food Products

Do you remember a couple years ago when the maker of a particular brand of granola bars was told by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to cease and desist from using the term “healthy” to describe their product?

The problem with those particular granola bars was their high saturated fat content. They were made with nuts, peanuts, peanut butter. coconut and dark chocolate—foods generally considered to be healthy and “good fats,” but fats nonetheless.

This caused a lot … Continue reading

Don’t reach for Life Line screenings

I first posted about Life Line screenings two years ago. I’m re-posting today as this post still gets a lot of traffic and I wanted to reopen the comments. 

life line screeningsOvertreating, overspending

I just received an invitation in the mail!

Not to a party or a wedding or anything fun, but to a Life Line Screening event being held at a local church. The letter says they’re holding a spot for me on this particular date, but I must call NOW to confirm and register, because spaces are LIMITED!

“These aren’t just routine medical procedures—they can help save your life”

Oh, … Continue reading

“Brain on Fire” – A diagnostic odyssey

brain-on-fireI just finished reading a really gripping and emotional story—Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by journalist Susannah Cahalan. (Soon to be a movie!)

As a twenty-something cub reporter in New York, Ms. Cahalan began experiencing strange, seemingly unconnected symptoms, such as forgetfulness, paranoia and the sensation that bugs were crawling on one side of her body.

The details of her weeks’ long medical journey—which she had to piece together from medical records, her parents’ journals, and the recollections of friends, doctors and nurses because she couldn’t remember most of it—are a pretty frightening look at today’s fragmented … Continue reading