“An American Sickness”
I love Elisabeth Rosenthal’s work.
She’s a medical journalist (an MD, but no longer practicing) who wrote a brilliant series of articles on the high cost of healthcare for the New York Times a few years ago.
Now she’s has a book on the same topic. Because, of course, our healthcare system with its punishing costs for services, drugs and insurance has not improved. If anything, it’s worse.
As a physician, Dr. Rosenthal has experienced first hand the perverse incentives—illness being more profitable than health, after all—and lack of price transparency in our healthcare system. Her book … Continue reading
A hospital puts profits over patient safety
First do no harm.
That’s part of every medical school graduate’s oath. It should be the motto of anyone working in healthcare.
But I just read a disheartening piece of investigative journalism in my local newspaper, the Seattle Times, about a hospital where I trained, worked, and received care. The story highlights how the perverse financial incentives in healthcare (do more, get paid more) undermine patient care and safety.
…the aggressive pursuit of more patients, more surgeries and more dollars has undermined Providence’s values — rooted in the nonprofit’s founding as a
… Continue reading
More tests = more money
Anyone who has read my blog over the years knows this is a subject I come back to again and again: the overuse of screening and diagnostic tests.
It’s a problem in our healthcare system for a couple of reasons.
First, the majority of healthcare providers are paid based on volume. In other words, the more patients they see, the more tests they run, the more surgeries they perform, then the more they get paid. It doesn’t matter if the outcome is poor, because they still get paid. In fact, they make even more money … Continue reading
Don’t get health advice from commercials!
While nursing my cold last weekend, I was watching TV and one prescription drug commercial caught my eye. (One of oh so many. FTC—please make these go away!)
Actually, the ad didn’t mention any drug by name, but it was sponsored by Gilead Sciences, the makers of the new hepatitis C drug, Harvoni.
The commercial was aimed at baby boomers, who were advised to get tested for the hepatitis C virus (HCV).
One in 30 baby boomers could have HCV and not know it, the voice over said, “…because Hep C can hide … Continue reading
This guest post is from a good friend of mine. She’s not in the healthcare industry, but she is one of the most savvy healthcare consumers I know. When she was telling me about some of her recent dealings with providers and insurance, I immediately asked her to write up her experiences to share with my readers!
I don’t willingly part with my money, especially when I see a healthcare provider.
I question unnecessary tests, and I don’t want the office staff to be cavalier about spending my money. I expect the office to be familiar with my insurance plan, … Continue reading
A smart way to quit smoking
Is quitting smoking on your New Year’s resolution list? Or that of a friend or family member?
If so, consider the SmartQuit app.
But first I’ll tell you what I do and don’t like about it.
I like that it seems to be pretty effective. The SmartQuit program and app were developed by researchers at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington (my alma mater!), with funding from the National Cancer Institute.
It uses a particular type of behavior modification—acceptance and commitment therapy—that has proven more effective than other smoking … Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The 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
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.
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