3 tips to prevent surprise medical bills

surprise medical billsMy guest post today is from Matthew Bahr, a healthcare finance specialist.

I’ve posted about surprise medical bills before. Sadly, they are becoming more common as healthcare costs continue to rise and provider networks shrink.

Consumer Reports estimates about one third of patients with health insurance receive these unexpectedly high medical bills.

Thank you, Matthew, for sharing your tips and expertise with my readers! FN

Although we know healthcare costs a lot of money, it still stings when we see that bill.

You might think because you’re insured, your insurance will cover most or many of the costs. But … Continue reading

ZDoggMD and Healthcare 3.0

“Trying to make medicine great again”

I’ve been a fan of Zubin Damania, MD—aka ZDoggMD—for several years. A hospitalist physician based in Las Vegas, he began by making entertaining parody videos on a variety of healthcare topics: end-of-life, the opioid epidemic, electronic health records (EHR), sepsis, sleep apnea, and more.

Now he has expanded his social media footprint in an attempt to rally healthcare professionals behind Healthcare 3.0.

As he explains in the video, Healthcare 1.0 was the old doctor-patient relationship—”Doctor knows best” and all that (I still know doctors and nurses who … Continue reading

Tips to save money at the hospital

save money at the hospital“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

Healthcare’s perverse financial incentives

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

We’re doing too many screening and diagnostic tests

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

Baby boomers and HCV screening

harvoni and hcv screeningDon’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

Don’t presume your provider’s office knows best

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

SmartQuit – An app to help you quit smoking

smartquit appA 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

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

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

“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

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