The canary in the coal mine
Late last week I read the troubling story about a recent polio outbreak in Syria. Although polio, thanks to the vaccine, has been almost eradicated in most parts of the world, it is still present in several middle eastern countries.
Because of political unrest and the huge numbers of refugees fleeing to Europe, world public health officials worry about more widespread outbreaks of this crippling, and deadly, disease.
Outbreaks of highly contagious, but preventable, diseases have become more common because of the anti-vaccination movement. And as these like-minded individuals tend to settle … Continue reading
Or “Levothyroxine costs how much?”
Last week I went into our local Costco to pick up my husband’s 90-day supply of levothyroxine, a generic thyroid replacement medication.
He has been taking levothyroxine every day for three years, since he had his thyroid gland removed due to thyroid cancer. And he will need to continue taking it every day for the rest of his life.
Luckily, a three-month supply only costs us about $18 (and that’s without prescription drug coverage).
So imagine my surprise when … Continue reading
Know some resources and use them
Triage is a commonly used word in medicine, especially in overcrowded emergency departments as staff do their best to determine which patients are sickest (will soon die unless treated) and which can wait. This process of prioritizing patients for treatment is known as triage.
But triage has a broader definition: The principle or practice of allocating limited resources.
And for most of us, money is definitely a limited resource!
In 2014 more health insurance policies will come with huge deductibles, and I think this trend will continue. Health care costs are not going to … Continue reading
Medical identity theft—an old problem, but a growing one
Medical identity theft is when someone uses your personal information to fraudulently receive medical care—and have it paid for by you and/or your insurance.
If that person is treated under your name, not only your finances, but your entire medical history could be at risk.
What if your blood type was changed? What if a serious drug allergy was added or removed from your records? What if your chart suddenly identified you as a 23-year-old female who had an appendectomy, when you are actually a 45-year-old woman with an appendix about … Continue reading
The problem of too many antibiotics
For at least three decades, doctors have been aware that they over prescribe antibiotics, a practice that raises the risk of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Like the well-known MRSA (mersa), methycillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus.
But they still do it.
A recent report from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows that between 2000 and 2010, doctors wrote antibiotic prescriptions for 60% of sore throats, even though they were only appropriate—for strep throat— about 10% of the time.
Antibiotics were also prescribed for bronchitis (cough) in 73% of cases; antibiotics never help bronchitis, a condition caused … Continue reading
…because health care is still sick
So the political brouhaha is over in Washington, DC (for now) and Obamacare can continue it’s rollout unchecked–except by the federal exchange’s own technical ineptitude.
But eventually the online marketplaces will be functioning as they are supposed to, and all Americans–regardless of their economic or health situations–will be able to buy affordable health insurance and have access to the best care possible.
Or will they?
Our health care system has long been described as broken, sick, on life support. Obamacare has taken the system back into surgery to try and repair some of … Continue reading
…or mistakes I wish I hadn’t made
We are entering a new era in health insurance coverage and paying for health care. Kind of.
More people will have an opportunity to buy insurance through the new exchanges. However, we will also be expected to pay much more towards our care through considerably higher deductibles and co-pays.
And I suspect this is a trend that will spread to more and more insurance plans in the near future.
My family’s new deductible will be about $10,000, so I will be more motivated than ever to limit my health care expenses. But we’ve … Continue reading
An intriguing question
The other day I was complaining (again) about the steep hike in my insurance premiums when someone asked me, “Why don’t more people sign up for the health-sharing co-ops?”
“What do you mean,” I asked. “The new Obamacare CO-OPs?”
These non-profit health insurance companies received start-up grants and loans to provide more competition with not-for-profit and for-profit health insurance companies on the exchanges. They are available on about half of the exchanges. Their rates will still be comparable to other companies, though, because of the mandated benefit coverage (more benefits = higher premiums).
“No,” he said. “The … Continue reading
Tips to save money on dental care
If, like me, you buy an individual health plan, most likely it doesn’t cover dental (or vision) care.
I have priced buying separate dental coverage, but over an average year the premiums exceed any savings, so I have always chosen not to buy it.
Also, like me, if you are going to be faced with a steep rate hike for your medical insurance next year, you will not want to spend the extra money on a separate plan.
Pediatric dental care must be covered per Obamacare rules, but not adult dental, … Continue reading
The anticipated and dreaded letter . . .
. . . from my health insurance company finally arrived yesterday.
We are writing to let you know about some important changes to your individual health insurance coverage. . . . Your health insurance plan will no longer be available after December 31, 2013.
We very much want to continue serving you and so have selected a new ACA-compliant Regence plan for you. Your new plan has more benefits and a different price.
Wow. You bet it does. Looking at the enclosed rate sheet, I found my family’s new monthly … Continue reading
It’s all about the subsidies
Key to Obamacare are the subsidies or tax credits that low- and middle-income individuals and families will receive to help them pay for health insurance.
How these subsidies will work is pretty complicated, but what could you expect when two bureaucratic behemoths–health insurance and the IRS–are responsible for them?
It’s taken me ages to reach some level of understanding about the subsidies, but follow along with me and I’ll share what I know as clearly as possible.
Who is eligible?
The eligibility guidelines are straightforward:
- You do not receive or are eligible for (affordable) health
… Continue reading
Health insurance exchanges: Ready, set . . .
The health insurance exchanges, whether state or federally run, are set to open for business on October 1, or close to it.
For those who have never bought health insurance, or those who used to have insurance provided by an employer but will now be shopping on the exchanges, some of the basic concepts and definitions might be confusing.
It’s important to understand all the terms, however, so you can buy the best plan for your health needs and budget.
The biggest reform brought about by the Affordable Care Act is … Continue reading
Getting to know you
I started this blog a little less than a year ago. I was so frustrated by the decline in our health care system and the rise in costs. After listening to me vent my grievances on oh-so-many occasions, my friends and family finally suggested, “Why don’t you blog about it?” So I did.
And it’s been fun! But our health care system is still in decline and the costs are still climbing. And I’m still frustrated.
My real purpose behind the blog, I think, other than letting off some steam, was to start a conversation.
I’ve … Continue reading
Inflated hospital costs
I read an article in the New York Times yesterday that initially infuriated me. The journalist, Nina Bernstein, wrote something of an exposé on the outrageous hospital costs incurred by a group of about 100 people after suffering from an outbreak of food poisoning.
She focused on the fact that a bag of normal saline IV solution costs the hospital anywhere from $0.44 to $1.
Some of the patients’ bills would later include markups of 100 to 200 times the manufacturer’s price, not counting separate charges for “IV administration.” And on other bills, a bundled charge for
… Continue reading
Drugs costs might be higher for some
I was reading in the New York Times today about yet another delay of an Obamacare mandate.
This latest delay is regarding the new out-of-pocket(OOP) limits that insurers can charge consumers. In 2014, all plans are supposed to cap OOP costs, including the deductible, at $6,350 for an individual and $12,700 for a family.
Certain group health plans that carry separate policies for prescription drugs have been granted a one-year delay on these OOP caps (have they really not had enough time to make this work?). Such plans will have two separate… Continue reading