Investigating the high costs of health care
Over the last year, Elisabeth Rosenthal, a journalist and science editor for The New York Times, has written a brilliant series of articles titled Paying Till it Hurts:
In her series on the costs of health care, Elisabeth Rosenthal of The New York Times examines the price of medical care in the United States, interviewing patients, physicians, economists, and hospital and industry officials. In each installment, readers were invited to share their perspectives on managing costs and treatment.
I’ve been reading the series, and the truly shocking charging and billing practices she … Continue reading
It’s not that simple
Last night on the local news I watched a story about health care costs. The reporter, a consumer affairs specialist, talked about the expanding trend in health care of high-deductible medical insurance plans. Under the ACA, family annual deductibles can reach up to $12,700 (increasing to $12,900 for 2015); whatever your deductible, you pay your medical bills out of pocket until that deductible is met.
The uninsured, of course, just pay out of pocket.
Related post: Health insurance basics, part 1
The reporter encouraged us to
…take some time to research, and see what the
… Continue reading
Be a proactive patient
In addition to talking to my doctor friends, I spend a lot of time reading various doctor blogs because I want to better understand our health care system from their unique point of view.
The majority of those I read seem to agree with me that the industry has morphed into a giant profit-making machine—profits first, patients second. Many physicians write of their loss of autonomy and the ability to treat patients in a thoughtful, patient-centered and cost-effective way.
More than ever, they say, patients need to be informed and take control of their health care. … Continue reading
Are annual exams a waste of money?
Based on the most recent evidence, I would argue yes. I posted about annual exams a few months ago, and quoted the following from the Society for General Internal Medicine (a primary care specialty group):
Routine general health checks are office visits between a health professional and a patient exclusively for preventive counseling and screening tests. In contrast to office visits for acute illness, specific evidence-based preventive strategies, or chronic care management such as treatment of high blood pressure, regularly scheduled general health checks without a specific cause including the “health maintenance” annual
… Continue reading
What is health tourism and why Puerto Rico?
I read the other day that Puerto Rico wants to jump into the medical tourism ring and compete with those countries where it is already pretty well established, such as Mexico and Costa Rica.
Medical tourism, as the name implies, is traveling to another country to receive more affordable medical care.
[Puerto Rico’s] administration says that it commissioned a market study from which it deduces that medical costs on the island are between 40 percent and 60 percent lower than in the mainland U.S.
Such a move, if successful, could be a … Continue reading
This is another guest post from Kristen Reineke of CancerInsurance.com. I’ve written before about the ruinously high cost of cancer care, and although Obamacare limits out-of-pocket spending, deductibles and cost-sharing can still be in the thousands of dollars. Also, many associated expenses are not covered by insurance at all, such as transportation. Kristen has provided a great resource list for you or any one you know facing cancer treatment. FN
Cancer Care Resources
As if hearing the words “you have cancer” wasn’t bad enough, you soon come to find out just how costly cancer treatment can be.
Many … Continue reading
Which is cheapest?
As I did my grocery shopping the other day, I ran into a large cardboard brochure holder at the end of one aisle. Literally ran into it. Why do store managers place these displays where they block cart traffic? Oh, right, to get our attention.
Well, it worked. But the bright purple brochures would have attracted my eye anyway. They touted the recent release of Nexium (“The Purple Pill”®) as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication; that is, you no longer need a prescription to buy it.
The brochure tells us that Nexium is the “#1 doctor prescribed acid … Continue reading
This is a guest post by Kristen Reineke of CancerInsurance.com. I’ve posted previously about Alternatives to Obamacare, and critical illness plans are a relatively simple supplement to standard comprehensive health insurance plans. Cancer, specifically, is an expensive diagnosis, and my new ACA-compliant health plan not only has costly premiums, but a huge deductible (over $10,000). Most of the leading cancer hospitals in Seattle (University Medical Center, Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center, and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) are not in my network, which could also lead to higher out-of-pocket costs. Kristen explains how these critical illness or “lump-sum” policies … Continue reading
The latest stand on vitamin D screening
Over the last year and a half, I’ve written several posts on vitamin D, and here’s another one.
Last week the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its draft recommendation statement on vitamin D screening. (After a short comment period, a final recommendation will be made later this year. Rarely do these differ from the draft versions.)
Screening for vitamin D levels in healthy adults was given an “I” grade, or insufficient evidence.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) concludes that current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance
… Continue reading
When is a hospital admission not an admission?
Answer: When, for Medicare patients, it’s coded as “observation” status only.
Before the days of discharging patients ASAP (or not admitting them at all), doctors used to frequently admit patients “for observation.” It signified that a patient was not critically ill, but his or her condition warranted careful watching, i.e. observation.
Unfortunately for the last decade or so, that term has come to have a very specific meaning with very specific financial consequences. But most patients still consider it a casual phrase that doesn’t mean much, and that ignorance can end up… Continue reading