I just read about health insurance giant UnitedHealth’s bold but risky new insurance plan, Harken Health:
UnitedHealthcare is betting $65 million that it can profit by making primary care more attractive.
With little fanfare, the nation’s largest health insurer launched an independent subsidiary in January that offers unlimited free doctor visits and 24/7 access by phone. Every member gets a personal health coach to nudge them toward their goals, such as losing weight or exercising more. Mental health counseling is also provided, as are yoga, cooking and acupuncture classes.
At this time, Harken Health is only available in Chicago … Continue reading
I just read about another case where a pharmaceutical company bought the rights to an old, been-around-forever drug and then drastically increased the price. Argh.
A few months ago I posted about the drug Daraprim, which was bought by Turing Pharmaceuticals. Its CEO, the now infamous Martin Shkreli, raised the price from $13 a pill to over $700.
Last February, Valeant Pharmaceuticals bought the rights to Seconal (secobarbital), an 80-year-old sleeping pill. Ten years ago 90 Seconal tablets cost about 30 dollars. Now it’s closer to $3,000.
It’s believed Valeant did this in response to California’s new End … Continue reading
I recently read an article about a man who was taken to the ER in an ambulance for a sprained wrist.
And then he was astounded when the ambulance company charged him $250!
“If I wanted to go to the emergency room, I could have taken a cab costing less than $10,” he said.
Or Uber. Or a friend. He learned the expensive way that ambulances are costly—$250 is actually on the cheap end—and should not be used without good cause.
Ambulance costs can range anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to well over $2,000, depending on the length … Continue reading
Just yesterday I posted about the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) and the fine line they walk between providing evidence-based recommendations for screening tests and making medical specialist groups happy.
Sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
The task force recently gave an “I” grade to vision screening in patients over 65. An I grade, or Insufficient evidence, means that the task force can’t definitively say that the benefits of vision screening in older adults outweigh the possible harms.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) doesn’t agree.
Specifically, the task force reviewed the evidence for primary care doctors screening for … Continue reading
Not in my humble opinion.
I just read about this idea proposed by health financing researchers out of MIT and Harvard: Financing health care with consumer loans.
They begin their article with what we all know—health care, specifically prescription drugs in this case, costs too much.
We propose a practical way to increase drug affordability through health care loans (HCLs)—the equivalent of mortgages for large health care expenses. HCLs allow patients in both multipayer and single-payer markets to access a broader set of therapeutics, including expensive short-duration treatments that are curative.
When they talk about “curative” drug treatments, they … Continue reading
One of the driving forces behind rising health care costs is the increasingly high cost of prescription drugs.
And because 60% of Americans take at least one prescription drug, that adds up to a lot of money.
Insurance companies are trying to rein in costs by having tiered copayments (higher for brand names) or limiting the selection of drugs on their formularies (the list of drugs your insurance will cover).
This post gives you some suggestions to save money, and some resources that might be helpful.
But first, ask yourself and your physician if a prescription drug is really … Continue reading
Last November, with much media coverage, several members of Congress announced the formation of The Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force, promising to “take action to combat the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals.”
Finally! I thought.
Related post: Prices continue to increase for generics
But I haven’t heard much since then.
There was a little noise earlier this month when the House Oversight Committee (of which the task force is a subcommittee, I believe) attempted to grill the now infamous Martin Shkreli about why he thought it was okay to jack up the price of Daraprim from $13 a pill to … Continue reading
We’ve all heard the phrase “cancer kills.”
But guess what? So can the high cost of treatment.
I just read about a study that came out of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center here in Seattle.
The results won’t surprise anyone familiar with how much cancer treatment costs (a lot!), but researchers found:
…cancer patients who go bankrupt are nearly 80 percent more likely to die than patients who don’t, and some cancers had significantly higher mortality rates. Prostate cancer patients who filed for bankruptcy were almost twice as likely to die; bankrupt colorectal cancer patients were 2.5 times more
… Continue reading
I read two articles yesterday that complemented each other:
In Kaiser Health News (KHN) Heavy Use Of CT Scans Raises Concerns About Patients’ Exposure To Radiation
And on KevinMD two radiologists posted The financial costs of treating CT-induced cancer
Each underscores the fact that CT scans are significantly overused in American healthcare.
Although CT scans are an essential diagnostic tool, the Food and Drug Administration reports that an estimated 30 to 50 percent of imaging tests are believed to be medically unnecessary.
Considering we spend tens of billions of dollars every year on diagnostic imaging, that’s a lot of wasted … Continue reading
Health insurance literacy is a term that has been used a lot in the media since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) rolled out a few years ago.
It basically means how fully a person understands how his or her health insurance works, as well as the lexicon of insurance-speak: words and acronyms like coinsurance, copay, deductible, premium, subsidy, provider, allowed amount, out-of-pocket maximum, balance billing, HSA, FSA, HMO, PPO, EPO, PCP, and so on.
If only people understood their health insurance, the experts moan, they would make better health choices and protect themselves financially.
I’m sure that’s true, but … Continue reading
The overuse of antibiotics continues to be a big problem in this country, and do you know who doctors blame? The patients.
That’s right. Doctors know that antibiotics don’t work against the common viruses that cause colds, flu, coughs and sore throats, but many admit they prescribe them anyway when patients ask for them.
In a five or ten minute office visit, doctors don’t feel they have time to explain the difference between a virus and a bacteria, and how overuse of antibiotics causes the very real problem of antibiotic resistance. So they do what’s easiest, fastest, and results in … Continue reading
November is Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month.
It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t aware of—and scared of—dementia**. Or who hasn’t had a family member or friend stricken by it.
Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease that damages not only the individual, but family and friends, as well, especially the primary care giver—most often the spouse.
Adding insult to injury is the incredible cost of getting help. A recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine confirms what many already know—Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia cost families way more than almost any other disease.
Why? Cancer is one of … Continue reading
It’s that time of year—open enrollment for health insurance.
If, like me, you buy an individual health plan for yourself or your family, and you have been informed by your insurance company that your current plan will no longer be available, you are once again shopping for a plan that meets both your needs and budget.
The new plan I’ve been offered has both a higher premium and a higher deductible, but as far as I can tell our provider network will remain the same. That’s important, since my husband has a doctor he really likes. I had to change … Continue reading
A few months ago I posted about CYA—Cover Your Ass—medicine being one reason why too many diagnostic tests are ordered and health care costs are high.
CYA medicine is when the doctor or doctors are pretty sure what your problem is, but they order extra scans and x-rays and blood tests anyway because “failure to diagnose” is one of the leading causes of medical malpractice suits. They aren’t going to take any chances, and who can blame them?
Related story from KevinMD: This is why doctors practice cover your ass medicine
Besides, they don’t pay your resulting medical bill, so … Continue reading
I was invited to share this very interesting infographic on the looming shortage of nurses in this country.
The last of the baby boomers will reach retirement age in 2029. Although baby boomers can expect to live well into their 80s and 90s thanks to healthier lifestyles and modern medicine, they won’t be without chronic health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, and early dementia.
That will put a strain on the health care system, as there is already a growing shortage of doctors and nurses. And as more highly-trained nurses take on the role of primary … Continue reading