When Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield became embroiled in a contract dispute with Exeter Hospital in N.H. in 2010, its negotiators came to the table armed with a new weapon: public data showing the hospital was one of the most expensive in the state for some services.
Local media covering the dispute also spotlighted the hospital’s higher costs, using public data from a state website.
When the dust settled, the insurer had extracted $10 million in concessions from Exeter. The hospital “had to step back and change their behavior,” said health policy researcher Ha Tu, who studied the state’s efforts to make health care prices transparent.
New Hampshire is among 14 states that require insurers to report the rates they pay different health care providers —and one of just a handful that makes those prices available to consumers.
The theory is that if consumers know what different providers charge for medical services, they will become better shoppers and collectively save billions.
In most places, though, it’s difficult, if not impossible to find out how much you will be charged for medical care. And with more people enrolled in high-deductible insurance plans, there is a growing demand for accurate price information.Continue reading →
U.S. says Medicare Advantage enrollment at all-time high | Reuters – “Elderly Americans have enrolled in privately managed Medicare health plans in record numbers even as average premiums continue to rise, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said on Thursday. The agency said the average Medicare Advantage premium would increase by $2.94 a month next year, to $33.90 per month, but 61 percent of enrollees will not see any premium increase at all.”
King County has received a four-year, $6 million grant to improve testing, treatment and cure rates of people with chronic HCV infection.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) affects large numbers of people in King County, but it often goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
“Thousands of people in King County have chronic HCV, but many don’t know they have it,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease & Epidemiology at Public Health – Seattle & King County. “This grant will allow us to make sure that patients with chronic HCV are not just identified, but also seen by a provider, receive follow-up testing, and get the care they need.”
The grant will fund the Hepatitis C Test & Cure Project, which will provide training for clinicians on the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of HCV and connect them to specialists. Continue reading →
About a quarter of the 243 groups of hospitals and doctors that banded together as accountable care organizations under the Affordable Care Act saved Medicare enough money to earn bonuses, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Tuesday.
Those 64 ACOs earned a combined $445 million in bonuses, the agency said. Medicare saved $372 million after accounting for the ACOs that did not show success, including four that overspent significantly and now owe the government money.
The bonuses, losses and Medicare savings are teensy sums in the context of a program that spends half a trillion dollars a year on care for the elderly and disabled.
But the Obama administration views the results so far as evidence that reorganizing the financial incentives for doctors and hospitals — a key element of the health law – can translate to substantial savings if the program expands nationwide.Continue reading →
It is time for conversations about death to become a part of life.
That is one of the themes of a 500-page report, titled “Dying In America,” releasedWednesday by the Institute of Medicine.
The report suggests that the first end-of-life conversation could coincide with a cherished American milestone: getting a driver’s license at 16, the first time a person weighs what it means to be an organ donor.
Follow-up conversations with a counselor, nurse or social worker should come at other points early in life, such as turning 18 or getting married.
The idea, according to the IOM, is to “help normalize the advance care planning process by starting it early, to identify a health care agent, and to obtain guidance in the event of a rare catastrophic event.”
The IOM plans to spend the next year holding meetings around the country to spark conversations about the report’s findings and recommendations. “The time is now for our nation to develop a modernized end-of-life care system,” said Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the IOM.Continue reading →
The Best Time To Get The Flu Vaccine If You Really Don’t Want To Get Sick – “The CDC recommends getting the shot or spray as soon as the vaccine becomes available in your neighborhood, and preferably by October. Because it takes about two weeks for the body to develop the antibodies that keep you flu-free (well, most of the time), this timeline should hopefully get you protected before the virus starts to spread. “
Your Healthy Body is a Wonderland of Viruses – Health – Boston.com – “Researchers found that, on average, healthy people carry about five kinds of viruses on their bodies. At least one virus was present in 92 percent of the people sampled, and some participants had 10 to 15 viruses. The results came from samples of the nose, skin, mouth, stool and vagina of 51 males and 51 females. “
Artificial sweeteners may lead to diabetes – “For some people, artificial sweeteners may lead to type 2 diabetes as directly as eating sugar does, according to the research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature. “
F.D.A. Panel Backs Limits on Testosterone Drugs – NYTimes.com – “An expert panel voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday for the Food and Drug Administration to impose strict new limitations on the multibillion-dollar testosterone drug industry, recommending that the agency tighten labels for the medicines so they are not prescribed to men who only have problems related to aging, such as low energy and libido. The F.D.A. often takes the advice of such panels.”
The 7th annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk will take place on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014 at Seattle Center’s Fisher Pavilion.
Founded in 2008 by a group of committed volunteers and families, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk has raised over $2.5 million for research, clinical trials and comprehensive care for brain cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest.
In response to budget cuts, the public health department for King County and Seattle is forming an oversight committee to keep tabs on, and hopefully replenish, county-run family planning health services that might slip through the cracks and leave clients with nowhere else to turn.
This story was co-published with The New York Times’ The Upshot.
Health insurance companies are no longer allowed to turn away patients because of their pre-existing conditions or charge them more because of those conditions.
But some health policy experts say insurers may be doing so in a more subtle way: by forcing people with a variety of illnesses — including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and epilepsy — to pay more for their drugs.
By charging higher prices for generic drugs that treat certain illness, health insurers may be violating the spirit of the Affordable Care Act, which bans discrimination against those with pre-existing conditions.
Insurers have long tried to steer their members away from more expensive brand name drugs, labeling them as “non-preferred” and charging higher co-payments.
But according to an editorial to be published Thursday in the American Journal of Managed Care, several prominent health plans have taken it a step further, applying that same concept even to generic drugs.Continue reading →
The questions from producers run the gamut: Could a body be stolen from a hospital? What do infectious disease specialists wear during an outbreak?
Do surgeons really say “Stat!”?
In a bright office building in Beverly Hills, Kate Langrall Folb and her team at Hollywood, Health & Society are on call to field queries from the mundane to the obscure. “Operators are standing by,” Folb, the group’s director, often tells TV and movie writers.
The organization was established with money from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2001 to provide the entertainment industry with free, accurate health information.S
ince then, the group has worked with hundreds of television writers as they tell stories about performing complicated surgeries, coping with depression and fighting insurance companies for coverage.Continue reading →