Critics Pounce on Cancer Care Costs Study

Merrill Goozner

Posted 4/12/12 on Gooz News

From Reuters: With the United States spending more on healthcare than any other country — $2.5 trillion, or just over $8,000 per capita, in 2009 — the question has long been, is it worth it? At least for spending on cancer, a controversial new study answers with an emphatic “yes.”

Cancer patients in the United States who were diagnosed from 1995 to 1999 lived an average 11.1 years after that, compared with 9.3 years for those in 10 countries in Europe, researchers led by health economist Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago reported in an analysis published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.

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“Doctors call for end to five cancer tests, treatments”

Tom Emerick

Posted 4/6/12 on Cracking Health Costs

So reads the headline in a Reuters story on April 4, 2011.

Let’s linger on the notion that they are exposing procedures that are “harmful” yet “routinely prescribed.” Giving harmful care to cancer patients is not rare, but “routine”. The words immoral, unethical, unscrupulous, and venal come to mind.A private task force was led by Dr. Lowell Schnipper, a cancer physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The task force was organized by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.  The goal was to “…to identify procedures that do not help patients live longer or better or that may even be harmful, yet are routinely prescribed.” [Italics mine.]

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Patient Engagement and Medical Homes – Core Drivers of a High-Performing Health System

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Posted 3/30/12 on Health Populi

It was Dr. Charles Safran who said, “Patients are the most under-utilized resource in the U.S. health system,” which he testified to Congress in 2004. Seven years later, patients are still under-utilized, not just in the U.S. but around the world.

Yet, “when patients have an active role in their own health care, the quality of their care, and of their care experience improves,” assert researchers from The Commonwealth Fund in their analysis of 2011 global health consumer survey data published in the April/June 2010 issue of the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management. This analysis is summarized inInternational Perspectives on Patient Engagement: Results from the 2011 Commonwealth Fund Survey, published on The Commonwealth Fund’s website on March 29, 2012.

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CalPERS Innovative Program for Hip and Knee Surgeries

Nick Vailas

Posted 1/24/12 on Healthcare Transparency Now

CalPERS – the California Public Employees’ Retirement System – covers 1.3 million retirees, managing both their retirement and health benefits.  It recently introduced a program for knee and hip surgeries that effectively tells beneficiaries that it will pay up to a specified amount for hospital reimbursement. If the beneficiary elects a hospital for which its reimbursement is higher, the beneficiary is 100% liable for additional charges.

CalPERS has brought two essential ingredients into play – both transparency in price and “skin in the game.”

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The High Price of New Cancer Drugs

Merrill Goozner

Posted 1/24/12 on Gooz News

Julie Gralow, an oncologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, recently prescribed an exciting new therapy for a 60-year-old woman with metastatic breast cancer. Three-and-a-half years into her battle against the disease, the patient had already exhausted three different anti-estrogen therapies, each of which only put a temporary check on the spreading tumors.

The newly prescribed drug, Novartis’ Afinitor, is one of the recently approved targeted therapies that have generated a lot of excitement among cancer patients and oncologists in recent years. Drugs that target just the cancer cells promise the same or better results as toxic chemotherapy, but with far fewer side effects.

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How Much Does It Cost To Have A Baby

Kenneth Lin

Posted 1/24/12 on Common Sense Family Doctor

When my wife delivered our second child in 2008, the hospital sent our health insurance company a bill for $8569. The insurance company then wrote off $4117 of that bill, paid $4352, asked us for a copayment of $100. When we found out last year that we were expecting again, we noted that my wife’s new insurance plan requires us to pay 20% coinsurance for all non-preventive care. That would have amounted to several hundred dollars of our 2008 bill, and knowing the rapid rate of health care inflation, we thought it would be good to find out how much it would cost this time around. So we went back to the same hospital, where we expect our third child to be born in a few weeks, and asked if they could give us an estimate of the charges. It seemed like a reasonable enough request, especially since the pre-admission consent form we signed specifically said that patients had a right to know what the hospital charged for its services.

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US Health Care Hits $3 Trillion

Dan Munro

Posted 1/19/12 on Forbes

Dan MunroGreat post by Rick Ungar over on The Policy Page. Still, I’m left wondering. It’s an election year and given the stakes, I think we’ll look back on 2012 as the year of the great Healthcare Reform debate – Part 2. What we have today is really just the beginning of a long and winding investment in Healthcare Reform – Part 1. I think the question remains – have we tamed the cost beast with real legislation – or is it just legislation around the edges? Here’s why I’m wondering.

National Healthcare Expenditure – or NHE. Total agreement with Rick that costs are “out-of-control” because our NHE is really $3 trillion – this year. Actually, NHE for 2012 is probably closer to $2.7 trillion but there’s this nagging bookkeeping accrual of about $300 billion where we (narrowly) avoided those darn pesky SGR cuts to Medicare. It’s come to be known affectionately as “doc fix” – and we’ve kicked that can down the road for 9 consecutive years. Maybe we’ll just write it off – and maybe we should – but it’s actually on the books so we can’t just ignore it – can we? That puts the real NHE at about $3 trillion for 2012 (+ about 4% for each year forward – as far as the eye can see). As one economist said – we don’t have a debt problem in this country – we have a healthcare problem.

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