Articles Posted in Insurance

lasik-199x300Caveat emptor, federal officials are reminding patients anew about an eye surgery that tens of millions of Americans already have undergone and all too many may believe ── wrongly ── is all but risk-free.

In fact, significant numbers of the 9.5 million Americans who had laser-assisted operations, the so-called Lasik procedure, may show vision improvements, but they also may be under-reporting problems connected with their surgeries, the New York Times reported.

The federal Food and Drug Administration approved Lasik in the 1990s, but the agency only recently has supported the gold-standard of medical research, a randomized clinical trial, to check in on long-running complaints about the surgery.

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Breast cancer patients may get a welcome respite from one of the disease’s dreaded aspects — its aggressive and costly treatments. New research suggests that thousands of women with early-stage breast cancer who now are told to get chemotherapy don’t need it, while a larger, significant number of patients can benefit by halving the time they’re told to take an expensive drug with harsh side-effects, especially for the heart.

Although this information should be taken in a positive light, patients should consult with their doctors about appropriate treatment for their individual case.

The prospective shifts in breast cancer treatment, based on new findings, may add to rumblings and criticisms about over-treatment and whether doctors have taken too lightly the toll — physically, mentally, and financially — that this and other forms of cancer inflict on patients.

sessions-300x200As voters make up their minds about this fall’s mid-term races, they may wish to burn into their memories how the Trump Administration has dealt, so far, and especially in recent days, with government social programs that have huge effects on Americans’ health and lives.

Take, for example, the late-week, late night announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that it will decline to defend yet another part of the Affordable Care Act, as 19 states, most red and led by Texas, attack Obamacare in the courts. The legal aspects of this decision will keep lots of law degree holders and their kindred men and women in black robes arguing, heatedly, for a while. There also may be huge political smoke clouds.

But keep in mind this basic fact from the actions by the Justice Department led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions: The nation’s crack legal team is asserting that it is unconstitutional for the ACA to bar insurers from declining coverage due to preexisting conditions.

medicaidmap-300x196Hundreds of thousands of poor, middle-class, old, sick, and young Virginians will get increased access to health care as the Commonwealth, joining 33 states and the District of Columbia, saw the crumbling of five years of fierce GOP-led opposition to an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

Partisans, who reviled an enlarged role of the state in health care, got to pin a partisan fig leaf on the state’s move, by amending the social support program to force more recipients to work or show that they cannot, to receive Medicaid benefits.

Although neither the Trump Administration nor congressional Republicans are likely to heed it, Virginia and other states are sending a clear message that voters see health care as a right, not a privilege, and that voters will go to the polls to deal with those who claim to represent them but who make a near religion out of seeming to want to punish the sick and poor and to make costlier the already skyrocketing price of medical services.

insurersPP-300x296Patients who expect their health insurer will work in their interests to contain costs by medical providers might just as well hope for assistance from leprechauns, unicorns, or the tooth fairy.

Marshall Allen, a reporter for the Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative site ProPublica, has just penned a strong myth-busting piece, cross-posted on the National Public Radio site, about health insurers, writing:

The United States spends more per person on health care than any other country does. A lot more. As a country, by many measures, we are not getting our money’s worth. Tens of millions remain uninsured. And millions are in financial peril: About 1 in 5 is currently being pursued by a collection agency over medical debt. Health care costs repeatedly top the list of consumers’ financial concerns. Experts frequently blame this on the high prices charged by doctors and hospitals. But less scrutinized is the role insurance companies — the middlemen between patients and those providers — play in boosting our health care tab. Widely perceived as fierce guardians of health care dollars, insurers, in many cases, aren’t. In fact, they often agree to pay high prices, then, one way or another, pass those high prices on to patients — all while raking in healthy profits.

affordability-300x291As the nation churns toward the midterm elections, the Trump Administration has sent stark messages to voters about how they may wish to respond to Republicans’ unceasing attacks on health care and health insurance for the middle class and the poor.

The failed campaign to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, and the follow on steps, administratively and as part of the $1.5 trillion tax bill that benefited rich corporations and the wealthiest Americans, likely will hit Virginia and Maryland residents hard if they’re seeking health coverage under the ACA.

The two states are among the first to report insurers’ requested rate increases for 2019 — and the increases will be significant, reported Modern Health Care, a trade industry publication, which said:

Did you hear it? Was that a giant sigh of relief by Big Pharma executives around the globe? Or was it the air deflating from any Americans who still had high expectations that President Trump, as he had promised for more than a year, really would offer a quick, powerful, and effective public policy prescription to slash skyrocketing drug prices?

The stock market made a big bet that Big Pharma would do just fine, sending drug manufacturer stocks higher.

deductibles-300x199More than 18 million U.S. adults and 6 million children have asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows airways and causes recurring wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.

How and why Big Pharma jacked up prices for one of the common treatments for this disease tells a key story of not only the difficulty in controlling skyrocketing drug costs but also drug makers’ willingness and capacities to exploit an affliction that costs the country more than $56 billion annually and hits hard at the young, poor, minorities, and the under- or un-insured.

Good Rx, a website led by three technology entrepreneurs who say they want to help Americans with soaring drug costs, deserves credit for reporting on its blog the story of asthma inhalers, and how Big Pharma has kept pushing ever higher the price for them.

The birth of Prince Louis Arthur Charles brought joy to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, but the regal baby’s arrival also provided cause for harsh comparisons of maternal costs and safety for more ordinary expectant moms on this side of the Atlantic.

Two magazines — Foreign Policy and the Economist — both poked at how much less the fabulously wealthy royals paid for a posh delivery of their baby, as compared with what a typical American mom might. They reported that 24 hours in the luxe Lindo Wing of St. Mary’s Hospital in London goes for $8,900, vs. the $12,900 an American would pay for a routine delivery in a noisy, regular U.S. hospital. And if the royals had gone without the private frills, their cost would have been zero.

If an American woman has a cesarean or any delivery complications, her delivery costs typically jump to almost $17,000, or $30,000, or even more, whereas her British and Canadian counterparts, as Foreign Policy reported, typically “pay nothing for their maternity care and delivery, with low risks of maternal and infant mortality.”

roulette-300x188Although Americans may love to wager on ponies, lotteries, and even church bingo games, they’re getting restive and confused about playing the odds with their health — and doctors need to step up their game a lot to help patients better cope with medical uncertainties.

Dhruv Khullar, a physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and a researcher at the Weill Cornell Department of Healthcare Policy and Research, has written an excellent piece for the New York Times’ evidence-driven “Upshot” column, detailing a modern, thorny part of doctor-patient relationships:

Medicine’s decades-long march toward patient autonomy means patients are often now asked to make the hard decisions — to weigh trade-offs, to grapple with how their values suggest one path over another. This is particularly true when medical science doesn’t offer a clear answer: Doctors encourage patients to decide where evidence is weak, while making strong recommendations when evidence is robust. But should we be doing the opposite? Research suggests that physicians’ recommendations powerfully influence how patients weigh their choices, and that while almost all patients want to know their options, most want their doctor to make the final decision. The greater the uncertainty, the more support they want — but the less likely they are to receive it.

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