Health Wonk Review – Rich and Varied Offerings

Joe Paduda has hosted the newest edition of Health Wonk Review, a bi-weekly roundup of some of the best healthcare posts in the blogosphere. You will find it at Joe’s blog,  Managed Care Matters.:

Here are just a few highlights:

  • Over at HealthBusinessBlog David E Williams  responds to a relative’s question : Why are Obamacare’s opponents so vehement?The bottom line, says David, is that “some opponents have whipped themselves into a lather over their revulsion to all things Obama and are living in an echo chamber where these views seem rational. It would be better for everyone if they went back to the Birther madness.”

    I agree. This is not about healthcare, and it is not about money. The Congressional Budget Office has told us that the ACA will not add to the deficit..  As David points out many of the ideas in the Affordable Care Act were originally Republican ideas. It is not a radical plan for health care reform; it is a moderate plan. And Obama himself is a moderate. Why then do they hate him with such a passion? I’ll leave it to you to answer that question.

  • In a post titledWe’re all in this together” Louise Norris confides that under the Affordable Care Act, her family’s insurance premiums will rise sharply. (They had a high deductible plan with low premiums. The ACA outlaws such high deductibles because in too many cases, insurers sell them to low-income and lower-middle income families who then cannot afford to use them. So they put off getting healthcare until they are very, very sick.)Meanwhile, Louise and her husband earn too much to qualify for premiums. But they’re not angry. “We support [reform]” she explains, “because something like this isn’t supposed to be all about us. In the case of healthcare reform, our higher premiums will help ensure that our friends and neighbors and fellow citizens have access to affordable health insurance.”  Joe writes: “Thanks for the reminder, Louise!” I agree wholeheartedly. (btw Louise is a health insurance broker.)

 

 

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Health Wonk Review: Health Insurance in China over the Past 50 Years; A Review of The Autistic Brain; Stay Calm, Obamacare is On Track

The newest edition of HealthWonk Review, a round-up of some of the very best recent healthcare posts, is now online.
Colorado Health Insurance Insider’s Louise Norris hosts this mid-summer edition of the review. She offers summaries of intriguing posts, along with evenhanded, insightful commentary. Both will help you decide which posts you want to read.
Many of her reviews whetted my interest. But here I want to call attention to just two entries covering topics that we don’t often read about on Healthcare blogs, as well a reassuring sane post summing up what Washington insiders say about the state of Obamacare. It will be a bumpy ride, but it’s heading into the station.

A History of China’s Health Care System

Norris reports that on :“The Healthcare Economist,  Jason Shafrin, brings us a great summary of health insurance in China over the past half century. Until the end of the 1970s, there were three main health insurance systems in China that covered nearly everyone.
“But the wheels started to come off after that; by 1998 almost half of the urban population had no health insurance, and by 2003, 95% of the rural population in China was uninsured. “
Shafrin explains that a shift to “fee for service” health care seems to have exacerbated the problem: “Some have claimed that the stark increases in health-care are due to provider profit-seeking behavior in China’s fee-for-service system. . .
“This price structure that was originally intended to cross-subsidize the delivery of basic interventions creates perverse incentives for providers to supply sophisticated care wherever possible, by shifting demand from low-margin basic services to high-margin high-tech diagnostic services and drugs.”
Does this sound familiar?
The good news is that China, like the U.S., has set out to reform its enormous health care system.For details, see Shafrin’s post. .
As Norris observes: “While plenty of progress has been made there is still a long way to go.”
She could have been talking about either country.
Norris also spotlights Jared Rhoads’ review of The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin. “If you’re interested in autism,” Norris writes, “Jared’s summary [suggests] that this book is a good place to start learning more. I’m adding it to my list of books to read, so thanks for the tip Jared!”
Here’s just a snippet from Rhoads’ review: “Gradin and coauthor Richard Panek trace some of the clinical history of the condition, explain what can and cannot be gained from techniques like neuroimaging, and share what they believe are some good child-rearing strategies for parents with autistic children. . . .
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Health Wonk Review: Oncologists Tell the Truth about Cancer Drugs; Will There Be Enough Plans to Choose From in the Exchanges? What Does Oregon’s Research on Medicaid Tell Us? And More . . .

The newest edition of Health Wonk Review  is up on Managed Care Matters.

There, host Joe Paduda calls attention to an eye-opening post by The Health Business Group’s David E. Williams. 

Williams reports on what oncologists say about cancer drugs in “The Price of Drugs for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML); A Reflection of the Unsustainable Prices of Cancer Drug.” The article, which was published in the journal, blood, includes candid comments from more than 100 experts  They tell us  that:.

  • Many costly treatments aren’t worth the money
  • New treatments with tiny orno benefits often cost a multiple of existing therapies
  • Despite their reputation for penny-pinching, health plans are often not aggressive in negotiating price
  • Patients are already suffering mightily from high costs –and it impacts quality of life and survival as well as financial health
  • Society as a whole cannot afford to pay the high prices charged for so many of the new therapies

 (I’m reminded of “A Very Open Letter from an Oncologist published on HealthBeat in 2009.)  It’s encouraging to see more oncologist stepping forward to telll the truth about cancer drugs..)

.As Williams observes these insights “come from people who know what they’re talking about and who have traditionally been sympathetic to drug makers and unperturbed about costs.”  

But now, the companies that make these drugs have taken greed too far.

 Paduda also highlights Health Affairs just-released research indicating that the decline in inflation could result in a reduction of $770 billion (yup, that’s “billion” with a B) in public program health care costs over ten years. “

But is the trend sustainable? John Holahan and Stacy McMorrow of the Urban Institute are “cautiously optimistic.” Paduda agrees: “there’s no question there are fundamental changes occurring that are affecting care delivery, pricing, and reimbursement.”

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Doctors Sue Hospitals to Protect Patients; A University Buys Insurance that Doesn’t Protect Students; What Gay Marriage Laws Mean for Gay Coverage . . . . and More

The newest Health Wonk Review has been posted. This time around, Colorado Health Insurance Insider’s Louise Norris is the host, and it’s an excellent read.

A few highlights:

                                 Doctors Sue Hospitals, Protect Patients

Over at Healthcare Renewal, Roy Poses digs into how doctors are pushing back against hopsitals who put profits above everything else. His article describes two recent lawsuits filed by physician groups alleging that the hospital systems they worked for were sacrificing patient welfare in the name of profit. 

As Louise observes, “the details are sickening to read:  One hospital group encouraged its docs to exaggerate the severity of patient conditions and needlessly admit patients from the ER to hospital beds in order to bill more for their treatment.  Another hospital group that owns three hospitals and also partially owns an ambulance company was making patient transfers (using their own ambulance company despite slower response times) a top priority – to the extent that a doctor’s transfer rate was a factor in bonuses and performance reviews.  An admin email stated that “the performance we are looking for are transfers.”  Wow.  Transfers just for the sake of racking up revenue – patient welfare had nothing to do with it, and was likely compromised when the slower ambulance company was used in cases where the transfer was actually warranted.”

I’m just skimming the surface of the corruption Roy exposes. You really should read his entire post.

Often doctors are afraid to stand up to greedy hospital administrators.  But by banding together, physician groups can stand up for patients.

I would add that, in the past  two doctors— working at separate non-profit hospitals—have told me about hospital administrators pressuring physicians to admit ER patients, even when they did not need to be hospitalized. This is how some hospitals “put heads on beds.” 

                 When Universities Buy Inadequate Insurance for Their Students

On his blog, Duncan Cross tells the story of the Arizona State graduate student who died because his Aetna plan (a student plan purchased through the university) capped how much the insurer would pay out over the course of a lifetime at $300,000. It also didn’t cover prescription drugs.  One might be tempted to blame the insurance company,
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Health Wonk Review Posts Investigate

Nursing Homes, Nurse-Practitioners Developing More  Expertise, Efforts to Block Exchanges, How Patients Respond to Evidence that Some Tests are Unnecessary, and Whether Obamacare “Screws” Young Americans  . . . 

This  time around Peggy Salvatore hosts a Valentine’s Day Edition of  Health Wonk Review –over at Healthcare Talent Transformation . Her round-up of some of the best of recent HealthCare posts includes:

–  A piece on Health Affairs Blog by David Rothman investigating how Americans respond to “evidence that certain medical tests and screenings might be unnecessary, harmful, and not worth the money.”  How do they react to research showing that some drugs are harmful? To find out, you’ll have to read the post.  (You will find the link to this post, and all of the posts discussed below, here )

–  Good news from Louise at Colorado Health Insurance Insider:  A bill that would have repealed the 2011 law that created Colorado’s health insurance exchange/ marketplace, died in committee in a 9-2 vote. “Republicans and Democrats on the Committee on the committee rejected his portrayal of the Exchange– which has already made a lot of progress towards an opening date this fall.”

Louise adds: “Given the progress that Colorado has made over the past two years in creating the state’s marketplace and implementing various other healthcare reforms (both state-based, like maternity coverage and gender-neutral premiums, and ACA-related, including the recent push to expand Medicaid), I would say that Colorado is on track to greatly improve its overall healthcare outcomes.

She also includes a useful map showing the states that have defaulted on setting up Exchanges. As she notes “this doesn’t mean they will get a pass on Obamacare.”  By law, the federal government will set up Exchanges for them.

–  A post by Disease Management Care Blog’s Dr. Jaan Sidorov pointing out that non-physician professionals and lay-persons are managing to achieve a remarkable degree of medical expertise. This is, as Peggy notes, a controversial subject.

– A report that asks “do non-profit nursing homes really provide better care than their for-profit counterparts”?   Over at Healthcare Economist Jason Shafrin analyzes a study that suggests the answer is  “Yes.”   How do they arrive at that conclusion? Again, you’ll  have to read the post.

– A post that takes on “a recent infamous article on Buzzhead ”  claiming  that Obamacare “screws” young Americans.  Over at California Access Health’s Anthony Wright observes:  “there are some obvious and non-obvious reasons why Obamacare is a boon to young adults. “ The non-obvious reasons are worth thinking about.

These are just a few of the treats in this Valentine’s Day Edition.  I recommend that you read the entire Review here.

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