health care costs

In the first three months after getting his Dexcom continuous glucose monitor, Ric Peralta managed to reduce his average blood sugar level by three percentage points.

"It took me from not-very-well-managed blood sugar to something that was incredibly well managed," says Peralta, a 46-year-old optician in Whittier, Calif., who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in 2008.

Editor's note: The day after this story published, Mary Washington Healthcare announced it will suspend its practice of suing patients for unpaid bills, stating: "We are committed to a complete re-evaluation of our entire payment process to ensure that all patients know they have access to care." When asked what they will do about any patient whose wages are currently being garnished, Eric Fletcher, Mary Washington's senior vice president, said in a statement to NPR: "

Anyone who has tried to shop around for hospital services knows this: It's hard to get prices in advance.

President Trump signed an executive order Monday that he says would make such comparisons easier, and make the pricing process more transparent.

The pitches to the health insurance brokers are tantalizing.

"Set sail for Bermuda," says insurance giant Cigna, offering top-selling brokers five days at one of the island's luxury resorts.

Health Net of California's pitch is not subtle: A smiling woman in a business suit rides a giant $100 bill like it's a surfboard. "Sell more, enroll more, get paid more!" In some cases, its ad says, a broker can "power up" the bonus to $150,000 per employer group.

Like millions of Americans in this final week of open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, Diane McCabe is shopping for health insurance.

"At my age, I can't go without it, even though I'm healthy now," says McCabe. She's 62 and a self-employed real estate agent in Luzerne County, Pa. "But the process is frustrating, and the expense significant."

One Implant, Two Prices. It Depends On Who’s Paying.

Dec 12, 2018
Stethoscope on a pile of money.
iStock

Kim Daniels didn’t have to pay a penny for her double mastectomy or the reconstructive surgery she had after treatment for breast cancer in June 2018. Her health insurance, PennCare, administered through Independence Blue Cross in Pennsylvania, fully covered both procedures.

According to a new study, workers and their families are spending a bigger share of their income on health care than in previous years – especially in Florida.

FloridaHealthFinder.gov

Asserting it would help hold down health-care costs, Gov. Rick Scott’s administration created a database of paid insurance claims that allows people to shop for costs of medical procedures.

A Vermont health care organization working to keep patients healthier while reducing costs is being closely watched because of its rate of success — it was within 1 percent of meeting its financial target in its first year and has now been expanded to cover about 18 percent of the state's population, officials said.

President Trump presented a broad-brush outline of how his administration hopes to stem the decades-long increase in prescription drug prices and spending, in a speech Friday in the Rose Garden of the White House.

The administration also released a 39-page document describing a variety of proposals it is either considering or studying in an effort to lower costs to individuals, corporations, the government and the economy as a whole.

It started as a bipartisan attempt to curb soaring health care premiums.

But Congress' effort to stabilize the nation's insurance markets is faltering amid escalating demands by each party and erratic positions by President Donald Trump. Democrats want bigger federal subsidies for consumers under President Barack Obama's health care law while Republicans, still fighting that statute, aim to relax its coverage requirements and win abortion restrictions.

This post was updated Dec. 14 at 9:30 a.m. to note that Maryland extended enrollment until Dec. 22.

Gene Kern, 63, retired early from Fujifilm, where he sold professional videotape. "When the product became obsolete, so did I," he says, "and that's why I retired."

There's new — and shocking — evidence about the toll that health care costs are taking on the world's most vulnerable.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Linda Radach has had six hip replacement operations since 2006, three on each side. Osteoarthritis was the reason she needed surgery in the first place, but replacing her hips in some ways only worsened her troubles.

Christina Arenas reviews her medical bills at home in Washington, D.C.

Photo: Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

A 25-year-old federal drug discount program has grown so big and controversial that it faces a fight for survival as federal officials and lawmakers furiously debate the program’s reach.

Google Maps

The Food and Drug Administration last month sent criminal investigation agents with search warrants into nine storefronts across Central Florida that help customers order drugs from pharmacies in Canada and overseas at big discounts.

Too Few Patients Follow The Adage: Shop Around

Aug 21, 2017

Despite having more financial “skin in the game” than ever, many consumers don’t make any attempt to compare prices for health care services, a newly released study found.

Updated 4:31 pm August 16: On Wednesday, the White House said it would continue what's known as cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers for another month, buying President Trump some time to decide whether he'll continue the payments long-term or cut them off altogether.

The announcement came a day after the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis that found that ending the payments would increase the deficit by $194 billion over 10 years.

Albuminarium

Two years after it passed unanimously in Ohio’s state Legislature, a law meant to inform patients what health care procedures will cost is in a state of suspended animation.

A recent Harvard study concluded Jacksonville residents could save close to $40 million in health care costs annually if the city were to tax sugary drinks.

Researcher Steve Gortmaker said the tax would help cut down on obesity.


In a move that might actually help health care costs become more transparent, some hospitals are starting to give patients detailed information about what their upcoming visits will cost in an attempt to get them to pay ahead of time, according to the website Modern Healthcare. 

Health-care prices are complex and in many ways secret—which can affect how much you end up paying for your health care.

But not everyone agrees on what transparency in health-care pricing should look like.

You can listen to a story about what we mean when we talk about transparency here:

Report: US Medicine Spending Up 8.5 Percent

Apr 14, 2016
Associated Press

U.S. spending on prescription drugs rose 8.5 percent last year, slightly less than in 2014, driven mainly by growing use of ultra-expensive new drugs and price hikes on other medicines.

The Obama administration is recruiting as many as 20,000 primary care doctors for an initiative it hopes will change the way physicians get paid and provide care.

The program, which was announced Monday, will be run by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The aim is to stop paying doctors based on the number of billable services and visits provided to Medicare beneficiaries and instead to tie payments to overall patient health and outcomes.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Responds To Coffee Shop Showdown

Apr 11, 2016
YouTube/Stephen Bender

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, responding to a viral video showing him being cursed at by an activist at a coffee shop, has brewed the frothy fracas into a full-force Floridian feud.

Associated Press

For most hospitals in Florida, Medicare is changing the way it pays for hip- and knee-replacement operations to ensure that patients get the right care at the right time at the right price for taxpayers. 

Lottie Watts / WUSF

A final report from Gov. Rick Scott’s Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding is recommending that Floridians should be able to find out ahead of time what it will actually cost before going into the hospital for non-emergency treatment.

The only thing Florida lawmakers must get done during the legislative session is pass a balanced budget. But it’s tricky ironing out all the numbers. And  a big part of laying out a budget is determining how much to spend when it comes to healthcare.

Tallahassee lawmakers got a hard pill to swallow Thursday.

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