A community for people who want to remain as healthy as possible as we age.

It's time to get mad about the outrageous cost of health care

(Consumer Reports) Person for person, health care in the U.S. costs about twice as much as it does in the rest of the developed world. In fact, if our $3 trillion health care sector were its own country, it would be the world’s fifth-largest economy. 
If you have health insurance, you may think it doesn’t matter because someone else is paying the bill. You’d be wrong. This country’s exorbitant medical costs mean that we all pay too much for health insurance. Overpriced care also translates into fewer raises for American workers. And to top it off, we’re not even getting the best care for our money…
[T]he “medical industrial complex” continues going for as much gold as it can, as the following examples show all too clearly.
Outrage No. 1: Why do just one test when you can bill for three?...
Outrage No. 2: The $1,000-per-pill hepatitis drug…
Outrage No. 3: Pushing the new and flashy…
3 ways you can help rein in expenses
1. Find out the real cost of your treatment…
2. If you want the celeb doctor, pay extra…
3. Seek out a smaller medical network…
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Most Expensive Cost in Health Care? The Doctor

(Kaveh Safavi J.D., M.D., Accenture Health) Professional labor, which accounts for up to two-thirds of total cost, is the single most expensive component of health care. Complicating the issue is the fact that millions of newly insured patients will soon expand demand for medical services, which has the potential to drive a scarcity of skilled workers.
Producing enough clinicians to meet this demand using our existing came model is unlikely. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Reversing this trend starts with shifting work (not costs) back to patients, less-costly workers and technology. Digital technology will play a role in all three strategies, either as an enabler or delivery mechanism. Let’s explore how this would work.
Make the patient a player: The patient remains the most underused resource in medicine. Outside of healthcare, when we talk about shifting work to the customer, it typically has two benefits: reducing the cost of delivering services and engaging the customer in the process…
Let nurses and others take some work of doctors: Shifting work to less-costly resources requires that U.S. health care systems use a different mix and quantity of workers to engage in higher-value activities. This model enables doctors and nurses to delegate some tasks to other capable workers, providing opportunities for cost savings and increased productivity…
Make technology work for patients:… Tech-enabled productivity tools, such as using iTriage for self-guided decision making or ZocDoc for appointment scheduling, reduces the cost of providing services and enables experts to reach more patients.
While additional steps could be taken to make the delivery of health care more efficient, the key is to unlock innovations that reduce – not reinforce – the labor intensity. Unless we do more to shift much of the day-to-day work to the patient, from high-cost workers to lower-cost labor and from people to technology, we will not be able to control the spiraling costs of health care.
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After Surgery, Surprise $117,000 Medical Bill From Doctor He Didn’t Know

(New York Times) In operating rooms and on hospital wards across the country, physicians and other health providers typically help one another in patient care. But in an increasingly common practice that some medical experts call drive-by doctoring, assistants, consultants and other hospital employees are charging patients or their insurers hefty fees. They may be called in when the need for them is questionable. And patients usually do not realize they have been involved or are charging until the bill arrives.
The practice increases revenue for physicians and other health care workers at a time when insurers are cutting down reimbursement for many services. The surprise charges can be especially significant because, as in Mr. Drier’s case, they may involve out-of-network providers who bill 20 to 40 times the usual local rates and often collect the full amount, or a substantial portion.
“The notion is you can make end runs around price controls by increasing the number of things you do and bill for,” said Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, a health policy expert at the Brookings Institution until recently. This contributes to the nation’s $2.8 trillion in annual health costs.
Insurers, saying the surprise charges have proliferated, have filed lawsuits challenging them. In recent years, unexpected out-of-network charges have become the top complaint to the New York State agency that regulates insurance companies.
Community: Consumer Reports is fighting this ridiculousness. You can help.
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'Perverse Incentives' Add Costs to Dying When Patients and Families Want Less

(American Journal of Managed Care) Sweeping changes to the way America delivers care at the end of life would better serve patients and their families while bringing healthcare savings that managed care has long sought, according to the Institute of Medicine report, “Dying in America”…
[D]ata in the report show that a portion of patients at the end of life account for some of the highest medical spending. Of the estimated 18.2 million persons each year who are in the top 5 percent for healthcare costs, 11 percent, or 2 million, are in the final year of life. Of the 2.5 million deaths in the United States each year, 80 percent were among those who incurred health care costs that put them in the top 5 percent of healthcare spenders. Some of the highest spending takes place in the realm of cancer care, where discussions about palliative care can be especially beneficial…
Reinventing the way end-of-life care is designed holds the key to both better quality care and savings. “The bottom line is the health care system is poorly designed to meet the needs of patients near the end of life,” said David M. Walker, a former United States comptroller general, who was a chairman of the panel, told The New York Times. “The current system is geared towards doing more, more, more, and that system by definition is not necessarily consistent with what patients want, and is also more costly.”
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Health insurance plans that help hold down costs

(Consumer Reports) The PDF chart linked to here shows rankings for all private plans (those you buy on your own or get from your employer) in each state plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C, and also identifes plans that earned our check mark in Avoiding Overuse…
To earn a check in Avoiding Overuse, plans must have sufficient data, score higher overall, and do better in at least three of these areas:
·         Avoiding inappropriate use of antibiotics…
·         Limiting imaging tests for lower-back pain…
·         Reducing hospital readmissions…
·         Reducing overuse of invasive heart procedures…
·         Avoiding overuse of emergency rooms.
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More News on the Cost Problem

(Reuters) U.S. regulators on Friday approved a new hepatitis C pill from Gilead Sciences Inc, which said it will charge $94,500 for an improved 12-week course of treatment to rid patients of the liver-destroying viral infection. The daily pill, to be sold under the brand name Harvoni, combines Gilead's $84,000 pill Sovaldi with another drug, ledipasvir, and eliminates the need for two older, side-effect-laden treatments that needed to be taken along with Sovaldi.
(ThinkProgress) A new study provides a glimpse into the inner workings of an industry that often thrives on patients’ lack of knowledge.
(Kaiser Health News) These high-priced medications are often shifted to the top tiers of drug plans, so consumers dealing with cancer, multiple sclerosis, HIV and other complicated diseases can end up paying thousands of dollars for their prescriptions.
(AP) They have health insurance, but still no peace of mind. Overall, 1 in 4 privately insured adults say they doubt they could pay for a major unexpected illness or injury. A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research may help explain why President Barack Obama faces such strong headwinds in trying to persuade the public that his health care law is holding down costs.
(The Upshot, New York Times) It is common wisdom that patients don’t like to think about cost when it comes to health care. But what if the problem is that they’re so rarely even given that information? A recent study in the Annals of Surgery found that parents who were asked to decide which form of surgery their children should undergo and told about the price difference tended to select the cheaper option.
(Kaiser Health News) Without much fanfare, Massachusetts launched a new era of health care shopping last week. Anyone with private health insurance in the state can now go to his or her health insurer’s website and find the price of everything from an office visit to an MRI to a Cesarean section. For the first time, health care prices are public.
(U.S. News & World Report) Despite good news in recent weeks about the future of health care spending, a daunting reality remains: The projections may turn out to be true for the next decade, but in the more-distant future, what can be done as Americans get older?... For participants at a workshop held … by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council the answer was clear: Home health for seniors and people with disabilities can not only rein in costs, but can give people better health outcomes and the kind of care they want.
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Trent Hamm, My Money, U.S. News & World Report:
4 Slow Cooker Meals for Chilly Fall Evenings
My philosophy with slow cooker meals is that you should be able to prepare them before you leave in the morning, adding everything to the slow cooker, and then leave it on low all day, which allows you to come home to a finished meal. Here are four great recipes my family loves to find in the slow cooker at the end of a crisp autumn day.  
Slow Cooker Chili
Hearty Slow Cooker Lasagna
Slow Cooker Beef Roast
Crockpot Corn Chowder
Cooking Light:
Flavorful Fall Recipes
When the air is crisp and the leaves start to fall, you'll love these recipes that showcase the season's best flavors.
Heartwarming Fall Recipes
There's no better time than fall to enjoy warming, satisfying dishes featuring produce from this year's harvest. Besides being comfort food, autumn-inspired dishes offer a wealth of health-boosting antioxidants. Here are some of our favorites.
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Food as Medicine

(Science Daily) New research focused on mental wellbeing found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual's fruit and vegetable consumption. 33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion.
(HHS HealthBeat) Fruits such as bananas, as well as leafy green vegetables, salmon and other foods with lots of potassium are good for pretty much everyone’s health. And one study indicates a particular benefit for postmenopausal women. At Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, researchers SylviaWassertheil-Smoller and Arjun Seth saw it in 11 years of data on more than 90,000 women: “Women who ate a potassium-rich diet had substantially lower risks of stroke and all-cause death.”
(Mehmet C. Oz, MD, and Michael F. Roizen, MD) Aim for what we docs recommend is the healthiest, heart-friendly blood pressure: 115/76. How? Reduce stress, eat smart, get plenty of physical activity, and enjoy these surprising, blood-pressure-lowering foods: Purple Potatoes… Raisins… Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and cashew nuts… Protein… Dark chocolate.
(Reader’s Digest) Pumpkins: Their vitamin- and nutrient-rich flesh and seeds can improve your love life, promote weight loss, and smooth out your skin.
(Andrew Weil, M.D.) If you are looking for a tasty food that can help lower cholesterol, regulate blood pressure, and protect against heart disease and stroke, reach for an avocado… It's a good source of vitamin K, dietary fiber, potassium and folate. While avocados are very low in sodium and cholesterol-free, don't overdo it, as they do contain fat, albeit the heart-healthy, monounsaturated kind.
(SouthBeachDiet.com) Research shows that foods with lycopene, the carotenoid that gives foods a red or pinkish color, may help lower your risk of developing breast cancer, among other types of cancers. Other antioxidants like polyphenols, which are also responsible for giving certain foods their red or pink color, have been shown to help protect against cancer as well. Tomatoes… Grapefruits… Strawberries… Radishes… Cranberry beans (Roman beans)… Peaches.
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More Food News

(UPI) The USDA will be allotting $31.5 million in grants for getting fruits and vegetables to the tables of those receiving SNAP benefits.
(Mayo Clinic) Menu planning makes healthy eating easier — and it can save you time and money. Learn tips so you won't have to wonder what's for dinner.
(Appetite for Health) When it comes to the Mediterranean Diet, there is only good news to report. Not only are Mediterranean foods tasty, they’re also some of the healthiest. And you don’t need to be  a world traveler to enjoy the benefits of this way of eating. Healthy dishes with the delightful flavors of Spain, Greece, Morocco, Italy and Turkey can be simple. Here are 5 must-eat foods that will help you “go Mediterranean”. Walnuts… Chickpeas… Olive Oil… Salmon… Tomatoes.
(The Supermarket Guru) The season of the festive squash has started! Here’s what you need to know about your favorite fall and winter squash varieties.
(Mayo Clinic) Pumpkins are much more than decorations. They're delicious when roasted and are packed with nutrients.
(Whole Grains Council) Jaclyn, from North Dakota, wrote the WGC asking if hulled millet is whole grain or not. She’d read that hulling removes the bran, so she figured the answer would be no – hulled grains are no longer whole. Happily we were able to assure her that hulled grains can still be whole grains, and we thought you all might like to understand why.
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The Latest from The People’s Pharmacy

Physical medicine, physical therapy, yoga and prolotherapy can ease joint pain and restore function in many cases without surgery.
Curry Spice to Fight Cancer
Curcumin can slow the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory; can it be used for prevention or treatment?
Hot Peppers Drive Away Painful Canker Sores
Eating jalapeno peppers prevents canker sores.
Sunflower Seeds for Sleepy Drivers
Driving while drowsy is incredibly dangerous but readers have suggested that cracking sunflower seeds between the teeth may be one successful solution.
Vicks Quelled Racking Nighttime Cough
Vicks on the soles of the feet calmed a cough despite its serious cause.
Sore Throat Remedy Is Hot Stuff
Reader's remedy of hot pepper mixed with diluted juice offers her relief from the pain of a sore throat.
Glycerin Offers Relief from Itchy Scalp Psoriasis
Using glycerin on the scalp helps control itching and flaking from psoriasis.
Lecithin Strengthened Nails and Relieved Knee Pain
Taking lecithin as a supplement strengthened the reader's nails and eased her joint pain; whether it will help memory is unknown.
Fish Oil Fizzled Against Atrial Fib
An experiment found that people taking fish oil were not protected against episodes of the heart rhythm abnormality called atrial fibrillation.
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Quick Takes

(Bloomberg) Men who take a daily dose of aspirin or similar anti-inflammatory medicine may also reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer, researchers said. The study … found that men who regularly used anti-inflammatory pain pills had a 13 percent lower risk of prostate cancer and 17 percent fewer dangerous, high-grade tumors. A second study suggested the mechanism responsible for preventing the tumors could be the medicine’s ability to block production of a hormone that spurs cancer growth.
(Science Daily) The lungs become more inflammatory with age, researchers say, and add that ibuprofen can lower that inflammation. Immune cells from old mouse lungs fought tuberculosis bacteria as effectively as cells from young mice after lung inflammation was reduced by ibuprofen.
(Science Daily) Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs -- such as ibuprofen and aspirin -- increase one's risk of upper gastrointestinal bleeding. When taken in combination with other drugs, this risk is significantly higher, according to new research.
(University of Granada) Scientists at the University of Granada, in collaboration with La Paz University Hospital in Madrid and the University of Texas, San Antonio in the US have demonstrated through several experiments conducted on Zucker obese rats that chronic consumption of [melatonin] helps combat obesity and diabetes mellitus type 2.
(Reuters Health) Eating a diet high in salt may increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis among smokers, according to a large study from Sweden.
(Leiden University) People often think that smoking cannabis makes them more creative. However, research by Leiden psychologists Lorenza Colzato and Mikael Kowal shows that the opposite is true… The findings show that cannabis with a high concentration of the psychoactive ingredient THC does not improve creativity. Smokers who ingested a low dose of THC, or none at all (they were given a placebo), performed best in the thinking tasks that the test candidates had to carry out.  A high dose of THC was actually shown to have a negative effect on the ability to quickly come up with as many solutions as possible to a given problem.
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Environment and Health

(WAMC Public Radio) A new study … says a proposal by the Obama administration to reduce power plant emissions to combat climate change would also have benefits for people’s health. A study from Harvard, Boston and Syracuse University scientists said there would be substantial health benefits if carbon emissions from power plants are reduced by the levels being considered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 
(Dallas Morning News) [T]he Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a private charitable foundation that controls nearly $900 million in assets, said it is “moving soberly, but with real commitment” to remove fossil fuels from its complex investment portfolio while increasing its investment in alternate energy sources. The decision promises to have an outsize impact because the foundation is no environmental zealot; the Rockefeller name is synonymous with oil.
The fund’s leaders are, however, smart investors who understand the moral and economic dimensions of unfettered climate change. Their announcement comes on the heels of a new report finding that the world is not moving aggressively enough to control emissions of greenhouse gases, the major contributor to climate change.
(Scientific American) [T]he World Bank wants a price on carbon, like that occurring in these seven regions of China, because its team of economists and financiers thinks that climate change is an outcome of getting the prices of different sources of energy wrong. Fossil fuels are too cheap, and various alternatives—whether nuclear or solar—are too expensive. [Says Rachel Kyte, the World Bank's special envoy for climate change], it's all about "getting prices right."
(Reuters) The Supreme Court on Monday rejected an industry challenge to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations issued by Republican former President George W. Bush's administration that set standards for ozone pollution. By declining to hear the case, the court left in place the so-called primary air quality standards designed to protect public health, which Democratic President Barack Obama's administration defended.
(Scientific American) As world leaders gathered at the U.N. to talk about global warming, mayors set about actually doing something about climate change.
(Scientific American) Smog and soot top the list, even though there are remedies for both.
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Ebola News

(ThinkProgress) Fear mongering, misinformation, and xenophobia.
(Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) [W]hen Fox News tells you that the experts on Ebola and pandemics aren’t to be trusted, should you believe them?
I mean, despite what they’ve told you over the years, there never was a whitey tape, the 2012 polls weren’t skewed, Mitt Romney didn’t win in a landslide, Obama’s trip to India didn’t cost $200 million a day, he never did a terrorist fist bump, no military assets could have conceivably intervened at Benghazi, there never was a standdown order, there really is a difference between Sunni and Shi’ite, Obama wasn’t born in Kenya, nor is he Muslim, there were no death panels, there is no war on Christmas, there was no WMD in Iraq, Saddam and bin Laden weren’t allies, Obama is not a racist, ObamaCare is not as bad as slavery, and Cliven Bundy was not a true American hero, he was an armed crank and a leech on government.
(Reuters) The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to three privately held companies marketing treatments that claim to prevent or treat Ebola. The letters were sent to Newton, New Jersey-based Natural Solutions Foundation, Utah-based dōTERRA International LLC and Utah-based Young Living.
(Reuters) The number of people known to have died in the worst Ebola outbreak on record has risen to 4,033 out of 8,399 cases in seven countries by the end of Oct 8, the World Health Organization said on Friday.
(ThinkProgress) Amid the dire headlines about the epidemic, there's evidence we can contain the virus.
(Reuters) Medical teams at New York's JFK airport, armed with Ebola questionnaires and temperature guns, began screening travelers from three West African countries on Saturday as U.S. health authorities stepped up efforts to stop the spread of the virus. John F. Kennedy Airport is the first of five U.S. airports to start enhanced screening of U.S.-bound travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
(Reuters) Spanish health authorities said on Sunday there were signs of hope for a nurse infected with Ebola in Madrid as the levels of the virus in her body were diminishing, though they also said she remained in a serious condition… "The patient appears to be in a stable condition ... There are some signs that could give us cause for some hope," Fernando Simon, a high level official at Spain's Health Ministry, told a news conference.
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Flu News

(LiveScience) More U.S. children and adults are getting vaccinated against the flu, but public health officials say there's room for improvement in vaccination rates.
(Consumer Reports) If you’re thinking of getting the FluMist nasal spray vaccine this year for you or your child, ask the pharmacist or doctor to check the expiration date first. The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that the government has received nearly 900 reports of people being given expired doses of the vaccine over the last several years. And that probably vastly underestimates the situation, since most problems with the vaccine (or any drug, for that matter) never get reported to the government.
(The Supermarket Guru) Vitamin C is believed to do wonders to boost the immune system and keep colds and flus at bay. Building a strong immune system is one of the best defenses against seasonal allergies and colds and flus, and can be done by picking up a few things at your local market packed with this potent antioxidant. The richest sources of vitamin C are sweet peppers, strawberries, kiwis, black currants, broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and turnip greens.
(Sharecare.com) Getting plenty of this vitamin may strengthen your immune system and make venturing out of your house a little less scary this flu season. We're talking about the sunshine vitamin -- good old D. In a study done during flu season, people who had higher blood levels of vitamin D were half as likely to get hit with the bug -- or any other viral infection of the respiratory tract, for that matter… Another good defense against flu? Getting vaccinated.
(U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) Potential tests to help doctors diagnose influenza sooner and more accurately will advance in development under contracts from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). The tests could help boost influenza pandemic preparedness by increasing diagnostic capabilities in near-patient care settings such as doctors’ offices, clinics, and hospitals.
(Reuters) Russia has reported the first cases of a highly pathogenic bird flu virus in nearly two years in villages in Southern Russia, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) said on Tuesday. Domestic chickens, geese and ducks were found infected with the H5N1 serotype of the disease on Sept. 1 in two villages in the Altai Krai region near the border with Kazakhstan, the OIE reported on its website, citing data submitted by the Russian ministry of agriculture.
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More Infectious Disease News

(Scientific American) As the Ebola death toll spirals into the thousands in West Africa, the outbreak could have a spillover effect on the region’s deadliest disease. The outbreak has virtually shut down malaria control efforts in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, raising fears that cases of the mosquito-borne illness may start rising — if they haven’t already.
(Dr. Jeff Engel, Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists) Our efforts to combat both West Nile virus and anti-microbial resistance suffer from a severe lack of federal resources. The CDC is drastically underfunded after being victim to across-the-board cuts enacted by Congress. This must change if we are to remain vigilant in protecting the public from any outbreaks, small or large.
(Reuters) More than half of U.S. states have confirmed cases of a respiratory illness that has sickened children with symptoms ranging from mild colds to more severe breathing difficulties, according to health officials. As of Monday, 175 people in 27 states had been diagnosed since mid-August with illness caused by the somewhat rare enterovirus D68, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
(Reuters) A man has died in Uganda's capital after an outbreak of Marburg, a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, authorities said on Sunday, adding that a total of 80 people who came into contact with him were quarantined.
(AP) Pakistan has detected a record number polio case already this year, a senior government official said Saturday, as militants target vaccination teams and accuse doctors of being spies and sterilizing boys.
(AFP) Haiti's cholera epidemic is still an emergency and a let up in response based on the decreasing number of cases could have "tragic consequences," a UN special envoy said. "I fear that the enormous progress we have made leads people to believe that the problem has been resolved. It is not resolved," Pedro Medrano, the UN coordinator overseeing cholera response in Haiti, told AFP in Washington, on Wednesday. Between January and August of 2014, only 8,600 cases were recorded, in stark contrast with the 200,000 documented last year, Medrano said.
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Health Insurance News

(Kaiser Health News) Consumers using the federal healthcare.gov website when open enrollment begins next month should expect a faster website with a shorter application form and features making it easier to use on mobile devices, Obama administration officials said Wednesday. In a briefing with reporters, they showed off a live version of the updated site and said it has already been used to enroll about 20,000 people.
(AP) The government's own watchdogs tried to hack into HealthCare.gov earlier this year and found what they termed a critical vulnerability - but also came away with respect for some of the health insurance site's security features… So-called "white hat" or ethical hackers from the inspector general's office found a weakness, but when they attempted to exploit it like a malicious hacker would, they were blocked by the system's defenses.
(Kaiser Health News) As many companies provide employees with their coverage details this fall, spousal surcharges and health savings accounts on the rise. 
(Kaiser Health News) More employers are capping what they pay for some procedures, but some say the move does little to slow spending.
(ThinkProgress) "It's preposterous that you would continue to use this money for what I would consider non-essential incidentals when you've got this fire raging right outside your door," he said.
(Former insurance executive Wendell Potter, Center for Public Integrity) While it is reducing the rate of uninsured Americans, it doesn’t get us anywhere close enough to the universal coverage that residents of other developed countries enjoy… Many of the newly insured are also finding that their choices of health care providers is severely limited in some of the health plans being offered on the exchanges… [M]any people who enroll in high-deductible plans find out after they get sick or injured that they can’t afford to pay their share of their medical bills…
And while the law apparently is helping to keep medical costs in check, it doesn’t go far enough. We still spend more per capita on health care than any other country… [M]uch more reform will have to be undertaken in years to come.
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Medicaid News

(New York Times) Medicaid, the federal-state program for poor and disabled Americans, is a frequent political target, often described as substandard because of its restricted list of doctors and the red tape — sometimes even worse than no insurance at all. But repeated surveys show that the program is quite popular among the people who use it.
(Reuters) President Barack Obama’s plan to extend health coverage to millions of poor Americans remains highly contentious, yet it is gaining momentum among several initially reluctant states where financial pragmatism is trumping ideology. Up to a dozen states, including several led by Republicans, could move forward with plans to expand coverage under Medicaid after the November elections.
(AP) The Supreme Court said Thursday it will decide whether private sector health care providers can force a state to raise its Medicaid reimbursement rates to keep up with the rising cost of services. The justices agreed to hear an appeal from Idaho, which wants to overturn a lower court decision that ordered the state to increase payments. A 2009 lawsuit argued that the state was unfairly keeping Medicaid reimbursement rates at 2006 levels despite studies showing that the cost of providing care had risen. A federal judge agreed, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
(Pharmalot, Wall Street Journal) How might state Medicaid programs cope with a new and equally expensive hepatitis C treatment from Gilead Sciences GILD -2.26%? A new report released just as the FDA late last week approved Harvoni, which will cost $94,500 for a 12-week regimen, may offer some insights, at least according to a trade group for the state programs.
(Kaiser Health News) With the expansion of Medi-Cal, asset seizures now have the potential to affect many more people.
(AP) More than a dozen U.S. senators from both parties are calling on the Obama administration to broaden a Medicaid program for the nation's frailest seniors, calling it a proven alternative to pricier nursing home care as states seek to limit long-term medical costs.
(Reuters) Extendicare Health Services Inc has agreed to pay $38 million to the U.S. government and eight states to settle allegations that it billed Medicare and Medicaid for substandard nursing care and unnecessary rehabilitation therapy. The settlement is the largest paid by a nursing home chain to the government over failure to provide care, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
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Medicare News

(U.S. Department of Health & Human Services) Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell announced [Thursday] that next year’s standard Medicare Part B monthly premium and deductible will remain the same as the last two years. Medicare Part B covers physicians’ services, outpatient hospital services, certain home health services, durable medical equipment, and other items.  For the approximately 49 million Americans enrolled in Medicare Part B, premiums and deductibles will remain unchanged in 2015 at $104.90 and $147, respectively. This leaves more of seniors’ cost of living adjustment from Social Security in their pockets.
(Kaiser Health News) A consumer reporter shares what she learned when getting ready to join the federal health plan for seniors. 
(Kaiser Health News) KHN consumer columnist gives readers some basic information to help them weigh their Medicare options. 
Community: Only Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D have this special enrollment period restriction.
(New York Times) For millions of older Americans, it is time to sift through the mind-boggling array of Medicare plans. There is an average of 29 drug plans to digest, and about 18 options for Medicare Advantage, the plans delivered through private insurers.
(Kaiser Health News) Seventy-seven percent of participants in [a] “MedCHAT” group sessions said Medicare should cover at least one year of care in a nursing home, in supportive housing or at a person’s home. Eight-five percent wanted “modest coverage” of dental, vision and hearing services. To help Medicare last another half-century — it turns 50 next year — 85 percent were willing to reduce program spending on current and future beneficiaries.
(Kaiser Health News) Although fewer patients are now returning to the hospital within a month, the fines reached a record level this year. 
(Kaiser Health News) The Department of Health and Human Services has not yet incorporated the 1,256 primarily rural, “critical access” hospitals such as Crawford into Medicare’s pay-for-performance programs. With no more than 25 beds, these hospitals are generally located in isolated areas, making them the only acute-care option for local residents. Medicare repays them their cost plus 1 percent, more than it pays other hospitals, to ensure they do not close. While some of the facilities deliver exemplary care, a study published last year by Harvard School of Public Health researchers found that death rates at critical access hospitals in 2010 were higher than at other small, rural hospitals and the industry overall.
(SeniorJournal.com) Cologuard the first and only FDA-approved noninvasive stool DNA screening test for colorectal cancer.
Community: Good move, Medicare. The stool test is much easier on the patient than colonoscopy—and cheaper, too.
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Preventing Cancer Through Good Food and Exercise

(The Atlantic) In the American Association for Cancer Research's mammoth new cancer progress report lies the sad fact that about half of the 585,720 cancer deaths expected to occur in the United States this year are related to preventable behaviors. For a disease that often seems (and is) so senseless, it turns out that many cases can be avoided with lifestyle tweaks.
Smoking is the biggest one, associated with nearly 33 percent of preventable cancer diagnoses…
But … a combination of weight problems, poor diet, and exercise account for another third of all preventable cancers. Being overweight or obese is linked to colorectal, endometrial, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic, and postmenopausal breast cancer.
The good news is that some kinds of cancer—like lung cancer—are on the decline. Others, though—like those of the pancreas, kidney, thyroid, and liver—are rising steadily.
"The cancers that are increasing are the ones that are associated with obesity," said AACR spokesman and University of Pennsylvania cancer epidemiologist Timothy Rebbeck.
Americans might be smoking less than ever, but obesity rates keep on climbing.
Community: The Huffington Post has this list: “6 Causes Of Cancer That Can Be Prevented.” Even more good news is that many of these same suggestions can reduce heart disease and mental decline risks. Really, it’s a no-brainer.
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