Tag: Featured

Radiologists versus Machines


In the ongoing battle between radiologists and artificial intelligence, is the real risk not that computers will replace radiologists, but that radiologists will become machines? This lecture delivered at the annual meeting of the ARRS explores the evolution of radiologists, from inference to quantification, and what it means for the field.

Is Health Insurance Too Cheap?

Researchers at USC recently published a study designed to find out how much people are willing to pay for better drug coverage from their health insurance plan.  The question they posed to the general public was straightforward: How much extra money would you pay per month for a health insurance plan that would pay for “specialty drugs” if you need them?

Specialty drugs are expensive new treatments for diseases like leukemia, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.  These drugs often cost tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases even run into six figures per patient.  But these high costs can be accompanied by significant benefit.  Gleevec for example can dramatically increase life expectancy for people with otherwise fatal leukemia.

Keep in mind that not only are specialty drugs expensive but they are being used with increasing frequency.  According to the USC team, 3 out of 100 people in the United States will use at least one specialty drug in the following year.

How much would you pay to make sure you aren’t responsible to pay for these drugs out of pocket?  Would you be willing to give your insurance company an extra $5 per month? $10?  Maybe even $20?

The USC team found that, on average, people were willing to spend around $13 extra per month to make sure their health insurance plans cover such specialty drugs. (The study was published in the April issue of Health Affairs, and was led by John Romney.)  To put that into perspective, the actuarial cost of such coverage—how much insurance companies would expect to spend per person if everyone obtained such coverage—is around $5 per month.

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After Reform

One in six Americans at some point during this year will go without health insurance.  Most of them at any  given point in time do not need it.

One in ten working Americans are without gainful employment right now. Every one of them wants a job . . . right now.

That as much as anything explains Tuesday’s Senate special election result in Massachusetts, the only state in the union that has a health insurance plan similar to ones passed in the House and Senate last year. Were voters there rejecting their own system? Not according to every poll that asks the question. The Bay State has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation; local residents have learned to participate in the insurance exchange set up under its plan (passed under a Republican governor); and people seem to like it.

So any commentary that seeks to make health care reform the scapegoat for voters choosing Scott Brown, an obscure state senator, over an aloof attorney general Martha Coakley, is off the mark.

Massachusetts hasn’t solved its health care problem. Its costs are still rising at an unsustainable pace, suggesting the reforms in the national legislation won’t solve that problem either.

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