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Tag: Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Medical debt is increasing even for the insured

Four in 10 Americans had trouble paying for medical care in 2007, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s latest study on medical debt.

The study, "Losing Ground: How the Loss of Adequate Health Insurance Is Burdening Working Families," looks at 2007 data on consumers’ and health costs.

Costproblems_2The Fund’s researchers examine 4 areas of cost-related access problems when it comes to health care for Americans age 19-64:

  • Those who did not fill a prescription (31%)
  • People not seeing a specialist when needed (20%)
  • Those skipping a medical test, treatment or follow up (25%)
  • Adults with a medical problem, but not seeing a doctor or clinic (31%).

Overall, 45 percent of American adults age 19-64 had at least one of these cost-access problems. This includes 29 percent of people who were insured all year.

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Back-to-school specials at the retail clinic

People have begun to ration themselves off of medical visits and prescription drugs, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC).

One in 5 Americans said they reduced visits to the doctor due to the slowing economy. One in 10 have reduced their prescription drug intake.

The NAIC found that 85 percent of Americans have made a change to their health insurance policy.

In related news, Take Care Clinics, part of Walgreens, is offering school and sports physicals for $25 to patients 18 months of age and older. The clinics will also certify that kids’ immunizations are up-to-date. The launch of this targeted service is well-timed for back-to-school physicals when pediatricians’ offices can be very busy in the weeks leading up to school starts. Take Care’s press release has been quick to point out that, "School and sports physicals at a Take Care Clinic do not take the place of a child’s yearly routine health exam and complete developmental assessment." Take Care has about 200 clinics in 14 states.

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Connecting the dots between gas and health costs

Rite Aid, a top retail pharmacy chain, awarded its first Fill Up & Fuel Up gasoline gift cards this week.

I’ve been writing about gas ‘n health care since the inception of the Health Populi blog; see this inaugural post.Gas

Now comes a pharmacy connecting the dots between consumer spending categories: the interdependency of fuel and prescription drugs.

As the differences between price tiers of prescription drugs have increased over the past ten years, I’ve often asked pharma clients the question: what is the consumer’s marginal value of that $20 (or $30 or $50) co-payment compared to something else on their shopping list — say, a new electric razor for their husband, or that $95 jar of anti-aging skin cream?

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Health spending disconnect

There’s a disconnect between who Americans believe is responsible for their personal health status, and who should pay for health care.

On the first question — personal responsibility for health choices — 82 percent of Americans believe that they alone are responsible for their health.

However, only 44 percent believe that they should bear no responsibility for paying for health care.

The Vitality Group, a subsidiary of Discovery Holdings Ltd., surveyed Americans and found that most people (59%) look to their employer to bear at least some responsibility for health costs. Nearly one in two (46%) see the government as a payer.

Only 56 percent of Americans see themselves as picking up any part of health care costs.

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Wal-Mart launches telemedicine business

Leave it to Wal-Mart to continue to grow its franchise in health through yet anotherWalmart_logo2
revenue center. This time it’s telemedicine.

The company will pilot telemedicine through retail clinics in Houston, and will be trademarked as Walk-In Telemedicine Health Care. Wal-Mart will be partnering with My Healthy Access and NuPhysicia, the private company that comes out of the long-successful telemedicine program at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. Telemedicine was been pioneered at U-T in Galveston over the past 10 years, and the program has global reach.

Instead of employing nurse practitioners, the medical model for this program will use paramedics working under the supervision of physicians via various scopes technologies — electronic stethoscopes and beyond. NuPhysicia describes this process as, "interactive physician visits."

Jane’s Hot Points: While the retail clinic business may be flat, as I wrote on July 25, this new model will enhance patient choices on the retail health front beginning in Houston. If this program pans out in terms of process and outcomes measures, you can be sure Wal-Mart will replicate it in other metropolitan markets. Telemedicine in retail health clinics could differentiate Wal-Mart’s offering from other emerging clinic brands such as Minute Clinic, RediClinic, Take Care, and the many other storefronts among the 900+ clinics currently operating across the U.S.

Medicine meets Wiki

There’s a new wiki in the health social media town, Medpedia.

Among the most popular online sources for health information is Wikipedia. Millions of people search Wikipedia daily for insights into medical conditions, drugs, and procedures. Medpedia estimates it will cover information on at least 30,000 conditions/diseases and 10,000 drugs.

Now comes the announcement of a sharply-focused wiki from the most credible of academic health institutions: Harvard, Michigan (my alma mater), Stanford, UC-Berkeley, and a host of other highly-branded health associations and stakeholders including the NIH, the CDC, and the FDA.

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Good and bad health consequences of high gas prices

The price of gas is a headache for every consumer. But the health impacts of highGasprices
fuel prices go beyond that metaphorical symptom.

Consider medical supplies and home health. But it’s not all bad news: on the positive side, higher fuel prices could positive impact the obesity epidemic and the rate of motor vehicle fatalities. Read on.

Latex gloves and med-surg supplies. Think about one of the most ubiquitous medical supplies: gloves. Walgreens recently said a box of 120 private-label latex gloves has nearly doubled in price. In 2007, a consumer could purchase two boxes for $9.99; today, the store has a sale price of $7.99 for a single box. There’s a lot of oil in those protective goods.

Hospitals use petrol-intensive supplies ranging from gloves to bed pans and tubing, according to a column in the Youngstown Vindicator. A 200-bed hospital can use 16,000 gloves per day (6 million a year).

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Governors saddled with health costs

The National Governors Association (NGA) met in Philadelphia this week, where my City of Brotherly and Sisterly Love is witnessing some sobering discussions about health care.

On the one hand, Bill Clinton called in his opening keynote speech for the states to be laboratories of democracy.

But how much health-democracy can each governor afford when balancing their budget in the face of declining revenues? According to the NGA’s 2008 Fiscal Survey of the States, not a whole lot.

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People with high-deductible plans make riskier decisions

HealthaffairsPeople enrolled in high-deductible health plans tend to make more risky health
decisions than those enrolled in lower-deductible plans, according to a study published in the July/August issue of Health Affairs.

In Do Consumer-Directed Health Plans Drive Change In Enrollees’ Health Care Behavior? the authors find the answer is, "yes," probably.

Enrollees in the high-deductible CDHP were more likely to forgo medical care to save money.

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Health care financing confuses consumers

Consumers are interested in a variety of financial instruments to help them purchase health care. However, even when given a choice to shop for and eventual purchase insurance, millions of people don’t.Retailhealth

Consumers are confused about health plan choices and need help in financial decision making. Data from McKinsey presented in an essay, "What consumers want in health care," analyzes results from a survey of about 3,000 retail health consumers. According to McKinsey, "many consumers aren’t accustomed to shopping for health insurance, so they are not prepared for this additional responsibility."

One of the most surprising, sobering findings is that people were more concerned about the cost of illness than about the illness itself.

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