See How America’s Health Care Costs and Outcomes Compare to Others

I have been busy on a project and not blogging as frequently.  Given the discussions about health care in the election, however, I thought people would find this brief graphic video by the Kaiser Family Foundation of interest.  It shows quite clearly our costs and outcomes from drugs to hospitals and doctors and life expectancy.

http://www.healthsystemtracker.org/health-of-the-healthcare-system/

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit foundation.   www.kff.org   The reporter is Julie Rovner, a seasoned and respected health care journalist.

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Who Have We Become?

Speaker Paul Ryan’s new call to repeal the Affordable Care Act is either a bluff or completely blind and heartless. Imperfect as it is—and the legislation certainly has flaws—the Act assures people have access to health insurance even with a pre-existing health condition and fewer families face bankruptcy, crushing debt or lose their homes because of medical costs.  Hospitals and doctors are now held accountable for patient safety and outcomes. They face public reports and fines if they fail to do so.  They beginning to focus on value and send one bill for a procedure, such as hip or knee replacements, rather than two separate confusing bills.

Insurance companies now must limit their profits and administrative costs to 20 to 25% of member premiums. If they fail to do so, they must return some of the premium dollars members paid. Insurers can no longer set a lifetime maximum financial limit on what they will pay for a person’s medical costs.  People can get coverage immediately when they buy insurance not wait for their coverage to begin. Medicaid now covers more people, including single males for the first time. Individual have subsidies to buy insurance. Nursing homes must report their ownership, a first step to hold them accountable.  Doctors must now report their financial ties with pharmaceutical companies. Hospitals can  now  be fined $50,000 for failing to survey community health needs and developing a plan to meet those needs.

With exceptions for some employers, all insurance policies must offer the same Essential Benefit packages.  This guarantees some promise of administrative simplicity and guaranteed benefits people can count on, thereby reducing wasteful administrative costs. People can choose the basic set or they can buy additional benefits. Mental health services must be covered like all medical and surgical procedures. There are many more provisions.

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Congress Tackles Drug Prices: Much Bipartisan Support; and Recent Trends in Drug Costs Here and What Other Countries Pay

Finally it looks like Congress might just re-visit Medicare Part D and let Medicare negotiate rates with drug companies.   See charts below: http://www.statnews.com/2015/12/01/stat-harvard-drug-prices-poll/  The VA and Medicaid can negotiate rates.

Senate Special Committee on Aging holds drug costs hearing December 9th.  Follow the link below to drug price trends. Scroll down to see what other countries charge.  One chart shows a spike in drug prices in the 1990s.  That was when drug companies were allowed to start direct to consumer advertising.

http://www.healthsystemtracker.org/chart-collection/what-are-the-recent-and-forecasted-trends-in-prescription-drug-spending/?utm_campaign=KFF%3A+The+Latest&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=24440105&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-9O62mlomhQ_hY-o6Uf9i87Wl1IUg4rcJbAdWsRK0XPuEqYBVc9tQ7kSHQm-qw0vsrXnbKsXja_V65UkQqYF2NKUvVX9A&_hsmi=24440105

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Drug Costs and Congress: Investments, Contributions and You

A scathing new article on Congress and its financial conflicts of interests with drug and device companies appears in STAT, a news firm specializing in health and science. It examines Senators and Representatives who have oversight of the FDA and other regulatory agencies, but who have significant investments in the very companies those agencies regulate.   http://www.statnews.com/2015/12/01/congress-pharmaceutical-investment/.*

Another study was just released by the Kaiser Family Foundation about drug costs and different Part D drug coverage.  http://kff.org/medicare/issue-brief/it-pays-to-shop-variation-in-out-of-pocket-costs-for-medicare-part-d-enrollees-in-2016

Here’s what pharmaceutical spending looks like: Source: Altarum Institute: http://altarum.org/research-centers/center-for-sustainable-health-spending

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2015 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine and Integrative Health

The Nobel Prize for Physiology and Science was awarded to three scientists this year.  One was for Malaria treatment using natural medicine. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/

Laureates’ work and biographies: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/2015/press.html

I rely on heavily on Western medicine but I have also successfully used integrative medicine for years. Consequently, Dr. Tu’s award interested me.  The award came at the same time the  Bastyr University history I co-authored was published. The Nobel Prize recognition and Bastyr’s history demonstrate we are stronger when we work together to have evidence in both medical and integrative medicine.

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Drug Clinical Trials, Comparative Effectiveness, and much more

In 2013, I ran a 2 column series on how pharmaceutical products are tested and evaluated before going on the market (see link below). In light of the current discussions about drug prices, here are some things you might be interested in knowing plus an illuminating article from The Washington Post about the drug Pradaxa:

1)            Clinical trials:

  1. Trials are conducted with a limited number of people for a limited about of time. The people who participate in the trials often don’t have other health conditions. Consequently-
  2. When a drug comes on the market people with additional medical problems can face problems with other medications they are on and/ or with other health conditions.

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A Place for Your Voice and A Chance to be Heard–From the Heart Again

In 1995, I interviewed the President of the Kaiser Family Foundation for an article in HMO Magazine, which was published by the Group Health Association of America.  The issues about about a public voice are depressingly the same!

Unless we get people involved in the health care debate on terms they fully understand any public support of health care reform is up for grabs…..When someone says the public doesn’t understand the issue, it’s  a red flag to me that health care reform will be open season for spin doctors. We must get the public involved in the debate now. Unless we do, the public will get the messages that build on their distrust of government, and they will turn away from reform.” Drew Altman, President, Kaiser Family Foundation, Menlo Park, CA.    Important VoicesIs there Any Voice for the Public in Health Care Reform?  by Kathleen O’ConnorJan 1995,  HMO Magazine.   www.kff.org

But now, you can have a voice!  Read Below:

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My New Appointment to Medical Quality Assurance Commission

I am pleased to announce that I have been appointed by Governor Inslee to serve as one of six public members on the state’s Medical Quality Assurance Commission.   The Commission’s goal is: “Promoting patient safety and enhancing the integrity of the profession through licensing, discipline, rule making and education. “

The Commission has 21 gubernatorial appointed members:  Thirteen physicians, six public members and two physician assistants.  The members ensure there are sufficient case reviewers, panel members for hearings and adequate representation on special committees.

The appointment was made in mid-August.

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