One In Four Cancer Survivors Can’t Afford Their Medical Care–And We’re Blaming The Wrong People

According to a recent CDC survey, one in four cancer survivors struggle to pay their medical bills. An even higher number worry about whether they’ll be able to scrounge up the money to pay off their out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

I’m quite comfortable blaming the healthcare industry, writ large, for this problem. Healthcare prices in the United States are outrageously high. The cost of cancer care in particular is often unjustifiably burdensome, with new chemotherapies typically coming to market at prices exceeding $100,000 per patient even when they yield pretty modest health benefits.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Medicare Pays More Money To Doctors Taking Care Of Rich Patients. Here’s Why.

It has always been financially rewarding for doctors to take care of rich patients. People with more money…well, they have more money to spend on healthcare. But shouldn’t this more money/higher payment relationship go away in Medicare?

It doesn’t, and some recent payment reforms may be making matters worse.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

What Higher Ed Can Learn From Health Care

Check out my recent interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education about the rising costs of education and healthcare:

For decades, higher education has come under public scrutiny for rising costs. But there is at least one other sector that seems to feel even more heat from policy makers and ire from the public. That sector is health care — and the parallels are not lost on Peter Ubel, a physician who is a professor in Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

“I realize that I’ve been making my living off both education and health care, and they’re the parts of the economy where the cost has gone up far faster than overall inflation, and I’ve benefited my whole career,” he says. “So I feel guilty on both counts.”

He’s doing something to address that guilt. Ubel’s new book, Sick to Debt, describes the economics of health care and the decision-making of patients, and offers some solutions that could help both society and individuals save money. Health care’s changes have in many ways mirrored those in higher ed: Just as colleges have turned to adjuncts and distance education, hospitals now rely more on physician assistants and technology, like telemedicine, to help scale their services. Small hospitals and clinics are also increasingly consolidating, an outcome that seems likely for the nation’s small institutions.

(To read the full interview, please visit The Chronicle for Higher Education.)

American Healthcare Prices -Simply Outrageous

When it comes to healthcare spending, the U.S. is without peer. Consider the 20 countries making up the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (called the OECD by the cool kids). The organization includes countries like Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, and the Czech Republic. Oh also Finland, France, Germany…you get the idea. It also includes the U.S. That means we can compare U.S. healthcare spending to lots of other countries and see exactly what’s going on.

And here’s what is going on. The median country in the OECD spends around 9% of its GDP on healthcare. The U.S. spends more than 17%.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Pharma Says Price Regulation Will Take Life-Saving Drugs Away From Us. Here’s The Truth.

The US isn’t the only country struggling with the high price of prescription drugs. A decade ago, Germany was facing rapidly rising medication prices. In 2011, it struck back, with a law regulating the price of new medications. Here’s how that law works, and what it has meant for whether Germans have access to new medications.

The law set up an independent, nonprofit institution known as IQWiG (which I pronounce ICK-wig) tasked with determining whether new drugs are priced to reflect value. The folks at IQWiG study the evidence of a new drug’s effectiveness, present the results of their analysis publically, and then review public comments on their analysis. After determining how much benefit a drug produces, the drug company now negotiates prices with the umbrella organization overseeing the nation’s private insurance system. A drug company whose product yields modest benefits is going to have a hard time negotiating a high price.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

The Life Expectancy Of Your Favorite Presidential Candidate

Many of the front runners in the presidential campaign are octogenarians. President Trump, a virtual lock to be the Republican nominee, is 73 years old. Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden are 78 and 77, respectively. Which raises a question: if elected, how likely are they to survive a 4-year term in office?

There’s no perfect answer to this question. Any estimates are just that—estimates. Lacking detailed medical data, such estimates are even less reliable. That said, it is illuminating to consider what the typical life span is for people of the age of each of the current candidates.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Time To Ban Kid-Friendly Flavors For E-Cigarettes

Cinnamon. Buttered popcorn. Strawberry and banana. Yummy tastes and smells that have lingered in my TV room, after my teenage son and his friends finish vaping. E-cigarette companies like Juul are creating flavors designed to lure young customers, following a tradition established by their cigarette-manufacturing predecessors. For a while, the Trump administration appeared poised to ban all flavored e-cigarrettes. Later this fall, after intense lobbying and after fretting over the possibility that such a ban would harm his re-election chances, the President backed off . Now, word comes out of the White House that the ban is back on, this time carving out exceptions for menthol and tobacco flavors . This is an important and wise move.  All these candy-like flavors need to be banned. There is no public health justification for allowing companies to hook adolescents on their addictive products.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)



Here’s How Tripling Prices Could Save You 40% On Your Medications

Medication prices in the US have gone from wild to insane; from expensive to outright unaffordable. But a tripling in prices could save us all a lot of money. Here’s how that would work.

It’s a policy known as external reference pricing. The idea is simple. First, the US government would look at how much a drug company charges for a given medication in a handful of other developed countries. Next, it would tie the US price to some multiple of that international price.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

Show ‘Em the Money: Paying Patients to Shop for Affordable Medical Care

After three months of physical therapy, her doctor told her that it was time to get an MRI. She had already paid off her annual deductible, meaning the imaging test would “only” cost her the $150 co-pay. An imaging center near where she worked charged $1500 for the test. Just two miles away, another facility would have just charged only $900 for the same test. She arranged to go to the more convenient location knowing the difference in price would be picked up by her insurance company.


(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)

An $800 Head Cold? Time to Fight for Price Transparency in American Healthcare

Jay Singh had a nasty head cold. Not a “will-I-survive-this-plague” kind of infection, but also not one he thought, if left to its own devices, would blow over in a day or two. So he went to the primary care clinic near his exurban New York City home. The doctor spent ten minutes examining and talking to Singh (a pseudonym), a quick look at his throat, a cursory listen to his lungs. The doctor ordered a routine “respiratory viral panel” and prescribed a cough suppressant. Singh had already anted up a co-pay for the office visit, but a few weeks later he received a bill for the services rendered: $800 to cover his doctor’s time and the cost of the viral panel.

I spoke to Singh several months after his appointment, and he was still determined to leverage his experience into political action: he thinks it’s time for the state of New York, perhaps the whole U.S., to bring healthcare prices out of the dark so patients like him can make informed decisions about their medical care.

(To read the rest of the article, please visit Forbes.)