The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel tries to make sense of consumer health care prices and finds out that it can’t.
The right likes to fulminate about market forces and health care costs, as if someone whose doctor has admitting privileges at only one hospital, who is experiencing sudden chest pains, or who just fell of a ladder is in a position to stroll through the “health care marketplace” inspecting the wares.
Furthermore, comparison shopping for health care may indeed be contraindicated.
Wendell Potter explains that, when it comes to American health care, no, you are not getting what you pay for. Here’s a bit:
Americans spend more per capita on health care than people anywhere else in the world, yet outcomes in every other developed country are better on almost every measure, from infant mortality to life expectancy.
A big reason for that is our collective gullibility. We continue to believe what many politicians tell us, despite evidence to the contrary: that we have the best health care system in the world.
Similarly, we continue to be persuaded by insurance companies that they’re essential to the system and better than any government program could possibly be at controlling health care costs.
And we are still buying the pharmaceutical industry’s argument that if Americans don’t keep paying more for prescriptions than anyone else on the planet, drug companies—which have gargantuan profit margins—won’t be able to keep developing the drugs we need.
The California Franchise Tax Board has yanked Blue Shield of California’s non-profit status because, surprise, Blue Shield makes lots of profits. Blue Shield, natch, will appeal. Here’s a bit from the story:
“It also opens the door for us to challenge the tax exemption of a host of other not-for-profit companies that act as though they were for-profit companies by stockpiling cash and paying executives seven-figure salaries and having skyboxes,” said Jamie Court, president of Santa Monica-based Consumer Watchdog.
Court was referring to Blue Shield’s $2.5 million purchase of a skybox at Levi’s Stadium, the San Francisco 49ers’ new home in Santa Clara. Blue Shield has called the skybox a business expense needed to increase sales.
I am mildly surprised that Blue Cross did not justify the skybox at the football palace as a treatment for acrophobia.
Science 2.0 republishes an article by Harvard professor Scott O Lilienfeld exploring fads and myths about autism and the treatment thereof. In it, he attempts to understand the increase in diagnoses of autism and offers this explanation:
In the case of the autism-vaccine link, the soaring increase in autism diagnoses over the past two decades is certainly a contributor. But there is growing evidence that much of this spike reflects two factors: increasingly lax criteria for autism diagnosis across successive editions of the official psychiatric diagnostic manual (DSM), and heightened incentives for school districts to report autism and other developmental disabilities.
There is therefore ample reason to doubt that the “autism epidemic” actually reflects a genuine increase in the frequency of the condition. But the dramatic rise in diagnoses has led many people to believe in shadowy causal agents, such as childhood vaccinations.
He goes on to explore how treatment fads and fraud spread. In the light of the recent measles outbreaks because of the actions of anti-vaxxers, the whole article is worth a read.
The Deseret News skewers the notion of “religious objections” to vaccinations.
And while the question of personal objections to vaccinations remains a hot topic, one aspect seems to be indisputable: No major religion explicitly objects to immunization. The Deseret News identified one faith, with approximately 12,000 members, that has a tenet explicitly rejecting injections or vaccines of any kind.
But the world’s major faiths — Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism and Islam — have no explicit prohibitions against oral or injected vaccines. At times, some followers or preachers within a given religion or sect may have spoken against vaccination, but researcher John D. Grabenstein of Merck Vaccines, writing in the scientific journal Vaccine in April 2013, could find no sustained teaching against the practice in any major faith community.
According to the story, even Mary Baker Eddy said that vaccinations were okay.
John Romano comments on those states that still refuse to expand Medicaid so as to take full advantage of the Affordable Care Act:
For instance, what do Florida, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Maine and Kansas have in common besides Medicaid rejection? They’re all in the bottom half of states in median household income, according to the 2013 Census.
How about Florida, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Nebraska and Wisconsin? They all lag behind the U.S. average for percentage of residents 25 or older with bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
And how about Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Georgia? They’re among the states with the highest number of convictions of public officials in federal court from 1976 to 2010, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.com.
Do read the rest.
A new mother, a doctor no less, describes her experience as a patient in the Medical-Industrial Complex.
Do read it.
(Open tag fixed.)
A medical student summarizes the effects on Virginia’s rural poor of Republicans’ partisan rejection of Medicaid expansion. A snippet:
Medical students, are reminded daily of the need for primary care physicians in underserved areas of our state. We are taught the benefits of preventative medicine and how continuity of care contributes to better health outcomes. It is only logical that a healthier population is safer, more productive and more able to contribute to the economy at large.
However, our state legislature has demonstrated their allegiance to partisan politics over the health and welfare of the commonwealth. As a result, chronic diseases are more prevalent here in Appalachia than in any other part of the United States.
For example, disparities in cancer screening between Appalachian and controlled non-Appalachian populations result in significantly higher cancer incidence and mortality here in Appalachia. In addition, five-year survival rates for cancer patients in Appalachian populations are significantly lower than their non-Appalachian equivalents.
Wendell Potter explains the scam. A nugget:
We’ve been told over and over again by politicians and flacks — including me in my previous career — that we have the world’s best health care system. As I explained in Deadly Spin, if you continue to believe that no other country could possibly have a better system than ours, it’s because of the overwhelmingly successful PR campaign my former colleagues and I carried out over decades.
The purpose of that campaign — a campaign that’s ongoing, by the way — is to protect the profitable status quo by obscuring an empirical truth: that when it comes to access to affordable health care, millions of Americans might as well be living in a third world country. And that’s still true today, more than four years after Obamacare became law.
We need single-payer (emphasis added–read the rest).
An analysis this year by NerdWallet Health found that about 60 percent of all bankruptcies are health-related. And a comprehensive study by Harvard researchers who examined a large sample of 2007 bankruptcy filings found that “using a conservative definition, 62.1 percent of all bankruptcies . . . were medical.” That research, published in the American Journal of Medicine, found that most of these “medical debtors were well-educated, owned homes and had middle-class occupations.”
And although access to health insurance can help stave off medical debt, it doesn’t solve the problem. About 10 million insured Americans have medical bills they are unable to pay. The Harvard researchers found that three-quarters of the medical debtors they studied had health insurance.
As long as the primary goal of health insurance is paying country-club fees for health insurance CEOs, we are screwed.