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Share Your Story: Has Social Media Improved Your Health Or Work In Medicine?

There is a new social campaign being launched right now on that curates the medical resources of social media in 80 topics in 18 languages:

We receive hundreds of suggestions from empowered patients and medical professionals every week about which social media resources should be included in our selections, and we thought we must find a way to let them know how much we appreciate their help.

So now we kindly ask you to tell us your story about how social media helped you improve your health management or helped you get better in your specialty in order to win grand prizes.

As we curate resources in basically all the social media platforms, you can tell your story in any platforms from Twitter and Facebook to blogs and Youtube. Your submissions will be Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

Small Hospital Places A Bet With Big Insurance

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and Caritas Christi Health System are announcing a new agreement that some suggest may be a model for the rest of the country.

Under it, the non-profit insurer will stop paying the non-profit hospital on a fee-for-service basis for certain insureds:

Under the deal expected to be announced Friday, Caritas . . . will be paid to take care of about 60,000 Blue Cross members in its new program — whether or not they get sick. Caritas will use some of the payments for preventive services to help keep patients healthy. If Caritas can keep health-care costs under a certain budget, it can make a profit. But if health-care costs go over the agreed-on amount, Caritas is on the hook. . . . . Blue Cross is adding a carrot: If doctors and hospitals can meet certain quality targets, they can earn a bonus of as much as 10% on the value of the deal. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Government Insurance & Running Naked Through Storm Risks

There has been a lot of talk about the way in which a public health insurer would compete against private ones.  As the President put it recently:

People say, well, how can a private company compete against the government?  And my answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining — meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do — then I think private insurers should be able to compete.  They do it all the time.

He makes a good point.  But we don’t have to talk about this in theory – we can look at existing state insurance programs to see how they operate.

In states prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, the market for private insurance has become increasingly uncompetitive.  Several state governments have responded by setting up public insurance programs to sell coverage to property owners in their states.  They operate something like private insurance companies – collecting premiums, maintaining reserves, and, importantly, buying reinsurance in the event of a catastrophe that exceeds what they can pay for themselves.

The New York Times reports that a number of the state insurers are thinking of doing something that a private insurer would likely never do: dropping their reinsurance coverage.  It could save hundreds of millions of dollars a year.  But it would expose them to billions of dollars in risk – that they likely would be unable to pay.  The Times calls it “running naked through storm risks.”

Why can they do this?

I suspect that in the event of a bad hurricane that depleted their reserves, these insurers believe they can turn to the state or federal government to cover their losses.  They are acting as if they already have a sort of “free” reinsurance from the government.  Or, to use a modern expression, they are assuming they will get a bail out if something bad happens.

What it means is that these companies aren’t running anything like a private insurer.  By not accounting for the cost of a catastrophe, they aren’t dealing with the real insurance risk they are taking.  As long as a disaster doesn’t happen they save money.  But when (not if) a major hurricane hits, they will be swept away in the storm, leaving the state and federal government – and the rest of us – with the bill.

“It’s typical of governments today to not be willing to make the hard decisions that are necessary to face up to the true risks and the true costs of the policies that they’ve undertaken,” said Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group.

The Times says there are some efforts underway to formalize this sort of “implicit guarantee” from the government.  That might be a step in the right direction if it forces everyone to grapple with the extent of this risk.

But what we see with these kinds of insurers is one of the important ways in which public insurers really aren’t the same as private ones.

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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