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Diabetes: An Expensive Disease

Back when I was a young bird with type 1 diabetes, insulin cost about $70 dollars per bottle.  (And I had to walk uphill both ways to the endocrinologist’s office.)  I had no concept of this cost, or how it played into my family’s finances, at the time.  I would just open the fridge door, grab the bottle, uncap the orange top to a 1cc syringe, and take the units my mom would yell to me from the kitchen sink.

“Two. Two of Regular should do it.  Rotate to your right arm this time, okay?”

“Okay!”  (And then I’d proceed to jab it into my left arm because I’m right-handed and also stubborn.)

Now, twenty-five years later, insulin has taken a bit of a price hike.  I just ordered a three month supply of Humalog from Medco and the total for the insulin came to six hundred and ninety-seven dollars.  For six bottles of Humalog that will be all gobbled up by early March.  (And thanks to a high, but manageable-on-paper deductible, we’re responsible for the full cost this round.)  Almost seven hundred dollars worth of insulin.

We’re lucky that we’re able to pay for that cost without panicking, but knowing what these bottles cost without the assistance of insurance makes me look at everything through a diabetes lens.  When three days are up on my insulin pump site, I am very aware of Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

Even With Health Care Reform, Many Will Still Encounter Problems

Trudy LiebermanA couple weeks ago I walked the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska, talking to men and women about whether they thought Washington was listening to their economic concerns.  Jeff Melichar manages his family’s Phillips 66 gas station on the city’s main street, and one of his big financial problems happens to be health insurance.  The more we talked, the more I realized what a jam he could be in down the road because of a loophole in the health reform law, which has received almost no press coverage or public discussion: If you have health insurance from your employer, you may have to keep it whether or not it’s adequate or affordable.  Buying less expensive or better coverage from one of the state “exchanges” or shopping services will be off limits.  So despite all that talk about consumer choice, for many like the Melichars, there may be no choice.

Melichar’s wife is eligible for health insurance from the optical company where she works.   But the family waited until this fall to enroll when the firm offered coverage they finally could afford.  Their premium is Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Prepared Patient Forum: What It Takes Blog*

The Plight Of The Uninsured

This is depressing:

A 24-year-old Cincinnati father died from a tooth infection this week because he couldn’t afford his medication, offering a sobering reminder of the importance of oral health and the number of people without access to dental or health care.

According to NBC affiliate WLWT, Kyle Willis’ wisdom tooth started hurting two weeks ago. When dentists told him it needed to be pulled, he decided to forgo the procedure, because he was unemployed and had no health insurance.

When his face started swelling and his head began to ache, Willis went to the emergency room, where he received prescriptions for antibiotics and pain medications. Willis couldn’t afford both, so he chose the pain medications.

The tooth infection spread, causing his brain to swell. He died Tuesday.

It can’t be denied that his poor decision-making was the proximate cause of this guy’s death (and many times I’ve gotten the maddening call from the pharmacy, “Doctor, the patient only wants the narcotics”). The underlying cause, however, was the fact that he was uninsured. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Movin' Meat*

Even With Insurance, Childbirth Is An Expensive Undertaking

Childbirth hospital costs these days aren’t cheap. Some studies suggest the cost of raising a child exceeds $200,000, not including education expenses.   Most insurance companies charge women of childbearing age more for their insurance because the actuarial tables say so.  Mrs  Happy and I now have a 3 month old Zachary in our wings.  He is a cute little peanut.  His two brothers, Marty and Cooper adore him.

Forty-two days after his April 21st, 2011 delivery, we still had not received our explanation of benefits from Blue Cross Blue Shield for the midwife charge.  I had previously received a statement from them saying the charge was under review.  Perhaps they believed that delivering Zachary was not medically necessary.  I can’t explain it.

When I called to ask them why this charge had not been approved,  they said they could not give me a reason why my explanation of benefits statement had not been finalized after 42 days.  I pressed for more information, but to no avail. I was given no reason other than to say that they had a lot of claims to review.   That’s not an acceptable reason to delay a payment of a claim. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Happy Hospitalist*

Some Young Europeans Are Starting To Eat Like Americans

For years I have touted the health benefits of the “Mediterranean Diet” and encouraged patients to eat like the Europeans.   Fresh farm vegetables, olive oil, fish and red wine have been linked with longevity and good health.  I just read in NPR news that young Italians are forgoing the eating patterns of their elders and are imitating the “U.S. diet”.  The result is soaring obesity, just like in the United States.

According the the article, young Italians ages 6-12 are sitting in front of the TV and are eating fast foods and soda.  In just three generations, the eating habits and activity of kids has changed from their healthy grandparents.  Italian health officials say obesity is reaching epidemic proportions.

Part of the diet changes are a result of Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

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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