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The Rising Price Of Health Care: How Are People Dealing With The Expense?

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak as a patient about “consumers and cost information” while being videotaped for use in the annual meeting of the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

RWJF Video - This Costs How Much?

I admire the aims of this initiative – “to lift the overall quality of health care in targeted communities, reduce racial and ethnic disparities and provide models for national reform” – and I think it has taught us some valuable lessons about what it takes to make even slight course corrections in the trajectory of the huge aircraft carrier that is health care.

Plus, I have listened to hundreds of people talk about their experiences with the rising price of health care: who thinks about it when and why, what individuals do to cut back on the expense, where they have been successful and where not. I’ve heard lots of stories, most of them involving Read more »

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

Hospitalist Recommends A Way Out Of Medicare And Medicaid

Ask yourself this question:  Would you pay 20-30% less in insurance premiums if it meant you were locked into one hospital system for your health care?  I would.  That’s  what one hospital system in Massachusetts is offering to provide.  It is, essentially, a concierge hospital plan.   You or your employer will pay a set premium, which the hospital is offering at a 20-30% discount, and you get all your health care needs in their system, only going to a competing hospital system if they are unable to provide your necessary services.

What a great idea.  In fact, it’s an idea I have thought about previously for Happy’s hospital.  Why shouldn’t Happy’s hospital offer direct premiums to large and small business employers in our city in exchange for reduced pricing?  I’d sign up.  My health insurance premiums cost over $12,000 a year.  In the eight years of my practice, I’ve probably sent over $100,000 to health insurance companies and realized less than $10,000 in expenses.

It’s a concept who’s time has come.  In fact, direct concierge hospital plans also offer patients and their employers the opportunity for tiered pricing for special amenities  (flat screen television service, pet therapy dog service, dialysis spa, designer ostomy covers, wine vending machines, free soda machines, gourmet cookies, closer parking,  door-to-door service, and 24 hour special access to their physicians and nursing staff).

No more worries about Read more »

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

Who Pays For Healthcare? When Doctors And Patients Don’t Care

The essence of the moral hazard experience through a nice neighborly conversation:

Neighbor: These allergies are killing me.
Happy:  That’s terrible. I hope you feel better.
Neighbor:  I tried Zyrtec but it wasn’t doing anything for me, so my doctor prescribed ’x.’ (inaudible drug name )
Happy:  Does it start with an ‘x?’ (The drugs name is Xyzal.)
Neighbor:  Yes, it does.
Happy: Oh, that drug (Xyzal) is nothing more than Zyrtec, which the company slightly changed the formula of and now they get to sell it as a patented medication at 10 times the price for the next 10 years.
Neighbor: Oh, I didn’t know that. But you’re right. It was  $110. 
Happy:  Did it help you with your allergies?
Neighbor: Nope.
Happy: I guess you just wasted $100.
Neighbor.  I didn’t waste anything. My insurance company paid for it.
Happy:  Actually, we all paid for it with higher premiums.
Neighbor: (Walks away.)

The doctor doesn’t care — he’s not paying for it. The patient doesn’t care — she’s not paying for it. But everyone complains that their insurance rates are out of control. It’s not insurance company profits that are making healthcare too expensive, it’s patients and doctors who don’t care. 

Bundled care solves this problem because the doctor won’t prescribe a $110 medication and offer therapies with no proven benefit over less-expensive options.

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

Latest Interviews

Caring For Winter Olympians In Sochi: An Interview With Team USA’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gloria Beim

I am a huge fan of the winter Olympics partly because I grew up in Canada where most kids can ski and skate before they can run and partly because I used to participate in Downhill ski racing. Now that I m a rehab physician with a reconstructed knee I…

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How Do Hospital Executives Feel About Locum Tenens Agencies And Traveling Physicians?

I recently wrote about my experiences as a traveling physician and how to navigate locum tenens work. Today I want to talk about the client in this case hospital side of the equation. I ve had the chance to speak with several executives some were physicians themselves about the overall…

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Latest Book Reviews

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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Unaccountable: A Book About The Underbelly Of Hospital Care

I met Dr. Marty Makary over lunch at Founding Farmers restaurant in DC about three years ago. We had an animated conversation about hospital safety the potential contribution of checklists to reducing medical errors and his upcoming book about the need for more transparency in the healthcare system. Marty was…

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