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Coverage Fact Labels For Various Medical Services: Will They Be Useful

It’s official now.  The government has proposed that descriptions of health insurance policies will resemble those nutritional labels on canned and packaged foods—the ones you look at to find out how much sodium there is in Birds Eye peas versus the A&P brand.  Instead of getting the scoop on salt or sugar, shoppers will learn what they have to pay out-of-pocket for various medical services.  They’ll also get some general information, like what services are not covered, and how much they’ll have to pay for maternity and diabetes care and breast cancer treatment, all organized in a standard format designed for easy comparison shopping.  Insurers will have to translate common insurance jargon into plain English.

The health reform law requires these “Coverage Fact Label” disclosures, and tasked the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) with creating them.   The NAIC released some samples a few weeks ago.  Theoretically, consumers armed with this information will choose wisely, and as free-market advocates say, their choices will regulate prices that insurers will charge.   If consumers choose the low-cost plans, Read more »

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

Nutrition Labels For Alcoholic Beverages?

Virtually all bottled beverages you can buy have handy-dandy nutrition labels from which you can access information about calories, carbs, and so forth. All beverages except the ones containing alcohol, that is. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because alcoholic beverages contain little to no protein, sodium, cholesterol, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, calcium and iron (remember that alcohol is metabolized as a fat, not a carbohydrate) — so why bother? Then again, alcohol does contain calories — a lot of them. Would people drink less if they knew how many calories they were consuming? Would they drink less if they knew how many “servings” of alcohol were contained in the bottle they just purchased?

Maybe it’s because of the cost of performing nutritional analyses on each vintage of wine, each and every year, would turn profitable vineyards into money losers? Then again, plenty of niche beverage producers who run reasonably narrow margin businesses have never complained about the requirement to provide nutritional information.

The Tax and Trade Bureau is the federal agency that decides what information must appear on the labels of alcoholic beverages. Currently, it does not require manufacturers of wine, beer and the hard stuff to list ingredients. It does require them to list chemicals that folks might have an adverse reaction to things like sulfites, aspartame, and dyes.

The Tax and Trade Bureau also mandates that wines containing 14 percent or more alcohol by volume must state this fact on a label. Wines containing less than 14 percent can either specify the alcohol content or affix the words “light wine” or “table wine” to their labels. In addition, “light” beer bottlers must state calorie and carbohydrate content, and distilled liquor bottlers must specify the alcohol content by volume. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Know Thy Calories: Nutrition Labeling Guidelines For Restaurants

As part of the new healthcare legislation (Affordable Care Act), the FDA has now published its guidelines for restaurants to inform consumers of the calorie counts of food. It establishes requirements for nutrition labeling of standard menu items for chain restaurants and chain vending machine operators.

This is important because Americans now consume an estimated one-third of their total calories from foods prepared outside the home. Consumers are generally unaware of the number of calories they consume from these foods, and being overweight or obese increases the risk of a number of diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer.

Here’s what the guidelines say:

– Restaurants with 20 or more locations must disclose the number of calories in each standard menu item on menus and menu boards (have 19 chain locations? You get a pass. Daily specials also get a pass.)

– Additional written nutrition information must be available to consumers upon request (total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium sugars, carbs, fiber, protein, etc.)

– The menu must say that the additional nutritional information is available. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

How To Lower Your Cholesterol

Your doctor has just informed you that you have “hyperlipidemia” – or high cholesterol. She’s mentioning lipid-lowering drugs (statins), but you said you want to try some things on your own first. She agrees and will recheck your blood levels in three months. What are you going to do?

The advice is all over the map and your Google searches come up with various supplements and diets that are confusing and overwhelming. Here are some specific recommendations, based on evidence, that can help you lower your cholesterol. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at EverythingHealth*

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Latest Book Reviews

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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

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