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Consumer-Driven Healthcare: Why It Will Fail

With the creation of consumer-driven health plans and health insurance policies with high deductibles linked to a savings option, more financial responsibility shouldered by patients and employees and less by employers was completely inevitable. The American public likes to have everything, whether consumer electronics or other services, as cheap as possible. With escalating healthcare expenses rising far more rapidly than wages or inflation, it’s not surprising employers needed a way to manage this increasingly-costly business expense.

In the past, companies faced a similar dilemma. It wasn’t about medical costs, but managing increasingly expensive retirement and pension plan obligations. Years ago, companies moved from these defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans like 401(k)s. After all, much like healthcare, the reasoning by many was that employees were best able to manage retirement planning because they would have far more financial incentive, responsibility, and self-motivation to make the right choices to ensure a successful outcome.   

How did that assumption turn out anyway? Disastrous, according to a recent Wall Street Journal article entitled “Retiring Boomers Find 401(k) Plans Fall Short.” An excerpt:

The median household headed by a person aged 60 to 62 with a 401(k) account has less than one-quarter of what is needed in that account to maintain its standard of living in retirement, according to data compiled by the Federal Reserve and analyzed by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College for The Wall Street Journal. Even counting Social Security and any pensions or other savings, most 401(k) participants appear to have insufficient savings. Data from other sources also show big gaps between savings and what people need, and the financial crisis has made things worse.

In others words, a lot of people don’t have enough money to retire. The options they have are simply “postponing retirement, moving to cheaper housing, buying less-expensive food, cutting back on travel, taking bigger risks with their investments, and making other sacrifices they never imagined…In general, people facing problems today got too little advice, or bad advice.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Saving Money and Surviving the Healthcare Crisis*

Doctors Are “Sponges?”

I am a doctor. Go ahead, call me what you may. Group me into a neatly, prejudged category: “All you doctors.” Just don’t label me a sponge.

That’s right. Recently in the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Andy Kessler, famous author and former hedge fund manager smart enough to turn $100 million into $1 billion, grouped doctors into a sub-category of the service economy which he labeled as “sponges.” We could have done worse: His other categories included “sloppers” (DMV workers), “slimers” (financial planners), and “thieves” (cable companies).

It seems that doctors — along with cosmetologists, lawyers, and real estate brokers — offend him because of the tests and licenses that we deem necessary:

Sponges are those who earned their jobs by passing a test meant to limit supply. According to this newspaper, 23% of U.S. workers now need a state license. The Series 7 exam is required for stock brokers. Cosmetologists, real estate brokers, doctors and lawyers all need government certification. All this does is legally bar others from doing the same job, so existing workers can charge more and sponge off the rest of us.

His essay goes on to argue the tired notion that technology endangers jobs in the service sector — the toll booth operator argument, again. He likes the creators of stuff: Apple and Google. (Duh.) But in my mind, doctoring is about creating something: We create better and longer lives for our patients. Ask the patient cured of cancer how happy they are that some doctor created his or her treatment plan. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Dr John M*

Vision Development: The Impact Of 3-D Video Games On Kids’ Eyes

nintendo3ds Nintendo Warns on 3 D Games for ChildrenLast week, Nintendo became the latest consumer electronics maker to warn that kids shouldn’t use their three-dimensional image-based gaming devices because they may have a negative impact on development of the human visual system.

The warning came just a month before the company’s much anticipated release of the 3DS, which is just such a device that features a 3.5-inch screen which can create 3-D images without the need for special glasses. The 3DS is Nintendo’s most anticipated new product since it released the iconic Wii gaming device in 2006.

Sony’s PlayStation3, a similar product that requires glasses to create the 3-D effect, already carries a similar warning, as do 3-D TV sets made by Sony, Samsung, and Panasonic.

Nintendo’s warning applies to kids that are six years old or younger. The Japanese company advised parents to block access to the game machine’s 3-D mode for these kids, while adding that it was okay for them to use the 3DS in 2-D mode. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Pizaazz*

Komen, Cancer, And Colbert: “Lawsuits For The Cure”

Comedian Stephen Colbert, who says he is “a huge supporter of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation,” nonetheless took a sarcastic swing at the organization this week “for spending almost a million dollars a year in donor funds to sue…other groups” for using the phrase “for the Cure” in their promotions.

We blogged, “Who owns pink ideas or cure slogans? Welcome to the Charity Brawl” back in August after the Wall Street Journal (to our knowledge) first reported the story.

Then in December, the Huffington Post reported that “Komen has identified and filed legal trademark oppositions against more than a hundred of these Mom and Pop charities, including Kites for a Cure, Par for The Cure, Surfing for a Cure and Cupcakes for a Cure — and many of the organizations are too small and underfunded to hold their ground.”

Colbert said: “If they don’t own the phrase ‘for the Cure,’ then people might donate money thinking it’s going to an organization dedicated to curing cancer, when instead it’s wasted on organizations dedicated to curing cancer.”

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Tip/Wag – Susan G. Komen Foundation & Spider-Man Musical<a>
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> Video Archive

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview Blog*

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) For Cancer: How Lucrative Is It For Doctors?

I’ve been traveling in Europe, including giving a talk at the Salzburg Global Seminar on involving and informing patients in healthcare decisions. In that presentation, I talked about promotion of a newer form of cancer radiation therapy called intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT).

So I want to point out that while I’ve been away the Wall Street Journal published an important piece on this very topic under the headline “A Device to Kill Cancer, Lift Revenue.” An excerpt:

Roughly one in three Medicare beneficiaries diagnosed with prostate cancer today gets a sophisticated form of radiation therapy called IMRT. Eight years ago, virtually no patients received the treatment.

The story behind the sharp rise in the use of IMRT—which stands for intensity-modulated radiation therapy—is about more than just the rapid adoption of a new medical technology. It’s also about financial incentives.

Taking advantage of an exemption in a federal law governing patient referrals, groups of urologists across the country have teamed up with radiation oncologists to capture the lucrative reimbursements IMRT commands from Medicare.

*This blog post was originally published at Gary Schwitzer's HealthNewsReview 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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