Can health care be cured of racial bias

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Jane Lazarre was pacing the hospital waiting room. Her son Khary, 18, had just had knee surgery, but the nurses weren’t letting her in to see him.

“They told us he would be out of anesthesia in a few minutes,” she remembered. “The minutes became an hour, the hour became two hours.”

She and her husband called the surgeon in a panic. He said that Khary had come out of anesthesia violently — thrashing and flailing about.

He told Lazarre that with most young people Khary’s age, there wouldn’t have been a problem. The doctors and nurses would have gently held him down.

“But with our son, since he was so ‘large and powerful,’ they were worried he might injure the medical staff,” Lazarre said. “So they had to keep sending him back under the anesthesia.”

Khary was 6 feet tall. But he was slim.

“He wasn’t the giant they were describing him as,” Lazarre said.

Lazarre is white. Her husband is black. Lazarre says there’s no doubt in her mind that the medical team’s fear of Khary was because of race. Continue reading

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New tool helps you check on doctors’ licensure info

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Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 12.46.16 PMFrom the FSMB

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has launched a free online resource to provide consumers with important background information on the more than 900,000 actively licensed physicians in the United States, including whether or not a physician has been disciplined by a state medical board.

The Docinfo physician search tool (www.docinfo.org) draws data from the FSMB’s Physician Data Center, the nation’s most comprehensive database of physician licensure and disciplinary information. Continue reading

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Providence and Walgreens to open new retail clinics

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29897_Logo3_310x137Walgreens and Providence Health & Services increase the number of their retail clinics Oregon and Washington to 25.

“Providence and Swedish Express Care at Walgreens will offer a fast, easy and affordable option for treating common illnesses and injuries.

The clinics will operate extended hours seven days a week, allow for walk-ins and same-day scheduling and provide an after-hours option for care on evenings and weekends,” Providence said in a statement.

The clinics will be owned and operated by Providence and its affiliates, and become the first to open at Walgreens stores under a new collaborative services model.

Providence Express Care at Walgreens, or Swedish Express Care at Walgreens in the Seattle area, will open three clinics in both the Portland and Seattle areas in early 2016, with plans for further expansion within the next two years.

In the first six clinics, Swedish providers will staff Issaquah, Kirkland and Renton, Wash. locations and Providence providers will staff Beaverton and Milwaukie, OR. and Vancouver, WA locations.

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Americans favor government action on drug prices – poll

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KHN

Most Americans value the prescription products the drug industry produces, but they sure don’t like the prices and want the federal government to take action, according to a new survey.

Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: August 2015

Just over half of Americans (54 percent) are currently taking a prescription drug. While most say their drugs are easy to afford, consumers in general (72 percent) believe drug costs are unreasonable, according to the poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent part of the foundation.)

More people (51 percent) think competition would do a better job of controlling prices than federal regulation (40 percent).

But large majorities said they would favor allowing Medicare to negotiate with companies on prices and allowing people to buy medicines imported from Canada. Continue reading

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Nearly all contact lens users report risky eye care behaviors that can lead to eye infections

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Photo: Etan J. Tal (CC)

Photo: Etan J. Tal (CC)

From the CDC

Almost all of the 41 million estimated contact lens wearers in the United States may be engaging in at least one behavior known to increase their risk of eye infections, according to a report published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nearly one-third of contact lens wearers who participated in a national survey reported going to the doctor for red or painful eyes related to wearing contact lenses.

More than 99 percent of survey respondents reported at least one risky behavior. The majority of wearers reported:

  • Keeping their contact lens cases for longer than recommended (82.3 percent);
  • “Topping off” solution in the case—adding new solution to the existing solution instead of emptying the case out fully before adding new solution (55.1 percent); or
  • Wearing their lenses while sleeping (50.2 percent).

Each of these behaviors has been reported in previous studies to raise the risk of eye infections by five times or more. Continue reading

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Washington exchange customers must pay premiums to insurers directly beginning September 24th

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WA_Healthplanfinder_RGB

 Healthplanfinder Announces Premium Payment Change for Customers

Health, dental plan customers must pay insurance companies beginning Sept.

Washington Healthplanfinder today announced that current Qualified Health Plan and Qualified Dental Plan customers must pay their monthly premium payment directly to their insurance company beginning Sept. 24.

Washington Healthplanfinder will no longer accept premium payments after Sept. 23. Continue reading

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The hospital is in network, but not the doctor – New York tries a fix

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The Hospital Is In Network, But Not The Doctor: N.Y. Tries New Balance Billing Law

By Elana Gordon, WHYY

He thought it was pneumonia. Michael Trost, 52 and seemingly healthy, just wasn’t feeling right. During a chance break at work as a wood finisher, Trost’s wife brought him to an emergency room near where they live at the edge of the Poconos in Dingmans Ferry, Pa.

“They’ll give me a chest x-ray and antibiotics and I’ll be on my way,” Trost thought.

Michael Trost of Dingmans Ferry, Pa. (seen here with his wife, Susan Rosalsky) was billed $32,325 for a surgery with an out-of-network doctor in an in-network hospital. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

Michael Trost of Dingmans Ferry, Pa. (seen here with his wife, Susan Rosalsky) was billed $32,325 for a surgery with an out-of-network doctor in an in-network hospital. (Elana Gordon/WHYY)

Trost left in April with much more than that: six weeks at home, recovering from open-heart surgery.

Even though they made a point of going to hospitals covered by their insurance, the doctor who performed the surgery was out-of-network.

Doctors had learned that Trost’s heart was “pumping really hard, and it’s not working,” he recalls, so they transferred him to a bigger hospital for a mitral valve repair. He was discharged a few days later.

But a few weeks after the unanticipated surgery, the bills started rolling in, including one for $32,325.

Turns out, even though the two had made a point of going to hospitals that were covered by their insurance, the doctor who performed the heart surgery was out-of-network. Continue reading

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Cost of diabetes drugs often overlooked, but shouldn’t be

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GlucometerBy Michelle Andrews
KHN

When it comes to treating chronic conditions, diabetes drugs aren’t nearly as sexy as say, Sovaldi, last year’s breakthrough hepatitis C drug that offers a cure for the chronic liver infection at a price approaching six figures.

Yet an estimated 29 million people have diabetes — about 10 times the number of people with hepatitis C — and many of them will take diabetes drugs for the rest of their lives. Cost increases for both old and new drugs alike are forcing many consumers to scramble to pay for them.

“Every week I see patients who can’t afford their drugs.”

“Every week I see patients who can’t afford their drugs,” says Dr. Joel Zonszein, an endocrinologist who’s director of the clinical diabetes center at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Many people with diabetes take multiple drugs that work in different ways to control their blood sugar. Although some of the top-selling diabetes drugs like metformin are modestly priced generics, new brand-name drugs continue to be introduced that act in different ways.

They may be more effective and have fewer side effects, but it often comes at a price. For the fourth year in a row, spending on diabetes drugs in 2014 was higher on a per member per year basis than it was for any other class of traditional drug, according to the Express Scripts 2014 Drug Trend Report. Less than half of the prescriptions filled for diabetes treatments were generic. Continue reading

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Medicare says doctors should get paid to discuss end-of-life issues

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By Kristian Foden-Vencil, Oregon Public Broadcasting and Stephanie O’Neill, Southern California Public Radio

Remember the so-called death panels?

When Congress debated the Affordable Care Act in 2009, the legislation originally included a provision that would have allowed Medicare to reimburse doctors when they meet with patients to talk about end-of-life care.

But then Sarah Palin argued that such payments would lead to care being withheld from the elderly and disabled. Her comment ignited a firestorm among conservatives and helped fuel the opposition to the legislation. Continue reading

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Is a double knee replacement right for you?

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Having both knees replaced at the same time has advantages

By Dr. David Kieras
Virginia Mason

samIf someone you know has severe arthritis in both knees that greatly reduces their quality of life, they may be a candidate for bilateral simultaneous knee replacement surgery, where both joints are simultaneously operated on in one surgical procedure.

Although not an option for everyone, this approach is enticing to many people who dread the idea of recovering from two separate surgeries, which delays recovery and a return to normal activities for several months, if not years.

Bilateral ‘staged’ knee replacement – one knee surgery followed by another – is not uncommon.  However, bilateral simultaneous knee replacement is more advanced and uncommon due to the special expertise and team coordination required.

It can be beneficial for people who have limited time off from work for rehabilitation and need to return to a more normal lifestyle as quickly as possible. Continue reading

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To survive, rural hospitals join forces

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By Michael Ollove
Stateline

WILLCOX, Arizona—Ask Sam Lindsey about the importance of Northern Cochise Community Hospital and he’ll give you a wry grin. You might as well be asking the 77-year-old city councilman to choose between playing pickup basketball—as he still does most Fridays—and being planted six feet under the Arizona dust.

Many of the country’s rural hospitals are struggling. Can “alliances” with other hospitals help them survive?

Lindsey believes he’s above ground, and still playing point guard down at the Mormon church, because of Northern Cochise. Last Christmas, he suffered a severe stroke in his home. He survived, he said, because his wife, Zenita, got him to the hospital within minutes. If it hadn’t been there, she would have had to drive him 85 miles to Tucson Medical Center. FOR RURAL HOSPITAL STORY

There are approximately 2,300 rural hospitals in the U.S., most of them concentrated in the Midwest and the South.

For a variety of reasons, many of them are struggling to survive. In the last five years, Congress has sharply reduced spending on Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, and the patients at rural hospitals tend to be older than those at urban or suburban ones.

Rural hospitals in sparsely populated areas see fewer patients but still have to maintain emergency rooms and beds for acute care. They serve many people who are uninsured and can’t afford to pay for the services they receive.  Continue reading

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When rehab might help an addict, but insurance won’t cover it – WITF-Fm

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Federal law requires insurance firms to cover treatment for addiction as they do treatment for other diseases. But some families say many drug users aren’t getting the inpatient care they need.

Cris and Valerie Fiore hold one of their favorite pictures of their sons Anthony (with the dark hair) and Nick. Anthony died from a heroin overdose in May 2014 at the age of 24. Cris Fiore’s eulogy described his son’s death as a shock, but “not a surprise.” Anthony had been addicted to heroin for years.

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