Another way that the insane medical system in the US squeezes money from sick people

Here is another post about the insanity of the US health system, a post that will be utterly incomprehensible to people who live in civilized countries where you are not blindsided by huge bills just because you get sick. It involves the practice of people getting ‘surprise bills’ after treatment. For those of you not familiar with this insane system, in the US your insurance company contracts with a network of doctors and hospitals for your treatment. If you go to those when you are sick, your bill will be lower than if you go to an out-of-network doctor or medical facility (or if you do not have insurance at all) so you always have to check before going to see a doctor.
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Good answer to a health care question

I am not sure how many readers of this blog check out the website Quora. People post questions on a wide variety of topics and knowledgeable people reply. I usually check out the physics questions and have been impressed with the quality of many of the the answers. But occasionally my eye catches questions on other topics and such as this one since it is a topic I blog about a lot.
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The British NHS vs. US health system

Stephen Fry narrates a comparison of the two health care systems and shows clearly why the British National Health Service is vastly superior to the ghastly system that we have here that works only for those with tons of money.

It is clear that the likely new prime minister of the UK will be Boris Johnson and that he wants to take the UK out of the EU even with no Brexit deal. He will then be desperate to carve out new trade deals with other countries and the US will be the main target, since he seems to view Donald Trump as a soul mate even though Trump will treat him like a lackey.

But the US will demand that for any deal to be made, he must first set about dismantling the NHS, reducing price controls on drugs, and allowing private health insurance companies to play a much greater role. You can be sure that the medical-pharmaceutical-health insurance industries are salivating at the prospect of gouging an entirely new population of people.

(Via Cory Doctorow)

Much needed clarity on what Medicare for All means

The idea of Medicare for All has been steadily increasing in popularity, so much so that pretty much all the Democratic candidates for the presidency have endorsed it, a far cry from when Bernie Sanders advocated for it in his 2016 campaign, when it was seen as some kind of unrealistic Utopian goal. As a result, the right wing attacks on it have intensified and they have made all manner of misleading statements about it.

This ad from the Sanders campaign nicely sets the record straight.

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Insulin price fixing

Insulin is the major drug used by people to deal with diabetes and given the prevalence of the disease, it is very profitable for the drug companies that manufacture them. Many companies do and so one would think that competition among them for market share would lead to price benefits for consumers. And yet, the prices are so high in the US that people in need of the drugs organize trips to Canada where they can some of buy them for one-tenth the price.
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Having health insurance does not mean you can afford medical care in the US

When it comes to health care in the US much of the attention has rightly focused on the plight of those who lack any insurance at all. But this gives the impression that those who have employer-based insurance have few problems and would even suffer with the increasingly popular Medicare For All proposal that has now been embraced by pretty much every Democratic presidential candidate and would replace the current system. But that impression is erroneous. This is because in order to lower insurance premiums, employers are pressuring employees to move to high-deductible plans. But a new study finds that a quarter of people with employer-based health insurance in the US cannot longer afford to pay those deductibles
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Drug price extortion

One of the worst aspects of the for-profit health care system in the US (it could more accurately be called the ‘health couldn’t-care-less’ system) is the price gouging on prescription drugs. This is heartless because drug companies are taking cruel advantage of the fact that people will do anything to save the lives of their loved ones, by jacking up the prices of essential drugs far above what people in other countries pay, enabling the companies to reap enormous profits and pay their executives obscene amounts of money.
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Good News! Health care stocks fall

I have long held that the only economic measure that matters in the US is the stock market. While other measures such as unemployment and wage rates, income and wealth inequality, health and education measures, housing and rental prices and the like may have much greater significance for the vast majority of people, the oligarchy only cares about the value of their stock portfolio. As long as the stock market rises at a healthy clip, champagne corks will be popping even as climate change threatens to destroy the world.
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The fight over Medicare For All begins in earnest

Now that legislation to implement Medicare For All has been unveiled by Washington state member of congress Pramila Jayapal, the opponents in the hospital, pharmaceutical, and insurance industries are gearing up to fight to prevent their source of incredible wealth from drying up. As Kaiser Health News reported, many groups that on the surface seem to be grassroots opponents of MFA are actually fronts for Big Pharma.

Dozens of patient advocacy groups, like the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, recently appeared in national advertisements objecting to a Trump administration proposal that could limit drugs covered by Medicare providers.

But a Kaiser Health News analysis found that about half of the groups representing patients have received funding from the pharmaceutical industry.

Drugmakers funneled more than $58 million to the groups in 2015 alone, according to financial disclosures in KHN’s “Pre$cription for Power” database, which tracks the little-publicized ties between patient advocacy groups and drugmakers. As patient organizations gain ground lobbying Congress and the administration, experts have begun to question whether their financial ties could push them to put drugmakers’ interests ahead of the patients they represent.

Although there are occasions when what’s best for patients is the same as what’s best for drugmakers, people should consider patient advocacy group statements with a “skeptical eye” if groups have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry, said Matthew McCoy, a medical ethics and health policy assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Drugmakers and patient advocacy organizations have fundamentally different missions, he said. One wants to make money for shareholders. The other wants to serve patients. Since their goals will inevitably diverge, it’s important that patient groups aren’t swayed by their funders, he said.

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Good choice to head Planned Parenthood

Leana Wen, a 36-year old physician who used to be commissioner of health for Baltimore, has been selected as the new head of the organization. I have followed her career for some time and was pleased to hear that someone so concerned about social justice and a fearless advocate for it had taken on this job. As a child of immigrants who were poor, she knows how tough life is in the US if you lack money.

Now, it’s hard for Wen to pinpoint the pivotal moment when she realized that medicine was not just a matter of science but of social justice. Of course, there was her journey from China, but there was also the time in elementary school when she watched a neighborhood boy die of an asthma attack because his undocumented family was too scared to call 911. There was the woman she saw die in the ER after a botched abortion, the young mother without insurance who waited more than a year to have a breast lump examined and died of metastatic cancer, the middle-aged woman who couldn’t afford her blood-pressure medication and was paralyzed by a stroke. “I mean, there are dozens, hundreds, countless examples like that,” says Wen. “My patients are sick not just because of their illness, but because of so many other factors in our system that are making them ill. And I would not be the best doctor I can be if I did not also fight against these systemic injustices.”
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