In an effort to combat rising drug prices, one Utah health insurer will pay its members to travel to Mexico to fill prescriptions for certain expensive drugs, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Those of you who wished me congratulations the past few weeks were told that you were a little early, as yesterday, the 29th was my actual anniversary for beginning this blog.
To refresh your memory, I began this blog three days after returning from the 5th World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress in Hollywood, Florida.
You may also have noticed that the focus of the blog has shifted from workers’ compensation and medical travel to health care, especially as the debate here in the US has gotten more attention over the ACA and Single Payer, as well as the myriad schemes some are trying to force down the throats of Americans that keep the status quo.
The blog has been viewed nearly 40,000 times over the six years, but at no time have I ever made any money from it, yet that was my intention when I began. I thought my writing would convince someone of my talent and skills. Sadly, that has not happened.
In fact, there are days where only a handful of individuals view my blog, but I push on. How long that will continue, I don’t know, or is up to you.
You’ve no doubt seen my posts for positions or opportunities, so why don’t you reach out to me.
You know where to find me.
Nearly a year ago, while channel surfing, I came across a short film being shown on my local South Florida Public Broadcasting System (PBS) station.
As I missed most of it, I was able to learn the name of the filmmaker from the credits, and saw that she had interviewed some of the leading names in the medical travel space.
One individual I saw listed in the credits was Keith Pollard, with whom I was connected with on LinkedIn, and had communicated over the years since I began blogging about medical travel. I reached out to Keith to ask him to put me in touch with the filmmaker, Suzanne Garber.
I later learned from Keith that before she gave Keith her permission to forward her email address to me, she wanted to know if I was legitimate. Keith vouched for me without hesitation, and I reached out to Suzanne.
Unfortunately, due to ownership of the rights to the film by PBS, it has taken nearly a year for me to get to see it. What follows is my review of her film, “Gauze Unraveling Global Healthcare”.
The film is a personal account of Suzanne’s exploration into the difference between US healthcare, with its bureaucracy and lack of transparency regarding cost to patients; plus its affordability, accessibility, and quality — the three characteristics of healthcare, according to Suzanne.
Suzanne had gone through some personal medical issues, and the film begins with her discussing statements she received that were very expensive. At one point, she describes how she was forced to sign a form at a hospital in order to get service that said she was responsible for the full amount if her insurance company refused to pay.
She asked the woman at the desk who gave her the form if she knew what it would cost her, and the woman replied that she did not know, so Suzanne said that she was signing away her right to know how much it could cost her.
Then Suzanne asked some of her friends the following question: where is the best healthcare?
Having been an executive credentialing hospitals for a company she was working for, Suzanne had vast experience visiting hospitals, and had personal experience of being admitted to a hospital in Spain as a child. She decided to go and visit some of the hospitals that cater to medical travel patients.
From 2014- 2015, she visited 24 countries, 174 hospitals, and interviewed over five dozen international healthcare experts. She wanted to know the answer to the following questions: Where to go, and where not to go?
But it was when she had a medical diagnosis of cancer that she traveled thousands of miles, flying from Philadelphia to Chicago, to Tokyo, and then to Bangkok, where she went to Bumrungrad Hospital. By that time, her position had been eliminated, she was unemployed and uninsured, so she took the chance and went.
She traveled to Singapore to get a second opinion with an orthopedist. A doctor there wanted to perform a bone density scan, and even though she brought along all of her MRIs, CAT scans, etc., the doctor had her go downstairs, wait forty-five minutes, and then go back upstairs to see the doctor after the results were entered into the computer.
In all, it cost Suzanne $29 dollars, not the amount she was quoted back in the US. And all this took one day.
As part of her journey, she visited the UK, India, and visited several hospitals in France. And what she found was that there is no one way to improve our healthcare, but it is possible. We need to ask questions, we need to contact our elected representatives, and we need to take responsibility for our healthcare.
A personal note: This film when shown on PBS last year, had a long list of names Suzanne interviewed. In addition to Keith Pollard, one other person, Rajesh Rao of IndUSHealth, was someone I met in 2014 at the ProMed conference in Miami Beach. Some other names in that list were familiar to me, but as of this screening, does not appear. One more comment, I was able to view the film online, but am not able to provide readers with a copy of it in this post.
This is a very important and timely film that should be viewed by both the health care industry and those in the workers’ compensation industry who have panned the idea of medical travel. The mere fact that Suzanne paid only $29 for a bone density scan, when she was told it would be $7,300 in the US, is not only criminal, it is insane to keep insisting that medical travel for workers’ comp is a stupid and ridiculous idea, and a non-starter, as one so-called expert has written.
When are you people in work comp going to wake up? You and your insurance carriers are being ripped off by an expensive medical-industrial complex. But you just go on doing the same things over and over again, and expect different results, or you boast that frequency is going down, yet medical costs are still too high. The choice is yours, but don’t keep making the same mistake.
I want to thank Suzanne for her patience in bearing with my periodic emails regarding my viewing the film, and for being courageous enough to put her personal struggles with health and health care front and center, and comparing it to our so-called health care system. I hope that Gauze Unraveling Global Healthcare will be seen by all those interested in better health care for all Americans, workers or not.
Another shout out to Dr. McCanne, who posted today about a study sponsored by the AMA and conducted by RAND that basically said that alternative payment models (APM) are affecting physicians, their practices and hospitals.
Here is the RAND Summary with key findings:
Here is the comment by Don McCanne:
But however we see it, from the point of view of carrots and sticks as not able to change behavior, or by introducing ever newer models of alternative payments, the end result is the same.
Health care suffers because of the wasteful, bureaucratic, and arbitrary imposition of models that only serve to make life for physicians and hospitals harder, and makes health care more expensive and complex.
As Dr. McCanne says above, throw out the carrots and the sticks. Get rid of the models that don’t work and go to a single payer system that is streamlined and less bureaucratic and arbitrary.
The Charlotte Observer today reported on the case of an injured worker who suffered a brain injury after a fall in 2003 at his employer’s workplace. And because they could not cut off his benefits, they had him arrested.
In case you find this incredible, here is the link to the article:
Is this what it has come to today in Workers’ Comp? That insurance companies refuse to continue lifelong payments to injured workers because they believe he is faking his injuries, so they and his employer have him arrested?
This is more than harsh; this is despicable.
Fellow blogger, Joe Paduda, summed up what is at stake for millions of Americans, your humble blogger included, if the GOP holds onto the House and Senate after the Midterm election thirteen days from today.
At the bottom of Joe’s post is a link to a Blue Cross/Blue Shield website. Scroll down to the part labeled “Medical Condition Rejection List.” It covers every conceivable illness and condition that human beings may suffer from, and included on that list is peritoneal dialysis, which I am undergoing, and hemodialysis also.
If the Republicans get their way, the only people who will have health insurance are perfect specimens, and we all know that there is no such thing as a perfectly healthy human being. We are all born with, or have the potential to get, some form of illness or disease at some time in our lives. It’s in our genes.
Unless of course, you are Superman/Superwoman.
Here is Joe’s post:
Will you be able to afford health insurance, and will that insurance cover your pre-existing medical conditions? For most, that’s the biggest issue in the upcoming election. Congressional Republicans are planning to pass legislation that allows insurers to: a) stop … Continue reading This election is about your pre-existing medical condition
Slowly, but surely, we are moving inexorably towards the adoption of single payer healthcare, even though the current regime and the medical-industrial complex is doubling or tripling down on a free-market, for-profit health care system that will split into two classes – those who can afford it, and those who cannot.
So, it is no surprise that the people in charge of the US health care system are systematically dismantling the ACA, and pushing dubious, short-term limited plans that do nothing but line the pockets of the corporate health insurance sector. Appointments such as Mary Mayhew, the former DHHS Commissioner from Maine, and an aide to Governor Paul Le Page, as deputy administrator and director of Medicaid and CHIP, is symbolic of how the regime is attempting to roll back health care for Americans, and now that work requirements are being implemented, is throwing thousands off of rolls in some states.
The following from Healthcare Dive is instructive of this blatant attempt at destroying health care for millions of Americans who never had it, or couldn’t afford to pay large premiums.
Here is the article:
New guidance on 1332 Medicaid waivers makes it easier for states to use association and short-term health plans that limit coverage for pre-existing conditions.
A shout out to Maria Todd for bringing this to my attention.
This would not be happening if we did what every other Western nation does, and give our citizens universal health care that does not line the pockets of multinational corporations, drug companies, medical device manufacturers, and Wall Street investors.
Health care should not be subject to the pursuit of profit.
One of the world’s largest drug makers, GSK promised it would no longer pay doctors to promote its medicines. Now it says doing so put it at a disadvantage.
Axios is reporting that health care costs for workers is rising while overall costs of employer-based health benefits is growing modestly from year to year.
This is slowly eating up all of the average workers wage increases, and then some, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation’s 2018 Employer Health Benefits Survey.
The survey covers the last ten years, from 2008 to 2018. Most of where the employees are paying for health care comes from deductibles, which has seen a +212% increase over that period, and is out of pocket. These costs, the survey said, is rising faster than inflation and wages.
Premiums for families have risen over this period +55%, while workers’ earnings have risen +26%, and inflation has risen +17%.
According to Kaiser, employees are paying an average of about $1,200 per year in premiums. That’s 65% more than what they paid in 2008, for single coverage plans that cover only the worker, no family members.
Besides the increase in deductibles, the number of employees who have a deductible has gone up, and the number of employees with above-average deductibles is up as well.
- More patients are more attuned to the high costs of care.
- The underlying cost of health care services is growing relatively slowly right now, compared to historical trends.
- But there’s a sense, at least among some liberal-leaning health care experts, that employers have just about maxed out their ability to shift more costs onto employees — meaning that once price increases start to pick up steam again, businesses and workers will both feel the pain quickly.
What does this mean?
As workers’ wages are stagnant, and health care costs are rising, shifting the cost of health care onto the backs of workers is not only counterproductive to lowering the cost of health care, it puts an undue burden on those who can least afford to shell out more of their hard earned income on health care, especially when they have a serious medical issue to deal with.
Single payer will relieve the worker from having to pay out of pocket when wages are stagnant, and when wages rise again. This will enable them to have more money to spend on things that otherwise would have been prohibitive before.
To do no less is to saddle the working class with perpetual debt and decreased economic power. Not a good way to run an economy.
Last month, you may recall, I posted an article about Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas from an article in Health Affairs.
Today, Health Affairs posted a follow-up article that reported that thousands are being shed from the Medicaid rolls in Arkansas.
According to the article, the Arkansas Department of Human Services officials announced on Sept. 12 that 4,353 people who were enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program had been locked out of coverage for failing to comply with the work requirement for three months.
The agency has said those people will have until October 5 to apply for a good cause exemption if they were unable to access an online reporting portal because of network server issues that affected it and other agencies.