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A Patient's Perspective on the High Cost of Cancer Drugs

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 21, 2014 | Andrew Schorr

Many cancer therapies now cost over $100,000 a year. Obviously, this expenditure is not sustainable for the majority of patients. At age 64, I am approaching Medicare coverage. Will I have the 20 percent co-pay to shoulder? As more people survive cancer and remain on ongoing medicines, the U.S. has to have a fair and open discussion about the cost of these medicines...

Shopping for a Medicare Advantage Plan — Once Again!

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 15, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

I have just done something I said I would never do: shop for a Medicare Advantage plan to cover my gaps in Medicare. The usual flyers and brochures from sellers of Medicare Advantage plans began to arrive in the mail with their enticing sales pitches, and one nearly fooled me. Short of having a Medicare representative on the phone, you're stuck in an information swamp. No wonder studies show that beneficiaries are not eager to shop around even if they can get a new policy with a smaller monthly premium...

Home Health, Palliative Care, Hospice: What's the Difference and Who Needs Them?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 6, 2014 | Janet Bollig

I recently spoke with a gentleman with a significant illness whose main goal is to stay home. He decided to utilize our skilled home health services and home medical equipment. Over time, he transitioned into our palliative care program and currently is in our hospice program. Here is information on what these services are and who may benefit from them...

The Harm to Patients From Two-Tiered Generic Drugs

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 24, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

As we head into health insurance enrollment season, which opens in November, consumers/patients will face yet another challenge in selecting the best health plan...

Another Strategy in the Health Care Reimbursement Game

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 17, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

American health care has become a gigantic game board with players of all sorts strategizing to win. Winning, of course, means getting more money from payers...

Seeing the Government's Star Ratings Is One Thing, Believing Them Is Another

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 9, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Just a few years ago it seemed that advocates for health care transparency had scored a big victory. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that they would rate nursing homes by awarding five stars to the best and fewer stars to lower-quality facilities. It turns out, though, that five-star nursing homes may not be delivering five-star quality...

An Advantage for Medicare Patients or Just for Health Plans?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 20, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

That the government overpays sellers of Medicare Advantage plans is well known in Beltway circles, even if much of the public remains unaware…

What's Wrong With Health Insurance Policies That Cover Less?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 9, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Insurance companies and a group of senators headed by Alaska Democrat Mark Begich think they have a great idea for getting more young people to sign up for health insurance...

Stop the War on the Emergency Room (Fix the System Failure)

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 8, 2014 | Nick Dawson

The ED is convenient, it's open 24 hours, it does not require an appointment. So when the stomach bug or kitchen accident gets the best of you at 9:00 pm, and your doctor's office is closed, where are you going to go? And, yet, we still chide people – via reporting, casual comments and the communication of health systems – for using the ED for "non-emergent" needs. What I'd like to see is more hospitals flinging open the doors of their EDs and saying, "We'll take you, any time, for any reason, and you won't wait long or pay an arm and a leg"...

Seamless Health Insurance Coverage Still Illusory

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 30, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

For ages we've all known that the U.S. health insurance system works splendidly for those who have good employer-provided coverage, slide smoothly into Medicare when the time comes and seldom get sick. But evidence is beginning to trickle in that this seamless pathway for some people who've signed up for Obamacare insurance may be more illusory than real...

Beware Those 'Average' Premium Increases – or Decreases!

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 24, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Never before have I seen such intense interest from the press about health insurance rates, normally considered a snoozer of a story. For the public, this may be a good thing. If the stories are done well, consumers might learn something about the mix of factors that go into determining the premiums they will pay. But in the last couple of weeks, some stories have been downright misleading...

Pushing Back Against the High Price of Prescriptions

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 17, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Are we finally doing something about the high prices of prescription drugs? Maybe. At the end of May, the Washington-based National Coalition on Health Care launched "Sustainable Rx Pricing," a campaign to "spark a national dialogue" about the high cost of drugs. Will it work?

A Doctor's Strategies Helped Mom Pay for Meds

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 19, 2014 | Narine Wandrey

Bewildered, panicked and disheartened, I watched my mother's eyes dart back and forth as she read the pharmacy's prescription cash price list, knowing she could not possibly afford her monthly medicines. We drove home, not saying a word, but I knew she was deeply distraught. When we arrived, she began cutting each tiny elliptical or rounded tablet into halves and quarters...

Insurers Reap Rewards of Medicare Advantage Plans

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 22, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

A couple weeks ago, the Obama administration handed sellers of Medicare Advantage plans an increase in government payments for next year. While this may seem like a good thing for the 16 million beneficiaries who have MA plans, it may not be good for Medicare as a whole.

On Each Other's Team: What We Can Learn by Listening to Older Adults

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 10, 2014 | Chris Langston

If there is a population in which we have the biggest opportunity to see improvements in both cost and quality of care outcomes, it is older Americans. The debate on how best to deliver effective primary care has gone on a long time, sometimes frustratingly so, but it has almost never included a crucial constituency: older adults. The John A. Hartford Foundation is pleased to help change that...

The Medicaid Gap Hits Home

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 8, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

A few days before the recent deadline for Obamacare sign-ups, I visited with one of the exchange navigators in Colorado, a state that expanded its Medicaid program and is working hard to enroll uninsured residents. This visit got me thinking of the millions of other people who live in states where they can't get access to Obamacare because they are too poor and yet are also not eligible for Medicaid...

Costs Complicated Dad's Cancer Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 31, 2014 | Laura Sander

"I walked in a person, and out a cancer patient," my dad said as we filed home. Crossing this threshold, we found ourselves on the other side of medicine – the side on the exam table or gurney, as opposed to the one standing over it. In time, it became clear we were running out of money...

Obamacare Websites: Not Just a .Gov Problem

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 4, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Shoppers searching the Internet for health insurance coverage can be forgiven if they are confused.

'Me' Versus 'We' in Obamacare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 25, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

The Obama administration and Affordable Care Act supporters have not bothered to explain how the law includes cross-subsidization, missing an opportunity to talk about the "we" aspects of the law. As one 58-year-old woman put it: "The chances of me having a child at this age is zero. Why do I have to pay an additional $5,000 a year for coverage that I will never, ever need?" Here's how it works...

Backlash Against Narrow Provider Networks Begins

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 18, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Seniors are starting to realize that fewer doctors and hospitals may be available to them if they select a Medicare Advantage plan. Restricting these choices – in theory – is a way to control the price of health care. There's just one problem: Consumers still want to choose their doctors or stick with the ones they've got...

Why Low-Income Seniors Fail to Get Help Paying for Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 11, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

A couple weeks ago, the Medicare Rights Center, a well-known New York-based advocacy group, released a report card showing that seniors on Medicare are struggling to pay for their health care. This finding brings up an important question: Why aren't seniors using the variety of state and federal programs that have been set up to help people in this situation?

Do Patients Care How Much Money Their Doctors Make?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 28, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

I am all for transparency when it comes to health care. So when Medicare announced a few weeks ago that it would begin to tell the public how much doctors are paid to treat Medicare patients, my first thought was "hooray." Still, I keep returning to the question: What will the data do for the average person?...

Lack of Access Still to Blame

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 7, 2014 | CFAH Staff

What's the key to reducing costly emergency room visits and readmissions? People who lack convenient access to a health care provider, with or without insurance, return to the emergency department or hospital out of need and desperation...

Advice for People New to Health Insurance (Part 4): How Much Will Health Care Services Cost?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 26, 2013 | CFAH Staff

In part four of our series, we look at a few ways to estimate the cost of your care ahead of time so you can make the best choice for you and your loved ones. Our 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources offer trusted websites and tips to get started...

Advice for People New to Health Insurance (Part 2): Medicare and Medicaid Explained

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 24, 2013 | CFAH Staff

In part two of our series, we look at the difference between Medicare and Medicaid. Our 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources can help you figure out if you qualify for either of these or other special health care programs...

Advice for People New to Health Insurance (Part 1): Getting Covered

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 23, 2013 | CFAH Staff

In part one of our series, we look at the basics of picking a health insurance plan that's right for you, your family or a loved one. Our 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources can help you find the best coverage at the best price for your health needs...

Is Shopping for an Exchange Policy an Impossible Task?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 18, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Last week at a New York City meeting of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Elisabeth Benjamin, a vice president of the Community Service Society, tried to explain the New York health insurance exchange to a group of skeptical journalists who had more than a passing familiarity with the topic...

What I Expect From the Medicare Program

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 16, 2013 | Jeff Goldsmith

After half a lifetime of following the Medicare program, on October 1, 2013, I became a Medicare beneficiary. I'm part of the leading edge of baby boomers joining the program, ten thousand a day. Here are some reflections upon joining...

A Better Health System for Frail and Disabled Elders

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 9, 2013 | Ken Covinsky

Let's stop telling the public that exercising and eating blueberries are guarantees for avoiding frailty and disability. Let's start talking about how to maintain our quality of life as we age and inevitably encounter health problems.

Where, Oh Where Are Those Insurance Summaries for Consumers?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 3, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Buying health insurance through the state shopping exchanges was supposed to be a breeze — like buying an airline ticket from Travelocity. But it isn’t, and the reason why has nothing to do with the technical glitches of

The Great Canadian Experiment to House the Homeless

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 13, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

At Home/Chez Soi, a Canadian program for the mentally ill, is built on the concept that providing housing is the first order of business. An approach that reinforces the truism that good health is more than swallowing the latest wonder drug.

Political Football Season Starts for Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 28, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

It’s the silly season again for Medicare. It comes around whenever a political campaign is about to begin as it is for next year’s mid-term elections….Politicians love to play ball with benefits for seniors.

Who’s Left Out of Obamacare?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 14, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The main purpose of health reform, the president said at his press conference last Friday, was to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates…Whether that coverage will be affordable or comprehensive for families remains to be seen.

The Cost of Missing Health Care Prices

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 12, 2013 | Conversation Continues

People continue to struggle finding information on how much health care services cost. Toni Brayer, Barbara Bronson Gray and Ray Burow weigh in.

Haggling for Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 2, 2013 | Naomi Freundlich

I’m not a big fan of bargaining and my half-hearted attempts to get a better price for a used car, garage sale find or contractor’s service have been mostly unsuccessful. There’s always that nagging feeling that the seller is laughing with delight once I’m gone, thinking, “I really pulled one over on that rube!” And so it has come as somewhat of a shock to me that medical care has become the new garage sale, as far as haggling goes.

Are We Finally Getting Closer to Price Transparency?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 8, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The revelations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Wednesday that hospitals vary widely in what they “charge” for the same procedure—sometimes as much as 10 or 20 times more than Medicare reimburses—confirms what health policy wonks have known for a long time. There’s no consistency in pricing for health care services…

Is “Guaranteed Coverage for Life” in the Cards for Medicare Seniors?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 1, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

A few days ago, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield sent me one of those Medigap sales brochures that seniors usually expect during the fall open enrollment season.

How the President’s Medicare Proposals Affect Seniors’ Pocketbooks

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 16, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The president’s budget proposals released last week call for more seniors to pay more money for their Medicare benefits. While the president’s plan to require beneficiaries to pay higher premiums came as no surprise to Washington insiders, it probably was to people who will feel the pinch.

Those Confusing EOBs…Once Again!

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 27, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Let’s face it. Despite all the rhetoric about health care transparency, most health care providers really don’t want patients to know the price of their products and services.

Comparative Effectiveness Research: Bill Vaughan of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 17, 2012 | Bill Vaughan

When you look at what can be done to save Medicare with this growing aging population, what do you do? One of most important things to do is to quit paying for things that don't work or don't work very well.

Health Reform's First Casualty

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 27, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

The Obama administration has dealt a mighty blow to one part of the health reform law by effectively killing off the CLASS Act, which was to be a baby step in the development of a national program to pay for long-term care.