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Not just about Mom and Dad's Health Insurance...

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 6, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

In the past two weeks I have visited two college campuses---one in Brooklyn and one in Wisconsin.' Large numbers of students turned out to hear about the new reform law and wanted to know what it meant for them.'

The Squeeze of Mail-Order Drugs for People with Chronic Illness

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 12, 2010 | Jessie Gruman

Do you have your prescriptions filled through a mail-order pharmacy? You are not alone.

How Safe Is Your Insurance, Really?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 19, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Throughout the long debate over health reform, the president told us if we liked the insurance we had, we could keep it.' No government would come between us and our health coverage!'

Can You Really Choose the Best?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 29, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Will You Be Helped by the New High-Risk Health Pools?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 26, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

The new health reform law is what I like to call an 'over-the-line proposition' because undoubtedly, someone is going to be left out. ' What passed the Congress will not bring universal health coverage to America; nor does it assure that everyone is entitled to health care as a matter of right.' It simply adds more people to the current system by giving them subsidies to buy insurance they couldn't otherwise afford.' In such a system, there will always be people over the line'they won't qualify for this subsidy or that program either because the government limits its spending on them, or it wants to encourage people to use private insurance to keep those markets strong.

Some Honesty about Medicare Advantage Plans, Please

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 11, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Obama administration officials and the president himself have been on the road selling the benefits of health reform.' The other day in Maryland the president was touting the $250 rebate sent this week to some three million Medicare beneficiaries whose prescription drug expenses have reached the infamous donut hole where there is no coverage.

Is Choosing a Health Plan Like Buying a Car or Canned Goods?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 21, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Do consumers buy health insurance like they buy canned peas? Or should they? That's the big question market place advocates have been trying to answer now for more than a decade. The government and others have thrown gobs of money at this vexing problem trying to figure out the best combination of stars, bars and other symbols that will catch the shopper's eye.

How Can We Pay Less for our Health Care?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 25, 2010 | Jessie Gruman

I just completed a series of radio and TV interviews about the extent to which people participate in their health care you know, those three-questions-in-90 seconds blips that currently constitute news for the viewing/listening public.

Lead Us Not into Expectations

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 6, 2010 | Jessie Gruman

Have you noticed that when health experts discuss the high cost of care, they often assert that our demands for more and more advanced -- care are driving the upward trajectory of its cost?

Paying to Participate

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 14, 2010 | Goldie Pyka

Chicago Doctor Reveals Hidden Health Care Pricing'.

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 22, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

More People Choosing Consumer-Directed Health Plans---Pitfalls and All

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 9, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Sorting Through the Indecipherable 'Explanation of Benefits' Is Becoming a Required Skill

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 16, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

A young friend showed me her Explanation of Benefits from Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield. "I don't really understand it," she said. This woman has a master's degree from the London School of Economics but couldn't comprehend what her insurance carrier was telling her...

Matt Seeks Health Insurance: A Young Adult Falls Through the Cracks of Health Reform

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 26, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

A New Way for Hospitals to Make a Little Extra'Tax the Sick

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 8, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Dianne Cooper Bridges, a feisty health reform activist in Massachusetts, recently found herself in the hospital for a routine consultation with no tests or procedures. Because Bridges, a self-employed designer, refuses to buy the required health insurance in her state, she has no insurance and occasionally pays a fine. That means she shops carefully for medical care, which she pays for in cash. When she called the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center and asked how much her consultation would be, the hospital quoted her a price between $100 and $200.

Matt Seeks Health Insurance, Part 2: The Runaround Continues

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 24, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Adding an Adult Son or Daughter to Your Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 30, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

The Medicare Sales Season Begins: As Always, Buyer Beware!

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 7, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Selecting Health Insurance? Help from Around the Web:

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 13, 2010 | CFAH Staff

In his most recent blog, "How to Pick Good Health Insurance - Your Life Depends on It," Dr. Davis Liu emphasizes how important is it for us to evaluate carefully our health insurance plans. Liu points out that, unlike other companies or products whose efficacy may impact our lives modestly ' your car wash, dry cleaners and choice of movie theater ' the ranking of your health insurance plan relative to others impacts your life greatly. And not all health plans are created equal.

Revisiting Those Puzzling EOBs: New York Penalizes Aetna

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 14, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

What Can Health Care Professionals Do About Poverty?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 20, 2010 | Connie Davis

A colleague of mine, Cheryl, has been trying to help a solo physician address a thorny issue. Through the use of 'How's Your Health', an amazing Web-based suite of health and practice tools, the physician realized that many of her patients struggled with maintaining an adequate income. Cheryl went looking for some ideas for the physician, and she came across this: Health Providers Against Poverty, an Ontario-based group that has a toolkit to help primary care professionals address poverty issues.

Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Blues And Why

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 21, 2010 | Jim Jaffe

Some broad questions about how bad it is to be big are raised by the government's new antitrust suit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, which allegedly used its market dominance to force hospitals to charge other insurers a third more than the insurance giant paid. One can see how this could help the nonprofit Blues control the market, but it is difficult to determine how this was in the public interest ' or even advantageous to those it was covering.

What You Need to Know About Your Health Insurance Policy

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 29, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Federal and state government officials and their opponents in the insurance industry have been busy as beavers these days chewing on that perennially vexing problem: how to disclose insurance information so consumers will be wise shoppers. Since we have a market-based model of health insurance, that's not a frivolous question. What works best, what doesn't, and what do consumers acting as shoppers really care about?

Does Long-Term Care Insurance Have a Future?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 23, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

The decision by Metropolitan Life to stop selling long-term care (LTC) insurance once again calls into question the viability of that product as a way to pay for nursing home, assisted living and home care needed by the growing number of elders. MetLife was a solid company'big and reputable, with a knack for selling policies to workers whose employers offered the coverage as an extra benefit. It was a name that people trusted in an industry characterized by many small sellers, some of whom became insolvent.

Assessing Your Risk: Buying a Policy That Doesn't Cover Much

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 2, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

My friend Ariane Canas, a New York City hairdresser, was eager to tell me about a new health insurance policy she had come across. It was cheap very cheap as such coverage goes. I knew that she and her husband, who is also self-employed, had gotten a notice this fall from their current carrier advising of a 33 percent rate increase.

Finding a Medigap Policy on the Web? Better Think Twice

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 10, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

Oh, those clever insurance agents, always on the prowl for new customers. This time they are using the current period of open enrollment for Medicare to snag customers for other insurance products'products that consumers may not need or want.

Health Reform: Elections, Politics and Patients

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 14, 2010 | Lisa Esposito

Health care reform is a hot topic with yesterday's court ruling that a portion of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional.

Mini-Med Policies: Is the Government Telling Us Something We Don't Already Know?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 17, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

The new health reform bureaucracy at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced that it will now require employers, health insurers and union welfare benefit funds to disclose to policy holders that the health insurance they have may not be real health insurance at all. They now have to tell us if their coverage does not meet minimum benefit standards required by law and by how much they fall short. So those who have mini-med policies will now get a notice telling them that their policies cover very little. As if people don't already know.

Assessing Risk: Medicare Advantage vs. Medigap vs. Drug Coverage Only

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 22, 2010 | Trudy Lieberman

As Medicare's open enrollment season draws to a close, it's a good bet that seniors are still sifting through all those brochures and flyers that have come in the mail the last several weeks. My husband received 22. Here's a simple rule to make the sifting go a little faster.

Inside Health Care: Are Patients 'Priceless?'

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 23, 2010 | CFAH Staff

An inside look at the cost of health care: a physician confused by the transparency of Medicare reimbursements and a patient in San Francisco unable to afford treatment for an enlarged prostate.

Prepared Patient: Coping With the High Costs of Prescriptions

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 31, 2010 | Health Behavior News Service

Cost-cutting measures are creeping into the medicine cabinet. We split pills in half or take the drugs every other day to stretch our doses. We stop filling the prescriptions for our most expensive drugs. We buy prescriptions from online pharmacies with questionable credentials. As patients pay more for their prescription drugs ' whether it's through higher insurance co-pays or shouldering the full costs ' many people decide to opt out of taking the drugs altogether. But there are safer ways to cut costs than skimping on ' or skipping 'the medicines you need.

Dicker With Your Doc? Not So Fast'

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 20, 2011 | Jessie Gruman

'How to Haggle With Your Doctor' was the title of a recent Business section column in The New York Times. This is one of many similar directives to the public in magazines, TV and Websites urging us to lower the high price of our health care by going mano a mano with our physicians about the price of tests they recommend and the drugs they prescribe. Such articles provide simple, commonsense recommendations about how to respond to the urgency many of us feel ' insured or uninsured ' to reduce our health care expenses.

Selling Sickness

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 21, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Someone I know who is just over 65 received an unlikely solicitation'from The Scooter Store located in New Braunfels, Texas, on Independence Drive no less. The outside of the envelope promised a free personal mobility assessment. This person is totally mobile and hardly needs a scooter.

When You Have an Insurance Dispute

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 24, 2011 | Jennifer Jaff

While access to health insurance is a critical component of finding good care and making the most of it, being insured is often just the starting point for frequent users of health care services.

The Dilemma of Digital Mammography

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 7, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

The rapid changeover from traditional mammography'pictures taken with film'to the new digital imaging technology poses a thorny dilemma for women, especially those over 65. The scientific evidence suggests that digital mammography does not improve the detection of breast cancer in older women.

Vanishing Health Care Choices

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 16, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Ask someone what he or she remembers Obama promising during the great health reform debates, and the response might be: 'We can keep the insurance we have.' The president did offer assurances that there would be no socialized medicine with the government dictating where you could go for care. He did not mention, though, that many insured people already have little say in what kind of coverage they get and who can treat them.

How the Cost of Health Care Creeps Up and Up

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 1, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

In a previous post, I talked about what happens when a radiology practice goes digital for mammography, even though there's scant evidence that more-expensive digital is better than cheaper film for detecting cancer in older women. Yet the higher-priced costly procedure is winning out. That's pretty much the norm for U.S. health care, for instance, when ThinPrep replaced the conventional method for doing Pap smears. I used to pay $9 for the test; the one I had last summer cost $250.

Patient Perspectives: Paying for Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 4, 2011 | CFAH Staff

This week's roundup features the patient voices of Brad Wright and Monte Jaffe and the decisions they made when faced with expensive health care costs.

Reform Is Not To Blame For Rising Health Care Costs

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 7, 2011 | Jim Jaffe

In a development so predictable that it hardly merits being called news, American health care costs continue to rise and opponents of the new health reform law say the Obama plan is to blame. Some small employers report massive insurance premium increases.

Will Medical Bankruptcy Be a Ghost of the Past?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 15, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

During the health care debates, didn't you hear the president repeatedly tell the crowds that reform would mean that people would no longer be forced into bankruptcy because of illness? Insuring people who previously had no insurance does give them a cushion of protection and will mean that some of them will avoid bankruptcy court'but not all.

How Code Creep Boosts the Price of Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 22, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

About 30 years ago I had my first run-in with code creep. A urologist I had visited for a garden-variety urinary tract infection billed $400 to determine that this was what I had. The price seemed excessive, and then I looked at the bill. The good doctor has 'unbundled' his services. He charged for every single thing he did'inserting a catheter, taking a urine sample, writing a prescription and finally adding a fee for a general office visit. I had thought all those things were part of the office visit. I protested. He reduced his charges, and I never went back.

Turning 65: It Was Time for Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 11, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

This is the first in a series of posts that examine the process of signing up for Medicare, navigating its rules, choosing supplemental coverage and planning for health care in a program with a very uncertain future.

Mayo Finds Heart Patients Skip Meds Due to Costs; Self-rationing in Health Continues

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 25, 2011 | Jane Sarasohn Kahn

Health economist and management consultant, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, discusses a Mayo study which found half of people in the study stopped taking their statins due to cost. Sarasohn-Kahn says, 'Welcome to world of self-rationing in health, where even the lucky health citizen receiving the best acute care money (and third-party health insurance) can buy doesn't follow through with the recommended self care at home.'

Turning 65: The Sellers Were After Me

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 28, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Even before I officially signed up for Medicare, sellers of Medicare Advantage plans, prescription drug benefits and Medigap policies began stuffing my mailbox with marketing brochures and lead cards'the kind that ask for your name and address and tell you that a salesperson will call if you return the card. Since the first of the year, I have received five lead cards asking for personal information, four solicitations for Medicare Advantage plans, two for stand-alone drug plans and three for Medigap insurance.

Turning 65: Finding a Medigap Policy

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 12, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

The first step after reading my collection of Medicare Advantage, prescription drug, and Medigap sales brochures was to find a way to fill in core Medicare coverage gaps'the deductibles for hospital stays and doctor care and the coinsurance for physician visits, lab tests, and hospital outpatient treatment that could really leave me with an unwelcome bill. I would have to pay 20 percent of those bills if I didn't have supplemental coverage.

Turning 65: Finding a Prescription Drug Plan

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 23, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

If I were to choose a Medigap policy to supplement my basic Medicare coverage, I would still have to buy a separate plan for prescription drugs, since Medigap sellers can't include drug benefits in those policies.

Turning 65: Finding a Medicare Advantage Plan

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 6, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Ah, those Medicare Advantage (MA) plans! The government can't seem to decide if it loves or hates them. On the one hand, when I tried to learn about my options, there was much more MA plan information available from the government than for traditional Medigap policies. So it seemed like I was being encouraged to select an MA plan.

Conversation Continues: Young Adults and The Affordable Care Act

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 17, 2011 | CFAH Staff

Sara Collins of the Commonwealth Fund and veteran health care journalist Trudy Lieberman look at how the Affordable Care Act is and is not helping young adults stay covered.

Turning 65: Making the Choice

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 21, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Even though I have written about Medicare for many years, it wasn't until I actually went through the process of selecting an option to cover Medicare's gaps that I realized seniors have an extraordinarily difficult, if not impossible, task. You can't make a perfect decision because so much depends on your future medical needs and no one can predict those with certainty.

Turning 65: Medicare's Future and Me

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 14, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

I once thought that when I signed up for Medicare, I would never again have to worry about paying for health care. But I will. Medicare's future shape and substance is uncertain.

'Is a Cheaper, Effective Option Available?' An Important Question to Ask

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 18, 2011 | Conversation Continues

The Costs of Care blog, "Hidden Costs of Medication", reinforces the importance of asking, 'How expensive is this treatment?" and "Is a less expensive option available?'

Bad Language: Words One Patient Won't Use (and Hopes You Won't Either)

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 3, 2011 | Jessie Gruman

"There is a better way - structural reforms that empower patients with greater choices and increase the role of competition in the health-care marketplace." Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) August 3, 2011. The highly charged political debates about reforming American health care have provided tempting opportunities to rename the people who receive health services. But because the impetus for this change has been prompted by cost and quality concerns of health care payers, researchers and policy experts rather than emanating from us out of our own needs, some odd words have been called into service.

When the Insurance Company Says 'No'

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 12, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Blue Cross just advised a twenty-six-year old woman I know that it will cut off payments for the physical therapy that was making it possible for her to sit at a keyboard for eleven hours a day. Her thirty sessions were up.

Health Insurance, Meet the Jolly Green Giant

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 31, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

It's official now. The government has proposed that descriptions of health insurance policies will resemble those nutritional labels on canned and packaged foods'the ones you look at to find out how much sodium there is in Birds Eye peas versus the A&P brand.

Turning 65: A Medicare Snafu

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 13, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

I didn't expect to write a sequel to my seven-part series about signing up for Medicare. Just when I thought I was on the program, and all was fine, it wasn't. After I submitted two bills for routine exams, I learned Medicare would not cover them as my primary carrier. That threw me into a tizzy. All my years of reporting about the program taught me that once you retire Medicare is primary.

Cigna's New Ad Campaign Aims to Snag New Customers

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 27, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Cigna launched a $25 million 'GO YOU' national branding campaign last week signaling that they are gearing up for tons of new customers as health reform rolls towards 2014. That new business will come from the millions of Americans now uninsured who will start getting government subsidies as an encouragement to buy health insurance coverage.

Guest Blog: Price Tags and Haggling in an Exotic Market

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 29, 2011 | Daniela Carusi

While shopping in a market on an exotic trip, a friend of mine picked up an appealing item, but the price seemed high. When she paused to consider the purchase, the shopkeeper asked, 'Don't you want to know if I can do better?' But with health care, we can't predict what the final negotiated payment will be without knowing who is paying and what kind of bargaining position that person is in.

Health Reform Loopholes

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 13, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

A couple weeks ago I walked the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska, talking to men and women about whether they thought Washington was listening to their economic concerns. Jeff Melichar manages his family's Phillips 66 gas station on the city's main street, and one of his big financial problems happens to be health insurance.

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.

The Rocky Adolescence of Public Reporting on Health Care Quality: It's Not Useful Yet, and We're Not Ready

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 9, 2011 | Jessie Gruman

The American people, long protected from the price of health care by insurance, are now forced to act as consumers. This situation is a free marketer's dream.

What's the Price on That MRI? Patients and the Price of Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 23, 2011 | Jessie Gruman

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to speak as a patient about 'consumers and cost information' while being videotaped for use in the annual meeting of the Aligning Forces for Quality initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Here's what I had to say.

Who Gets Preventive Care?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 19, 2011 | Trudy Lieberman

Who doesn't think preventive health care is important? Probably nobody if you ask this question abstractly. But when it comes to getting it - well that's a different matter.

Revisiting Those Explanations of Benefits

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 19, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Katie Ryan-Anderson, a health reporter at the Jamestown Sun in Jamestown, North Dakota, had a question. What did all that gobbledygook on the Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota mean?

Guest Blog: 10 Sex Tips for Better Looking Health Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 23, 2012 | Michael Millenson

It's always interesting to watch health reform concepts move from policy shops and peer-reviewed papers into the mainstream. Provider report cards have surfaced in venues as diverse as Martha Stewart Living and The Examiner, a supermarket tabloid that promised to reveal 'America's 50 Best Hospitals.'

How Much Does it Cost to Have a Baby?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 24, 2012 | Kenny Lin

My wife and I are expecting our third child, and our new insurance plan requires us to pay 20% coinsurance for all non-preventive care. Given the rapid rate of health care inflation, we thought it prudent to find out how much it would cost this time around. So, we asked for an estimate of the charges. It seemed like a reasonable enough request'

The Price of Paperwork

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 26, 2012 | Inside Health Care

It's said that time is money. In this case, health care insiders argue that Americans and U.S. health insurers are spending too much of both.

Cash Rewards from Your Health Plan

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 30, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care has moved deeper into the business of transforming health care into a commodity governed by the rules of the marketplace. Plan members can get cash rewards'.if they use facilities for outpatient medical procedures and diagnostic testing recommended by the health plan, not their doctors.

What Consumers Don't Know About Their Health Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 7, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

On a chilly New York day, a sales agent for UnitedHealthcare stood on a noisy street corner in Spanish Harlem pushing Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. He was engaging in table marketing a way to snag new customers, converts from other MA plans, he hoped.

Prepared Patient: Young Adults Taking the Health Care Reins

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 9, 2012 | Health Behavior News Service

Your parents still might be willing to do your laundry, but if you're over 18, they can't make your medical decisions. Are you ready to navigate the adult health care system? This updated Prepared Patient feature offers advice for young people who are just starting out in managing their health care, including information on important provisions from the Affordable Care Act.

Health Care's Curtain of Secrecy

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 14, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

I'm skeptical that price transparency about health services will make the health care market more competitive, more honest, or less dysfunctional. After all, health care simply does not work like other markets.

The Government Meets the Jolly Green Giant

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 21, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Labels describing key features of health insurance policies will become a reality this fall fulfilling a provision of the health reform law that called for more disclosure and transparency. The idea was to copy the labeling for food products'

Costs of Care...and Coercion?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 28, 2012 | John Schumann

Nora, a third year medical student, came to me in moral distress. Ms. DiFazio, one of the hospitalized patients on her Internal Medicine rotation, was frightened to undergo an invasive (and expensive) medical procedure: cardiac catheterization.

Hospital Games: Luring Patients to the ER

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 6, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

You may have seen the billboards or gotten a message on your smartphone: Come to our emergency room; our waits are short.

Medicare Games: When Is a Stay in the Hospital Really a Stay?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 21, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

If you or a family member is on Medicare, you would assume that if they are in the hospital their care would be covered under Medicare's Part A hospital benefit. Right? Well, not always.

The Supreme Court's Health Care Decision and Your Pocketbook

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 5, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Last week's drama at the Supreme Court and most of the media coverage that followed omitted crucial information: how a decision either upholding or junking the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will affect ordinary Americans. Because the health reform law is not well understood by most people, it's worth recapping what might happen.

Prepared Patient: How to Find and Use Health Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 5, 2012 | Health Behavior News Service

Several years ago, DeAnn Friedholm had to shop for her own health insurance. The prospective insurance company discovered she had had a couple of benign tumors more than a decade before and so denied her coverage because of her preexisting condition. Just like that, Friedholm had no good option for insurance in case she needed to see a doctor. Whether you are like DeAnn with a preexisting condition, are new to shopping for insurance or trying to figure out what coverage you do have, there are resources to help with this often complicated but important purchase.

What to Do About Long-Term Care Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 17, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

The decision to buy long-term-care insurance and how long to keep it is among the toughest people make as health-care consumers. The product is difficult to buy'confusing, complicated, and costly.

'Death Panels': Beliefs and Disbeliefs in Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 23, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Virginia was particularly concerned that she would not get medical treatment after she turns 75. She had heard at that age, 'they send you a letter. They are going to start sending you literature on death.'

Worried about the Cost and Quality of Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 29, 2012 | Conversation Continues

9 out of 10 sick people, (those with a serious illness, medical condition, injury or disability), are worried about the costs of medical care according to a new poll from RWJF/Harvard, 'What It's Like to be Sick in America'.

Guest Blog: High Health Cost Does Not Guarantee Quality

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 4, 2012 | Toni Brayer

The new buzzword in Medicine these days is "value based purchasing". It's not a new concept...everyone wants to get their money's worth, whether it is a new car, a meal at a fancy restaurant or the best medical care. Without clear information on quality, however, many patients assume that more expensive care is better care.

More Confusion about Those Insurance EOBs. This Time from Medicare

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 6, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

People have a right to receive in plain language a summary of what doctors bill, what insurers pay and how much they themselves must pay.

Guest Blog: How Much Does It Cost to Have an Appendectomy?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 7, 2012 | Kenny Lin

A few years ago, a good friend of mine who holds bachelor's and law degrees from Ivy League schools lost his job and became one of the estimated 50 million medically uninsured persons in the U.S. Over the course of several days, he developed increasingly severe abdominal pain, fever, and vomiting.

Selling Dental Services Like Chevrolets

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 27, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Mailers from a New York City dentist piqued my interest last week offering zero percent financing ' the same come-on that car manufacturers have used for years to entice you to buy Chevys and Toyotas.

Prepared Patient: Do I Have to Go to the Dentist? Oral Health Starts Early

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 28, 2012 | Health Behavior News Service

Many of us have vivid memories of tying a thread to a loose tooth and wiggling it back and forth with our tongue all the time hoping for a profitable visit from the Tooth Fairy. Facebook is full of school and family photos of kids with cute, gap-toothed smiles. But increasingly, children are losing their baby teeth not due to the budding of their permanent teeth but to the ravages of early decay and cavities. There are a number of reasons kids and adults don't make it to the dentist regularly. For some parents, it's a lack of understanding about the importance of oral health, even at an early age.

In the Dark on Costs of Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 2, 2012 | Conversation Continues

'If gas stations worked like health care, you wouldn't find out until the pump switched off whether you paid $3 or $30 a gallon." ' Consumer Reports

After the ACA Ruling---What's next for Employer-Based Health Plans?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 16, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Buzz about the recent Supreme Court's health reform decision has hovered mostly over the individual mandate---the requirement that everyone carry health insurance---and over push back on Medicaid expansion....But what about the 160 million Americans who have coverage from their employers?

Consumer Ambivalence About Health Engagement ' Will OOP Costs Nudge Us to Engage?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 19, 2012 | Jane Sarasohn Kahn

In some surveys, U.S. consumers seem primed for health engagement, liking the ability to schedule appointments with doctors online, emailing providers, and having technology at home that monitors their health status.

How Retirement Income Relates To Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 7, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

If you don't have enough money for retirement, from income and assets, you probably are going to have trouble paying for medical care.

Seniors Will Be Paying More for Their Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 13, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

I was reminded of a conversation I had a few years back with Marilyn Moon '?¦.. The best advice she gave for people not yet on Medicare was to '??Save, Save, Save'?? because even with Medicare, seniors would be paying more for their coverage and for their health care. Moon was right.

How Do We Know If the Price is Right (If We Can’t Find Out What the Price Is)?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 29, 2012 | Jessie Gruman

“Health care costs are sky-rocketing!” “The percentage of the U.S. GDP devoted to heath care costs is the highest in the world.” “The cost of Medicare is unsustainable.” For most of us, the cost of health care (i.e., the dollars required by the system to produce and deliver care) isn’t what brings us the most anxiety.

Trolling for Insurance Prospects on Twitter

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 18, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Selling health insurance on Twitter? Yes indeed. Not long ago a simple tweet about a blog called Medicare Made Clear alerted me to this new way to find sales prospects for Medicare Advantage Plans and Medigap policies

Guest Blog: Health Insurance Decisions Still Tough for Many

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 25, 2012 | Jane Sarasohn Kahn

Americans find health insurance decisions the second most difficult major life decision, only behind saving for retirement and slightly more difficult than purchasing a car. Why are health insurance choices so tough?

Do Seniors Want So Many Medicare Choices?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 2, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Seniors need more Medicare choices, or do they? The answer depends, of course, on who'??s doing the asking.

May I Please See the Prices on the Menu Before I Order?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 4, 2012 | Corey A. Siegel

I am embarrassed. I am a specialist taking care of patients with inflammatory bowel diseases...Until recently I thought I was doing a pretty good job at this. However, I've had an awakening that I've been ignoring an entire aspect of the patient's decision. The aspect of cost.

A Bogus Mass Mailing about Medicare That Just Won't Die

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 18, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Last week, the health care and political pollster Humphrey Taylor received a scary email about rising Medicare premiums from a friend. He was skeptical and wanted to know what I thought. It turns out I knew a great deal and had seen a similar version a few months ago.

When it's Time to Drop Your Medicare Advantage Plan

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 20, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

Currently, Medicare Advantage sellers are engaged in heavy marketing due to the MA open enrollment period that ends on December 7th. The ads don't say much but give enough clues to tip you off that you must ask lots of questions and dig deep to find out what you're getting.

Is Raising the Age for Medicare Benefits a Good Idea?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 18, 2012 | Trudy Lieberman

The twists and turns of recent political conversations over the federal deficit have explored a variety of changes to Medicare. The most likely ones are raising the eligibility age for benefits to 67 from 65.

What the Next Fiscal Showdown Has to Do with Health Care

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 16, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The New Year'??s Day deal between the White House and Republicans postponed the long-awaited debate over cutting Social Security and Medicare. But in the next few weeks, Beltway talk will again turn to slicing these interrelated social insurance programs.

Does the U.S. Get Value for Its Health Care Dollars?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 23, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

It’s hardly a secret that the U.S. is spending close to 18 percent of its GDP (or $8,362 per person) on health care — more than any other country. So it’s fair to ask exactly what we’re getting for our money.

Getting Your Operation at a Cut-Rate Surgery Center

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 29, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Consumerism in health care is coming to mean patients must shop around for the best price — for a doctor’s visit, Cipro, health insurance and maybe even your next operation.

Does the U.S. Get Value for Its Health Care Dollars? – Part 2

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 13, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

It turns out Japan has much to teach us about improving health…In many ways, Japan scores much higher than the U.S. when it comes to the health of its population.

Buying Health Care from a Boutique

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 20, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Somehow, I don’t think of money-back guarantees when I think about going to the doctor. Yet as textbook marketing principles creep into health care, a few medical providers are beginning to look like sellers of toothpaste and detergents.

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.

Making Seniors on Medicare Have More Skin in the Game

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 26, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The movement is growing, it seems, for making people who rely on Medicare have more skin-in-the-game. In the minds of some, seniors and the disabled pay too little for their health care and their Medicare benefits…

Health Care Consumers Are Compromised By Complex Information

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 4, 2013 | Jane Sarasohn Kahn

Americans have embraced their role as consumers in virtually every aspect of life: making travel plans, trading stock, developing photos, and purchasing goods like cars and washing machines. That is, in every aspect of life but health care.

Is Health Insurance Sticker Shock for Real?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 9, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Wherever you turn, there are complaints about health insurance rates. A Pennsylvania woman tells me her monthly premium will soon be $100 more than it used to be. A New Yorker finds the premium for retiree coverage rising 24 percent...

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.

Is Health Care One Gigantic Consumer Problem?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 23, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

One could easily make a case that health care is today’s biggest consumer problem—not unlike those that sparked the consumer movement of the 1960s and 70s. Back then, consumer issues centered on problems with using credit, buying cars and home improvement services, and obtaining the best price for food, appliances, and just about every other new-fangled and expensive product that sprang from the post-war economy.

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.

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…

Rationing Medications

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 15, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

In America, the conventional wisdom is that we don't ration health care. But we do, and there's no better example than patients rationing themselves when it comes to the medicines they take.

Rehabilitating the Image of the Emergency Room

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | May 29, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Maligned over the last decade as places to avoid because of the price of the care they delivered, last week’s release of a study by the RAND Corporation goes a long way toward improving the image of hospital emergency rooms.

Are Health Insurance Rates Going Up or Down — A Cautionary Tale?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 12, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Will consumers buying coverage in the new state shopping exchanges find lower or higher rates? On one side are those who say the newly insured will see lower premiums for coverage.

Cheap Insurance Premiums Come at a Price

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 18, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Yesterday the blog of WIFR-TV in Rockford, Illinois, featured a small story about community groups in the state applying for federal grants to help educate customers coming to the new health exchange in October.

It’s Medicare Versus Medical Supplier in Controlling Costs

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | June 25, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

On July 1, Medicare begins a second round of competitive bidding for medical equipment and supplies, such as diabetes testing strips that beneficiaries use to check their blood sugar levels. There’s nothing remarkable about any of this except that the industry is fighting to make sure that competitive bidding does not happen...

Consumer-Directed Health Isn’t Always So Healthy

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 1, 2013 | Jane Sarasohn Kahn

Giving health consumers more skin in the game doesn’t always lead to them making sound health decisions.

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.

The Limits of Consumer Driven Health Care – A Trip to the Car Mechanic

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 8, 2013 | Davis Liu

As health care becomes increasingly unaffordable, many believe quality would improve and costs would decrease if we treated health care like other consumer-driven markets...If only that were true...

Who Wins or Loses from the Delay in the Employer Health Insurance Mandate?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 10, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

It’s hard to say it was a surprise last week that the Obama administration delayed implementation of the employer mandate — that pillar of health reform requiring employers with more than 50 employees to provide health insurance or else pay a fine.

Can You Choose Your Doctor? Well, Yes and No

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 23, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The specter of loss of choice and freedom to select the doctor you want haunts again. This time it’s being raised on the airwaves with an ad from Americans for Prosperity…

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.

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.

Patient Centered Billing

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 19, 2013 | Beth Nash

My husband and I returned from a weekend away to find a message on our answering machine saying that we owed money to the hospital and that if we didn’t pay it within 10 days, they would send the bill to a collection agency.

The Meaning of Another Obamacare Delay

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 21, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

The media has discovered another delay in another provision of Obamacare, and the new delay affects consumers’ pocketbooks directly...

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.

The Consumer's Ongoing Dilemma: Making Sense of Hospital Prices

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 10, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Hospital charges are essentially like car sticker prices. Insurers use them as a starting point to negotiate what they actually will pay providers on their policyholders' behalf.

Price Shopping Pharmacies Is the Key to Saving on Meds

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 12, 2013 | Ali Khoshnevis

Sumanah was a 26-year-old event planner in New York City when she was suddenly diagnosed with congestive heart failure. After learning that some pharmacies can be upwards of 16 times more expensive than others, Sumanah was able to price shop for the right pharmacy and save a lot on her prescription costs. You can too...

Paying for and Managing Your Medications

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 17, 2013 | Be a Prepared Patient

What people pay for medicine can vary widely. And a recent study found that 20% of Americans take five or more prescription medications. These 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources can help people pay for and manage their medications.

Low Premiums, Narrow Networks and the Ideal of Consumer Choice

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 18, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

We want to have choices about the health care we get and who provides it. Many of us think we have that now...

How Do We Know If the Price Is Right (If We Can't Find Out What the Price Is)?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 18, 2013 | Jessie Gruman

For most of us, the "cost" of health care isn't what brings us the most anxiety. It's when we're patients or helping a loved one find care that so many of us are deeply concerned about the price of our health care: what we – personally, individually – pay to acquire the services, drugs and devices we need...

I Want My Doctor to Care About Costs

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 1, 2013 | Sarah Jorgenson

In a lecture hall of fellow clinicians-to-be, I was told that my job as a physician is not to be concerned with costs but rather to treat patients. What an odd message. Does medicine's unique role of saving lives exempt it from keeping an eye on the register?

Choosing an Exchange Policy: What's the Rush?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 2, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

Will all the White House messages, the stream of breathless Twitter updates on the number of hits and enrollments, and the press hype surrounding opening day send the uninsured public into panic mode?

Beware of Claims That Patient Engagement Cuts Costs

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 9, 2013 | Jessie Gruman

It's a widely accepted truism that increasing patient engagement in health care leads to lower costs and better outcomes. And really, it shouldn't be a problem to convince us to act on our own behalf and engage in the behaviors that support health, right? I see two problems with this viewpoint and with the assertion that patient engagement will lower the cost of health care...

The Latest on the Usefulness of Hospital Ratings

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 30, 2013 | Trudy Lieberman

On Monday, Charlie Ornstein of Pro Publica provided the latest word on the usefulness of hospital ratings, an issue that seems never to disappear despite the growing body of work that raises questions about the methodology used to create them, their conflicts of interest with sponsors, and most importantly, their usefulness to the public.

My BlogTalkRadio Interview: Patient Engagement

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 30, 2013 | Jessie Gruman

Last week, I was interviewed by Dr. Pat Salber and Gregg Mastors on their BlogTalkRadio show, This Week in Health Innovation, about patient-centered care, patient engagement, shared decision making and the cost/quality trade-offs involved, and what all of this means for health care delivery.

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.

The Costs of Being a Patient and a Doctor

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 19, 2013 | Jane Liu

My ultrasound came back "likely benign" with the recommendation that I follow up in six weeks to be sure. Over the next few weeks, I received one bill after another that totaled $1,000. Unable to pay, I felt abandoned by the system to which I had committed my career and did not call to schedule a second ultrasound...

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 HealthCare.gov...

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...

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...

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 3): Understanding Insurance Terms

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 25, 2013 | CFAH Staff

In part three of our series, we look at insurance terms that are used most often to describe or explain how much you’ll pay and what your benefits are. Our 'Be a Prepared Patient' resources clarify these common phrases...

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...

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...

Why Does Our Health Care Cost So Much?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 8, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

We know that the U.S. has the most expensive health care in the world. But beyond noting that dubious achievement, we seldom ask why...

Finding the Price of Health Care Services Remains Elusive

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 9, 2014 | CFAH Staff

It's unfair to advise people to find out the price of a treatment when the price-transparency deck is stacked against them. So who will help patients find reliable price information and (hopefully) bring down the cost of care?

Tiered Insurance Networks: Complicating Obamacare or Controlling Costs?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | January 21, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Last fall, a Pennsylvania woman, frustrated by the snags and snafus of healthcare.gov, turned to the website of Independence Blue Cross, the biggest insurance carrier in Southeastern Pennsylvania, to make sense of her health insurance choices...

N=1: My Experience With Cost, Care and Insurance

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 3, 2014 | Robert Fogerty

During my senior year in college, with medical school acceptance letter in hand, I was diagnosed with metastatic testicular cancer. Early in my treatment I received a letter that my health insurance had been exhausted and I would no longer receive any health benefits. Needless to say, this was a problem...

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?

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...

Patients Unlikely to Deliver on the Promise of Price Transparency

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 19, 2014 | Jessie Gruman

The idea that knowing the price of our care will encourage us to act like wise consumers is a hugely popular topic on blogs, in editorials and in the news. But relying on access to price information to drive changes in our health care choices is full of false promises to both us and to those who think that by merely knowing the price, we will choose cheaper, better care...

'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...

Engagement From Patients' Perspective: Different Than Docs, Employers, Health Plans

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | February 26, 2014 | Jessie Gruman

The Prepared Patient Blog published over two hundred articles in 2013 about what it takes for people to get the most from health care and how the system can be improved to make it feasible for us to do so. Here's a recap of what engagement looks like to us – whether we are sick or well, whether we are caregivers or loved ones: Engagement is not easy and we can't do it alone. Patient engagement is not the same as compliance. It is not a cost-cutting strategy, and it is not one-size-fits-all.

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.

Look Who's Coming Between You and Your Doctor

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 11, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Opponents of health care reform, especially those who resist moving to a single payer system like Canada’s, have often used a very powerful argument to sway public opinion. Any significant changes, they warn, to America's private insurance system would mean that the government will come between patients and their doctors by making decisions about the care Americans receive. But what if it's not the government that is inserting itself between you and your doctor?

The Dilemma of Canceled Insurance Policies

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 18, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

By now it's hardly a secret that insurance companies have canceled the policies of millions of Americans whose old coverage did not comply with new benefit requirements of the Affordable Care Act. But after hearing all the backlash and requiring people to buy newer and, in the eyes of ACA supporters, better policies, the administration took another U-turn and changed the rules once again...

My (Un)prepared Patient Story

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | March 19, 2014 | Jessie Gruman

I'm impressed with the health care that is now available to treat diseases that – even a decade ago – were a death sentence. And I'm so very grateful for them. But we and our doctors and nurses often overlook just how much the success of these tools depend on our active, informed participation. And many of us don't fully understand what it takes to participate well in our care...

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...

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...

Co-Insurance for Medications: A Troubling Trend for Consumers

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 14, 2014 | Ali Khoshnevis

As the health care system changes in the coming years, one particular trend that will negatively impact consumers' out-of-pocket costs is the use of co-insurance (instead of a co-pay) for expensive specialty medications. Approximately 57 million Americans rely on these drugs to maintain their health, and it is disheartening to learn that many people are suffering because their medications have become too expensive...

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.

Society of Behavioral Medicine Announces Inaugural 'Jessie Gruman Award for Health Engagement'

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | April 30, 2014 | CFAH Staff

Dedicated to promoting behavioral medicine research and the application of that knowledge to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, communities and populations, Society of Behavioral Medicine created this award to recognize an individual who has made a pivotal contribution to research, practice or policy in the field of health engagement.

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...

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?

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...

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...

Patient Engagement: Here to Stay

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 1, 2014 | Jessie Gruman

What is patient engagement and what does it take to accomplish? With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, CFAH set out to explore this concept as it was viewed by various diverse stakeholders. Our interviews with 35 key health care stakeholders lead to an impressive unity of opinion...

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...

What Community Health Leaders Told CFAH About Patient Engagement

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 23, 2014 | CFAH Staff

"When I think of patient engagement, I think of a partnership where people work together to figure out what the patient wants and how to support the process. Engagement is the knowledge base, working through the decisions and helping people to become full partners in their health outcomes." – June Simmons, MSW — Founding President and CEO, Partners in Care Foundation, San Fernando, CA

Ingenious Hospitals Find a New Way to Snag Patients

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 29, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

A mother takes her teenage son to an urgent care center that is part of her insurance plan's network. A clerk quickly refers him to the emergency room, across the street, which just happens to be part of the same hospital system as the urgent care center. Is this UCC sending some patients to its related hospital ER, clearly a place of high-priced care, to gin up revenue for the system's bottom line?...

Facing a Serious Diagnosis? 'AfterShock' Now an App

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | July 31, 2014 | CFAH Staff

Receiving bad health news can spark great upheaval. It is a time when nothing is certain and the future looks dark. The new, free app 'AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis' offers a basic roadmap through the first few days and weeks, providing concise information and trusted resources to help you regain a bit of control during this turbulent time...

What Employers and Purchaser Representatives Told CFAH About Patient Engagement

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 6, 2014 | CFAH Staff

"Employers have an opportunity to reduce barriers and support engagement because they sponsor health plans and can provide access to information, tools, technologies, incentives, and more. Employers have more ability to influence engagement than they often believe they have." – Michael Vittoria, Vice President, Corporate Benefits, MaineHealth, Portland, ME

What Health Insurers Told CFAH About Patient Engagement

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 20, 2014 | CFAH Staff

"Most health plans view engagement as important and want to support it. But they recognize that they are only one (relatively weak) factor in supporting patient/consumer engagement... Their customers want their insurance premiums going to medical care, not a bunch of mailings about things they already know they should do..." – Arthur Southam, MD – Executive Vice President of Health Plan Operations, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Oakland, CA

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…

Consumer Choice Clashes With the Affordable Care Act

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 27, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

Recently the Department of Health and Human Services proposed that most of the federal health exchange policyholders be automatically re-enrolled next year in the same policy offered by the same company. That's right, no shopping around...

What Patients Told CFAH About Patient Engagement

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | August 27, 2014 | CFAH Staff

"There's a prevailing attitude on the side of clinicians that looking for and using [our own] information is not good behavior on our parts. I think that attitude is a big barrier; people don't want to be seen as troublemakers for asking too many questions, disagreeing with a clinician, or bringing information to the table." – Kelly Young – Patient Advocate, President of the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation, and Founder of Rheumatoid Arthritis Warrior blog

Stress Is US

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 8, 2014 | Jane Sarasohn Kahn

"Reality is the leading cause of stress among those in touch with it," Lily Tomlin once quipped. So it's no surprise, then, that one-half of the people in the U.S. have had a major stressful event or experience in the last year. And health tops the list...

What Health Care Consultants Told CFAH About Patient Engagement

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | September 10, 2014 | CFAH Staff

"At the end of the day, there is a growing recognition that we need people to take better care of themselves. Too much money is being spent on the consequences of unhealthy choices and on health care. We don't think that patient engagement is just the flavor of the week. The concept of how we can take more responsibility for our health and health care is not going away." – Janice Prochaska, PhD, President and CEO of Pro-Change Behavior Systems in South Kingstown, RI

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...

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...

'Be a Prepared Patient' Gets a New Look

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 1, 2014 | CFAH Staff

Finding good health care and making the most of it is critical for each of us. Yet all too often, reliable, unbiased information is hard to find and understand. On the redesigned Be a Prepared Patient website, we have collected trusted resources and tips to help people navigate their way through health and health care decisions and experiences...

Who Chooses the Medicines You Get – Your Doctor or Your Insurance Plan?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 8, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

A friend of mine suddenly learned the importance of patient engagement a few weeks ago when a matter affecting his pocketbook grabbed his attention. For the last several years the mantra has been "buy generics" as a way to lower the cost of drugs for consumers but also for the nation. For a while insurers did that. Not anymore...

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...

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...

We Don't Ration Health Care in America. Or Do We?

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | October 29, 2014 | Trudy Lieberman

As narrower insurance networks begin to limit where we can get our care and contradict the American notion of abundant choices, I thought about the Canadian health care system and rumors of its long waiting lists that grab U.S. headlines. Yet, narrow insurance networks, sky-high deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays are ways of controlling our medical expenditures. Instead of rationing with waiting lists, America rations with price...

A Difficult Pill to Swallow

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | November 17, 2014 | Brandon Kopper

I am a pharmacy student and was recently sent home with a prescription to treat a very painful earache. I do not recall the name of the medication, but I do remember my reaction when I went to pick it up. I was shocked that the drug would cost me over two hundred dollars! I could not afford the medication, so I went home without it...

Taking Risks With Needed Drugs Due to High Cost

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 8, 2014 | Ginger Skinner

More than 44 percent of Americans regularly take a prescription drug. And according to the 2013 Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs Prescription Drug Tracking Poll, 57 percent of people reported taking steps in the last year – some of them potentially dangerous – to curb high medication costs: not filling a prescription, skipping a scheduled dose, and taking an expired medication. Why? And what can be done to help?

When Facing a Serious Diagnosis, 'AfterShock' App Can Help

PREPARED PATIENT BLOG | December 18, 2014 | CFAH Staff

Receiving bad health news can spark great upheaval. It is a time when nothing seems certain and the future may look dark. Since its release this summer, the free AfterShock: Facing a Serious Diagnosis app has provided users with a basic roadmap through the first few days and weeks after a serious diagnosis, providing concise information and trusted resources to help regain a bit of control during this turbulent time. As one reviewer wrote, the AfterShock app is "a standard for empowered patients"...