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We’re live: Our iFundWomen crowdfunding campaign launched

Posted by on November 2, 2016

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Summary: We’re thrilled to announce our crowdfunding campaign over on the new iFundWomen website. We’re raising money to make our website better for people who come to us on smartphones and tablets, like iPads. Why? We get 60 percent of our traffic on mobile, up from 40 percent when we built the site, and we need to be better for our mobile users. You can read all about it here on our iFundWomen page, where you’ll also find the movie shown here. Please contribute! Your support is deeply appreciated, and it will take us to the next level. Also — please look at the other 16 powerful women-founded companies that are part of this beta class with us.

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Shamed for overcharging, hospitals raised their prices, again: The Washington Post

Posted by on November 1, 2016

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Summary: “A year ago, a study about U.S. hospitals marking up prices by 1,000 percent generated headlines and outrage around the country,” Lena Sun writes at The Washington Post. “Twenty of those priciest hospitals are in Florida, and researchers at the University of Miami wanted to find out whether the negative publicity put pressure on the community hospitals to lower their charges. Hospitals are allowed to change their prices at any time, but many are growing more sensitive about their reputations. What the researchers found, however, was that naming and shaming did not work. The researchers looked at the 20 hospitals’ total charges in the quarter of a year before the publicity and compared them to charges in the same quarter following the publicity. There was no evidence that the negative publicity resulted in any reduction in charges. Instead, the authors found that overall charges were significantly higher after the publicity than in previous quarters.” Lena Sun, “Despite being shamed for overcharging patients, hospitals raised their prices, again,” The Washington Post.


What’s the most popular drug in your state: Viagra, Truvada, Chantix?

Posted by on October 31, 2016

Summary: What’s the prescription drug that’s most searched for on Google in your state? Look here: a fascinating tale of who’s looking to kick smoking with Chantix (Montana, North Dakota, Iowa) or have an erection  with Viagra (California) or lower blood pressure with Exforge (Texas, Louisiana, South Carolina. Utah: Nuvaring contraceptives. And New York? Truvada, the anti-HIV medication. The big winner: Suboxone, to help addicts. Full story is here.


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How much will that cost/did that cost? Part 1 of a series on billing

Posted by on October 30, 2016


SUMMARY: How much will that cost? Why did that cost so much? People are getting used to asking this in the health care marketplace. Many of us grew up with the $10 co-pay, but that’s rapidly becoming a thing of the past. With rising deductibles, more out-of-network providers, more uninsured people and more out-of-pocket spending, it’s increasingly a question we want to ask – and before the medical procedure, not after, when the “gotcha” bill upsets us. Here’s a handy guide to asking: Before, during and after. How much will that cost? Why did that cost so much? Click  for Part I.



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Our IFundWomen opportunity, and other news

Posted by on October 23, 2016


Summary: It’s been busy over here at ClearHealthCosts. Here’s some news: We have been chosen for the beta of IFundWomen, a new crowdfunding platform for women-owned businesses. They liked our mission: revealing health care costs. Our ask: We’ll be raising moolah to make our home site mobile first, or easier to use on smartphones, iPads, etc. — as have Google, Apple and others, to better serve our community. We get about 60 percent of our visitors on mobile, so this is past due, and it will help us a lot!

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How do people use our data? Our community speaks

Posted by on October 21, 2016

Summary: Not everyone who comes to our data uses it in the same way — some people are cheering us on and offering to help just because they think transparency is the right thing. Here are some voices from our Florida partners’ survey of their community members: ‘This will be a valuable tool & may serve to keep facilities on their toes re prices they charge. Or maybe not, current system so entrenched & Insur co drive the costs, too. *sigh*” … “I think this is a great idea and needs to happen. Please keep it going” … “I know nothing about health care, and almost never use it. So I don’t know what I could contribute. But I believe in what you guys are doing, so I’ll help where I can.” … “Keep growing the data base- could be a great resource” … “This is such important work. I hope you spread the word to other public radio stations so the information can go national.” Thanks to our community: We believe in you, too!

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How do people use our data? Some searchers and their searches

Posted by on October 19, 2016

Summary: How do people use our information? We’re often asked who our visitors are and what they’re looking for. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. We have a system of Web analytics that lets us see, in some cases, where you’re coming from, depending on your internet configuration. It will also let us see what you’re doing here — though of course it doesn’t give us your name, address and phone number. We wouldn’t want them anyway. So: How do people use our information? Here’s a snapshot in time, from a couple of hours on a Wednesday afternoon (New York time).

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How drug coupons undermine value purchasing in health: NEJM

Posted by on October 14, 2016

Summary: “In 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced a goal of linking at least 50% of Medicare spending to value-based payment models such as accountable care organizations,” Leemore S. Dafny, Christopher J. Ody and Matthew A. Schmitt write in the New England Journal of Medicine. “Health care providers are now scrambling to reorganize in a way that delivers value while preserving or enhancing commercial success. … Value-based plan design — a term that describes payers’ efforts to align consumer cost sharing with the value generated by a service or drug — may sound like a new development in health care, but it’s old news for prescription drugs. For years, insurers and pharmacy benefits managers have steered consumers toward generic and other high-value drugs by categorizing drugs into ‘tiers’ and requiring lower copayments for preferred drugs. By 2000, roughly three quarters of consumers enrolled in employer-sponsored health plans had prescription plans with two or more drug tiers. Today, a similar proportion have plans with at least three tiers. Tiering not only encourages consumers to use high-value drugs, it also gives insurers leverage during price negotiations with manufacturers.Under tiering, insurers offer manufacturers favorable tier placement in exchange for better discounts. … In recent years, drug manufacturers have counterattacked by offering ‘copayment coupons.’ These coupons or discount cards — distributed by physicians’ offices, through the mail, and online — enable the manufacturer to pay some or all of a consumer’s copayment for a prescription. By severing the link between cost sharing and the value generated by a drug, copayment coupons can undo the beneficial effects of tiering. With such coupons, consumers’ cost sharing may actually be lower for higher-tier brand-name drugs than for lower-tier therapeutic substitutes or generic bioequivalents. Since insurers typically cover about 80% of the total price of a prescription, however, the combined amount that the insurer and the consumer spend for higher-tier drugs remains substantially greater. If coupons shift spending toward these higher-priced drugs, the net effect will be higher pharmaceutical spending and, ultimately, higher health insurance premiums.” Leemore S. Dafny, Christopher J. Ody and Matthew A. Schmitt, “Undermining Value-Based Purchasing — Lessons from the Pharmaceutical Industry,” New England Journal of Medicine.


Study: Hospital rankings may rely on faulty data; U.S. News responds

Posted by on October 7, 2016

Summary: “The October 2016 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, features the article ‘Consumer Rankings and Health Care: Toward Validation and Transparency,’ by Bala Hota, MD, MPH, and co-authors, Rush University Medical Center (RUMC), Chicago.” according to a press release on EurekAlert. “After RUMC received a lower than expected ranking for patient safety in the 2015-16 U.S. News & World Report’s (USNWR) ‘Best Hospitals’ rankings, the authors compared the data that USNWR used for their hospital to their own internal data. The authors found that the USNWR data showed many more patient safety events, such as pressure ulcers, almost all of which had actually been present at the patient’s admission. Suspecting a broader problem, Hota et al. analyzed data on a sample of hospitals and found that RUMC was not the only organization with discrepancies in data. False-positive event rates were common among high-transfer and high-volume hospitals. The authors conclude more transparency and validation is needed for consumer-based benchmarking methods. In response to these findings and concerns raised by others, USNWR made changes to its methodology and data sources in 2016. In an accompanying editorial, ‘The Quality Measurement Crisis: An Urgent Need for Methodological Standards and Transparency,’ David M. Shahian, MD, Elizabeth Mort, MD, MPH, and Peter J. Pronovost, MD, PhD, reflect on the Hota et al. article to conclude, ‘Just as health care providers have ethical and moral responsibilities to the public they serve, rating organizations and journalists that grade providers have similar obligations–in their case, to ensure measure validity and methodological transparency.’ RUMC further explored the importance of rating organization’s validity and methodological transparency in the following essay, ‘Hospital Rankings Have Room for Improvement.'” Study: Hospital rankings may rely on faulty data,” EurekAlert! Science News. In response, Ben Harder, head of the U.S. News and Word Report quality ranking efforts, posted a description of how “quality measurement is a journey,” which you can read here.


Profits on prescriptions: Where did the money go?

Posted by on October 7, 2016

Summary: Following the money in prescription pricing is hard. Demystifying the topic is Julie Appleby at Kaiser Health News, with this graphic. Screen Shot 2016-10-07 at 9.47.51 AM


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