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Health Insurance Prices: Highest In Alaska, Lowest In Sun Belt : NPR

Posted by on January 15, 2015

Summary: “In health insurance prices, as in the weather, Alaska and the Sun Belt are extremes. This year Alaska is the most expensive health insurance market for people who do not get coverage through their employers, while Phoenix, Albuquerque, N.M., and Tucson, Ariz., are among the very cheapest,” Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News writes for NPR.




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Low-cost fertility treatments: Friends of Low Cost IVF

Posted by on January 13, 2015

Summary: Fertility treatments can be shockingly expensive, so I was excited to discover this organization: “Friends of Low Cost IVF,” which has as its goal reducing the cost of in vitro fertilization worldwide.




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Medical debt causes 52% of debt collections: Federal and Kaiser Foundation figures

Posted by on January 11, 2015


Summary: The Affordable Care Act has made health insurance available to many people who were uninsured, but the cost has been high for many. The most common insurance plans purchased under the A.C.A. tend to have lower premiums, which mean higher deductibles — leaving individuals on the hook for hefty payments, in some cases. Good research on this topic is hard to find, because some of the research and anecdotes come from people with agendas. So here’s a good report citing government figures, from the Kaiser Family Foundation.




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The All-Payer Claims Database: What you need to know

Posted by on January 10, 2015


Summary: A friend told us the other day that the all payer claims database, also known as an APCD, is the answer to health cost transparency. By collecting the payment info together where it can be compared, by this logic, the secrecy in the system will be erased. We said, not so much. Why? Here are some reasons.



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IRS issues new regulations on patient finances, collections: Fierce Health Finance

Posted by on January 3, 2015

Summary: “The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on Monday released new regulations on how non-profit hospitals collect sums owed by patients. The intent of the regulations is to prod hospitals to behave in a more transparent manner with patients and give them an opportunity to apply for financial assistance. The rules bar hospitals from seeking payments from patients in their treatment rooms, or selling their debt to collections agencies without making a “reasonable effort” to offer financial assistance first. Hospitals will also be limited from billing patients without insurance who are eligible for financial assistance any more than what they charge insured patients. They must also widely publicize their financial eligibility guidelines and clearly communicate them to patients.” Ron Shinkman, Dec. 30, 2014, via IRS issues new regulations on patient finances, collections, – FierceHealthFinance.


Anonymous reviews: Harsh TripAdvisor reviewer’s identity is protected in court ruling

Posted by on January 2, 2015


Summary: We get a lot of questions about anonymous reviews online. The idea that people can hide behind a spurious name and express opinions about a business, a doctor or anyone else online is a fairly frequent topic of discussion in our PriceCheck project, where we allow individuals to tell prices and also comment about their providers. So we were interested in this recent Oregon court ruling on a case involving, which — like Yelp, ZocDoc, Vitals, HealthGrades, Chowhound and a raft of other businesses — also allows anonymous reviews.




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Quality rankings in New York State: Hospital-acquired infections, 2013

Posted by on December 23, 2014

Summary: Quality rankings are hard to find in health care. Here’s a good resource for New York State, documenting infection rates for various procedures in 2013, hospital by hospital — though it’s hardly user-friendly: “Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) result in prolonged hospital stays, unnecessary deaths, increased antimicrobial resistance, greater healthcare costs, and added emotional and personal costs to patients and their families. This report summarizes HAI rates in New York State (NYS) hospitals in 2013. It is the seventh annual report to be issued since reporting began in 2007 following the implementation of Public Health Law 2819. All NYS HAI reports are available at These data are available for download at .


Paying more because you have insurance. Is cash cheaper? Maybe.

Posted by on December 22, 2014

2204277278_cbf43f4146Summary: Paying more because you have health insurance? It’s definitely happening for some people. Many of us are accustomed to thinking that we pay insurance premiums to get access to a lower cost for health care procedures — that being the “negotiated rate” or “contracted rate” that the insurance company and the payer agree to in contract talks. But increasingly we are hearing, in our California PriceCheck project and elsewhere, that insured people are paying more than uninsured people — not everywhere, and not all the time, but not infrequently.




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How managed care prescription pricing has worked to raise costs

Posted by on December 20, 2014

Summary: “The Center for Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) at the University of Michigan reports that until 2002, most people with employer-sponsored insurance that included prescription drug coverage were in plans with one or two formulary tiers. As of last year, nearly 25% of insured people were in plans with four or five tiers, and the highest two tiers typically were devoted to specialty medications.” Click this link to read more in “Health Plans, Patients Struggle To Pay for High-Cost Drugs” in Managed Care Magazine Online.


Minnesota agency releases total cost of care across medical groups

Posted by on December 18, 2014

Summary: A new report has just been published by MN Community Measurement that allows consumers to compare the cost of health care at medical groups across the state. I don’t know of another database quite like this one for actionable consumer information.




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