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Blue Cross reports it pays varying prices for common surgeries

Posted by on July 21, 2015
Jim Bryant/NW Guardian

Jim Bryant/NW Guardian

Summary: Prices paid by insurers for common procedures vary wildly. Two recent reports from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, which insures one of three Americans, point to the discrepancies.

 

 


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Birth control spending drops after Affordable Care Act, study finds

Posted by on July 9, 2015

Summary: “Out-of-pocket spending on most major birth control methods fell sharply in the months after the Affordable Care Act began requiring insurance plans to cover contraception at no cost to women, a new study has found,” Sabrina Tavernise writes in “After Health Care Act, Sharp Drop in Spending on Birth Control” in The New York Times. “Spending on the pill, the most popular form of prescription birth control, dropped by about half in the first six months of 2013, compared with the same period in 2012, before the mandate took effect. The study, by health economists from the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed health insurance claims from a large private insurer with business in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It evaluated the effect of the Affordable Care Act, the biggest piece of social legislation in decades, on women’s pocketbooks. It estimated that savings from the pill alone were about $1.4 billion in 2013. Cost has long been a major obstacle to women getting birth control, and declines in what they pay for contraceptives have the potential to increase access and reduce unplanned pregnancies. About half of the 6.6 million pregnancies a year in the United States are unintended, far higher than in most developed countries.”

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Dr. Google, I’d like you to meet Google Insurance Co.

Posted by on July 5, 2015
2011 Google AdWords Income. Source: Wordstream

2011 Google AdWords Income. Source: Wordstream

Summary: Google Insurance Co.? It might be right around the corner. Google has been tinkering with insurance for a few years now, and its recent activities suggest more of the same. Google’s primary source of income, of course, is advertising, and a quick look at the company’s ad revenue gives a clear picture of business opportunities to come.

 

 


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What you love about us: Our ‘greatest hits’ blog posts

Posted by on July 2, 2015

Summary: What does our community love most about us? Our search tools, and our “how much does a … cost?” blog posts. Here’s a chart showing our biggest hits for the last 90 days. Click on the link to see the post. What’s not visible here: Links to our crowdsourcing partnerships, like this one from KQED public radio in San Francisco, this one from KPCC public radio in Los Angeles, and this one from WHYY public radio in Philadelphia. You might also be intrested in knowing how people use our information.

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The Cadillac tax on insurance, and the auto unions: Investors.com

Posted by on July 2, 2015

Summary: Here comes the Cadillac tax, and one place where it will be meaningful is in the auto industry, as Investor’s Business Daily points out: “The four-year contract that GM, Fiat Chrysler and Ford (NYSE:F) will hammer out with the UAW will cover the beginning of the so-called Cadillac tax, an ObamaCare provision that goes into effect in 2018. A 40% excise tax will be levied on health insurers for plans that exceed certain cost thresholds: $10,200 for individuals and $27,500 for families. The insurers will likely pass on Cadillac tax costs to employers, who will then split it with workers. The U.S. auto industry is looking at a hefty tab. According to the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), the average package for individuals at GM, Ford and Chrysler costs $16,000. ‘Health care is a third rail for UAW workers,’ said Kristin Dziczek, CAR’s assistant research director. ‘If automakers came back and said, “We want you to pay more,” that could be a deal breaker.’ ” Source: Cadillac Tax, Tiered Wages To Steer Auto Union Talks GM F FCAU – Investors.com

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Protected: Insurance payments: Secrets revealed, quietly, in California

Posted by on July 2, 2015

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Supreme Court blocks restrictive Texas abortion law: Vox

Posted by on June 29, 2015

Summary: “The Supreme Court has put on hold a controversial 2013 Texas abortion law — a sign that it will likely take up the major abortion challenge in its next term. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals previously found the Texas restriction, which requires abortion clinics to make costly upgrades to become ambulatory surgical centers, to be constitutional. An abortion clinic in Austin asked the Supreme Court to step in and block that ruling from taking effect until the justices had decided whether or not to review that Fifth Circuit decision. On Monday, the justices agreed.” Sarah Kliff, “Supreme Court blocks controversial Texas abortion la, Vox.

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Obamacare subsidies continue, court rules. Now let’s get to work.

Posted by on June 25, 2015

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Summary: The Affordable Care Act’s health insurance subsidies to low-income people will continue, the Supreme Court ruled today. In a much-anticipated ruling on the challenge to the law, the government won. Federal tax subsidies will continue to individuals who qualify by income level and who bought insurance plans relying on subsidies in states that used the federal exchange site, healthcare.gov, as well as states that built their own exchanges, in a decision in the case King vs. Burwell.

 

 


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Cost of Services at Palo Alto Medical Foundation

Posted by on June 20, 2015

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Summary: Cash prices for medical procedures are getting easier to find. Here’s a price listing page from the Palo Alto Medical Foundation web site, which lists prices in categories like “diagnostic imaging” and “doctors office visit.” The site explains: “The services below have drop-down menus that show charges for frequently used services provided by Palo Alto Medical Foundation. The amounts you see are the most you would pay before any discounts that may be available to you. The charges also do not include any additional procedures that may be done as part of the visit. If you can’t find the service you are looking for, please call (888) 398-5677.” Cost of Services at Palo Alto Medical Foundation.”

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Health care quality metrics, examined: The Health Care Blog

Posted by on June 19, 2015

Summary: “In the future, doctors who provide better healthcare will be paid more. When a doctor gives good care, she will get credit. For factors out of that doctor’s control, she won’t be penalized,” Rachel Katz writes in this thoughtful and thorough explanatory piece examining quality metrics from a provider’s perspective on The Health Care Blog. “The patient, too, will be rewarded for taking care of his own health. In short, payments will align with good care, and good care will become more common. This is the promise of value-based care, which is coming, according to almost everyone. Medicare is pushing it. Private payers are preparing for it.Top providers are tooling up. And yet, the question lingers — how exactly do we measure quality? Today quality measurement is rigid, periodic, and manual. Here’s a peek behind the curtain of what we measure today — and what’s possible tomorrow.” Rachel Katz, Anatomy of a Healthcare Quality Metric,” The Health Care Blog.

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