Comparison shopping, rationing, hospital bills and more

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Nokia N8 Smartphonephoto © 2010 Cheon Fong Liew | more info (via: Wylio)
There’s an app for that: “Picture it: Your doctor tells you that you need an MRI. Okeydoke, you say, pulling out your smartphone and typing in your zipcode. Up pop the 20 closest high-quality imaging centers, and you choose the most convenient. That’s my visualization based on a casual mention that Blue Cross Blue Shield chief Andrew Dreyfus made last week of a new app now in development. ‘We’re pretty close to delivering this,’ he told a health reform forum at Suffolk.” Carey Goldberg, CommonHealth blogger at WBUR. More.

Rationing by any other name: “A Washington state committee wrestling with how much health care the state can afford is generating controversy over its decisions to restrict coverage for some care. The committee of 11 physicians is part of the state’s Health Technology Assessment program, which makes decisions affecting health coverage for about 750,000 state residents including state employees, Medicaid recipients and prisoners.” Shirley S. Wang, The Wall Street Journal. More

28 Percent increase in 4 years: “U.S. community hospitals billed insurance companies and Federal and State programs $1.2 trillion in 2008 for inpatient care, according to the latest News and Numbers from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). This represents a 28 percent increase over the $900 billion, adjusted for inflation, billed in 2004. Total charges billed to Medicare ($534 billion) and Medicaid ($159 billion) accounted for about 60 percent of all charges in 2008. Private insurers were charged $373 billion, or 32 percent of the total. The uninsured accounted for $48 billion, or 5 percent of the national bill.” More

Losing coverage: “In the last two years, an estimated 9 million working-age adults became uninsured after losing a job with health benefits, according to The Commonwealth Fund’s 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey. The results underscore the great difficulties unemployed Americans face today in finding affordable health care coverage—only a quarter of people who lost their employer health benefits found another source of insurance, and just 14 percent elected COBRA coverage. More.