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BIG PHARMA POLITICS: Consumers pressure politicians to do something about rising drug prices. Read More

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Wall Street is buying up hospitals, and that’s not good for consumers

Have private equity investors recently bought your local hospital or medical center? If so, beware. Your costs could go up. Research recently published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that hospitals bought by private investors enjoy a substantial increase – almost 30 percent – in net income. What’s going on? It’s not that these hospitals operate…

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Even during pandemic: Hospitals suing patients for unpaid bills

Millions of Americans have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. They’re getting sick. They’re losing their jobs. This has not stopped hospitals from suing patients to recoup unpaid medical bills. A newsletter from Axios points out that the Americans least likely to be able to pay their medical bills are also the same ones who…

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Unnecessarily high prescription drug doses lead to billions in wasted Medicare spending

Discarded Medicare Part B drugs led to $1.4 billion in wasted spending in 2017 and 2018, according to a new report from MedicareAdvantage.com, a Medicare insurance broker. The study analyzed claims data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, finding that Medicare spent $695 million on discarded drugs in 2017 and $725 million in…

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Coronavirus pandemic influences American public opinion on high drug costs

American consumers were already in favor of lowering drug prices before 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has added urgency to the debate. New polling from Data for Progress and Be a Hero finds that voters in some of 2020’s battleground states are ready for a more aggressive policy agenda to make COVID-19 vaccines and treatments…

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Majority of retirees think drug price increases should be restricted

Do you think seniors should get a break from high prescription drug prices? You are not alone. A new survey from The Senior Citizen League, a group committed to educating seniors about their rights, found that 83 percent of adults age 65 and older think Congress should restrict drug-price increases to the rate of inflation….

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COVID-19 cost concerns depend upon who you are

Americans’ level of concern about the cost of care for COVID-19 varies widely between white and non-white adults, according to a new study from Gallup and West Health, an organization committed to lowering health care costs for seniors. Of non-white adults surveyed, 58 percent reported being “extremely concerned” or “concerned” about being able to pay…

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How much have you spent on unnecessary dental treatments?

We’re told that orthodontic treatments benefit our health and well-being. Now some in the field challenge this claim, suggesting that Americans are spending billions on unnecessary dental procedures. Peter Vig, Ph.D. in facial morphology, started to question what he had been taught about the necessity of orthodontic treatments and submitted letters to academic journals pointing…

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Should the federal government continue to pay for COVID-19 treatment costs?

How much will COVID-19 cost the nation’s health system or individual Americans? The cost estimates are currently in the hundreds of billions of dollars. BRINK reports that cost estimates from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation range from between $10,000 to $90,000 per person depending on the services needed for treatment. The…

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Three things that could lower health care spending and improve late-life care

A new study from Stanford Medicine researchers has found three approaches to late-life care that could save patients a lot of money. Peer support Occupational therapy and home repairs Telephone conversations about health care goals The study points out that these services fall outside the traditional definition of medical care. However, they are now covered…

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New ‘surgical assistants’ add even more cost to your hospital bill

When Izzy Benasso tore her meniscus during a friendly game of tennis with her father, she had to undergo a repair operation to fix the damage. Thankfully, the operation went well. However, she received an unwelcome surprise when the Benassos learned that a surgical assistant was present during Izzy’s operation. That put them on the…

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Is a ‘no profit’ COVID-19 vaccine too good to be true?

Some drugmakers have pledged not to take a profit from sales of COVID-19 vaccines. However, they have not defined what ‘no profit’ means. Nor do we know how long that pledge will last. Politico reports that these unknowns are feeding doubts in Congress, whose members want to know who will pay for the large price…

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Will we see legislation addressing rising drug prices this year? Probably not

Rising drug prices have motivated Americans to pressure their elected officials for a fix. We have yet to see the federal government put meaningful protections in place, and a recent effort by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, fell apart entirely. Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act with co-sponsor…

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Wealthy hospitals sought donations to pay for staff equipment

Inova Health System, a Virginia hospital, told bondholders in 2019 that it had $3.1 billion in investments it could liquidate in three days if needed in an emergency. And yet, Kaiser Health News reports the hospital received more than $144 million in advanced Medicare payments and $49 million in other federal coronavirus assistance. In addition….

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Will Big Pharma take advantage of COVID-19 to raise prices?

Could the pharmaceutical industry leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to raise drug prices? That’s what a majority of Americans are afraid of, according to a new study by West Health and Gallup. The research found that nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will create an excuse for pharmaceutical companies to…

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Americans’ health care has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has done more than shut down businesses and restaurants. It has also disrupted Americans’ medical care. GoodRx released a new survey showing how coronavirus has impacted the health care system and what this has meant for those seeking treatment. Three out of four Americans had to adjust their health care use due…

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Has the pandemic changed US views on health care?

The height of the coronavirus pandemic put immense pressure on the US health care system as hospital beds were filled to capacity, while many medical procedures were postponed. Did this event change American views on big changes to health care? Not really, according to a new study. A survey by the University of Chicago Harris…

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Study: Out-of-pocket costs for patients with type 1 diabetes top $2,500 a year

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes spend an average of $2,500 a year out-of-pocket to treat the disease but, surprisingly, insulin isn’t always the biggest expense. A new study discovered that insulin pumps, syringes and continuous glucose monitors accounted for a large share of out-of-pocket costs. Researchers at Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott children’s Hospital…

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$7,000 for a COVID-19 test? What consumers should know

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that some people will take advantage of a terrible situation. But reports of the staggering costs of COVID-19 testing, from $153 to nearly $7,000 are still stunning. As Voices for Affordable Health recently reported, many health insurance plans have agreed to cover the entire cost of COVID-19 testing and…

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Should U.S. regulate profits gained from COVID-19 treatments?

A new national survey finds that the majority of Americans believe the government should regulate profits drug companies make from treatments related to COVID-19. STAT News shared results of the survey, which found 78 percent of American respondents surveyed between April 20 and April 26 believe the U.S. government should control the price of COVID-19…

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Should Big Pharma halt drug price increases during the COVID-19 pandemic?

That’s exactly what a consumer group is calling on pharmaceutical companies to do. The group is also calling for the U.S. government to regulate medicine cost increases. Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, has urged a freeze on drug price increases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates also believe the regular drumbeat of price increases for…

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U.S. cracks down on fraudulent coronavirus antibody tests

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration created a policy for coronavirus antibody tests, some vendors took advantage and made false claims to cheat the system. Blood tests for antibodies can determine who has been previously infected with the virus, which is seen as a key piece in the effort for Americans to return to…

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Cost of childbirth can cause sticker shock

Most parents’ savings plans focus on college funds. However, a new report finds a more immediate bill to save for: childbirth. The Health Care Cost Institute found that the national average for the cost of childbirth was almost $14,000 in 2016 and 2017. This cost includes out-of-pocket payments to the birth facility and provider. The…

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Price triples for pill used to treat COVID-19. Anybody surprised?

In April, Jaguar Health asked the federal government to authorize emergency use of its drug, Mytesi, for more coronavirus patients. Less than a month later, the pharmaceutical company more than tripled the drug’s price. Mytesi is the only drug of its kind to relieve certain symptoms for people on antiretroviral treatments. At the end of…

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Nursing homes want immunity from coronavirus-related lawsuits

COVID-19 has hit nursing homes especially hard, with the death toll reaching nearly 12,000 as of the last week of April. Now the nursing home industry is seeking immunity from lawsuits that may be filed against the owners and employees of the 15,600 nursing homes throughout the nation. NBC reports that at least six states…

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How much will COVID-19 cost the U.S. in medical expenses? Billions

A new report estimates the financial burden on the health care system if most of the U.S. population became infected with COVID-19. The total? $654 billion. The study published in the journal Health Affairs points to additional direct medical expenses if the need for hospital beds and ventilators exceeds what is currently available. That is…

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She could handle the biopsy and the results but not the “surprise” bill

Voices for Affordable Health has shared many “surprise” medical billing stories over the past few years, but none quite like Michelle Kuppersmith’s experience. Kuppersmith, 32, told Kaiser Health News that she was shocked when a routine blood test revealed that her body made too many platelets, which help control bleeding. Her doctor suspected she had…

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Price triples for pill used to treat COVID-19. Anybody surprised?

In April, Jaguar Health asked the federal government to authorize emergency use of its drug, Mytesi, for more coronavirus patients. Less than a month later, the pharmaceutical company more than tripled the drug’s price. Mytesi is the only drug of its kind to relieve certain symptoms for people on antiretroviral treatments. At the end of 2019,…

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Big Pharma enjoys BIG profit margins

Research published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds business for most pharmaceutical companies is good. As in very profitable. Between 2000 and 2018, 35 big drug companies brought in a combined revenue of $11.5 trillion, with a gross profit of $8.6 trillion. While a trillion dollars is difficult for most of…

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Take care: Young adults not immune to COVID-19

As news headlines first reported the rise of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19, many young adults assumed their age and good health would prevent them from catching it, or at least experiencing major illness. “I’m in college, and school was still going on. It didn’t really sink in,” Laura Mae, 27,…

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Health insurers step up to cover COVID-19 costs

There’s the health worry about contracting COVID-19. And then there’s the worry about how to pay for it, should the worst happen. Time recently shared the story of a Boston-area woman who contracted the coronavirus and recovered, only to face more than $35,000 in medical bills. Those of us who live in Washington, Oregon, Idaho…

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New study exposes skyrocketing health care prices in the last five years

Is $6,000 a year too much for individuals to be spending on health care? The Health Care Cost Institute found that’s about the average amount American consumers under age 65 spent in 2018. The Health Care Cost and Utilization Report presents data on health care spending, utilization, and average prices from 2014 through 2018 for…

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How much did Big Pharma spend on lobbying over 20 years? Billions

The lobbying power of the pharmaceutical companies in Washington, D.C., and in 50 state capitols across the country is well known. Now, thanks to a professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science, the power can be measured in dollars. Relying on publicly available data, Olivier Wouters, an assistant professor of Health Policy…

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Altering a consent form could protect you from surprise medical bills

If you or a loved one go to the emergency room for treatment, you probably have more on your mind than the language in the hospital’s financial and treatment consent form. But when Stacey Richter’s husband went to a New Jersey emergency room for a possible heart attack, she was worried about a big bill…

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Utah is paying public employees to avoid high U.S. drug prices by buying them in Mexico

Want to buy prescription drugs at a lower cost? Utah’s public employees are traveling to Mexico, where they can pick up specialty medications at about half the price charged in the United States. The cost-saving measure, “Rx Tourism,” has already been used by 10 Utah residents. The state covers airfares for the patient and a…

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Should doctors also be lobbyists?

Surprise medical bills are a hot-button issue for voters, and Congress has been looking at solutions to protect Americans from these types of charges. However, the proposed legislation with the most progress this year is making more and more concessions to physicians. Why? Doctors are also very effective lobbyists. Kaiser Health News (KHN) reported on…

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Think planning your surgery is the best way to avoid surprise medical bills? Think again.

Studies show about 1 in 5 patients who seek medical care in a hospital emergency room later receive excessive and unexpected medical bills. But even those who plan ahead for a surgery are just as likely to find themselves on the hook for “surprise” charges. A new study from the Journal of the American Medical…

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Americans are still struggling to pay medical bills

A new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the number of people struggling to pay medical bills has actually fallen by 5.5 percentage points since 2011. However, more than 14.2 percent of Americans still had problems paying their bills in 2018. While the needle is moving in the right…

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Good news! Drug price inflation slows. Bad news! More medications carry $1 million price tags

American consumers will continue to see their prescription medication costs rise over the next year, but research for Vizient, a large health-care organization, indicates the drug price inflation rate will average about 4 percent between July 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. That’s a modest jump compared to recent years when prescription drug prices spiked…

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New solution to lowering Rx price? States, insurers, others manufacture drugs themselves

Tired of waiting for the federal government to do something about rising prescription drug prices, a group of health insurers announced plans to start manufacturing their own versions of popular generic medications. The goal: Create enough competition to prompt Big Pharma to drop prices—at least on generics. The effort comes from a consortium of 18…

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Drug makers go to great lengths to keep you from getting access to a cheaper generic

A study from Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University found that generic versions of brand-name medications have not made a huge dent in drug price inflation yet. Researchers looked specifically at multiple sclerosis treatments and found a common practice among drug makers as the cause. Shortly before a generic drug can be…

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New Year ushers in new price hikes for your prescription drugs

Prices on more than 250 prescription drugs in the U.S. increased Jan. 1, 2020, according to data from the health care research firm 3 Axis Advisors. Reuters reports that the median price increase is about 5 percent, with more early year price increases possibly coming. The cost increases are hardly surprising. Big Pharma typically celebrates…

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What?! Expensive yet lifesaving drug for newborns being offered through random lottery

The world’s most expensive drug, Zolgensma, has a price tag of $2.1 million and is approved only in the U.S. It’s a one-shot cure for newborns with spinal muscular atrophy, a deadly inherited disease. Now its maker, Novartis, has launched a lottery-style program to provide the drug free of charge to a limited number of…

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Air ambulance companies admit they want you to get mad about surprise bills

Has this scenario happened to someone you know? A patient is transported to the hospital by air ambulance, usually in a helicopter. The insurance provider covers part of the bill, but the excessive cost, usually $20,000 or more per trip, means the patient is still on the hook to pay thousands of dollars out of…

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Rather than lower prices, drugmakers find new ways for people to pay for their expensive drugs

The rising cost of prescription drugs is making it harder for the average consumer to afford them. In response, drugmakers are now experimenting with new ways to get paid for their most expensive medicines. The Wall Street Journal reports that pharmaceutical companies are considering installment plans, subscriptions, and even more complex “value-based” contracts based on…

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Does your doctor have a criminal record? How would you know?

When you’re looking for a new doctor, you might consider recommendations from friends and family, proximity to your home or work, or whether they’re in your health plan’s network. But how do you know if your doctor has a criminal record? ProPublica has helpful resources for researching doctors, including information on whether someone has been…

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Bill for lab test: $35. Late fee? More than $1,000

Kaiser Health News recently dedicated its podcast “An Arm and a Leg” to the story of a woman who visited a fertility clinic for a few tests and later faced threats of more than $1,000 in late fees on her payments. “Miriam,” as she is identified in the story, had insurance. She thought her plan…

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Big Pharma sues Oregon for wanting transparent drug costs

As if Big Pharma doesn’t get enough of our dollars, the industry is now going after Oregon taxpayers. The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade group also known as PhRMA, is challenging two Oregon laws that could reduce prescription drug prices. They say Oregon’s HB 4005 and HB 2658 are unconstitutional because they…

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Doctors group backed by private investors repeatedly sued its patients for payment

Having a major illness or watching a family member go through one is hard enough. It’s made worse when you are threatened with a lawsuit for failing to pay the big medical bill you received after treatment. TeamHealth, an emergency room staffing firm, has filed thousands of lawsuits against patients in Memphis. ProPublica and MLK50…

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Former Pharma executives confess: Corporate greed is behind skyrocketing prescription drug costs

Oregon State University pharmacy professor Daniel Hartung has long suspected that rising prescription drug costs are driven not by investment in research, but by a desire for higher profits. Now he has proof. An article from The Oregonian outlines this new evidence from Hartung and his research team. The findings were revealed through anonymous interviews…

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Congress taking close look at private investors’ impact on hospitals and health care costs

The House Committee on Financial Services in November discussed whether we need new rules to contend with the growing role private equity firms and private investors play in the U.S. economy. CBS News reports that a memo prepared by staff for the committee found that investors looking to score big profits managed as much as…

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Earnings reports show Big Pharma continues to enjoy record profits

If you’re at all concerned about how Big Pharma is faring financially – don’t worry. Third-quarter earnings reports show that pharmaceutical companies continue to see record profits while prescription drug prices keep rising. The Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP) recently summarized third-quarter earnings and found that drug giant AbbVie announced better than expected earnings,…

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Prices for emergency medicine and anesthesiology services on the rise

Studies show that patients are more likely to receive so-called “surprise” medical bills from an anesthesiologist or after being treated in an emergency room. Now a new study finds that hospitals mark up the prices for those services even more than for others. Surprise medical bills, also known as “balance” bills, often happen when patients…

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Shocking new survey findings: High health care costs are life-threatening

In the last five years, 34 million Americans had a friend or family member die because they couldn’t afford high health care costs for treatment. That’s according to a new study by Gallup and West Health, a nonprofit organization working to lower health costs. The findings are based on surveys of 1,099 U.S. adults across…

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Seniors beware: Newly designed Medicare Cost Finder may be giving you wrong insurance information

The federal government recently redesigned the $11 million Medicare tool, Medicare Cost Finder, which helps seniors compare complex health insurance options. However, ProPublica reports that consumer advocates are finding that the digital tool is malfunctioning and providing inaccurate cost estimates, creating confusion in some states during the open enrollment period. Diane Omdahl, a Medicare consultant…

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As more patients struggle to pay medical bills, more hospitals seek payment in court

Voices for Affordable Health has reported before on the disturbing number of patients who are hauled into court because they can’t pay their medical bills. Recently, The New York Times published a story with some concerning revelations: In nearly all cases in which hospitals sue patients over unpaid bills, the hospitals prevail. Often that means…

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Seriously ill, on Medicare and struggling to pay the bills

Though the federal Medicare program was designed to give older Americans a safety net when it comes to accessing and affording health care, a new survey finds many seniors and people with disabilities are struggling to pay their medical bills. The national survey, first published in the journal Health Affairs and reported by the Associated…

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New report: Profits grow and patients suffer when private equity takes over

Private equity investors are penetrating every corner of U.S. health care, and in some cases risking the lives of patients, according to a report from Bloomberg News. Aveanna Healthcare LLC was created through a series of corporate takeovers with the goal of maximizing profits while providing quality at-home nursing care for the sick and disabled,…

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3D mammograms cost more, are they worth it?

If you’re a woman and you’ve had a mammogram anytime in the past few years, chances are good that you’ve been asked whether you’d like to have a 3D mammogram. And you may have been told that 3D technology is more effective in detecting breast cancer. Conventional 2D screenings provide two views of each breast,…

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Doctors are accepting billions of dollars from drug and medical device companies

Investigative reporters at ProPublica have spent the past several years documenting the billions of dollars pharmaceutical companies pay doctors for “consulting.” The latest report finds the cash still flowing, despite critics who find these payments to be questionable, if not unethical. More than 2,500 physicians have received at least $500,000 apiece from drug makers and…

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Watchdog report: Price hikes on just seven drugs cost U.S. consumers $5 billion

The federal Food and Drug Administration is charged with ensuring that new drugs coming to market effectively do what they claim to do. However the FDA has little, if any, say on whether price increases on any given drug are justified by increased benefit. For the past several years, the Institute for Clinical and Economic…

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New brand-name drugs command higher prices, which also affects generics

A good news/bad news report for consumers: Pharmaceutical companies are not raising the list prices of existing prescription medications as often as they used to. That’s the good news. Here’s the flip side: As new drugs come to the market, more have huge price tags attached. In fact, Axios reported on a new study that…

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Has your local hospital or doctor’s office become part of a big health care system? You may be paying more as a result of the merger

When it comes to health care, how big is too big? That was a question recently asked by the California Department of Justice, which filed a lawsuit against Sutter Health, a Sacramento-based nonprofit with 24 hospitals and 5,500 doctors. California’s Attorney General was concerned by a number of anti-competitive practices carried out by Sutter Health,…

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Startling stat: $1 of every $4 spent on health care is waste

A new study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms what many of us have either experienced or strongly suspect: There’s a lot of waste in the U.S. health care system. Researchers working for Humana, an insurance company, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine calculate that between $760 billion and…

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The $75 band aid

Voices for Affordable Health regularly asks consumers to share how they’ve been personally affected by rising health care costs. We believe our elected leaders will not act until they truly understand how high costs affect real people. We make it easy for you to share by clicking this link. Today, we want to share a…

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Dark money is trying to kill legislation that would prevent surprise hospital bills

A secretive group calling itself “Doctor Patient Unity” has spent $30 million to kill legislation in Congress that would protect patients from surprise and unexpected medical bills. The goal of the proposed bill would set federal rates to resolve billing disputes so insured patients would be protected from staggering bills for out-of-network care. Politico reports…

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Attractive air ambulance memberships may be false promises

Air ambulance companies are offering annual subscriptions to help people living in rural areas avoid surprise medical bills. This practice would be very attractive to people who live, work or play dozens of miles from the nearest hospital. Those miles can add up. A recent federal report found that the median price for a medevac…

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Prices skyrocket for drugs that cure rare diseases

A new report from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) finds that pharmaceutical companies have manipulated federal law to raise the prices of orphan drugs 26-fold the past two decades, from an average price of $7,136 in 1997 to $186,758 in 2017. Orphan drugs treat rare medical conditions, often referred to as orphan diseases, and would…

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New data shows impact of high drug prices in each state

AARP, a national organization that advocates for aging Americans, recently released new data that shows the impact of skyrocketing drug prices for residents in each state. The information specifically looks at those living with cancer, diabetes and heart disease, according to AARP. Each state has an accompanying infographic to outline the effect on those residents….

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Multiple sclerosis drug prices more than quadruple in 11 years

Patients with multiple sclerosis, also known as MS, must give themselves uncomfortable injections once or twice a day as treatment. If that wasn’t bad enough, they also must cope with the drug’s skyrocketing cost which has increased more than four times since 2008. As a result, Medicare spending for Medicare Part D beneficiaries has soared…

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Legislation protecting consumers from “surprise” medical bills has broad support, may not pass

The odds are that you or someone you know has received an unexpected and excessive medical bill from a hospital or health provider. A recent study found one in six Americans were surprised by a medical bill after receiving hospital treatment in 2017, and that’s despite having insurance. The same study found 38 percent are…

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Big Pharma is spending big dollars to fight drug cost legislation

Pharmaceutical companies are donating large amounts of campaign cash to U.S. senators to fight legislation targeting high prescription drug costs. One aggressive proposal that could get a vote in Congress this year would cap Medicare drug prices so they do not outpace inflation. Political action committees representing drug companies have responded by giving $845,000 to…

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More Americans are skipping their diabetes meds because they’re too expensive

New government data shows that people are being forced to ration their diabetes drugs because of the rising cost of insulin. Stat News reports that 13 percent of adults who were prescribed a diabetes medication in the past 12 months either skipped a dose, took fewer doses, or delayed refilling their prescription because they couldn’t…

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Are you paying for one of these most expensive drugs in Oregon?

The Oregon Division of Financial Regulation just announced the top 25 prescription drugs that “contribute the most to annual spending by health insurance companies” as reported by The Oregonian. The state released the list in order to highlight the drug transparency program, which was passed in 2018 to increase transparency regarding prescription drug costs and…

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Proposed legislation could help prevent surprise medical bills. One group is spending $1.2 million to stop it.

One in six Americans have received a surprise medical bill after getting care from a doctor or hospital outside their health insurance network. Seems like this is an issue Congress might do something about. But a new group, Physicians for Fair Coverage, is fighting reform. Legislation introduced in the House and Senate would make the…

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A trip to the emergency room leads to the courtroom when hospital bills are too high

In Butler County, Mo., the busiest legal docket is the one dealing with medical cases. Every week patients are called to court to defend themselves against high hospital bills. This year Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center has filed more than 1,100 lawsuits for unpaid bills, as reported by The Washington Post. “I’m hoping to negotiate…

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Why does health care cost so much? New report points to hospitals

A new report from UnitedHealth Group, a large managed health care company, found the annual cost of hospital inpatient services exceeded $200 billion in 2018. And that was just for patients with private insurance. If hospital prices grow at their current rate, the annual spending total could exceed $350 billion by 2029. The report finds…

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Big Pharma boosts its lobby spending as policies to lower drug costs sputter

The president and a growing number of U.S. senators and representatives say they want to bring drug costs down. But the drug industry isn’t giving up easily. Spending on lobbying by the pharmaceutical industry increased in the second quarter of this year, just as efforts in Washington, D.C., to lower prices appear to have stalled….

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Hospital consolidation: It may be good for the bottom line, is it good for your health?

Part of our job at Voices for Affordable Health is to keep track of how the latest trends in health care affect consumers. Many of you have likely noticed that your local hospital has been purchased by a big health care system. Now Modern Healthcare, an industry website, reports that consolidation of hospitals is prompting…

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Feeling anemic? Check the price before you get an infusion treatment

Routine bloodwork done as part of Shannon Wood Rothenberg’s annual physical pointed to anemia, a condition that runs in her family. Rothenberg’s doctor advised her to take iron supplements. Two months after starting the iron pills, Rothenberg’s anemia persisted. So the doctor sent the 48-year-old teacher to a hematologist who could look deeper into the…

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Some good news about drug prices! (Caveat: They’re still high)

It’s not often that Voices for Affordable Health can report that the prices of most prescription drugs in the United States did not rise during the second quarter of this year. That’s right. Unfortunately, drug prices aren’t dropping either. An analysis by GoodRx, a company that tracks drug prices from more than 70,000 U.S. pharmacies,…

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High costs of insulin send some desperate Americans to Canada

Watch the full report from PBS NewsHour An estimated 7.4 million Americans use insulin daily to manager their diabetes. They know all too well that prices for insulin nearly doubled from 2012 to 2016. What to do? One in four people skip the drugs, or cut their doses way back. Others turn to black-market drugs…

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Does it pay to shop around for a lower priced MRI?

Liz Salmi has been living with brain cancer for more than a decade. Twice a year she gets an MRI, magnetic resonance imaging, to make sure her cancer isn’t growing. Salmi told Kaiser Health News that she didn’t think much about the cost until she changed jobs and insurance plans. Suddenly she was told her…

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Big Pharma wants to sell anticancer drugs because that’s where the Big $ is

Tracking the mergers, acquisitions and business moves within the U.S. pharmaceutical industry can be a good way to predict how consumers will be ultimately affected. Bob Herman, a reporter at Axios, recently posted a story that looks at how and why companies are expanding their reach into the manufacturing and marketing of anticancer medications. This…

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Are you worried about getting an unexpected medical bill? A majority of us are

Research recently released by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds nearly 7 in 10 (67 percent) American consumers are worried about opening their mailbox to find an excessive and unexpected medical bill. That from a survey conducted in 2018. And apparently we have good reason to be worried. Here’s a breakdown of actual surprise billing incidents…

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Non-profit hospitals take aggressive measures to recoup consumer debts

Two in 10 American consumers are struggling to pay a medical debt, according to a study recently published by JAMA, the American Medical Association’s online journal. While that statistic may be startling, a series of news reports that followed also raised eyebrows. The reports highlighted the extreme measures that nonprofit hospitals are taking to force…

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It’s not your imagination: Prescription drug prices are higher this year

There has been a lot of talk in Washington, D.C., about the need to bring prescription drug prices under control. Unfortunately, actual costs point to a lot of talk and not a lot of action. Politico reports that prescription drug prices rose 10.5 percent during the first six months of 2019. That was slower than…

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No surprise: Drug companies don’t want to include prices in TV ads

We probably should have seen this one coming. (And maybe some of you did). Big Pharma is going to court to try to block a new federal rule requiring drug companies to include their list prices in their television commercials. In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, pharmaceutical giants Merck, Eli Lilly, Amgen and…

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“It’s just wrong.” Parents receive sky-high bill for son’s emergency transport

Christian Bolling was only doing what boys do. During a hike in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains with his parents and sister, the 9 year old found some boulders to climb. But he lost his footing and fell down a rocky 20-foot drop, fracturing bones in his left leg, his wrist, both sides of his nose…

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Hospitals spend top dollars to lure doctors practicing in high-cost specialties. Guess who ultimately pays?

There’s no question that hospitals need doctors and doctors need hospitals. A survey by Merritt Hawkins, a physician recruiting firm, details just how lucrative that arrangement can be. For example, an internal medicine doctor generates $2.7 million in average revenues – 10 times his salary – for the hospital with which he is affiliated. The…

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Nevada adopts new law in response to rising costs for asthma drugs

Why is it so expensive to have asthma? That’s the question elected officials are asking in Nevada, where a new state law requires drug companies to disclose information about how they price asthma medications, including manufacturing and research expenses. The law comes in response to significant price increases in medications used to treat asthma. For…

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Sign the petition: Tell Congress to protect patients from surprise medical bills

Sandi Kay Hayes had a melanoma removed from her leg and was shocked by the bill: $6,435. “Wow” she posted on Voices for Affordable Health’s Facebook page. Wow, indeed. After her knee surgery, Sally Zeek received a surprise bill from a doctor she didn’t know who was not in her insurance network. She called the…

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Washington’s Insurance Commissioner warns consumers: Beware of sham “health care ministry” plans

Imagine getting a hip transplant or treatment for a serious illness or emergency only to find that the health insurance you bought online wasn’t actually an insurance plan at all. Now you’re left with thousands of dollars of medical bills. The Seattle Times and the Washington State Insurance Commissioner are warning consumers about so-called “health-care…

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It pays to shop around before having an out-patient diagnostic test

Your doctor recommends that you have an echocardiogram – an ultrasound of your heart. Depending on where you have it done, the cost for the diagnostic test could range from $210 to $1,830. Yep. That’s for the exact same test. A study by the UnitedHealth Group finds pricing for the most common outpatient diagnostic tests…

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Trend watch: The top-selling drugs in the U.S. get even more expensive

New research published by the JAMA Network looked at the prices on the 49 top-selling brand-name medications in the United States. Forty-eight brand-name drugs saw a price increase at least once a year from Jan. 1, 2012, through Dec. 31, 2017. The cost of only one decreased over time. As a group, the top 49…

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A young mom drove her 2-year-old to the emergency room. Then waited in the parking lot.

We read all the time about how high medical bills shock patients and their families. Voices for Affordable Health recently updated our surprise medical bills page with new consumer stories. But even we were struck by a story from Vox health reporter Sara Kliff because it illustrates the terrible choices people are forced to make….

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Whoa! Prices of some generic drugs jump by more than 1,000 percent

Remember being told that generic medications are just as effective as and far more affordable than name brands? Well, that might not be true for all. A 500-page lawsuit filed by 43 U.S. states and Puerto Rico accuses 20 pharmaceutical companies of colluding to inflate generic drug prices. The suit says 20 drug companies engaged…

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Have we reached a breaking point? Study says half of American adults struggle to pay for medical care

A new study by the American Cancer Society reveals a growing number of American adults experience financial hardship as a result of paying for medical care. More than half, 56 percent of respondents, reported facing financial struggles related to health care in the past year. Their experiences were largely determined by their access to insurance,…

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Snake bite nearly poisons one family’s bank account

Spending time in nature can be relaxing and refreshing. But for one young hiker, a day outdoors threatened to be deadly. Kasier Health News recently reported the story of 9-year-old Oakley Yoder, who was walking through the Illinois wilderness with a group of fellow summer campers when she was bitten by a copperhead, a type…

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Plastic surgeons fixed his face, but the bill nearly damaged his credit

Bob Ensor didn’t see it coming. He was cleaning a sailboard in dry dock when the boom swung and hit him in the face. The 65-year-old man was rushed by ambulance to a hospital near his home in Middletown, N.J., where X-rays showed his nose and several bones of his left eye socket were broken….

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It’s not your imagination, prescription drug costs jumped this year

If it seems like your prescription medications cost more than ever, it’s not your imagination. The prices of more than 500 drugs jumped at the start of 2019. An analysis by GoodRx, an app and website focused on drug pricing, found that prescription medications continue to get more expensive. Findings include: Between Jan. 1 and…

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Trump administration wants drug ads to include costs; Big Pharma says that will confuse you

You can’t get through a network evening newscast without watching at least one commercial for a prescription medication. The government requires those ads to include an exhaustive list of side effects. And soon, ads for prescription drugs that cost more than $35 a month will also include the price. “We are moving from a system…

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Beware of scammers seeking your personal health information

With new technology comes an excitement around speed, knowledge and increased access – often prompting people into sharing their information for a chance to try out the newest app or program. But in this new sharing economy, we need to be mindful of what we’re giving out and who we’re giving it to. According to…

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Check the fine print for your prescription drugs costs

Rising costs for prescription medication create stress for almost everyone and are especially daunting for those living on fixed budgets. Many consumers do not understand how and why their prescriptions cost as much as they do. A new report by STAT News highlights recent efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to disclose the prices of their…

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Shopping around for medications can save families thousands

Consumers can save thousands of dollars a year by shopping around for pharmacies and medications, according to a new report published by Oregon State Public Interest Research Group. Researchers called more than 200 pharmacies in 11 states to ask about medication prices. What they discovered was shocking. Many pharmacies offered the cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor for…

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Uncapped Medicare costs are squeezing consumer pocketbooks

As the American health care affordability crisis continues to unfold, many consumers have struggled to pay for expensive prescription medications. Even seniors and those with disabilities qualifying for Medicare, the federal health insurance program, struggle to cover the costs. Medicare Part D provides consumers financial benefits. Consumers are expected to pay 25 percent of their…

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Many Americans skipping health care because of high costs. Find out who is most likely to go without.

Rising health care costs pose great challenges to many American families. A recent poll by the Morning Consult and Business Insider found that 58 percent of adults have delayed some form of medical care because the cost is simply too high. The survey of 4,400 adults found: 62 percent of women (53 percent men) have…

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Computer glitches in health care can cause you to lose more than just your records

A recent case, first brought forward by the U.S. District of Vermont, and reported by Kaiser Health News sheds light on some of the problems caused by medical records software. Forty-seven-year-old Annette Monachelli had seen her doctor repeatedly, claiming she was suffering terrible migraines. Her doctor ordered a head scan. But Monachelli died of a…

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Washington woman faces nearly $227,000 in medical costs, says she wishes the doctors hadn’t saved her life.

Debbie Moehnke made an appointment with her doctor because her feet were badly swollen. By the time the Vancouver, Wash., woman arrived at the doctor’s office, she couldn’t breathe. Moehnke, 59, was having a heart attack. She was first rushed by ambulance to a local hospital. The next day she was transported across the Columbia…

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Shop around for medical equipment or you could end up with a $900 knee brace

Each month Kaiser Health News features a story of a consumer stuck with an outrageous medical bill. March brought a doozy of a story. Esteban Serrano, a 41-year-old software engineer who lives in Pennsylvania, hurt his knew playing a weekend soccer game. His doctor diagnosed a strain of the medial collateral ligament and prescribed over-the-counter…

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Despite Medicare drug benefit, some seniors spend thousands each year

Congress has taken some steps to fix problems with the Medicare prescription drug benefit introduced in 2006. For starters, the dreaded doughnut hole is gone. Now seniors pay 25 percent of the cost of their brand-name drugs until they’ve spent $5,100 out-of-pocket. At this point, the catastrophic portion of their coverage kicks in, and the…

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New GAO report: Air ambulance transport saves lives but puts patients’ finances at risk

An air ambulance may be the best way to get you to a hospital in an emergency. But how much could it cost you? That’s the question researchers at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, or GAO, tried to answer. The GAO analyzed private health insurance data for air ambulance transports and found patients were left…

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Yes, drug prices are rising during the coronavirus pandemic

Last month we told you that Americans were worried Big Pharma would use COVID-19 as an excuse to raise prescription drug costs. Now we know they are. Politico reports drugmakers raised the price of hundreds of medicines during the coronavirus pandemic, even in the face of Trump administration vows to crack down on surging drug…


A high hospital satisfaction rating does not mean better care

You would think choosing a hospital that enjoys a high satisfaction rating would mean you are more likely to receive top-notch health care. That is not always the case. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that patients in the United States who were the most satisfied with their care were 26 percent…


Novartis pays millions in fines for bribing doctors

Pharmaceutical company Novartis has agreed to pay more than $345 million to U.S. authorities to resolve charges that it bribed health care providers in different countries to boost prescriptions for its medicines. Bribing health care providers in several countries violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In Greece, Novartis offered financial incentives to employees of…


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New study reveals how Big Pharma protects its patents and its profits

Ever hear of the term “product hopping”? Even if you haven’t, you may have been affected. Becker’s Hospital Review reports that pharmaceutical companies used this anti-competitive tactic to protect their monopolies, costing the U.S. health system (i.e. all of us) $4.7 billion a year on just five brand-name drugs. Here’s how it works: Shortly before…

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Drugmaker hikes prices even after getting $1 billion from U.S. taxpayers

Receiving more than $1 billion from U.S. taxpayers to develop a COVID-19 vaccine hasn’t stopped one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies from hiking prices on their other drugs. The Los Angeles Times reports that AstraZeneca boosted prices not once but twice. Analysis by The Times and 46brooklyn Research, a nonprofit that studies the pharmaceutical…

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High Rx costs got you down? Take the Voices survey and share your story

A recent Gallup survey found that most Americans (nearly 9 out of 10) believe the government should regulate price increases on prescription medications developed by taxpayer-funded research. No surprise. A Voices for Affordable Health community survey underscores this result. Doris, a home health nurse from southwest Idaho, shares: “Some of my patients have multiple medications….

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Wall Street is buying up hospitals, and that’s not good for consumers

Have private equity investors recently bought your local hospital or medical center? If so, beware. Your costs could go up. Research recently published by JAMA Internal Medicine found that hospitals bought by private investors enjoy a substantial increase – almost 30 percent – in net income. What’s going on? It’s not that these hospitals operate…

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Even during pandemic: Hospitals suing patients for unpaid bills

Millions of Americans have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. They’re getting sick. They’re losing their jobs. This has not stopped hospitals from suing patients to recoup unpaid medical bills. A newsletter from Axios points out that the Americans least likely to be able to pay their medical bills are also the same ones who…

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Unnecessarily high prescription drug doses lead to billions in wasted Medicare spending

Discarded Medicare Part B drugs led to $1.4 billion in wasted spending in 2017 and 2018, according to a new report from MedicareAdvantage.com, a Medicare insurance broker. The study analyzed claims data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, finding that Medicare spent $695 million on discarded drugs in 2017 and $725 million in…

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Coronavirus pandemic influences American public opinion on high drug costs

American consumers were already in favor of lowering drug prices before 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic has added urgency to the debate. New polling from Data for Progress and Be a Hero finds that voters in some of 2020’s battleground states are ready for a more aggressive policy agenda to make COVID-19 vaccines and treatments…

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Majority of retirees think drug price increases should be restricted

Do you think seniors should get a break from high prescription drug prices? You are not alone. A new survey from The Senior Citizen League, a group committed to educating seniors about their rights, found that 83 percent of adults age 65 and older think Congress should restrict drug-price increases to the rate of inflation….

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COVID-19 cost concerns depend upon who you are

Americans’ level of concern about the cost of care for COVID-19 varies widely between white and non-white adults, according to a new study from Gallup and West Health, an organization committed to lowering health care costs for seniors. Of non-white adults surveyed, 58 percent reported being “extremely concerned” or “concerned” about being able to pay…

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How much have you spent on unnecessary dental treatments?

We’re told that orthodontic treatments benefit our health and well-being. Now some in the field challenge this claim, suggesting that Americans are spending billions on unnecessary dental procedures. Peter Vig, Ph.D. in facial morphology, started to question what he had been taught about the necessity of orthodontic treatments and submitted letters to academic journals pointing…

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Should the federal government continue to pay for COVID-19 treatment costs?

How much will COVID-19 cost the nation’s health system or individual Americans? The cost estimates are currently in the hundreds of billions of dollars. BRINK reports that cost estimates from the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation range from between $10,000 to $90,000 per person depending on the services needed for treatment. The…

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Three things that could lower health care spending and improve late-life care

A new study from Stanford Medicine researchers has found three approaches to late-life care that could save patients a lot of money. Peer support Occupational therapy and home repairs Telephone conversations about health care goals The study points out that these services fall outside the traditional definition of medical care. However, they are now covered…

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New ‘surgical assistants’ add even more cost to your hospital bill

When Izzy Benasso tore her meniscus during a friendly game of tennis with her father, she had to undergo a repair operation to fix the damage. Thankfully, the operation went well. However, she received an unwelcome surprise when the Benassos learned that a surgical assistant was present during Izzy’s operation. That put them on the…

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Is a ‘no profit’ COVID-19 vaccine too good to be true?

Some drugmakers have pledged not to take a profit from sales of COVID-19 vaccines. However, they have not defined what ‘no profit’ means. Nor do we know how long that pledge will last. Politico reports that these unknowns are feeding doubts in Congress, whose members want to know who will pay for the large price…

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Will we see legislation addressing rising drug prices this year? Probably not

Rising drug prices have motivated Americans to pressure their elected officials for a fix. We have yet to see the federal government put meaningful protections in place, and a recent effort by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, fell apart entirely. Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, introduced the Prescription Drug Price Reduction Act with co-sponsor…

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Yes, drug prices are rising during the coronavirus pandemic

Last month we told you that Americans were worried Big Pharma would use COVID-19 as an excuse to raise prescription drug costs. Now we know they are. Politico reports drugmakers raised the price of hundreds of medicines during the coronavirus pandemic, even in the face of Trump administration vows to crack down on surging drug…

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A high hospital satisfaction rating does not mean better care

You would think choosing a hospital that enjoys a high satisfaction rating would mean you are more likely to receive top-notch health care. That is not always the case. A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that patients in the United States who were the most satisfied with their care were 26 percent…

Read Article

Novartis pays millions in fines for bribing doctors

Pharmaceutical company Novartis has agreed to pay more than $345 million to U.S. authorities to resolve charges that it bribed health care providers in different countries to boost prescriptions for its medicines. Bribing health care providers in several countries violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In Greece, Novartis offered financial incentives to employees of…

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Couple’s tax refund taken to pay for decades-old surprise medical bill

A “surprise” medical bill often arrives in the mail weeks or even months after a medical service – a charge you were not expecting. In an extreme example, a Virginia couple received a notice about an unpaid medical bill 20 years later. And they learned their tax refund would pay for it. Jane Collins and…

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Wealthy hospitals sought donations to pay for staff equipment

Inova Health System, a Virginia hospital, told bondholders in 2019 that it had $3.1 billion in investments it could liquidate in three days if needed in an emergency. And yet, Kaiser Health News reports the hospital received more than $144 million in advanced Medicare payments and $49 million in other federal coronavirus assistance. In addition….

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Will Big Pharma take advantage of COVID-19 to raise prices?

Could the pharmaceutical industry leverage the COVID-19 pandemic to raise drug prices? That’s what a majority of Americans are afraid of, according to a new study by West Health and Gallup. The research found that nearly nine in 10 U.S. adults are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will create an excuse for pharmaceutical companies to…

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Americans’ health care has been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has done more than shut down businesses and restaurants. It has also disrupted Americans’ medical care. GoodRx released a new survey showing how coronavirus has impacted the health care system and what this has meant for those seeking treatment. Three out of four Americans had to adjust their health care use due…

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Has the pandemic changed US views on health care?

The height of the coronavirus pandemic put immense pressure on the US health care system as hospital beds were filled to capacity, while many medical procedures were postponed. Did this event change American views on big changes to health care? Not really, according to a new study. A survey by the University of Chicago Harris…

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Study: Out-of-pocket costs for patients with type 1 diabetes top $2,500 a year

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes spend an average of $2,500 a year out-of-pocket to treat the disease but, surprisingly, insulin isn’t always the biggest expense. A new study discovered that insulin pumps, syringes and continuous glucose monitors accounted for a large share of out-of-pocket costs. Researchers at Michigan Medicine’s C.S. Mott children’s Hospital…

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$7,000 for a COVID-19 test? What consumers should know

It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that some people will take advantage of a terrible situation. But reports of the staggering costs of COVID-19 testing, from $153 to nearly $7,000 are still stunning. As Voices for Affordable Health recently reported, many health insurance plans have agreed to cover the entire cost of COVID-19 testing and…

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Should U.S. regulate profits gained from COVID-19 treatments?

A new national survey finds that the majority of Americans believe the government should regulate profits drug companies make from treatments related to COVID-19. STAT News shared results of the survey, which found 78 percent of American respondents surveyed between April 20 and April 26 believe the U.S. government should control the price of COVID-19…

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Should Big Pharma halt drug price increases during the COVID-19 pandemic?

That’s exactly what a consumer group is calling on pharmaceutical companies to do. The group is also calling for the U.S. government to regulate medicine cost increases. Public Citizen, the consumer advocacy group, has urged a freeze on drug price increases during the COVID-19 pandemic. Advocates also believe the regular drumbeat of price increases for…

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U.S. cracks down on fraudulent coronavirus antibody tests

When the U.S. Food and Drug Administration created a policy for coronavirus antibody tests, some vendors took advantage and made false claims to cheat the system. Blood tests for antibodies can determine who has been previously infected with the virus, which is seen as a key piece in the effort for Americans to return to…

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Cost of childbirth can cause sticker shock

Most parents’ savings plans focus on college funds. However, a new report finds a more immediate bill to save for: childbirth. The Health Care Cost Institute found that the national average for the cost of childbirth was almost $14,000 in 2016 and 2017. This cost includes out-of-pocket payments to the birth facility and provider. The…

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Price triples for pill used to treat COVID-19. Anybody surprised?

In April, Jaguar Health asked the federal government to authorize emergency use of its drug, Mytesi, for more coronavirus patients. Less than a month later, the pharmaceutical company more than tripled the drug’s price. Mytesi is the only drug of its kind to relieve certain symptoms for people on antiretroviral treatments. At the end of…

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