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

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What happens when your insurance plan is “out-of-network” with the largest ER in your city?

It’s a familiar story for many. You have an accident. You have insurance. All is well and you’re happy to be alive. But like Nina Dang, who suffered a broken arm after her bike skidded on some rough pavement, months later you receive a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. Vox recently reported about…

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A push for price transparency seeks to lower your prescription drug costs

If you had better access to information about the price of your medications, assistance programs, and drug company sales, would it change your prescription buying habits? The U.S. Health and Human Services Department believes it will. Drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. will begin airing ads that flag their new website, lillypricinginfo.com, Bloomberg reports. The drugmaker…

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Is Big Pharma using scare tactics to keep you from trying lower-cost generics?

Pharmaceutical companies often point to the lives saved by their brand-name drugs. When it comes to less-expensive generic medications formulated to provide the same benefits, Big Pharma opts instead for doubt and fear to protect their profits. The Washington Post recently reported that doctors, drug companies and the nation’s regulators are finding evidence that drugmakers…

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Doctors receive $20 billion each year from Big Pharma to recommend drugs

Since 1997, pharmaceutical companies have spent $20 billion annually to persuade doctors and other medical professionals to recommend their drugs to their patients. Now, they’ll be making their plea directly to you. The prediction comes from an analysis published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which found the majority of marketing costs…

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Despite transparency, hospital sticker prices remain confusing

As of Jan. 1, 2019, the Trump administration requires all hospitals to post their list prices online. The objective is to promote transparency for hospital costs. Instead costs remain as confusing as ever. These lists are massive compendiums of prices set by each hospital for services, drugs and other items patients could be charged for….

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Pharmaceutical industry desperately wants you to keep taking its drugs

Pharmaceutical companies will go out of their way to keep customers taking their costly prescriptions, even if the customer can’t afford them. As reported by Time, Kip Burgess could no longer afford his $4,000 per month arthritis drug from pharmaceutical company Amgen.  When he called the drug-maker repeatedly and asked for help, it sent him…

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Legal experts say contract law should already protect you from surprise medical bills

Joaquin Lopez received an $8,000 bill from a hospital, in addition to the $11,000 he and his insurance already paid. For patients like Lopez, a surprise medical bill like this leaves them powerless.  Now legal experts say contract law should already protect them. Some legal scholars say patients already have protection against some of the…

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Oregon Senator thinks Pfizer should explain its price hike

In 2005, a bottle of 90 Lyrica pills cost $150. Today that same bottle of the nerve-pain drug costs more than $650. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is asking Pfizer to explain this dramatic increase. “The cost of Pfizer’s drug, Lyrica, has grown tremendously over the past several years,” Wyden wrote in a letter shared…

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Patient receives a surprise bill from a hospital they’ve never been to

After a routine checkup with their primary care doctor, a patient was charged an extra $372 “hospital” fee by the Massachusetts General Hospital six miles away. They had never even set foot in that hospital. One reason hospitals are able to charge fees for offsite facilities is the growing practice of buying up local physician…

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2019 Congress not yet sworn in, but legislation addressing drug costs piling up

There may be little agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, but the skyrocketing cost of prescription medications appears to be one area of consensus: Drug prices are too high, and that’s hurting consumers. Newly elected members of the U.S. House and Senate are not officially sworn in until January, but veteran members are already…

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Pfizer is raising drug prices… again… after backing down earlier this year

Over the summer President Trump leveled criticism toward Pfizer for raising drug prices, and as a result Pfizer rolled back some increases. However, in early 2019, increased costs are back. Pfizer said it will raise the list prices of 41 prescription drugs, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The announcement was timed with Pfizer’s…

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Hospitals merge to save money, but you pay more

A common practice among hospitals the past decade has been to merge and consolidate resources. Hospitals say this benefits patients through lower prices and coordinated services, along with other savings. However, The New York Times reported that hospital mergers squash the competition, and that results in higher prices for consumers. A study conducted by researchers…

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Price of life-saving drug for opioid overdoses jumps 600 percent

You’ve heard this story before: A pharmaceutical company takes advantage of demand for a life-saving drug by raising the price and raking in a hefty profit. It’s happening again, this time with the nation’s deadly opioid crisis. Vox reports that pharmaceutical company Kaleo raised the price of its naloxone drug, called EVZIO, from $575 to…

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Just 10 companies rake in half of the health care industry’s global profits

Half of the health care industry’s $50 billion in global profits went to just 10 companies in the third quarter this year. Nine of the 10 are pharmaceutical firms. The analysis came from an Axios spreadsheet of financial documents for 112 publicly traded health care corporations. The numbers show that Americans spend a lot more…

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Why do drugs cost so much more in the United States?

Before 1990, prescription medications in the U.S. cost about the same as they did in other countries. Then prices tripled between 1997 and 2007, according to a new study by Health Affairs. After a brief slowdown, costs shot up again after 2013. Why the spike? In 2015 Americans spent an average of $1,000 a person…

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Mother protests high insulin prices by bringing son’s ashes to drug maker’s office

Last year Nicole Smith-Holt’s son died after rationing his insulin because it was so expensive. This month she traveled to the office of insulin-maker Sanofi in Cambridge, Mass., with his ashes. “It’s a visual reminder for them of what’s at stake,” Smith-Holt told Stat News. Many people with diabetes share the terrible dilemma. As insulin…

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Big Pharma lobbyists working to erase seniors’ drug discounts

There will be plenty of changes when newly elected members of Congress take their seats in 2019, but the pharmaceutical industry isn’t waiting. Bloomberg reports that Big Pharma is lobbying for Congress to roll back recently mandated medicine discounts for U.S. seniors in the waning days of 2018. The mandated discounts will cost the industry…

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Take charge of your medical care

New York Times health care reporter Elizabeth Yuko has created a smart and handy checklist for patients and their loved ones. Read her full report here. Voices has also distilled the key points below: While you’re healthy: Get your paperwork in order. That includes having your advance care directive and medical history handy. Know your…

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What do the 2018 mid-term elections mean for health care consumers?

Efforts to control rising health care costs by capping providers’ profits failed to gain traction with California voters. Statewide, voters soundly defeated Proposition 8, which would have restricted the profits earned by companies that provide kidney dialysis treatment. According to Healio, a health news website, the 100-member Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers spent…

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Price of health care rising faster than inflation

Inflation is being significantly outpaced by health care prices, according to a new study by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). Prices have increased in 111 of 112 metro areas over a five-year-period, the study found. Price levels and growth rates vary widely for localities, but Modern Healthcare reports that many economists attribute higher prices…

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People with diabetes see little relief from rising insulin prices

It’s not your imagination — the cost of insulin continues to rise. Axios recently reported the astonishing per-vial prices of the most common insulin brands: Novo Nordisk’s NovoLog: $289 Eli Lilly’s Humalog: $275 Sanofi’s Lantus: $270 Those three pharmaceutical giants control almost the entire insulin marketplace, which saw about $22 billion in global insulin revenues…

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Angry about rising health care costs? California puts limits to a vote

When it comes to fighting rising health care costs, California may be ground zero. That’s where the nation’s largest health workers’ union is pushing two ballot measures aimed at limiting how much hospitals and doctors can charge. The measures are sponsored by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and will appear on ballots in…

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How you can prevent surprise medical bills

Recently HealthSparq — which partners with health plans to provide cost and quality information about doctors, hospitals and medical services — set out to find how common unexpected medical bills are. In just the last 12 months, it found that more than half (53 percent) of all respondents had received a so-called “surprise” medical bill,…

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Intensive therapy for some nursing home residents found to be both unnecessary and expensive

Nursing home residents who are in the last days of their lives are going through hours of rehabilitation therapy that may have no benefit other than beefing up the facility’s profits, according to a new study published by The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. Researchers from the University of Rochester School of Medicine…

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Giant pharmaceutical company promises to stop paying doctors to promote its products. And then breaks promise.

Shortly after it paid $3 billion in fines for illegal marketing and kickbacks five years ago, GlaxoSmithKline promised it would no longer pay doctors to promote its pharmaceutical products. Glaxo’s pledge followed reports that the company had showered doctors and government officials in China with bribes. But some were still shocked by Glaxo’s announcement. Many…

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High-priced medical devices another reason for expensive healthcare in U.S.

Add medical devices to the long list of reasons health care costs so much in the United States. Along with hospital procedures, doctor visits and prescription drugs, a new study from Health Affairs finds that medical devices are also much more expensive in the U.S. than other high-income countries, like Germany. In fact, the study…

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Tips for reducing your out-of-pocket health care costs

We all know that health care costs continue to rise dramatically. But this should never deter you from getting the treatment you need. Consumer Reports outlined nine ways you can take control of your health care spending and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Here are a few to consider: Tip 1: Comparison shop for your care…

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States want to lower drug prices, but Big Pharma is fighting back

Several states trying to rein in high drug prices are meeting heavy opposition from the pharmaceutical industry. Earlier this year, as reported by FiercePharma, Maryland, Nevada and California lawmakers passed bills that challenge drug pricing. Then the industry trade group, PhRMA, filed a suit against the bills in California and Nevada.  Another industry group, the…

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Soaring air ambulance costs under scrutiny from Congress

Air ambulance rides can be lifesaving. However, these trips often come with sky-high bills that consumers are expected to pay. Congress is considering legislation that attempts to provide some relief. Kaiser Health News reports that if an air ambulance service is not part of a patient’s insurance network, the operator can charge the patient the…

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High cost drives patients to ration insulin – with deadly consequences

The price of insulin in the United States has more than doubled since 2012. That’s left many people scrambling to afford their medication. And some are going without, according to a column published by Modern Healthcare. Bram Sable-Smith, who has diabetes and writes for Side Effects Public Media, shared the story of Alec Raeshawn Smith,…

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Choosing a clinic over an emergency room could save you thousands

There’s no question that a hospital is the best place to seek care in a life-threatening emergency. In situations that aren’t as serious, however, it can save you both time and money to seek treatment elsewhere. In a column for The New York Times, Dr. Richard Klasco and Dr. Richard Zane offered other options to…

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Study: Using generics over expensive brand name drugs can save billions…Yes, that’s with a B

If we needed further proof that generic medications save money, a new report posted by Pharmacy Times finds that Medicare would have saved $2.7 billion between 2011 and 2016, if lower-cost generics had been prescribed in place of the 10 most expensive drugs. researchers estimated that Medicare could have saved $925 million on generic substitutes…

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Washington couple gets $639 surprise medical bill

Daryl Bunn checked with his insurance before taking his wife to the emergency room. He wanted to make sure they went to a hospital that was in their insurance network. After being directed to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, Wash., Bunn was later blindsided by a $693 bill. The hospital was in-network, but Bunn’s…

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Pharma exec says 404 percent cost increase was a ‘moral requirement’

Yes. You read that headline correctly. Nostrum Laboratories, a Missouri-based drugmaker, hiked the price of a bottle of an antibiotic mixture called nitrofurantoin from $474.75 to $2,392. Nitrofurantoin is used to treat bladder infections. It’s been on the market since 1953 and is on the World Health Organization’s list of essential medications. So why did…

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Americans’ No. 1 health care worry? Surprise medical bills

A variety of issues keep consumers up at night, worried about the cost of their health care. But a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that Americans’ No. 1 worry is surprise medical bills. Nearly 40 percent of the 1,200 people surveyed said they’d received a large bill they didn’t expect in the past year,…

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Made-to-order creams and gels, often used for pain, draw renewed scrutiny from federal agencies

If you’ve ever filled a prescription for made-to-order creams or gels, you will want to know about a new government report. These so-called “compounded” creams are commonly used to ease pain. Now a new report from Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raises concerns about possible fraud…

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Story about patient’s $109K ‘surprise’ hospital bill goes viral

If you haven’t already heard the story about the teacher who received a shocking $108,951 hospital bill after his heart attack, allow Voices for Affordable Health to catch you up: The story of Drew Calver, first reported by Kaiser Health News and NPR, illustrates how consumers are profoundly affected by high health care costs and…

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Should there be a limit to dialysis centers’ profits? Industry prepared to spend millions to defeat California initiative

If you don’t live in California, you may never hear about Proposition 8, an initiative on the November ballot aimed at reining in profits made by dialysis companies. If you or a loved one requires this treatment, you might want to pay close attention to the vote no matter where you live. Dialysis is the…

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Tempted to try a probiotic? Be aware that information about risks and safety is still skimpy

The probiotic trend has taken America with full force. From dietary supplements to kombucha and special yogurts, the benefits of the live microorganisms are highly touted and marketed to consumers of all backgrounds. Yet very few have stopped to closely examine potential risks and negative side effects. “The market ran ahead of the science,” Linda…

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When hospice is the best option for a loved one, be sure to ask lots of questions

Medicare offers hospice benefits as a way to help the dying live out their final days as comfortably as possible. But a recent report from the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services finds that patients and their families can be taken advantage of. The report, released in July, concluded…

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Medicare Advantage is changing –just in time for aging Baby Boomers

Not-so-crazy question:  If a senior’s fall results in pain, a broken hip and thousands of dollars in medical bills, why shouldn’t Medicare pay hundreds to prevent the fall in the first place? Each year more than 300,000 Americans age 65 and older suffer hip fractures, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ninety-five…

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FDA wants to make some prescription drugs more easily available to consumers

We may take for granted the ease of running to the local convenience store to grab a bottle of aspirin for a splitting headache.  But what if we could buy a bottle of Narcan, a nasal spray used to treat an opioid emergency, without getting a prescription first? The Food and Drug Administration is considering…

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Should ads for prescription medications include cost? Legislation pending in the U.S. Senate would require it

Consumers affected by rising prescription drug costs should watch for legislation currently before the U.S. Senate. Politico reports that Sens. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, have offered two amendments to the federal appropriations bill for fiscal year 2019 that would require drug companies to list the cost of their drugs in their advertisements….

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$18,836 emergency room bill includes $15,666 mystery fee

It was the first morning of Jang Yeo Im’s vacation in San Francisco, when her 8-month-old son, Park Jeong Whan, fell off the hotel room bed and hit his head. The baby wasn’t bleeding but he wouldn’t stop crying, so Jang and her husband called for an ambulance, which took the baby to the hospital…

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Think prescription drugs cost a lot? Surgery costs more

In health care circles, Dr. Atul Gawande is a rock star. He’s a surgeon and staff writer for the New Yorker. He was recently named to lead the new health care enterprise being formed by Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to find ways to lower employee health care costs. So, when Gawande talks, people…

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Politicians are talking about reining in prescription prices, but Big Pharma has other ideas

President Trump and Democratic members of Congress have frequently called upon the pharmaceutical industry to lower prices (or, at least, keep increases in check). But Big Pharma has other ideas. Politico reports Bayer raised the price of two cancer drugs by hundreds of dollars in May, and Novartis boosted prices on four already-expensive treatments in…

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Woman needs emergency care but says: Don’t call an ambulance; it costs too much

Woman’s leg is stuck and cut on a train platform but begs for no ambulance: Do you know how much an ambulance costs? How would you react in that moment? Read what happened to the woman and share your thoughts in the comments.Imagine this: You are awaiting a train when you slip into the gap…

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Cutting back is not enough to save seniors from rising prescription costs

It’s a story told far too often in the Voices Facebook community. Seniors are making difficult choices, often going without medications they need because they cost too much. A recent federal government report finds that while Medicare recipients are filling fewer prescriptions for brand-name drugs they are spending more overall for prescription medications. Brand-named prescriptions…

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Doctors working in the ER aren’t necessarily in-network

Not many people might have had Scott Kohan’s presence of mind to check whether the ER he woke up in was in-network. With a broken jaw and staples in his head, he checked his phone and found that the hospital was listed as in his network. Still, he ended up with a $7,924 bill. Surprise,…

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Joint replacement improves consumer quality of life, but at a high financial cost

Joint replacements are innovative medical improvements that have improved the quality of life for many consumers. But the cost can vary widely, depending on the hospital you choose, from $5,000 to as much as $30,000, according to an analysis of cost data from hospitals done by Premier. The analysis included about 283,000 patient discharges at…

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Drug makers face consumer lawsuit over size of eye drops

Consumers who have sued drug makers over the size of eye drops will get their day in court. Patients have sued four companies – Allergan, Bausch & Lomb, Merck and Pfizer – saying the companies purposely make the bottles’ opening too large, allowing too much medication to be dispensed, leaving wasted drops rolling down their…

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Telehealth can save you money, be more convenient. But only if used the right way

Looking for a convenient way to see your doctor? Telehealth might be an option. Telehealth, or telemedicine, allows you to virtually “see” your doctor through a secure video link. Health insurance increasingly covers the visits, and more hospitals and doctor’s offices are offering the service. With increased access come questions about costs, according to a…

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Taking fish oil supplements? You might want to rethink the cost

Here’s one way to save a few bucks: Drop the fish oil supplements. A recent analysis of 10 large clinical trials on the dietary supplement found that they do little to protect patients with heart disease, despite previous advice from the American Heart Association. The supplements did not reduce the risk of heart disease deaths,…

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‘Fortress of patents’ thwarts competitors, keeps medication costs high

Drug-makers have found all kinds of ways to work the system to keep the costs of some medications sky-high, leaving consumers to shell out astronomical sums. The drug Remlevid to treat multiple myeloma, for example, was just more than $6,000 for a month’s supply of 21 capsules in 2006. Today it’s $16,691. The average monthly…

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Your credit score can also take a hit when medical debts add up

As if the high cost of health care isn’t enough stress, one thing that can compound that anxiety is the havoc medical debt can wreak on your credit score. When hidden costs are part of the problem – like an out-of-network doctor who provides care in an emergency – it can be a frustrating experience….

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National outrage over $750 pill did nothing to bring down the sky-high price

One of the most notorious cases of high drug prices came to light when Martin Shkreli, known as “Pharma Bro,” cranked up the cost of Duraprim, a life-saving medication, to $750 a pill. The case drew widespread outrage, and Shkreli, CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was later sentenced to seven years in prison on an unrelated…

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Adopting these 5 healthy habits can add years to your life

The advice isn’t new: adopt a healthy lifestyle for a better quality of life. But new research from Harvard shows five key healthy habits can actually help you live more than 10 years longer. Researchers in Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health compared U.S. men and women’s health habits over 30 years. They found…

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Drug makers haul in $12 billion in profit during the first quarter of 2018

Big Pharma continues to make big profits While consumers continue to pay more for their medications, the pharmaceutical industry continues to make big profits. Axios reports that seven of the world’s largest drug makers collectively earned $12.1 billion – that’s with a b – in profit in just the first three months of the year….

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Hospitals must post list prices for services online

New Medicare rule aims to help consumers make smarter care decisions Health care often gets dinged for being less-than transparent about costs. Wouldn’t it be great if you could see a list of services and their prices before you go to the hospital? Medicare thinks so. Medicare has announced a new requirement that hospitals post…

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Big Pharma spent $8 million on lobbying during first quarter of 2018

Drug maker spending on lobbying shows biggest jump Lawmakers have made lowering drug prices a key pledge to consumers. So maybe it’s no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry has increased its spending on lobbying to change hearts and minds in the halls of Congress. Drug makers spent $8 million during the first quarter of 2018,…

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Drug cost rises 100,000 percent

Drug’s high cost drains city coffers and the Illinois mayor plans to sue Rockford, Illinois, mayor Larry Morrissey set out to understand why his city was bleeding money. The answer: one drug’s high cost. The city pays for employee health care. To cover the cost of Acthar, which treats infantile spasms, for just two babies,…

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Hospital can make big money from disease management classes

Consumers, be sure to check the price before you sign up On its face, it makes sense. Invest in a class to help manage a chronic condition like diabetes. But a Georgia man attended two half-day sessions at St. Mary’s Hospital in Athens, Ga., and was shocked to get a bill for $1,044. Such classes…

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Pharmaceutical companies block access to some brand-name drugs, meaning no lower-cost generic for you

Pharmaceutical companies that refuse to provide samples of their products to generic drug companies can keep those less-expensive versions from being developed, according to the New York Times. The Federal Trade Commission is now investigating what Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, calls drug makers’ “shenanigans,” which “preserve a brand firm’s…

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Drug companies see a big tax windfall, but consumers don’t get relief

An analysis of the top 10 US drug makers shows savings went to stock buybacks rather than reducing the soaring cost of medications Stop us if you’ve heard this before: Nearly 1 in 4 Americans say they have a hard time paying for their prescription medications. And it’s not news to the pharmaceutical industry, either….

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Parents tried to avoid the ER but ended up with a $937 bill to treat baby’s toe

If the pediatrician’s office is closed and urgent care doesn’t have pediatric expertise, the expensive ER is the only option The Sroka family needed help to treat a cut on their 1-year-old daughter’s toe. The pediatrician’s office was closed, and dad’s doctor didn’t have the right expertise for little toes. So, the local emergency room…

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Woman diagnosed with toenail fungus, doesn’t realize $1,494.09 monthly cost for medication until it’s too late

Anne Soloviev has a heightened risk for skin cancer, so she is diligent about seeing her dermatologist twice a year. During her most recent visit in January, a nurse noted some discoloration on the 77-year-old’s toenails. Tests on a few clippings confirmed she had a toenail fungus. Soloviev was given a prescription to be filled…

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California’s drug price transparency law offers first look at what’s driving big increases

Oregon’s governor signed a new law in late March requiring pharmaceutical companies to disclose information they’ve long kept secret. They’ll have to reveal research and development costs, profits and marketing expenses whenever they raise the price of a drug more than 10 percent a year. California was the first state in the nation to adopt…

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Which industry exercises the strongest lobbying influence in our nation’s capital? Big Pharma among the top contenders

Americans think pharmaceutical drug-makers hold too much power over their elected leaders in Congress. A recent poll for the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 72 percent of U.S. consumers think the drug industry has too much sway in D.C. and in law and policymaking. In contrast, 69 percent felt the powerbrokers on Wall Street enjoyed…

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Why does the U.S. spend more for health care than other wealthy countries? Simple answer: Our prices are higher

American consumers spend almost twice as much for health care as their counterparts in other wealthy countries. Why? A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds a simple but hardly surprising answer: The costs of seeing your doctor, undergoing a procedure or taking a pharmaceutical drug are substantially higher in…

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U.S. government and 45 states claim collusion among generic drug-makers. The cost to consumers and taxpayers? Perhaps more than $1 billion

We all assume that generic medications are lower-cost alternatives to brand name medications. But what if they aren’t? Or what if the cost of a generic is artificially high because of collusion? Both are questions that 45 states and the U.S. Department of Justice are asking the court to take on. National Public Radio reports…

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Big Pharma doesn’t just buy doctors’ lunches, industry writes their textbooks

Most consumers have never heard of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, a bulky, two-volume textbook that is in its 20th edition. Chances are, however, most of us have been affected by what’s inside. That’s because Harrison’s is a must-read for medical students and young internists. In fact, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)…

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Oregon governor signs bill targeting rising prescription drug prices

Pharmaceutical manufacturers must disclose their reasons for raising the price of a drug by more than 10 percent under transparency legislation – House Bill 4005 — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed into law. Oregon joins California, New York and a handful of other states in adopting so-called “transparency laws” aimed at combating rising prescription drug…

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Washington group finds $282 million in unnecessary hospital costs for just one year

A Washington State nonprofit recently tried to put a price tag on the cost of unnecessary care – those screenings you might not need every year, or the unnecessary lab work or other tests. The Washington Health Alliance examined a year’s worth of insurance claims for 1.3 million people, looking for one of 47 tests…

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Life-saving rabies treatment can cost as much as $10,000 plus hospital fees

As if having a bat in your house isn’t bad enough, imagine the fright from a $6,017 emergency room bill for rabies treatment. That was Ally McNamee’s experience, as reported by Vox.  She was shooing the creature from her house and the bat swatted her open mouth with a wing. She went to urgent care…

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Patients with mounting medical costs turn to crowd-funding

What do you think about this crowd-funding trend? Maybe you’ve seen the plea: A friend, neighbor or even a stranger is battling a serious illness and can’t keep up with mounting medical expenses. So they turn to social media for help. Websites like GoFundMe or YouCaring have offered a bridge to relief for urgent health…

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Generic drugs approved in record numbers. Increased competition could drive down costs

Generic medications are often a great way to save money on prescriptions. And in 2017, the Food and Drug Administration approved 1,027 generic drugs – a record. Those approvals push the generics to market, which increases competition and can help drive down prices. “Drug access is a matter of public health concern,” FDA Commissioner Scott…

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Pharma spends $50 billion tax windfall to lower costs? Not even close.

Pharmaceutical industry will dedicate windfall to boosting stock prices Turns out, they’re helping themselves. Nine drug companies are spending their $50 billion windfall to boost stock prices through share buyback programs, according to Axios. So rather than invest in helping employees or patients or even research, that money is boosting hedge funds and top executives….

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Oregonians! Your Voice is needed now to rein in rising prescription drug prices

The Oregon Legislature is considering House Bill 4005, which would require pharmaceutical companies to justify to the state why they need to raise the price of a prescription medication more than 10 percent a year. As expected, Big Pharma’s lobbyists are fighting hard to keep the bill from making it into law. But Oregonians are…

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People are talking: Pharmaceutical companies want you to think they’re holding the line on prices, but consumers aren’t buying it

It’s become a tradition. Many of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies celebrate the new year by raising prices on existing medications. This year, drug makers wanted American consumers to know that they are “holding the line”… which means most price increases were held below 10 percent. But the Voices for Affordable Health community didn’t let…

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Big Pharma launches secretive campaign to kill Oregon drug transparency bill

How far will the pharmaceutical industry go to protect its giant profits? An investigation by the Eugene (Oregon) Register Guard reveals pharmaceutical interests are using a Virginia calling firm and a false narrative in order to kill House Bill 4005, a proposal pending in the Oregon Legislature that would require pharmaceutical manufacturers to report big…

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Oregon coalition pushes for drug price transparency as Legislature convenes

As the skyrocketing prices of medication continues to be an ongoing source of outrage in the U.S. and in Oregon, a coalition of patients, doctors, consumers and others want to hold drug companies accountable by making drug prices more transparent. Oregonians for Affordable Drug Prices Now is backing Oregon House Bill 4005, the Oregon Drug…

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Unused medical supplies tossed in the trash and the cost passed on to you

Picture this: A warehouse the size of a middle school gym, filled to the brim with unopened boxes of surgical sutures, bandages and other medical supplies – all brand new and all thrown away by a local medical facility. Marshall Allen, a reporter for the investigative journalism organization ProPublica, wrote about this Maine warehouse and…

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Maryland fights Rx price gouging (again). Proposed new law tackles high costs of brand name, specialty medications

Thousands of Americans take specialty medications for conditions from multiple sclerosis to HIV/AIDS to hepatitis C and more. But the annual cost of treatment with just one of those drugs can top $50,000 a year, according to a 2017 study by the AARP Public Policy Institute. Maryland is fighting back. Fresh off its first-in-the-nation law…

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Tips for reducing your out-of-pocket health care costs

We all know that health care costs continue to rise dramatically. But this should never deter you from getting the treatment you need. Consumer Reports outlined nine ways you can take control of your health care spending and reduce your out-of-pocket costs. Here are a few to consider: Tip 1: Comparison shop for your care…

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$38,000 drug Humira continues to get more expensive for patients, lines the pockets of pharma

Remember the story of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company that spiked the price of the drug Daraprim overnight from $13.50 to $750? The same thing is happening for popular anti-inflammatory drug Humira, as reported by the New York Times. Humira is an injectable biologic drug, which means it was developed from living cells. It treats conditions…

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No surprise: Drug makers still making plenty of money

Big Pharma wants you to think they’re making a sacrifice by keeping price increases under 10 percent. Drug makers celebrated the New Year by raising U.S. prices on dozens of medications. Predictable? Yes. But Big Pharma also was very careful to hold price increases to just below 10 percent, low enough, they hope, to keep…

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Increased spending doesn’t mean better health outcomes for heart attack patients, study shows

A new report published by The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that increased Medicare spending for treatment of heart attack patients does not result in better health outcomes. The JAMA study details that while Medicare spending on cardiac procedures and post-acute care increased, the death rates for heart attack patients stayed the…

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How to become health literate and avoid unnecessary costs

A great way to stay on top of your health care costs is to understand what you’re talking about. Medline Plus reports that more than 90 million adults in the United States lack “health literacy.”   Health literacy is the ability to obtain, access and understand health information and use services to make appropriate health…

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Four tips for negotiating a better deal on medical bills

How to get the best deal on medical bills In the maze of medical bills, it’s hard to know if costs are fair or even accurate. Here are four tips for making sure you are getting the best deal on medical bills from Liz Weston, a financial columnist for the Los Angeles Times: 1: Make…

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Why Big Pharma spent big dollars in 2016

How Big Pharma tried to silence the conversation about high drug prices with lobbying NPR reported that both sides of the political spectrum were concerned about high drug prices in 2016, so Big Pharma spent millions lobbying to silence the conversation. Big Pharma’s lobbying group, PhRMA, ramped up their political spending. Recent filings show that number…

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Treating parasites not profitable enough for Big Pharma

Why parasite treatment costs pennies in Tanzania, but hundreds of dollars in the U.S. It’s not difficult to treat a hookworm. Whether you live in Tanzania or Texas, two pills will kill the intestinal parasite in a few days. Those same two tablets of albendazole will cost a mere four cents purchased in Tanzania, but…

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Voices’ top five posts about prescription drug costs in 2017

When we asked about prescription drug costs, 93 percent of you said they are too high. Here’s a look at the most popular Voices Facebook posts on high drug costs based on your clicks, likes and shares.   1. Big Pharma justifies high drug prices, fails The pharmaceutical industry recently launched a major advertising campaign…

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Our top five posts about surprise hospital bills in 2017

The last thing anybody wants to think about when visiting the hospital is the cost. It gets worse when the bill arrives months later with surprising charges you weren’t prepared for. Here were Voices’ top five surprise hospital bill posts, based on your comments, clicks and shares.   1. Surprise facility fees From 2009 to…

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Non-profit hospitals recognize substantial profits from investments

Why should consumers care? Because costs passed on to you Many hospitals do not pay taxes because they are classified as “non-profit.” Yet an analysis by Axios, an online news site, finds some so-called “non-profit” hospitals actually turn a healthy profit, particularly when their Wall Street investments, stocks, bonds, credit default swaps, mergers and acquisitions…

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Multi-tasking surgeons put patients as risk

New study shows danger of overlapping surgeries Doctors who oversee overlapping surgeries at the same time have nearly twice the complications of those who focus on one surgery at a time, according to a recent study. Researchers found the longer the overlap between the two surgeries, the higher the risk. This large-scale study looked at…

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Consumers want action on rising Rx prices

An open letter to Congress We asked you to share your voices, and thousands spoke! It’s clear – our health care system has a problem, and our elected leaders need to act. We told you we would share your stories to put the pressure on politicians, and that’s exactly what we did. We gathered together…

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ER spending way up, even as number of visits is down

What is going on? A new report uncovers a troubling trend: Spending on emergency rooms increased by $3 billion from 2009 to 2015. However, the actual number of hospital bills fell. It is more expensive to visit an emergency room today than it was six years ago, Vox reports. Why is this happening? The problem…

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Have you heard the news? Drug prices are too high

New National Academies of Science report urges action to reduce Rx costs The Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio and other mainstream media buzzed about a new, 201-page report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine that found an “urgent” need for the U.S. government to rein in out-of-control prescription drug costs. “Consumer…

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Big Pharma consistently raises the price of required childhood vaccine

Formula hasn’t changed in years, but the cost sure has Every November Pfizer, an international pharmaceutical giant, raises the price for the pneumococcal vaccine Prevnar 13. The company is the only producer. “It’s like buying gas in a hurricane — or Coke in an airport,” Dr. Lindsay Irvin, a pediatrician in San Antonio told KHN…

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Doctor charges family $1,877 to pierce daughter’s ears

What this bizarre case says about the epidemic of unnecessary treatments Just before her 5-year-old daughter went in for a simple surgery, the surgeon made Margaret O’Neill a strange offer: He’d also pierce the girl’s ears. The Colorado resident was hesitant because her daughter was quite young, but she eventually relented when the surgeon told…

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Seniors, are you spending more for prescription drugs?

You’re not alone. Check out the latest numbers. Source: Kaiser Health News In 2015, 1 million Medicare Part D enrollees had high out-of-pocket drug costs. And 1 in 10 spent at least $5,200 out of pocket on their prescription drugs in 2015.

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Diabetes treatment costs continue to skyrocket

Consumers bear the burden for diabetes costs The global cost of diabetes is expected to hit $850 billion for 2017, according to a new report from the International Diabetes Federation (IDF). Yes, that’s billion. This represents 12 percent of all global health expenditures. The Foundation says costs will continue to increase – even the most…

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Ambulance rides often stick patients with high bills

When it comes to surprise medical bills, ambulances are often the most shocking Roman Barshay had a bad fall while visiting out-of-town friends. Suffering chest and back pains, he took an ambulance to a hospital four miles away. Barshay was in for a nasty surprise — a bill for $3,660 just for the ambulance ride….

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Liquid gold: Urine testing makes millions for some companies. Guess who’s paying for it?

Urine testing is big business, and we’re all paying for it because Medicare is paying for it. In fact, the program is writing multi million-dollar checks to the companies that perform the lab tests. And it’s a problem because, as Kaiser Health News (KHN) puts it, “there are virtually no national standards regarding who gets…

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Should you get your DNA tested?

FDA plans to make DNA testing approvals faster and easier, but is this good for consumers? Personal DNA testing is rapidly becoming more common. You can even get your DNA tested at a football game. The – with one big caveat. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated that the tests are “not without their own risks…

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Annual U.S. health care spending rose nearly $1 trillion since 1996

What’s driving it, and who is hardest hit? Spending for health care in the United States is higher than any other country – and rising. That’s according to an investigation published by the Journal of the American Medical Association. The JAMA article is free for anyone who wants to download and dwell in the data….

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Can Congress pass a bill designed to reduce ‘Colossal and completely preventable waste’ of drugs?

Some drug companies knowingly sell expensive treatments in doses too large for individual needs. That results in wasted drugs and dollars. And it’s a problem that two lawmakers are trying to address after reading a report from ProPublica. Consider eye drops: Whether it’s an expensive glaucoma treatment or an over-the-counter dry eye solution, every time…

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Unnecessary lab tests can do more harm than good

So what’s being done? We’ll start with a disclaimer: Always consult with your doctor about when and how often to have lab tests. But here’s something to keep in mind: Many of us are over-tested. And that’s bad for two important reasons: 1) Lab tests are expensive, and the costs add up. 2) Over-testing can…

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Congress considers bill to reduce pharmaceutical industry influence at FDA and DEA

Senators demand crackdown on pharmaceutical industry hiring regulatory officials A new bill introduced in the U.S. Senate takes aim at a common practice of many pharmaceutical companies – hiring former officials from both the Drug Enforcement Administration and Food and Drug Administration. The practice undermines “the safety of our communities,” co-sponsor Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.,…

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Hospital safety: The more we know, the safer they are

New hospital safety ratings by watchdog group Leapfrog suggest the more information hospitals are required to reveal about injuries, accidents and infections, the more likely they are to provide safer care. Leapfrog was started by employers and unions calling for more information about patient safety and quality of care. Their ratings include reviews of 2,600…

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The hidden dangers of buying prescriptions from Canadian pharmacies

Many are considering buying prescriptions from Canada, but is that safe? Looking for alternatives to high-priced prescriptions, many frustrated consumers have looked at options outside the United States, but a letter to the editor by the Food and Drug Administration raises several concerns about the safety of this practice. Earlier this year, Voices reported as…

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Salespeople in the surgery room could be driving up your health care costs

It’s not uncommon for salespeople working on commission to be present during surgeries and even advise surgeons during procedures. Now their presence is under scrutiny. Medical device companies, their sales reps and surgeons say there’s no problem because company salespeople are experts on particular devices, can aid with installation, and can help surgeons better use…


New coalition pushes to protect patients from “surprise” medical bills

With one in 10 adults receiving a so-called “surprise” bill this past year from a doctor, lab or other health care provider, there is both growing awareness and increasing calls for a government remedy. One coalition is pushing for a solution. “Surprise” medical bills often occur when patients visit a hospital covered by their insurance…


Struggling with high prescription drug costs? You are not alone.

Americans are skipping prescriptions due to costs or dipping into their savings to pay for expensive but necessary drugs, according to a recent survey by GoodRx, a website that allows consumers to compare Rx costs. The survey, reported by Axios, was conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 and included 1,060 people. More than 33…


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Balance billing and federal regulations are leaving emergency airlifted patients with sky high bills

When life is on the line for someone you love, you do whatever is necessary to help them fight for survival – just like the Williamson family did. The Bend Bulletin recently shared the story of 3-year-old Grant Williamson, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic lymphoma when his doctors found a cancerous tumor pressing on…

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As Congress seeks to lower prescription prices, Big Pharma increases spending on lobbyists

At a record $27.5 million, PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry lobbying group, spent its largest amount on lobbying activities in 2018 – $2 million more than its previous year’s record. The organization employs 30 internal lobbyists and 150 contractors to lobby against efforts to lower prescription drug costs and other initiatives considered harmful to the industry….

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Increasing costs of insulin causes some patients to put their health at risk

As they do with all monthly costs, those in need of medication to survive factor the expense into their budgets. What happens when those costs quickly jump higher than your paycheck can handle? Do you sacrifice your rent, or your health? Reuters recently reported that the cost of insulin, the important hormone used to treat…

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What happens when your insurance plan is “out-of-network” with the largest ER in your city?

It’s a familiar story for many. You have an accident. You have insurance. All is well and you’re happy to be alive. But like Nina Dang, who suffered a broken arm after her bike skidded on some rough pavement, months later you receive a bill for tens of thousands of dollars. Vox recently reported about…

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A push for price transparency seeks to lower your prescription drug costs

If you had better access to information about the price of your medications, assistance programs, and drug company sales, would it change your prescription buying habits? The U.S. Health and Human Services Department believes it will. Drugmaker Eli Lilly & Co. will begin airing ads that flag their new website, lillypricinginfo.com, Bloomberg reports. The drugmaker…

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Is Big Pharma using scare tactics to keep you from trying lower-cost generics?

Pharmaceutical companies often point to the lives saved by their brand-name drugs. When it comes to less-expensive generic medications formulated to provide the same benefits, Big Pharma opts instead for doubt and fear to protect their profits. The Washington Post recently reported that doctors, drug companies and the nation’s regulators are finding evidence that drugmakers…

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Doctors receive $20 billion each year from Big Pharma to recommend drugs

Since 1997, pharmaceutical companies have spent $20 billion annually to persuade doctors and other medical professionals to recommend their drugs to their patients. Now, they’ll be making their plea directly to you. The prediction comes from an analysis published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), which found the majority of marketing costs…

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Despite transparency, hospital sticker prices remain confusing

As of Jan. 1, 2019, the Trump administration requires all hospitals to post their list prices online. The objective is to promote transparency for hospital costs. Instead costs remain as confusing as ever. These lists are massive compendiums of prices set by each hospital for services, drugs and other items patients could be charged for….

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Pharmaceutical industry desperately wants you to keep taking its drugs

Pharmaceutical companies will go out of their way to keep customers taking their costly prescriptions, even if the customer can’t afford them. As reported by Time, Kip Burgess could no longer afford his $4,000 per month arthritis drug from pharmaceutical company Amgen.  When he called the drug-maker repeatedly and asked for help, it sent him…

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Legal experts say contract law should already protect you from surprise medical bills

Joaquin Lopez received an $8,000 bill from a hospital, in addition to the $11,000 he and his insurance already paid. For patients like Lopez, a surprise medical bill like this leaves them powerless.  Now legal experts say contract law should already protect them. Some legal scholars say patients already have protection against some of the…

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Oregon Senator thinks Pfizer should explain its price hike

In 2005, a bottle of 90 Lyrica pills cost $150. Today that same bottle of the nerve-pain drug costs more than $650. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, is asking Pfizer to explain this dramatic increase. “The cost of Pfizer’s drug, Lyrica, has grown tremendously over the past several years,” Wyden wrote in a letter shared…

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Patient receives a surprise bill from a hospital they’ve never been to

After a routine checkup with their primary care doctor, a patient was charged an extra $372 “hospital” fee by the Massachusetts General Hospital six miles away. They had never even set foot in that hospital. One reason hospitals are able to charge fees for offsite facilities is the growing practice of buying up local physician…

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2019 Congress not yet sworn in, but legislation addressing drug costs piling up

There may be little agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, but the skyrocketing cost of prescription medications appears to be one area of consensus: Drug prices are too high, and that’s hurting consumers. Newly elected members of the U.S. House and Senate are not officially sworn in until January, but veteran members are already…

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Pfizer is raising drug prices… again… after backing down earlier this year

Over the summer President Trump leveled criticism toward Pfizer for raising drug prices, and as a result Pfizer rolled back some increases. However, in early 2019, increased costs are back. Pfizer said it will raise the list prices of 41 prescription drugs, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. The announcement was timed with Pfizer’s…

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Hospitals merge to save money, but you pay more

A common practice among hospitals the past decade has been to merge and consolidate resources. Hospitals say this benefits patients through lower prices and coordinated services, along with other savings. However, The New York Times reported that hospital mergers squash the competition, and that results in higher prices for consumers. A study conducted by researchers…

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Salespeople in the surgery room could be driving up your health care costs

It’s not uncommon for salespeople working on commission to be present during surgeries and even advise surgeons during procedures. Now their presence is under scrutiny. Medical device companies, their sales reps and surgeons say there’s no problem because company salespeople are experts on particular devices, can aid with installation, and can help surgeons better use…

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New coalition pushes to protect patients from “surprise” medical bills

With one in 10 adults receiving a so-called “surprise” bill this past year from a doctor, lab or other health care provider, there is both growing awareness and increasing calls for a government remedy. One coalition is pushing for a solution. “Surprise” medical bills often occur when patients visit a hospital covered by their insurance…

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Struggling with high prescription drug costs? You are not alone.

Americans are skipping prescriptions due to costs or dipping into their savings to pay for expensive but necessary drugs, according to a recent survey by GoodRx, a website that allows consumers to compare Rx costs. The survey, reported by Axios, was conducted between Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 and included 1,060 people. More than 33…

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Someone else owns your medical data and you likely signed off on that

You probably don’t own any of your medical data. Surprised? Here’s something that might be more surprising: You probably agreed to that. Your hospital and doctor records, lab and radiology tests, genetic information, even actual tissue removed during a biopsy or other surgical procedure probably is owned by someone else thanks to the fine print…

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Price of life-saving drug for opioid overdoses jumps 600 percent

You’ve heard this story before: A pharmaceutical company takes advantage of demand for a life-saving drug by raising the price and raking in a hefty profit. It’s happening again, this time with the nation’s deadly opioid crisis. Vox reports that pharmaceutical company Kaleo raised the price of its naloxone drug, called EVZIO, from $575 to…

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Just 10 companies rake in half of the health care industry’s global profits

Half of the health care industry’s $50 billion in global profits went to just 10 companies in the third quarter this year. Nine of the 10 are pharmaceutical firms. The analysis came from an Axios spreadsheet of financial documents for 112 publicly traded health care corporations. The numbers show that Americans spend a lot more…

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Why do drugs cost so much more in the United States?

Before 1990, prescription medications in the U.S. cost about the same as they did in other countries. Then prices tripled between 1997 and 2007, according to a new study by Health Affairs. After a brief slowdown, costs shot up again after 2013. Why the spike? In 2015 Americans spent an average of $1,000 a person…

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Mother protests high insulin prices by bringing son’s ashes to drug maker’s office

Last year Nicole Smith-Holt’s son died after rationing his insulin because it was so expensive. This month she traveled to the office of insulin-maker Sanofi in Cambridge, Mass., with his ashes. “It’s a visual reminder for them of what’s at stake,” Smith-Holt told Stat News. Many people with diabetes share the terrible dilemma. As insulin…

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Big Pharma lobbyists working to erase seniors’ drug discounts

There will be plenty of changes when newly elected members of Congress take their seats in 2019, but the pharmaceutical industry isn’t waiting. Bloomberg reports that Big Pharma is lobbying for Congress to roll back recently mandated medicine discounts for U.S. seniors in the waning days of 2018. The mandated discounts will cost the industry…

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Take charge of your medical care

New York Times health care reporter Elizabeth Yuko has created a smart and handy checklist for patients and their loved ones. Read her full report here. Voices has also distilled the key points below: While you’re healthy: Get your paperwork in order. That includes having your advance care directive and medical history handy. Know your…

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What do the 2018 mid-term elections mean for health care consumers?

Efforts to control rising health care costs by capping providers’ profits failed to gain traction with California voters. Statewide, voters soundly defeated Proposition 8, which would have restricted the profits earned by companies that provide kidney dialysis treatment. According to Healio, a health news website, the 100-member Service Employees International Union-United Health Care Workers spent…

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Price of health care rising faster than inflation

Inflation is being significantly outpaced by health care prices, according to a new study by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). Prices have increased in 111 of 112 metro areas over a five-year-period, the study found. Price levels and growth rates vary widely for localities, but Modern Healthcare reports that many economists attribute higher prices…

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People with diabetes see little relief from rising insulin prices

It’s not your imagination — the cost of insulin continues to rise. Axios recently reported the astonishing per-vial prices of the most common insulin brands: Novo Nordisk’s NovoLog: $289 Eli Lilly’s Humalog: $275 Sanofi’s Lantus: $270 Those three pharmaceutical giants control almost the entire insulin marketplace, which saw about $22 billion in global insulin revenues…

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Angry about rising health care costs? California puts limits to a vote

When it comes to fighting rising health care costs, California may be ground zero. That’s where the nation’s largest health workers’ union is pushing two ballot measures aimed at limiting how much hospitals and doctors can charge. The measures are sponsored by Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and will appear on ballots in…

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How you can prevent surprise medical bills

Recently HealthSparq — which partners with health plans to provide cost and quality information about doctors, hospitals and medical services — set out to find how common unexpected medical bills are. In just the last 12 months, it found that more than half (53 percent) of all respondents had received a so-called “surprise” medical bill,…

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