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

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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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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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Retail prescription spending expected to outpace all other health care spending through 2026

As health care costs continue to rise, many Americans face difficult decisions about their health and financial well-being. According to a new Pew Research study, prescription drug spending rose 26.8 percent between 2012 and 2016. The increase left Americans spending more money on prescription drugs than residents of any other country. The growth is largely…

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Can increasing home dialysis options lower costs and save lives?

Undergoing dialysis treatment to keep the body in balance after kidney failure can change a person’s life dramatically. Patients often visit a dialysis clinic three days a week and spend three to five hours on each treatment. Now the federal government is working on a new approach for treating kidney disease that favors lower-cost, in-home…

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There’s only one surprise an expecting mother wants, and it’s not an unexpected medical bill

We’re all well aware that adding a new member to the family brings additional expenses. If you’re a planner on a budget, you’ve likely researched your birthing plan, as well as which hospitals and obstetricians are part of your insurance plan’s network. Unfortunately, even in-network hospitals might contract with out-of-network providers, such as anesthesiologists. And…

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Laws to increase medical cost transparency might be leaving patients more confused

How many times have you attended a public meeting where the presenter used obscure acronyms you’ve never heard before? It makes the entire meeting hard to follow. You’re frustrated because you’re trying to learn, and you wonder whether the organization is being transparent. You are likely to encounter the same hurdles when it comes to…

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New, low-price insulin? There’s a catch

The skyrocketing price of insulin has been making big headlines for a while. Those with Type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas stops producing insulin, have been especially hard hit. Some of you have even been forced to choose between buying life-saving medication and paying for food and other needed expenses. Eli…

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What happens when a cancer-fighting drug is effective but not profitable? Patients scramble as manufacturer slows production

Imagine having cancer, and finding out there’s a shortage of the life-saving medicine and you are no longer eligible to receive it. This is what happened to Bob Field. The 72-year-old bank executive was diagnosed with fast-acting bladder cancer and was set to receive his second dose of the drug BCG, an immunotherapy treatment that…

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No relief in sight: Americans’ health care spending projected to rise 5.5 percent a year

Prices for medical goods and services are projected to grow as more baby boomers retire and move from private insurance to Medicare. The independent Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) predicts the nation’s health spending will grow by an average of 5.5 percent between 2018 and 2027, reaching…

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Congress investigates rising insulin costs. Will it make a difference?

Voices for Affordable Health has spotlighted the skyrocketing costs of insulin for some time. Many of you have shared the difficult choices you have had to make when the price of a drug you need to treat your diabetes is double what you paid a few years ago. Congress may finally be paying attention. The…

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Could Republicans and Democrats find common ground on the need to lower drug costs?

As the 2020 presidential election approaches, surging prescription drug prices may finally be getting the attention they deserve. Kaiser Health News recently reported that lawmakers are pushing several new proposals and approaches to address one of health care’s biggest concerns. “Democrats feel as if they’re really able to experiment,” said Rachel Sachs, associate law professor…

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Big Pharma executives get bipartisan “grilling” by U.S. Senators over sky-rocketing prices. What’s next?

Why do prescription drugs cost more in the United States than in most other countries? And why do Americans pay more for their medications while also subsidizing pharmaceutical company research with their tax dollars? These are good questions. And the seven top executives representing the largest multi-national pharmaceutical corporations couldn’t come up with answers during…

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A life-altering drug that was once free now costs more than a house

Imagine making all the right decisions to ensure you stay in good health, and one day you find out you need to take a drug for the rest of your life. Then imagine that one year of this drug costs more than the price of a house. Active and overall healthy, 18-year-old runner Will Shuller…

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Massachusetts is the latest state trying to bring high drug costs under control

Pharmaceutical companies claim that the costs of developing new, ground-breaking medications is why high drug prices are passed on to insurance companies and to you, the patient. However, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says only a few drugs have extremely high costs, and he wants drug manufacturers to be legally required to explain those costs. Or…

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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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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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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…


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…


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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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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