Drug Prices Keep Rising Despite Efforts To Reduce Out-Of-Pocket Costs

Michael Baudin of Manchester retired eight years ago after a career in auto repair, but now the 76-year-old is back working part time as a driver so he can afford prescription medications. “Every year premiums go up and my co-pay is increasing,” he said. “I take medication for cholesterol, hypertension, heart, prostate and digestion. My wife quit her job due to health issues and her medication is expensive too.”

Baudin says his out-of-pocket cost for a 90-day supply of just one drug, Creon from AbbVie Inc., which he takes for digestion, is $100. The drug does not have a generic equivalent.

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Lawmakers Press For Thorough Review Of Two Health Insurance Mergers

Seventeen lawmakers are asking the state’s insurance commissioner for a fair and thorough review of two pending colossal health insurance mergers and a study on how they could affect Connecticut jobs. “The proposed Anthem-Cigna and Aetna-Humana mergers are likely to have a negative impact on both the cost and quality of care in Connecticut, permanently changing our state’s health care system for patients, physicians, and other stakeholders,” according to the lawmakers’ letter sent to Insurance Commissioner Katharine L. Wade. In a conference call Wednesday, legislators led by state Rep. Gregory Haddad, D-Mansfield, said, that the “mega-mergers” could drive up consumer costs, concentrating more than 64 percent of the Connecticut health insurance market in their hands and restricting provider networks. Legislators, in the letter, asked Wade to hold multiple public hearings across the state, grant consumer advocates intervenor status in the proceedings and commission a study of the impact the mergers would have on consumers in terms of health care cost and quality.  Also, they want a review of how the mergers would impact Connecticut jobs. Haddad said there could be increases in deductibles, premiums and out-of-pocket costs and restrictions to provider choice as a result of the mergers.

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Despite Efforts, Black Women Deliver More Preterm Births

Black women in Connecticut remain more likely than white or Hispanic women to deliver preterm babies, despite efforts to reduce the disparity, newly released data show. In 2014, 12 percent of all births by black women in the state were preterm, meaning they occurred before 37 weeks gestation, according to data compiled by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. That compares with 9 percent of all births by white women and 10 percent of all births by Hispanic women that were preterm during the same year. Nationally, the trend was similar with 13 percent of births by black women occurring preterm compared with 9 percent of white women’s births and 9 percent of Hispanic women’s births. In the vast majority of states, black women experience a higher rate of preterm births than whites or Hispanic women, according to the state-by-state comparison of the Kaiser data.

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New Breast Cancer Screening Guidelines Rekindle Rage, Debate

When the American Cancer Society announced new guidelines for mammograms a week ago, the response on the organization’s Facebook page was swift. “For adoptees, this just adds 5 more years of potential unknowing,” wrote Angela from Connecticut. “Without a medical history, we are denied mammograms through insurance carriers.”

And then Dr. Henry Jacobs, a Hartford area longtime OB-GYN who, among other duties, serves as the Connecticut State Medical Society president, took to Facebook, too, and posted a message that summarized the general rage: “It is clear that rationing care is the new sales pitch and sacrificing women that could live out their lives is considered acceptable. I think it is UNCONSCIONABLE!!!!!!! We can afford athletes, entertainers, CEOs, hedge fund scammers that make upwards of a 100 million $$$$$ a year, but we can’t provide decent medical care to people???

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Racial, Ethnic Disparities Common In CT Hospital Readmissions

A black patient hospitalized for chest pain in Connecticut is 20 percent more likely than a white patient to be readmitted within 30 days after discharge. Similarly, a Hispanic patient hospitalized for heart failure is 30 percent more likely to land back in the hospital within a month. Those disparities in two of the most common reasons for hospitalizations among state residents point to larger problems in access to care, underlying health status and insurance coverage, according to a study published today in Connecticut Medicine, the journal of the Connecticut State Medical Society. The society is hosting a forum today to discuss ways to reduce disparities in readmissions of patients with heart failure, chest pain and three other conditions: joint replacement surgery, digestive disorders and uncomplicated childbirth. “We’re seeing large disparities in readmissions for a number of conditions,” said Robert Aseltine, the study’s lead author and professor of behavioral science and community health at the University of Connecticut Health Center.

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CT Joins States Requiring More ‘Medical’ In Med-Spa Staffing

Those who visit a medical spa in Connecticut for Botox, hair transplants or other cosmetic procedures can be assured they will see a licensed medical professional there, which hasn’t always been the case. Previously, consumers complained that med-spa procedures were sometimes performed by unlicensed providers, but a recently enacted state law has placed stricter requirements on the businesses. The law, which took effect Oct. 1, requires all medical spas to employ – either on staff or by contracting for services – a physician, physician’s assistant or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). It also mandates that one of those medical professionals perform an initial physical assessment of every med-spa client before any procedure is done.

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CT Fails Consumers Seeking Info On Physician Quality

Connecticut was among 41 states nationwide to earn a failing grade from health advocates for lacking public information about the quality of care provided by doctors. “Consumers should be able to find out if their local primary care physician is delivering good quality care without having to go through hoops,” said Francois de Brantes, executive director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute in Newtown, which published the report. “Connecticut has no public reporting of physician quality.”

Only two states, Minnesota and Washington, received an ‘A.’ California received a ‘C’ and the remaining states earned a ‘D’ or ‘F.’

Mark Schaefer, the state’s new director of Healthcare Innovation, wasn’t surprised by the findings. “It’s widely recognized that consumers in the health care market don’t have accessible and reliable information about the cost of treatments across settings and the quality of providers at the clinical level,” he said. “Like most states, this is something Connecticut is working on.”

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No health insurance

Should You Take The Health Care Tax Hit?

Time is running out for thousands of uninsured Connecticut residents who must decide whether to comply with a federal mandate to buy health insurance starting Jan. 1, 2014 or pay a penalty instead. “We are undertaking a paradigm shift in how we think about health insurance,” said Dan M. Smolnik, a tax attorney from Brookfield. “We don’t know for sure how people in Connecticut will respond. But I think the majority will weigh the risks of not having health insurance and make a rational decision that isn’t purely based on economics.

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healthInsureExecSalaries

Top Execs At “Big Five’’ Health Insurers Each Pull In Millions

Health care reform, new Wall Street regulations and outrage over large pay packages are likely to put pressure on compensation for health insurance executives. But it doesn’t seem to have happened yet. The highest-paid executive at each of the “Big Five’’ health insurers – UnitedHealth Group, Aetna Inc., WellPoint Inc., Humana Inc. and Cigna Corp. – made more than $8 million in 2012, according to filings this spring with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The CEO of EmblemHealth Inc., a nonprofit that owns ConnectiCare, also had total compensation at that level in 2011, the last year for which information is available.

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