Telehealth is Shaping Healthcare for the Better

Game ChangerBy Karen R. Thomas, President of Advanced TeleHealth Solutions

As incredibly innovative and efficient as telehealth is at providing greater access to care for consumers, lowering healthcare costs for both patients and healthcare systems, and improving outcomes, barriers have always existed that hinder the widespread adoption of telehealth. Yet recently, issues such as state requirement hurdles, reimbursement limitations, and a general resistance from physicians to learn and integrate new technologies into their care routines are quickly evaporating in the wake of the overwhelming proof of telemedicine’s many benefits. Read More …

Managing My Costs of Care [ESSAY]

MedicaidDollarsManaging My Costs of Care is a well-written essay by Jay Warner.

I recommend it, because this one example shows just how easy it “should” be to cut healthcare costs in half to get down to what the rest of the world pays — for better care and outcomes — and save $1.5 trillion/year. It all comes down to getting the incentives right, because with employer-provided health insurance, Jay had no incentive (or ability) to comparison shop. Now he does.

The healthcare landscape is changing as payers pressure providers for more price transparency and seek other ways to contain costs and maintain profitability now that they can no longer cherry-pick the healthiest customers or cut them off when care gets too expensive.

Other disruptive changes include remote sensor monitoring (telemedicine) that can follow trends and identify problems earlier, remote consultations (telehealth) that can replace in-person office visits, medical tourism when it’s less expensive and has better outcomes than local surgeries, and an overall shift away from the fee-for-service insurance model. That model once served as pre-paid medical care, but now payers are starting to view insurance as protection against catastrophic illness and injury with consumers paying for the small stuff out of pocket. With that trend comes two others: (1) increased competition and (2) an increased focus on overall health and wellness, including nutrition, exercise, and sleep as it’s pillars.

A side benefit of wellness, beyond dramatic reductions in health care costs, is improved safety and performance. Restorative sleep, for example, is associated with improved alertness, attention, creativity, decision-making, focus, learning ability, mood, reaction & recovery times, and working memory, all of which contribute to better grades at school, better productivity at work and in sports, and fewer motor vehicle accidents and deaths.

Hyper Growth of Private Insurance Exchanges

Shared with permission from MEDCITY News, by Dan Verel, 7/25/2015

Accenture Figure 1

While much attention has been heaped on the public health insurance exchanges over the year, private health insurance exchanges “are experiencing hyper-growth” and enrollment could exceed that of public exchanges by 2017, “if not sooner,” according to Accenture. Read More …

Poverty in America — living below The Line

The Line is an important documentary that covers the stories of people across the country living at or below the poverty line. They have goals. They have children. They work hard. They are people like you and me. Across America, millions are struggling every day to make it above The Line.

As shown in the Stats below and the accompanying infographic, poverty is a drag on the economy that also affects the cost of healthcare, as I’ve written before in this blog. Read More …

Austin Requires New Homes to be Accessible

Austin city council passes accessibility,
ramp ordinances for new homes

Wheelchair Lady doing Laundry
AUSTIN, TX (1/30/2014) — After two years of working on an ordinance amendment, the Austin City Council passed changes Thursday that will require all new homes be more accessible and visitable to people with mobility disabilities.

The idea to require changes to make housing more accessible first came up inside City Hall back in 1998. That’s when Austin adopted the changes for homes built with city funds. The intention was that it would lead to an across the board policy, but that never came to be.

City staff and council members have spent the last two years working with stakeholders to draft an ordinance amendment.

After much debate, and several postponements, the council passed the ordinance amendment 6-1 with Mayor Lee Leffingwell voting against the measure. Read More …

We Endorse Telehealth Across State Lines

Medicine Unplugged: Your phone, your DNA, your data

By Wayne Caswell

Modern Health Talk strongly endorses telehealth and efforts to break down barriers to wider adoption nationwide. The TELE-MED Act of 2013 (HR 3077) is still not out of committee but is intended to start breaking down barriers related to licensure and payment when medical care is given online across state lines, starting with Medicare providers. Hopefully Congress will pass this bill and then start extending telehealth to all insurance carriers. Read More …

Regulations Not Keeping Up with Technology

Health ReformBy Wayne Caswell

The rapid and accelerating pace of tech innovation has profound implications for healthcare delivery & payment, aging, and disability employment, but regulations that support that are spotty or nonexistent.

The good news

“Durable medical equipment” is a class of assistive technology that can be paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and many private insurance plans. Motorized wheel chairs most often fall into this category. Read More …

Telehealth Enhancement Act takes Important Step

Telehealth KioskAs a member of the American Telehealth Association (Austin chapter), I too support the Telehealth Enhancement Act, however I see it as just a baby step and think much more is needed. Still, it’s a step in the right direction.

The proposed bill would modernize the Medicare program by allowing Medicare patients to be cared for remotely by a licensed healthcare provider from any state. That way, if you need medical help while on vacation, you could connect online or by phone with your own doctor back home without requiring that they be licensed in the state you traveled to. I urge Congress to adopt this bill and expand it beyond Medicare, to other federal agencies and health benefit programs.

Read More …

Why Health Care Costs are Obscenely Expensive (Infographic)

Health Care Spending

 

Americans spend more on health care
but live sicker and die younger. Why?

 

We’ve published dozens of articles addressing that issue and have accumulated thousands of statistics in hundreds of Infographics. But today we include an important infographic that combines 12 charts created by Jan Diehm for The Huffington Post. Afterwards is a video description, a counter-point argument, and my own view of how Obamacare will address some of the issues.

 

Read More …

Understanding Obamacare in Three and a Half Minutes

Main CAHCBy Wendell Potter, Author, consultant, columnist at Center for Public Integrity and healthinsurance.org

Since 2010, the year President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act, more than $400 million has been spent by the law’s opponents to turn Americans against it, according to an analysis earlier this summer by the Campaign Media Analysis Group at Kantar Media. That compares to just $75 million spent by supporters to defend and explain the legislation.

The vast majority of that anti-Obamacare advertising has been misleading and in many cases downright false, but, hey, this is a free country and truth-in-advertising rules don’t apply. People who have an agenda, motivated by political or financial gain, just make stuff up. And then they use TV ads and the Internet to make sure the made-up stuff is repeated often enough so that gullible Americans eventually accept it as truth. Or at the very least grow confused and skeptical. Read More …

OBAMACARE – a moving infographic

Obamacare does so many things to give people better access to affordable, quality health care. The folks at Colorado Consumer Health Initiative just like to say THANKS OBAMACARE with this moving infographic about President Obama’s healthcare plan and how it actually helps people. Nothing is perfect, but we think there are a lot of positives that came out of this whole thing, and politicians focus only on negative talking points. ugh.

Obamacare: What’s at Stake if it’s Repealed

Obamacare Pre-existing ConditionsBy Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services

More than three years ago, Congress passed the Affordable Care Act and President Obama signed it into law. Last year, the Supreme Court upheld it. Millions of Americans have already benefited from its provisions, and millions more are looking forward to benefits that will soon go into effect. And in November, the American people re-elected the president as an affirmation of the law’s promise that no person should go broke if they get sick.

Yet today, for nearly the 40th time since it’s been the law of the land, House Republicans staged yet another repeal vote in their latest attempt to turn back the clock on progress and deny Americans health insurance coverage they can count on.

For the 37th time, Congress is voting to repeal the health care law, the Affordable Care Act.
Learn what’s at stake for Americans if the law were repealed.

Read More …

Meals On Wheels Sequestration Cuts Take Effect

Meals on WheelsBy Arthur Delaney (original on Huffington Post)

ROANOKE, Va. — William McCormick remembers from his working-class upbringing in Covington, Va., that neighbors took care of neighbors.

“Both my parents worked in the mill,” he said. “For people in the neighborhood who were hungry we’d make up two or three bags of groceries, put $5 or $10 in it, set it on the porch, knock on the door and leave. We wouldn’t tell ’em who did it.”

Now McCormick is 70 years old and living alone in a one-bedroom apartment in a six-story building. Only about 40 of the building’s 144 units are occupied. The parking lots are barren and the hallways are dingy with torn carpets. McCormick considers the building “spooky.”

Some Disturbing Stats:

  • There are already 40M seniors 65+ today, with 10,000 more reaching age 65 every day.
  • 40% of them are low-income (below 150% of poverty level) and will need public assistance.
  • The poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,113, and the 2010 average income of the bottom 90% was $26.364.
  • People 90+ had a median income of just $14,760 in 2010, about half of it from Social Security. 37.3% of them lived alone and depend on services like Meels on Wheels.

Read More …

A Place at the Table – about Poverty, Hunger & Health

Spread the word today! This important documentary is coming to movie theaters, YouTube and on-demand on March 1.

A Place at the Table shows us how hunger poses serious economic, social, health and cultural implications for our nation, and how the problem of hunger can be solved once and for all, with your help.

Now think about the dramatic role that a proper diet can play in decreasing obesity, diabetes, chronic illness, food allergies, and healthcare costs by improving the health of Americans.

As Dr. Wahls says in her TED video, “Hunter-Gatherer diet feeds Mitochondria & Brain Cells.”  “You’ll pay one way or another” – either pay now for a nutritious diet that improves your productivity and quality of life, or pay more later for medical intervention and long-term healthcare. This concept applies individually or nationally as portrayed in A Place at the Table.

Read More …

Why High Medical Bills Are Killing Us

TIME magazine coverIn his 38-page TIME magazine special report, “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills are Killing Us,” Steven Brill dives into our health care system to understand why things cost so much, avoiding the more traditional question of who pays for what. What he found was both disturbing and telling. (His 3:38 min video introduction is at the end.)

His first story starts with the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, a nonprofit facility of the University of Texas, as he follows a patient who had to prepay $48,900 for six days of testing just to determine his cancer treatment regimen, which could easily run half a million dollars. An analysis of the itemized list of confusing charges showed that they were inflated as much as 100 times over retail prices, even before the hospital’s leveraged buying power. Those costs were also way higher than what Medicare would pay for the same tests, procedures and drugs.

MD Anderson, with its 19,000 employees, is one of the city’s top-10 employers, and its CEO last year was paid $1,845,000. Four other hospitals in the 1,300-acre Texas Medical Center are also in the top-10. Clearly, healthcare is a big business, but who’s making the money if it’s not doctors, nurses and technicians? It’s the hospitals, insurance companies, drug companies, equipment providers, and testing companies. Read More …

Where’s Real Reform in Health Care?

Money-Driven MedicineThe Patient Accountability and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is a reasonable first step in health reform, but much more needs to be done. That’s primarily because Obamacare is still dependent on health insurance, which turned health care into an industry that profits from the perverse incentives of treating patients as paying customers. This health care industry  often works to keep patients as paying customers by treating their symptoms rather than providing real cures, and prescribing drugs, performing procedures, and doing unnecessary tests. Since that’s how practitioners are paid, it’s what they do.

The following videos explain how our money-driven system of medicine works, and what’s wrong with it. The video series then ends with an easy-to-understand animated explanation of Obamacare. Read More …

Nine States Deny The Poor Health Care

GOP Governors Deny The Poor Health Care
In Opposing Obamacare’s Medicaid Expansion

 

Where states stand on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)

By Peter S. Goodman and Jeffrey Young

RUSTON, La. — With no health insurance and not enough money for a doctor, Laura Johnson is long accustomed to treating her ailments with a self-written prescription: home remedies, prayer and denial.

Read More …

Texas Rankings Disappoint

Texas on the Brink: How Texas ranks among the 50 states (2011 version)
Click on the image to view:
“Texas on the Brink,” a 2001 report from the Texas Legislative Study Group that includes many more rankings and supporting statistics.
Not much has changed.

Texas near the Top:

Blessed with an abundance of land, rivers, oil and other natural resources, Texas pioneers built a great state, and even today, it seems that everything is bigger in Texas. I’ve lived in this “Great State of Texas” for most of my live, moving here from Arlington, VA in 1976, and I now live in the state capitol of Austin. So I call myself a Texan, but in many ways I’m not proud of my state. Here’s why. We relish in being #1 in many things, but not these:

  • Texas is #1 in the percent of population uninsured
    (as if that would be something to brag about).
  • We have the largest number of uninsured children (#1).
  • We have the most toxic chemicals released into water (#1).
  • We generate the most hazardous waste (#1).
  • We have the most carbon dioxide emissions (#1).
  • We also have the most executions (#1).
  • We have the second highest birth rate
    and are 4th in the number of kids living in poverty.
  • We have the second highest percent of population under 18.
  • We’re #2 in percent of population with food insecurity.
  • We’re #4 in percent of population living below poverty.

Read More …

Health Care Opportunities That Can Make a Real Impact

Refocusing on Health Care Opportunities That Can Make a Real Impact

Acute vs Chronic ConditionsBy Kenneth Thorpe, Chairman, The Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (original on Huffington Post)

Now that the campaign smoke has cleared, we can expect a refocusing of the nation’s arguments from the question of who will get elected to what will be done about hot-button issues like health care. Expect pitched debates to begin imminently on battlegrounds including, but certainly not limited to, Medicare reform, revisiting the Affordable Care Act, the Independent Payment Advisory Board and medical device taxes.

The fact is though, the more time policymakers spend wrangling over these issues on which there are clear, and not easily bridged partisan divides, the more we’re missing the fundamental steps that can and must be taken if we’re going to contain health care costs without compromising the quality or accessibility of care.

It begins with acknowledging what we don’t know about improving health care, and what we need to do to broaden our knowledge base. And it has to do with the more than 75 million Americans who have not one, but multiple chronic illnesses. Our health care system in this country is quite adept at treating people who have a single disease. We don’t have an effective set of best practices, or an essential foundation of research, to know how to take care of those who are coping with more than one condition.

We have the opportunity to improve this situation, and it should begin with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI.org), the entity created by Congress to evaluate different prevention and treatment therapies and offer scientifically-supported evidence on how to provide patients with the most effective care.

Read More …

Obamacare Fact vs. Fiction (Now that you Voted)

voteBy Wendell Potter, Analyst at the Center for Public Integrity, author of Deadly Spin (original on Huffington Post, slightly modified after the election)

Wouldn’t it be great if our candidates had to take a dose of truth serum every morning before hitting the campaign trail? If they did, those of us who recently voted wouldn’t be nearly as confused about what Obamacare is and what it isn’t, what it will do and what it won’t.

Since there is no such truth serum requirement, I believe that many of us actually voted against our own best interests and for candidates who scared them into believing that Obamacare is a government takeover of health care that will bankrupt the country while slashing Medicare benefits. Read More …