Are Crypto-Currencies Safe?

Here's a Bitcoin - at least a representation of one since they're actually electronic

Here’s a Bitcoin – at least a representation of one since they’re actually electronic

Last week Yvonne and I closed on the sale of our Austin home and the purchase of another home in the Dallas area. The process was simpler than I remember from the past, and since we paid cash for the new home, we didn’t even need a notary. I just downloaded a few forms, signed them on the kitchen table, scanned into the computer, and sent them back to the Title Company through a secure email service. This experience foretells the future, but are crypto-currencies safe? Really safe?

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting research papers related to blockchain applications in healthcare. Blockchain is the enabling technology behind BitCoin and other crypto-currencies, and it’s catching on fast — maybe too fast. Judge for yourself. Read More …

Health Care Reform – Progress and Next Steps

Obama and White House staff react to passing of the ACA.

President Barack Obama, Joe Biden and the White House staff react to the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare) on March 21, 2010.

A special issue of JAMA, The Journal of the American Medical Association, on July 11, 2016 published this summary of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), by President Barack Obama, describing successes, challenges, and next steps. JAMA encouraged current and future presidential candidates to submit their own ideas on how best to reform healthcare, so here’s my list of What to Ask Clinton and Trump.

Obama’s article, included below in its entirety, was accompanied by three editorials from Peter Orszag, former director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Obama; Stuart Butler, a senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution and former director of the Center for Policy Innovation at The Heritage Foundation; and coauthors Jonathan Skinner and Amitabh Chandra, economic and government professors at Dartmouth and Harvard. Read More …

What to ask Clinton and Trump about Healthcare?

I responded to a Huffington Post article about proposed changes to Medicare and questions that should be asked of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but I went deeper into the serious healthcare issues, citing an article I posted yesterday about The Ideal Healthcare System. It referenced differences between public and private sector organizations but primarily spoke of the need to better align incentives to the nation’s health goals. Therefore, my questions to Presidential candidates relate to that larger view of health and healthcare.

What to ask Clinton and Trump about Healthcare?

What would YOU ask Clinton and Trump about Healthcare? (please comment below and share with others)

Read More …

Let the Health Care Reform Debates Begin, Again

Let the Health Care Reform Debates Begin, Again

Click the image to see some of our other articles on public policy and health reform.

Editorial by Wayne Caswell, Founder & Senior Editor, Modern Health Talk

According to Forbes, House Republicans released this week a 37-page draft of their plan to “replace Obamacare and reform entitlements.” To that I say, Let the Health Care Reform Debates Begin, Again.

Even though Obamacare has slowed the rising costs of healthcare as our population ages, significantly more work needs to be done to bring our total costs in line with what other advanced nations pay, and with better outcomes. Doing that – continuing to reform health care – has the potential of cutting our $3.4 trillion/year costs in half, thus saving well over $1 trillion/year. Those savings can then be redirected to other purposes, such as lowering taxes, paying down debt, or making strategic investments in education, poverty, research, and infrastructure. The aim of such reforms is to help all Americans regardless of age, income, or socio-economic status.

But powerful opposition to true reforms comes from within the medical industrial complex that stands to lose over $1 trillion/year in revenue and so spends twice as much on political lobbying as the military industrial complex. It’s important that the public keep House Republicans from being tempted to cave into the lobbying pressure. So what should our goals be? Read More …

How to pick the good smartphone health apps

With so much choice, here's how to pick the good smartphone health apps and avoid the bad onesBy Carol Maher (original here)

With an estimated 100,000 health and fitness apps available on the two leading smartphone platforms, iOS and Android, it seems there is an app for everything – from tracking your bowel movements, to practising your pimple-popping technique.

However, a number of apps are starting to raise the ire of government regulators. Brain-training juggernaut Lumosity was recently fined US$2 million (A$2.7 million) for making unfounded claims that its app could improve work performance and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Read More …

Why Medicare-for-All is Not Enough

Doctors Prescribe Single-Payer Health Care Reform

Doctors Prescribe Single-Payer Health Care Reform

Dr. David Himmelstein speaks at a news conference about the new Physicians’ Proposal for Single-Payer Health Care on the steps of City Hall in New York, May 6. Photo: Annette Gaudino

Well before Bernie Sanders entered the presidential race, a nonpartisan group of 39 leading doctors set out to fix the glaring problems in the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or Obamacare). The single-payer plan they proposed, essentially Medicare-for-All, has since been endorsed by over 2,000 physician colleagues and published in the American Journal of Public Health, according to this article in Huffington Post.

The HuffPost article generated lots of reader comments, and I just had to respond because this is the sort of debate I love to jump into. It brings together many different perspectives, especially those of consumers who too often aren’t heard from by politicians. Here’s a summary of my responses and answer to the question, “Is Medicare-for-All enough?” Read More …

Texas has the Highest Uninsured Rate

Uninsured Residents - Red States versus Blue StatesThe data is in from a WalletHub analysis of 2015’s States with the highest & lowest uninsured rates, and as an Austin resident, I’m again embarrassed to say that Texas has the highest uninsured rate.

Having insurance is vital to the health of your family and your wallet. It can significantly reduce your out-of-pocket medical expenses, the leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the U.S. Today, however, 11.7 percent of all Americans — many of whom earn a low income — remain without coverage.

For the second year in a row, WalletHub’s analysts drew upon the most reliable data to estimate the rates of uninsured pre- and post-Obamacare for the 50 states and the District of Columbia. For a broad perspective of those rates, they broke the national figures down to the state level and other categories, including age, race and income level. A summary of their findings are included below. Read More …

Consumers Screwed with Insurance Loopholes

Insurance Loopholes & Master Pricing:
How Surprise Medical Bills Knock Consumers Down

Medical Records (photo courtesy of CX2)

Most of us know which local hospitals and doctors are covered by our insurance providers, but even when we make sure that we only see an in-network physician or surgeon, nearly one-third of privately insured Americans are still hit with higher-than-expected medical bills, often because their in-network hospital brought in or contracted out to an out-of-network service provider. How did we get to the point where so many consumers have so little information about what to expect when their hospital bill arrives? (read full article)

Consumers Screwed with Insurance Loopholes

As explained in this excellent article, even though Obamacare intended to address rising prices by promoting prevention, price transparency, and competition among payers & providers – and there has been progress – the system remains hopelessly complex and in need of serious and more aggressive reform.

I’m more convinced than ever that we need to move toward a single-payer system like Medicare-for-All, modeled after other nations that pay half as much and have better outcomes. Meanwhile there may be a role for the new Consumer Protection Agency, because complexity always allows the greedy to find loopholes and screw consumers, while it makes it more difficult for consumers to protect themselves. But if we rely too much on that, the agency could grow immense.

Most consumers, I think, are willing to assume more personal responsibility and Want to seek the best value in care, but that’s difficult to impossible under America’s current and convoluted Sick Care system, which has perverse incentives to view patients as paying customers and treat their symptoms, thus keeping them coming back, paying.

Healthcare Costs are Rising Fast. Need Reforms

NEWS: 24/9/2015 – Healthcare costs are rising so fast in advanced economies that they will become unaffordable by mid-century without reforms, according to a new OECD report.

Fiscal Sustainability of Health Systems: Bridging Health and Finance Perspectives finds that going over budget on health spending remains endemic in most OECD countries. Maintaining today’s healthcare, and funding future medical advances, will be difficult without major reforms that will require health and finance ministries to work together, it says.

Read More …

FDA Patient Engagement Advisory Committee

Health Tech Policy

FDA Announces First-ever Patient Engagement Advisory Committee

By: Nina L. Hunter, Ph.D., and Robert M. Califf, M.D., 9/18/2015

Although it may seem odd in retrospect, the development of new technologies intended to improve patients’ lives has largely relied upon expert opinions rather than asking patients and families directly what they consider most important.

But that’s changing. We are entering an era of “patient-centered” medicine in which patients and their care partners participate actively in decision-making and priority-setting about all aspects of health care. Americans are becoming increasingly active consumers of health care, making choices about their doctors, diagnostics, treatments, and healthcare experiences rather than simply allowing health care providers to make the decisions for them. Moreover, FDA believes that patients can and should bring their own experiences to bear in helping the Agency define meaningful benefits or unreasonable risks for certain new devices.

Today we are excited to announce FDA’s first-ever Patient Engagement Advisory Committee (PEAC). This body will provide advice to the FDA Commissioner on a range of complex issues relating to medical devices, the regulation of devices, and their use by patients. It will give FDA the opportunity to obtain expertise on various patient-related topics, with the goal of improving communication of benefits and risks and increasing integration of patient perspectives into the regulatory process. Some questions that the PEAC may discuss include where and how best to engage patients across the device development and assessment lifecycle as well as how FDA and sponsors should communicate patient preference information to patients. Read More …

Republican Alternatives To The Affordable Care Act?

What Would Republicans Do Instead Of The Affordable Care Act?

By John McDonough and Max Fletcher

A new spate of proposals from Republican presidential candidates to repeal and/or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) raises the important question: Given an unobstructed opportunity, what would Republicans really do with the Affordable Care Act? Would they repeal the law wholly or just in part? With what might they replace it?

Some suggest that Republican Congressional leaders only advance full repeal to placate their Party’s conservative base, knowing well that repeal cannot survive a certain veto while Barack Obama is President. In January 2017, that obstacle will vanish if Republicans control the White House and both branches of the U.S. Congress. What then? Read More of this excellent article at HealthAffairs.org.

Is FaceTime HIPAA Compliant?

Is FaceTime HIPAA Compliant? 

By Jon Taylor, President and Founder of Bayon Health FaceTime HIPAA Compliance

In the first part of this series we wanted to address one of the most common questions we get asked; “Is FaceTime a HIPAA compliant solution?” If one was to search the internet for this answer, you’d come across a lot of mixed answers and confusion. FaceTime is such an easy tool to use when it comes to video conferencing, so it’s only natural for us to want to use it, but with all the rules and regulations regarding HIPAA, healthcare professionals want to make sure they are compliant. We decided to do a deep dive into FaceTime, looking for any information that not only answers this question, but gives us resourceful information to make a conclusion ourselves. In this report, we are going to cover what it means to be HIPAA compliant, how FaceTime works under the hood, and how FaceTime is currently being used in the healthcare industry. Read More …

Hooray for Obamacare! How’s it doing?

No matter your politics, you must respect a Nobel Prize winning economist when he speaks in economic terms. The following is pulled from yesterday’s New York Times editorial by Paul Krugman.

Hooray for Obamacare!Paul Krugman

“Was I on the edge of my seat, waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare subsidies? No — I was pacing the room, too nervous to sit, worried that the court would use one sloppily worded sentence to deprive millions of health insurance, condemn tens of thousands to financial ruin, and send thousands to premature death.

It didn’t. And that means that the big distractions — the teething problems of the website, the objectively ludicrous but nonetheless menacing attempts at legal sabotage — are behind us, and we can focus on the reality of health reform. The Affordable Care Act is now in its second year of full operation; how’s it doing?

The answer is, better than even many supporters realize. Read More …

Supreme Court upholds Affordable Care Act… Again

BREAKING NEWS

Supreme Court says, "ACA OK"

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning ruled on the landmark King v. Burwell case about the legality of federal insurance subsidies. In their 6-to-3 ruling they saved coverage for more than 6M Americans.

According to FierceHealthPayer, Chief Justice John Roberts said, “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

Here at Modern Health Talk, we applaud the Court’s decision.

Insurance Cost = Premiums + Deductibles + Copays

Obamacare Enrollment Drive

MIAMI, FL – FEBRUARY 05: Aymara Marchante (L) and Wiktor Garcia sit with Maria Elena Santa Coloma, an insurance advisor with UniVista Insurance company, as they sign up for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, before the February 15th deadline on February 5, 2015 in Miami, Florida. Numbers released by the government show that the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area has signed up 637,514 consumers so far since open enrollment began on Nov. 15, which is more than twice as many as the next large metropolitan area, Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

OPINION by Wayne Caswell, founder & senior editor, Modern Health Talk

This is an obvious opinion piece that I posted on Huffington Post in response to another opinion piece, It’s Not Just You — Those Health Insurance Deductibles Are Getting Scary.

MY RESPONSE:

The article was well written but misleading because it failed to acknowledge that Total Insurance Cost = Premiums + Deductibles + Copays. Instead, it focused almost exclusively on high deductibles. Read More …

Telemedicine as good as a Doctor visit?

Video ConsultationVirtual doctor visits via video conference are starting to go mainstream, with some people putting them on par with a regular trip to the doctor’s office. UnitedHealthcare, announcing that they’ll cover virtual doctor visits through American Well, Doctor on Demand, and NowClinic, is the latest to jump on the telemedicine bandwagon.

While these consultations previously would cost $40-50 per call, United members will only be charged a regular co-pay, making virtual medicine more affordable for more people. Coverage of the virtual visits will only be available only to UnitedHealth’s self-funded customers, as opposed to those with employer-funded plans, but the feature will expand next year to most members, showing just how fast telemedicine is taking off. Read More …

Telehealth Legal Obstacles Delay Home Healthcare

Doctor Robot

DOCTOR ROBOT: Technology like this RP-VITA device at Mercy San Juan Hospital in Carmichael, Calif., lets doctors beam themselves to remote patient bedsides, but government rules need to catch up. (AP / Rich Pedroncelli)

Home telehealth” technology promises to be a critical component of providing quality care to the growing number of Americans who need long-term services and supports to “age in place” at home. Home telehealth and related technology can make it cheaper, easier and more comfortable for seniors to remain at home and avoid nursing facility placement.

But government regulations lag behind telehealth technology, according to this article in the National Law Journal. This is disappointing because “24-hour monitoring would allow Americans who need long-term care to ‘age in place’ at home.”  Read More …

Precision Medicine vs Prevention & Wellness

Health iconsPresident Obama and the National Institutes of Health have announced a Precision Medicine Initiative that complements other programs for Prevention and Wellness. That’s important because too many diseases don’t have a proven means of prevention or effective treatments.

Read More …

Are You Ready for Some Sensors… in Healthcare?

Activity Trackers

Some wearables (photo from BIONICLY.com)

They’re Everywhere! They’re Everywhere! Sensors that is, and it seems they sense everything too.

Here’s a tiny subset:

  • Temperature (e.g. thermostat)
  • Light (photocell)
  • Sound & Vibration (microphone)
  • Proximity (motion sensor, Doppler radar, stud finder)
  • Pressure (altimeter, barometer, tire pressure)
  • Magnetism (security contact switch)
  • Chemicals (smoke, radon & CO2 sensors)
  • Fluid Flow (water & gas meters)
  • Electric Current (electric meter)
  • Moisture (humidifier, leak detector, rain gauge)
  • Radiation & Subatomic Particles (Geiger counter)
  • Speed, Distance & Acceleration (odometer, tachometer, accelerometer)
  • Pressure (barometer)
  • Force (strain gauge)

Read More …

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 …