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Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

Archive for the ‘Healthcare’ Category

January 19, 2013

Why Americans Are Fat, in One Picture

And the winner is … Bistro Shrimp Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory, which also has more saturated fat in this one meal than is recommended for the average person for an entire weekend.

From the Washington Post

November 1, 2012

Highly Recommended

The Waiting Room follows 24 hours at an ER in Oakland, CA.  To my mind, it is neither sensationalist nor political.  It just tells the story, with great compassion, of the realities of living without medical insurance or access to primary care in America today.  If you have ever thought about healthcare delivery in the US, you should see this film.

September 30, 2012

Medicare Open Enrollment, Oct 15-Dec 7, 2012

Medicare enrollees can review and change their Part D, Medicare Advantage or Supplemental Insurance plans once a year during this time period.  It is an opportunity to comparison shop, especially if your health needs have changed.

The surprisingly readable, if long, Medicare Handbook, explaining Parts A, B and D, Medicare Advantage and Supplemental Insurance Plans can be found here.

September 21, 2012

Realities of Long Term Care

Long-term care costs can surprise many families who expect Medicare to cover their needs. After a hospital stay, Medicare will pay for 100 days of nursing home care, but after that, families are on their own or are forced to spend down their assets to become poor enough to qualify for Medicaid.

From this Kaiser article.  Note that individuals entering most Medicaid-funded facilities should not expect to find that “happy themed” vision of active seniors, dancing and cavorting,that is portrayed in most residential care advertisements. And then there are the across-the-board cutbacks in state Medicaid programs.

If this does not speak to why people will want to have LTC insurance, which, among other things, will pay for in-home care, then I don’t know what will.

September 12, 2012

How To Save $1 of Every $6 Spent on Healthcare

That works out to $750 Billion per year, according to a new report by the Institute of Medicine. Sarah Kliff of the Washington Post has the story.

August 10, 2012

We Are Not The Profligates We Thought We Were

The conventional wisdom – and I have certainly subscribed to this thesis – has been that Americans have spent their way into indebtedness over the past thirty years, buying large automobiles and flat screen TVs. In 2008, we were awakened to the reality that we could no longer afford these lifestyles. Then along comes this simple chart from the Bank Credit Analyst which tells a slightly different story.

The red line in the graph shows the standard view of US consumption as a percentage of GDP. Consumption averaged in the low 60% range up until it started to steadily climb in the 1980s to a peak of more than 70% in the last few years. With GDP of $15T (Trillion), that comes out to an increase of $1.5T in spending per year (in 2010 dollars) in personal consumption. A staggering amount.

The second, blue line, tells a very different story. It shows consumption with health care costs subtracted.  What this clearly shows is that personal consumption (again as a percentage of GDP) has actually stayed relatively constant since the 1960s. The undeniable increases in lifestyle we have enjoyed are likely attributable to increases in GDP, or alternately the cost reductions afforded by outsourcing manufacturing to China et al. The entire increase in personal consumption, and where we have spent ourselves into the massive hole we find ourselves in, has been on healthcare, plan and simple. Astonishing.

Of course, any competent budget manager, when faced with out of control costs in one area of their budget would have opted for one or both of two options: reduce spending elsewhere and/or attack the rising costs in the out of control area. We have done little of either and find ourselves with debt loads, current and prospective, that we are straining to manage. But the next time someone says we have been spendthrifts and wastrels, I will think of this graph and the out of control costs of healthcare that are the true threat to our national finances.

Sometimes, one simple display of data can provide a remarkable amount of insight.

May 17, 2012

Coffee drinkers, Rejoice!

The LA Times reports that “older adults who drink java are less likely to die than those who don’t. Subjects who averaged four or five cups per day fared best, though it’s not clear why.”

As a confirmed addict myself, this is great news.  I think I will go make another pot of Peets right now.

September 29, 2011

Medicare Enrollment Period, Oct 15-Dec 7

This is the period when anyone already enrolled in a Medicare plan is free to change any aspect of their coverage. Note that both the start and end dates of this enrollment period are earlier than in prior years.

Morningstar has a good primer on the issues and questions to be considered. We generally recommend that insureds discuss their Medicare coverages annually with a qualified health insurance professional.  But for those who want to do it themselves, here is the Medicare Plan Finder link.

August 26, 2011

Just say “No” – one way to better healthcare

Sharon Begley, Newsweek magazine’s science editor, tackles our growing need to be tested with every possible diagnostic tool and finds that this increased testing has led to worse medical outcomes.  It is a cautionary tale about how more healthcare has not translated into better healthcare.  Do your own health a favor and read the article here.

h/t Felix Salmon

July 7, 2011

Better late than never

One of the new warnings to be on all tobacco packaging starting 2012, from the FDA’s website.

I was always told that the three major things you could do to increase your lifespan were: wear your seat belt, stop smoking and drink more water. Additionally, tobacco use and obesity are two of the most significant contributors to our nation’s out-of-control healthcare costs.

If you use tobacco products: STOP NOW. If you are considering using tobacco products: DON’T TRY THEM, EVEN ONCE. (And with apologies to those in the tobacco growing business), given our nation’s dire fiscal problems, you should consider this your patriotic duty.

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