It's no secret that us baby boomers will live longer than our ancestors. But there's a grim reality. In doing so we will feel older and sicker. A study by Dr. Dana King recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's (JAMA) Internal Medicine shows that our final years of life will probably be worse than those of our parents. And it's already happening. King's survey reports that only 13 percent of those born between 1946 and 1964 say they are in excellent health -- compared with 33 percent of the previous generation. Sofa sadness It's our own fault. Despite the feeling that we're always racing against the clock, baby boomers are notorious couch potatoes. Nearly 40 percent of us are obese and more than half do not exercise regularly. We are legendary pill-poppers of the legal drugs advertised on TV, and 7 percent already depend on a cane or walker to get around. So is there any good news? Yes. Fewer of us are developing emphysema and having heart attacks, mostly because we stopped smoking. King is family health professor at the West Virginia School of Medicine, a state whose motto coincidentally is "almost heaven." But in… (continue reading......)
"Love means never having to say you're sorry" is an oft quoted line from the novel and movie Love Story. But backed by new state laws, modern medicine has given it new meaning. Doctors and hospitals are now being encouraged to say "we're sorry" when they make a serious mistake and there's the potential threat of a medical malpractice suit. So don't be surprised when something goes wrong in a doctor's office, clinic or hospital and you get a registered letter of apology. It's all part of a plan to avoid long-running feuds, which not only run up legal fees and costs to insurers, but also take up court time and ultimately add to everyone's medical costs. Medicine has come a long way since the 1993 movie Malice in which actor Alec Baldwin ranted that, as a famous surgeon, "I am God." Experience, legal suits and state laws have now convinced both doctors and hospitals to be a bit more humble -- particularly in Massachusetts, which has felt the sting of higher medical costs since 2006 when it passed the predecessor to 2010's Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. Like its successor, the Massachusetts law didn't initially put any constraints on… (continue reading......)
Each year, I watch the classic 1946 Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life on TV. The battle between good and evil pits the righteous George Bailey, who runs the credit union owned by the townspeople of Bedford Falls, against the sinister Henry Potter, the bank mogul who keeps them downtrodden and in poverty. This movie resonates today because so many of us have been ripped off, not only by the big banks that thrust us into this recession, but also by the big health insurance companies who raise our rates, co-pays and deductibles beyond reason. I recently glanced at Aetna's 2013 New Jersey small business health insurance plans and was amazed that its most comprehensive plan had gone up 407 percent! Unfortunately we have little or no defense against these Henry Potters of the health insurance industry except to try and find another health insurer that won't gouge us quite as much. Revolution No. 2014 But don't despair. In 2014 help is on the way. Section 1322 of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, is every big health insurer's worst nightmare: government-sponsored consumer-run health insurance cooperatives. Following in the footsteps of George Bailey and the folks of Bedford Falls, you… (continue reading......)
It looked like a frivolous issue. Self-proclaimed transgender person Ida Hammer, who was legally a man but wanted to be a woman, asked his health insurance company to pay for sex change surgery. His insurer, MVP Health Care, like most other health insurers, said "no." Labeling it "a cosmetic procedure," MVP Health twice denied his appeal. But Ida wouldn't take no for an answer. The 34-year-old New York City resident lined up influential supporters and threatened to sue. When Ida's insurer learned who was backing him, it caved. 'Dog Day Afternoon' This now national story has taken on a life of its own, drawing comments from people around the country, some of them straight, others gay, lesbian and transgender, but most of them negative. And the public outcry is understandable. Health insurance costs nearly $16,000 per family. And with rates rising, why should this elective procedure, costing between $18,000 and $50,000, be paid for by health insurance plans? "In the old days when someone wanted a sex change, they just robbed a bank," said a writer for The Gothamist, referring to the 1975 Al Pacino movie Dog Day Afternoon, in which Pacino's character attempts to rob a bank to pay… (continue reading......)
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