A collection of healthcare related stories:

Pay doctors differently, they save more lives: Doctors currently get paid based on the services they provide. So if you need an MRI then you get charged for the MRI and the doctor takes a cut. Ignoring our soaring health costs today, this model has worked fairly well. But costs are going up, and to the Weakonomics eye there’s clearly an incentive for doctors to run up the bill to help pay theirs. Some doctors in England were moved over to a performance model, where you do a good job you get paid bonuses. This sort of system has the potential to reduce costs long term if effective. And effective it was. There was a decrease in the number of deaths that could otherwise have been expected. This is the kind of study that needs to be conducted multiple times to see if results can be replicated. But it looks promising.

Medicare payment system driving its own costs up: When we think of reducing costs for Medicare the most often solution is to reduce the payouts offered for various services. So if today a certain tests can be billed for $450 then next year it’s $375. Well of course it isn’t that simple. That’s just at a hospital. For private practice, it could be considerably less. Like less than half. For some reason hospitals get more. This means many in private practice are selling to the hospitals (who can now collect more). On the whole, this consolidation into hospital networks is just increasing the cost of Medicare.

Pharmaceutical industry funding of research is skewing the results: The industry sponsors its own research that helps make a drug look more favorable. In some cases, it’s been shown that the research funded by the industry is 3.6 times more likely to produce favorable results than research from non-profit and government organizations. These companies also now pay for more research than the government does as well. This has led to a growing distrust of any research funded by pharmaceutical companies and battle over contradictory results. Both of which are troubling developments.

Medical error and overtreatment: One of the most concerning aspects of healthcare costs are the ones caused by providers themselves. It could be anything from having poor medical records gathering processes to not taking sanitation seriously. These costs drive up an already expensive situation, and in some cases can be deadly. This article is likely one of many many more to come on the subject. It’s only been in the last few years or so that we’ve started to look at our healthcare providers with some level of skepticism. That is, they are no longer in the infallible saviors they once were. It started with lawsuits but many were more a focus on greed than improving healthcare. Now, everyone is getting involved in looking under the bed to see what a mess the system really is. The conversation in this article is an important one.

Red state diabetes: To my knowledge, no data exists to help connect some dots in a pattern with diabetes. However it’s very interesting that the biggest increases in diabetes in the US have occurred in mostly southern red states. The disease itself is becoming a huge problem and the overall increase in cases is dramatic. The data I’d like to see though is what type of breakdown the diabetes cases in the south show. Is it people that are already on government services? Who did these people vote for? Do diabetes patients in the south mirror the normal demographic makeup of these states? What type of burden do these people place on the healthcare system?

Image: Spirit-fire

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