Health News Review

Why this matters to patients

Kidney cancer patient Dave deBronkart sees a problem in health care consumers being shielded from the true total cost of their health care.


A physician’s perspective on why costs matter in news stories


Dr. Steven Atlas, one of our medical editors.


Why does this Matter?

  • We all better start thinking about the costs of treatments, tests, products and procedures. In some way, we all pay for them.
  • We spend a greater percentage of the Gross Domestic Product on health care than any other country, but we don’t have the outcomes to show for it.
  • Americans don’t know how much their health care costs. Yet, these days, they’re being forced to have “more skin in the game.”
  • As you hear about new treatments, tests, products and procedures, it’s not only important to think about costs, but to think about whether insurance will cover it.
  • It’s also important to compare costs, and cost-effectiveness, with other alternative options. We hope that journalism can help provide some of that information.
  • A study published in March 2011 reported “A significant portion of people – perhaps as many as one in five – don’t take drugs a doctor has prescribed because they can’t pay for them, according to a new survey of people visiting an emergency room.” This is why cost information is vital information. Yet 70% of the stories we’ve reviewed get unsatisfactory grades on the cost issue.
  • We offer journalists a list of resources on how to report on the costs of medical interventions.

 

Thumbs Up Examples

Thumbs Down Examples

Studies: New type of osteoporosis drug cuts fracture risk in women, men in cancer treatment

Pricing for this drug is not yet available; however, the story suggests that it could be expensive, with similarly engineered drugs costing more than $10,000 a year. In addition, the costs of currently prescribed osteoporosis medications are provided.


Debate surrounds new prostate cancer treatment

The story provided information on the costs of various approaches to the treatment of prostate cancer and discussed varying policies on insurance coverage.


‘Miracle drug’ called junk science

The story provided information on the costs of various approaches to the treatment of prostate cancer and discussed varying policies on insurance coverage.

Controlling Blood Pressure

There was no discussion of estimated price for this device and treatment. If it’s not too early for the network to say this is a “beakthrough” that has been “proven highly effective” and a “game-changer” that “could help millions” then it’s certainly not to early to discuss costs.


The Cutting Edge: Robotic Surgery, Today!

The story makes no mention of how much all of this equipment costs, or how much it adds to the price of medical treatment.

This is a serious–and baffling–omission. The gee-whizness of the story almost immediately begs the question of how much all of this stuff costs. Not a word is mentioned.


Will you have a heart attack? These tests might tell

The story does discuss costs. However, it low-balls what people may be actually charged for the scans, which may include facility fees, reading charges and other costs. Also, the statement that these scans are “often covered by insurance” is misleading, since insurers are likely to cover the scans only for patients considered to have an elevated risk, not for everyone.




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