Blog gems: health illiteracy, numeracy and cost info issues

Dr. Bradley Flansbaum blogs about his irritation with ads and news stories that advise patients – just “consult your health professional” and all will be well.

He addresses health illiteracy and numeracy issues when he writes:

“Politicians, society, the WSJ op-ed page, they all assume the verdict of treatment certitude is between the doctor and patient only-and the course we navigate is always correct. However, take it from one who knows. We need help. We do not have the answers. We are not that black box that will cure our system’s ills, and the bond between physician and patient needs more than just our expertise.”

And blogger Mimi Ferraro writes on The Stupid Cancer Blog, “Medicine’s Big Mystery, What Does Treatment Cost?” Excerpts:

“In 2006, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was 29. The cancer was small and, in terms of surgery and immediate recovery, things went well.

But my five-year follow-up treatment has been an endless loop of side effects that generate their own costs and — often just as stressful — a dizzying accumulation of medical debt.

Repeatedly I have been stunned by bills I didn’t expect because no one — not doctors, hospitals or insurance companies — could tell me in advance how much their services would cost.

This problem is getting worse as more people are forced, as I have been, into high-deductible health-insurance plans. As a freelancer — I am a singer, an actress and a yoga teacher, among other things — I have no other affordable option for medical coverage. But such plans are increasingly favored by employers, too, to help contain costs. Eighteen percent of insured adults had deductibles of at least $1,000 last year, up from just 10 percent in 2005, according to the Commonwealth Fund’s 2010 Biennial Health Insurance Survey.
When the cost of medical services is a mystery, it is difficult for a doctor and patient to discuss options for care. We are asked to be medical “consumers,” to choose the best treatments at the best prices from among competing providers. But we lack the information that requires. I wouldn’t buy an iPad without knowing what it costs, but I’m expected to pay whatever the medical bill demands months after I have treatment.”

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Dr Joe

August 30, 2011 at 1:33 am

Yes everything these days is see your doctor. My two favorites are the person who has (genuine)problems at work and is told to see the GP (family physician) because of course I can solve workplace stress.
The other is the push to medicalize quitting smoking. People do not need tablets they need some determination.

Mr. Bill

August 30, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Uninsured friend needed toe surgery, he had to pay, as he went through the process and asked how much it cost there was a staggering disconnect, “your insurance will pay most of it.”
He would ask if the person would drive a car off the lot and wait to be billed…”of course not”
Yet in many cases he was asked to leave. Finally a good Dr. asked what the prob was… Mark had the insurance designation, the Dr. figured out the best price he could offer if Mark did the post op cleaning at home. It worked. The fact that medical costs are considered sacred secrets in this system doesn’t equate
with the mantra of “best system, competion, self regulation is working.”