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Pain of Chronic Illness Extends Beyond the Body

As out-of-pocket expenses add up, insurance woes build, and job security wavers, chronic illness can have devastating financial consequences. Northwestern’s Medill school considers the financial impact of chronic illness and describes a patient’s insurance policy rights.

Jenni Prokopy of ChronicBabe and Jennifer Jaff of Advocacy for Patients with Chronic Illness, two women dedicated to improving the lives of people with chronic illness, are featured.

USA Today explores similar topics in Even the Insured Have Trouble Paying Bills.

[via ChronicBabe and Doc to Doc]

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More News Than You Want to Read

I’ve attempted to gather the news I’ve missed, but articles are surely missing. If you know of something, please post a comment with a link to it if you have it.

Under each heading the articles are vaguely ordered by relevance.

Research
Acupuncture May Ease Impact of Headaches
Adding acupuncture to standard medical treatment may improve the quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, according to a new study.

Botox May Ease Facial Pain: Benefits Lasted for 60 Days in Small Study
A shot of Botox may ease a type of facial pain called trigeminal neuralgia, doctors report.

Pain Affects Black Women More Intensely
The far-reaching effects of chronic pain may be worse for black women than they are for white women.
(via Kevin, MD)

Websites Bolster Chronically Ill
Using interactive websites can help people with long-term conditions that include depression, heart disease and HIV/Aids, a study has found.
(via Medical Humanities)

Drugs
Eli Lilly Expands Cymbalta Liver Warning: FDA
Eli Lilly and Co. has expanded its warning about possible liver-related problems with its depression drug, Cymbalta, and cautioned doctors against its use in chronic liver disease patients, U.S. health regulators said on Monday.

EU Body Gives Old Pain Drugs Clean Bill of Health
Europe’s drug watchdog said on Monday it had no new safety concerns over older pain medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen, following an extensive review of side effect issues.

Another Way to Cut Drug Costs: Split Pills
Smart shoppers can’t resist a two-for-one sale. But should you purchase prescription drugs the same way you buy pizza or canned corn? For years, people who take daily medications have saved money by asking their doctors to prescribe pills with double the dose they need, which they then cut in half with a knife.
(via Kaiser Network)

Pain Meds Scarce in Black Neighborhoods: Study Finds Medicines Understocked
Pharmacies in black neighborhoods are much less likely to carry sufficient supplies of popular opioid painkillers than those in white neighborhoods, a new study has found, leading researchers to conclude that minorities are routinely undertreated for chronic pain.
(via Kevin, MD)

PhRMA Lawsuit Challenges D.C. Rx Drug Price Control Law
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America filed suit against the Washington, D.C., government last week alleging that a new price-control law on prescription drugs will cut supplies, hinder development and cause a “limitless parade of lawsuits.”

Drug Panels ‘Have Financial Links’
Doctors around the world are being advised to prescribe specific drugs by experts with close financial links to the pharmaceutical industry, it has been claimed.
(via Kevin, MD)

Healthcare Costs
Is Complementary Medicine Cost Effective? BMJ
The cost-effectiveness of using complementary treatments in the United Kingdom has been the subject of much speculation and controversy.
(via Kevin, MD)

Treated for Illness, Then Lost in Labyrinth of Bills
When Bracha Klausner returned home after an extended hospital stay for a ruptured intestine three years ago, she found stacks of mail from doctors and hospitals waiting for her.
(via Kevin, MD)

Dying to Pay, New Bankruptcy Laws Hurt Seriously Ill
New bankruptcy rules that went into effect on Monday, don’t just affect those who’ve run up their credit cards due to poor spending habits.

They also affect people who have little choice about their cash flow, people who’d give anything ‘not’ to be in the situation they’re in.
(via Kevin, MD)

Insurance
Workers May Be in For Health Plan Sticker Shock
USA Today on Friday examined the shift toward higher employee contributions to health care costs as employers try to curb their health care spending. According to USA Today, employers are utilizing various methods, including coinsurance, restrictions on prescriptions, high-deductible plans and wellness incentives.
(via Kaiser Network; quote from USA Today Examines Rising Health Insurance Premiums, Out-of-Pocket Costs for Employees)

Wall Street Journal Examines UnitedHealth Group’s Move to Consumer-Driven Insurance Plans
The Wall Street Journal on Monday examined Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group’s move to “so-called consumer-driven health care” in the face of “steadily eroding business” as a traditional health insurer. Consumer-driven plans are based on the idea that people will consider health care spending more carefully if they have to pay a larger proportion of the cost themselves.

High Deductible, High Risk: ‘Consumer-Directed’ Plans a Health Gamble
Elizabeth Fowler can be called an educated health care consumer: An expert on health care policy, she used to be the chief health and entitlements counsel for the Senate Finance Committee. But she was pushed to the limits of her knowledge and patience keeping track of her so-called consumer-directed health plan — a type of insurance designed to protect consumers from catastrophic medical costs while prompting them to shop wisely for routine care.
(via Kaiser Network)

Policy
Canadians Still Waiting: 18-week Delay for Medical Care Reduced by a Day
Large increases in health-related spending have only marginally reduced the waiting times for medical services in this country from record-high levels in 2004, a new report says.
(via Kevin, MD)

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USA Today Series on Health Care Costs

USA Today began a three-part series today on US health care costs. Even the Insured can Buckle Under Health Care Costs, the first article in the series, details the findings of a survey conducted by the newspaper, the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard School of Public Health.

“Medical costs are a growing burden for middle-income families with children, as well as for the working class, people with chronic illnesses, the disabled and the uninsured. Many who cannot pay skimp on health care, go without prescription drugs or simply ignore their bills, the survey showed. . . .

“Overall, the hardest hit by medical costs are the uninsured.

“Next are adults under age 65 with insurance who have household incomes of less than $75,000, an analysis of the survey data found. Those in that vast swath of Middle America were far more likely than those richer or older to report not having enough money to pay for medical costs in the past year (33%), to have paid $1,000 or more in out-of-pocket costs for care (31%) or to have skipped medical treatment or a prescription because of the cost (34%).

“Wealthier households and those who report few health problems — two groups that represent nearly half of Americans — had little or no difficulty with medical costs.”

Other findings include:

  • 62% percent of those struggling to pay medical bills have health insurance
  • 28% of adults were unable to pay for some form of medical care in the past year
  • More than one in five Americans currently have an overdue medical bill
  • Nearly two out of 10 say health care costs are their biggest monthly expense after rent or mortgage payments
  • Almost three out of 10 estimate they paid $1,000 or more out-of-pocket for health care in the past year on top of premiums