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Health News Roundup

Writing patient ‘biographies’ for their medical charts, the cost of being sick, and more in this week’s roundup

HEALTH CARE COSTS

Soaring insurance deductibles and high drug prices hit sick Americans with a ‘double whammy’
Noam N. Levey, Los Angeles Times, June 6
The steep rise in health insurance deductibles over the last decade has saddled insured, middle- and working-class Americans with medical bills they can’t afford. The biggest impact has been on people who have illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and epilepsy that require regular medications and consistent care. The financial strain is pushing millions of seriously ill Americans to ration their care, jeopardizing their health and even their lives. In a recent nationwide poll of people with job-based coverage, one in eight covered workers in a household where someone is chronically ill reported having declared bankruptcy because of medical bills.

Life and debt: Stories from inside America’s GoFundMe health care system
Jeffrey Young, HuffPost, June 10
Thousands of Americans have turned to crowdfunding website GoFundMe to help cover medical bills and related costs. From 2010 to 2017, one-third of all donations made through the site went to medical fundraisers. The results of these fundraisers are often portrayed as feel-good stories, focusing on the generosity of individuals giving rather than the systemic failures that created the need. Yet they also show a chilling reality that Americans, even those with good jobs and health insurance, can be one bad day away from financial ruin.

PATIENT CARE

Mini-biographies help clinicians connect with patients
Bram Sable-Smith, Kaiser Health News, June 10
More than 2,000 patients at a Wisconsin veterans hospital have shared their stories with volunteers, who write up short biographies. Once completed with the patient’s input, each story is added to the patient’s electronic record, where a doctor or nurse working anywhere in the Veterans Affairs medical system can read it. Organizers of the project, called My Life, My Story, say it could change the way providers interact with patients. There is research that suggests when caregivers know their patients better, those patients have improved health outcomes.

HEALTH REFORM

What states mean by a ‘public option’
Michael Ollove, Stateline, June 6
When Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last month signed a law creating a new health plan alternative, many accounts proclaimed Washington to be the first state with a “public option.” But the term is difficult to define and can mean different things to different people. Even the word “public” is slippery in the context of health care. In general, when policymakers use the term “public option,” they mean a health plan with significant government control. That might mean programs created and operated by government, as Medicare and Medicaid originally were, or programs largely under government control but run by private entities. Washington’s plan also puts a ceiling on payment rates to health care providers.