A Healthy Blog

Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Health Care Market

The Growing Problem of High Deductible Health Plans

According to a recent Health Beat blog entry, special “high deductible health plans” (HDHPs) that are tied to health savings accounts (HSAs) are gaining popularity in the US. The number of Americans enrolled in these health plans doubled in the last 2 years, to 6 million. Even more alarming is the fact that some see these plans as the way to expand health care coverage. As Maggie Mahar’s blog points out, however, this is far from the truth. The average HDHP deductible for a family in 2005 was $4000 – a huge barrier to access to care. People with high deductibles are more likely to delay... Read more »

AG Coakley Wins Settlement with Merck on Vioxx

From Attorney General Martha Coakley's office today: Today Attorney General Coakley’s Office filed a settlement with New Jersey-based drug manufacturer Merck and Company, Inc.(Merck) resolving concerns about the company’s deceptive advertising and promotion of the “Cox-2” inhibitor drug Vioxx which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug used to treat arthritis. The complaint, filed today in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges that Merck failed to disclose to consumers that Vioxx posed an increased risk of heart attack. Read more »

The Slowing of Drug Prices May Be Over

Some people say, what's the big deal with spending on pharmaceuticals? Its rate of increase has been going down over the past couple of years. Then there's this, from today's Kaiser Health Policy report and the Wall Street Journal: The cost of health care for the average U.S. family with employer-sponsored health coverage will increase 7.6% this year, due in part to rising prescription drug prices, according to a Milliman study released on Wednesday, Dow Jones reports. The fifth annual Milliman Medical Index analyzed historical claims data and trends in provider contracting and examined the... Read more »

It's About Device Makers, Too

Some folks have wondered why the ban on gift giving to physicians extends beyond pharmaceutical companies to medical device makers. For the answer, see this article in the May 19 Business Week: In February, spine surgeon Dr. Charles D. Rosen stood before the Senate Special Committee on Aging and chastised the medical device industry for its unethical marketing practices. Rosen, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of California at Irvine, told legislators that surgeons often receive huge consulting fees from companies in return for using the manufacturers' products or... Read more »

Retail Clinic Boom Is Trailing Off...

From today's Kaiser Health Policy Report via the Wall Street Journal: The "boom" of walk-in health clinics at pharmacies, supermarkets and retailers "is showing signs of slowing." As of May 1, there were 963 retail clinics in the U.S., compared with 125 three years ago. However, some retail clinic operators recently have closed 69 clinics in 15 states, and others, including CVS Caremark, have announced their intentions to scale back clinic expansion plans. Tom Charland, owner of Merchant Medicine and a former vice president for strategy at CVS' MinuteClinic, said, "We have seen fallout in... Read more »

Pharma Company Threatens to Leave MA If It Can’t Give Gifts

Today, the drug industry leveled its newest response to the proposed ban on gifts to health care providers (passed by the Senate last month) – more of a threat than a response. In a letter reported in today’s Herald, GlaxoSmithKline accused the state of being mean to the industry and told the Governor and Speaker that the company will reconsider its ties to Massachusetts if a gift ban is imposed. All this as the state moves to invest $1 billion in the life sciences industry. Read more »

Assn. of American Medical Colleges Supports Drug Gifts Ban

The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) released a report this week calling on its member teaching hospitals to implement policies to regulate relationships between staff and students with the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. The two year Task Force on Industry Funding of Medical Education found that reliance on industry for gifts and other funding “influence[s] the objectivity and integrity of academic teaching, learning and practice” and the profession has an obligation to avoid conflicts of interest. Read more »

Another Globe Health Voice to Bid Adieu

Woosh, dropping like flies! Globe editorial writer, Tom Gagen, the intrepid editorial voice on all matters relating to health care, has announced he's taking the paper's buyout offer and will be departing Morrissey Boulevard at the end of June. His successor in the health opinion perch will be Don McGillis. Tom dedicated himself to understanding the Massachusetts health system inside and out. He is a voice of reason, common sense, and real professionalism. We will miss him a lot and wish him the very best. Read more »

AG Releases '07 Hospital Community Benefit Reports

MA Attorney General Martha Coakley today released the 2007 Community Benefit Hospital Reports. Last year, Massachusetts hospitals provided over $271 million in community benefits programs to Massachusetts residents as part of this voluntary program. All non-profit acute care hospitals are asked to submit their community benefits reports to the Attorney General’s Office annually by February 28th. ... Read more »

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