Relief in Sight for Cost of Cholesterol-Lowering Medications

 

If you take a higher-powered medication to control your cholesterol, plan to keep more money in your pocket very soon.

 

Pfizer’s patent for its blockbuster drug Lipitor is set to expire at the end of November, 2011.

  

Fortunately, you can expect to see dramatic changes in the cost landscape almost immediately.

 

(Find practical cost-saving tips below.)

 

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How to Get the Most Bang for Your Buck at Your Next Doctor’s Visit

 

Have you ever been frustrated by an unproductive or inopportune visit with your doctor that wasted your time and money?

You can prevent that from happening again!

 

The Problem

Many visits with healthcare providers are poorly timed and less productive than they could be.  Why?  Because nobody is looking out for you between visits.

It’s not that your doctor doesn’t care.  He or she is simply too busy with clinical tasks to be able to optimize your visits.

As a result, you spend more money and get suboptimal care:

  • Extra visits and additional costs at the pharmacy.
  • Incorrect or unnecessary testing and treatment.
  • Rushed decisions and explanations.
  • Some visits are so handicapped by poor planning that they accomplish nothing, wasting both your time and money.

 

It is easy to minimize the number of visits and maximize the time with your doctor.

Read on to find out how.

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Becoming Cost-Empowered

The post “Want to cut healthcare costs? You might be on your own” by Ron Shinkman at Fierce HealthFinance caught my eye, as it relates to frustrations over health care costs.

Below is the response I left as a comment on the article:

Thank you for your article, which touches on many important issues. As a physician, the point that I can best speak to is the issue of patient education and empowerment.

I agree with your conclusion that we each are largely on our own, as we are for most things. Healthcare can be considered similar to any other service or product purchased in that it is best for the consumer to arm him or herself with enough information to make an educated decision.

As you state, it is a monumental task, as even the most motivated patient will find innumerable obstacles. Physicians are pressed for time. Medical care can be complex. Patient and physician expectations are often not aligned. Cost transparency is poor. Insurance coverage is complicated. Initial focus is (appropriately) directed toward safety and quality of care, but cost often receives inadequate attention by everyone involved. Each and every entity involved shares the blame.

Unfortunately there is not an easy system-wide fix for this predicament and we are left largely on our own.

If I were to offer advice it would be threefold:

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How Much Money Can a Doctor Save His Patients in One Month?

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted to the blog in a few weeks.  I have been busy conducting a bit of an experiment.

I spent exactly one month paying extra attention to the medical costs of the patients seen in my practice.  I looked for unexplored opportunities to save them money without affecting the quality of their care.

I kept track of the total estimated savings, including recurring savings over the coming year.  The results were surprising.

I decided to conduct this experiment when I heard about the essay contest being held by the nonprofit organization Costs of Care (www.costsofcare.org).

I hope to be able to post the essay here soon.

Stephen Meyers, MD

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Now that Avandia Use is Restricted, Are There Low-Cost Alternatives?

Word is out that the FDA has placed severe restrictions on the use of the diabetes drug Avandia.  Thousands of people are now forced to decide what to take in its place.

Avandia isn’t/wasn’t cheap.  The knee-jerk reaction of many physicians will likely be a switch to one of several other pricy brand name medications.

Now would be a good time to evaluate whether less-expensive options should be entertained.  This might especially be true for people who were prescribed Avandia from the start, or without first trying more than one medication of lesser expense.

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Filed under Diabetes, Managing Medications

Condition-Specific Assistance Programs Likely Overlooked by Many

People are smart to consider patient assistance programs (PAPs) for help with the cost of prescriptions and medical care.  Among the most common resources used are those provided by pharmaceutical companies and the assistance programs run by individual states (SPAPs).

Unfortunately, many people are unaware of regional and national programs designed to provide assistance to people with certain medical conditions.

At least two organizations attempt to organize these resources:

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Scrutinitizing the Hospital Bill

A provocative article in yesterday’s New York Times, Put Your Hospital Bill Under a Microscope, details horror stories of the financial aftermath of hospitalization.  Below is the comment that I submitted.

What a messy situation.

Hospitals and doctors commonly get shortchanged by insurers and Medicare.  It is not uncommon to get paid less than what it costs to deliver a service.  Charges are therefore inflated to make up for the losses wherever possible–receipt of the full amount is not expected.  To avoid getting into legal trouble, charges must be kept fairly consistent, which unintentionally results in bloated bills for individuals with less than 100% medical coverage.

Of course, health care is different than most any other consumer “purchase.”  It can be highly complex, incredibly expensive, and the language almost foreign.  Minute details of insurance coverage are impossible to know.  Care is mostly rendered based on what the medical situation appears to require, rather than the patient actively picking and choosing.  And, of course, penny-pinching and delay of care can sometimes result in real harm.

 A single payer system might simplify the system, but the issues would largely remain the same.

Just as there is nobody assigned to each of us for scrutiny of our bills from the plumber, mechanic or airline, there will unlikely ever be a universal health care cost advocate.  Who is going to spend money so that you can save yours?

 Unfortunately, the best we can do is to ask questions, stay as informed as possible and remain politely vigilant.

Stephen Meyers, MD

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