Obesity And Inactivity During Pandemic Caused Greater Covid Infection

April 29, 2021 – On his latest podcast, Dr. Steven Goldstein told his audience that Americans gained a good bit of weight during the lockdowns caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But that was not the only bad news. The sad irony that obesity increased the risk of hospitalization due to the Covid-19 infection was not lost on him or his listeners as obesity and inactivity during pandemic caused greater covid infection risk. The cruel combination of lockdowns that were supposed to help keep the American public safer created a situation that made the likelihood of infection and a difficult recovery more possible.

Fat people are at increased risk of morbid covidity
The vast majority—78%—of U.S. patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were overweight or had obesity according to the American Medical Association.

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on: : Apple Podcasts, LibSyn, Spotify, Radio.Com, Listen Notes, iHeart Radio, Podcast Addict, Podbay, Backtracks, Player FM, Stitcher, and SoundCloud. There is a way to repair this and many other weight related health risks if individuals change their eating habits.

The Consequences of Obesity & Covid-19                                                                              

The vast majority—78%—of U.S. patients hospitalized with COVID-19 were overweight or had obesity according to the American Medical Association. The numbers for intensive care, invasive mechanical ventilation and death were nearly the same.  In short, the quarantine was and is associated with stress and depression leading to unhealthy diet and reduced physical activity. “The main culprit in all of this was what we choose to eat before and during the pandemic,” Dr. Goldstein said.

This Century’s Dietary Downward Spiral

The obesity rate in the U.S. steadily increased since the initial 1962 recording of 23%. By 2014, figures from the CDC found that more than one-third of U.S. adults and 17% of children were obese.  The National Center for Health Statistics at the CDC showed in their most up to date statistics that 42.4% of U.S. adults were obese as of 2017-2018 (43% for men and 41.9% for women).

Americans in general consume more calories than needed. “We eat out way more than we ever did before,” Dr. Goldstein commented. “School systems encouraged unhealthy eating practices among children by accepting soft drink and fast-food contracts because they provide large commissions for financially strapped schools. The increase in energy intake or calories has been paralleled by a decrease in physical activity. Not moving is the norm. And that was especially the case during the pandemic.”

Discouraging but Curable

Rather than be discouraged by this news Dr. Goldstein was hopeful because the treatment for this is known and within the reach of all Americans; that they all make better decisions about what they eat.  “Everyone in the USA can literally take control of their own health and well-being with better choices at the table, store and restaurant and that can start right now, for everyone,” he said.

The pandemic and lockdown brought a lot of significant change to American society. The tendency to sit and eat was exacerbated considerably. “With more people moving less than ever while snacking constantly it is no wonder that our collective weight is so far up,” Dr. Goldstein concluded. “This is an easy fix for us all if we will just make the changes.”

About the Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative please visit www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

The solution to this issue is simple but not easy… Obesity Linked to Greater Risk to and from Covid-19 Infection

junk food
Eating from the added stress of quarantine caused a lot of excess snacking, take-out food and kettle corn consumption while binge watching television.

The solution to this issue is simple but not easy…

Obesity Linked to Greater Risk to and from Covid-19 Infection. People who are overweight were already at more risk of stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. We can now add complications due to the Covid-19 infection to the list. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) obesity increases the risk of hospitalization due to the Covid-19 infection. More than 900,000 adult COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred in the United States between the start of the pandemic and November 18, 2020. Models estimate that 271,800 (30.2%) of these hospitalizations were attributed to obesity.

This is the subject of the latest Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein. “We have no control over the Covid-19 virus or any other pathogen,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. “But we can make our chances of recovery and even possible avoidance much better with a sensible diet.” To hear the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast go to: Apple Podcasts, Audacy, iHeartRadio, ListenNotes, Spotify, Stitcher, Backtracks, PodbayFM, and SoundCloud. This and all other editions of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can also be heard on www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Control through Choices

According to the CDC, a study of COVID-19 cases suggests that risks of hospitalization, intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death are higher when Body Mass Index (BMI) are higher. “Everyone listening can take control of and make a significant, positive impact on their own health by making better choices about what they choose to eat or drink,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Not smoking and exercising regularly add even more benefits.”

Stress and Eating

Eating from the added stress of quarantine caused a lot of excess snacking, take-out food and kettle corn consumption while binge watching television. Add to that Zoom calls and a day seated in front of the computer screen, there was not much movement to counteract all those questionable decisions about what and when to eat. “People eat and ate more because of stress or boredom but did not increase their movement to counter those extra calories consumed,” he said. “Americans did not move at record levels.”

Seated While Stressing

Motionless is the norm, and Americans are not moving like never before. “I guess we could say that Americans are not moving at a record setting pace,” he said. “But the sad truth is that sedentary workplaces and motionless home lives are really bad for us. But, and to really stress this, it’s what we eat that is the main culprit,” Dr. Goldstein said. Many of the country’s health care problems are “self-inflicted” and are preventable through proper diet. With more people moving less than ever while snacking constantly it is no wonder that our collective weight is so far up. “This is an easy fix for us all if we will just make these changes.”

About The Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative please visit www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Where did the money go? Insurance companies keep about 33% Healthcare By The Numbers

Where did the money go? Insurance companies keep about 33%… 

Healthcare By The Numbers

Where did the money go? What is the American public buying when it pays for its health insurance and is it a good value? If the public knew that their insurance company kept as much as 33% of what they spent how would they react? While there is nothing wrong with making a profit, there is also no issue with insisting that money provide a good value. On his weekly podcast, Dr. Steven Goldstein describes in detail where all that money goes. The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on : Apple Podcasts, LibSyn, Spotify, Radio.Com, Listen Notes, iHeart Radio, Podcast Addict, Podbay, Backtracks, Player FM, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

Where Does That Money Go?

Most people and their families who have health insurance, have it through their employer. The business pays for some if not most of the premiums and the employees pay deductible and out of pocket costs. But where does all that money really go? Does the public purchase more benefits or receive a better value as a result of what they were charged for that insurance?

Hospitalization Charges & Costs

When Paying for Healthcare?
Is what the public paying for healthcare and health insurance a good value?

Dr. Goldstein told his listeners, that in 2018 the average cost of hospitalization was about $10,000.00. The average charge for hospitalization with private insurance was about $20,000.00, thus the amount charged was double the cost. “Now let’s multiply that same number by a sample of the population, Dr. Goldstein proposed. “The average number of hospitalizations per year was about 9 for every 100 people. So, for those nine, the amount the insurance company collected was $180,000.00.” But there was more to healthcare payments than simple hospitalization. “People often go to the doctor and have what are classified as outpatient charges. Those are charged at about $500.00 a year, per person,” he said.

Add Drug Costs

The drug costs across the population were estimated at $1200.00 each. “We can reasonably assume that drug costs are higher for the over 65 population,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Now, for people under 65 years of age the expense estimate is less. So, the amount paid overall by the population of 100 people is about $500.00 each. The total for 100 people at $500.00 each is another $50,000.00.”

Factor Insurance Into The Equation

To get to the ultimate amount of money spent and where it all ends up, the cost of insurance factors in. “Say someone has a $50,000.00 deductible along with discounts they receive from the Preferred Provider Organization (PPO), we can figure a $20K discount for our 100 people,” He said. “Or charges to them all of $30,000.00.”

It is here the distinction between price and costs reveal an interesting outcome. Insurance will generally pay two thirds of the cost with the other, remaining third paid by the individual in the form of co-payments and applied deductions. “If we add these costs together, we find the total charges for 100 people = $300,000.00,” Dr. Goldstein declared. So where does the other one third go?  “The very cheapest Blue Cross policy for a 31-year-old male living in zip code 77096 (the Houston are) was $257/month or $3084/year, said Dr. Goldstein. “The cost for 100 people would be $308,000.00 annually but would have a $7400.00 deductible.”

For someone age 50, the cost was $4000.00 annually. The high deductible means that outpatient care is not paid for and that the insurance only pays for the reinsurance and hospitalization costs of $200K. So, who benefits the most from these expenditures?

No surprise, it’s the insurance company. “The gross profit for them is at least $100K. That is income per 100 patients of at least $300K less claims of $200K.” Is this a good value for the public? It’s a fair question and good way to think about healthcare costs.

A study in ‘Health Affairs’ co-authored by a Princeton University health economist, found that Americans use the same amount of health care as residents of other nations. They just pay more for them. U.S. hospital prices are 60% higher than those in Europe. Government efforts to reform health care and cut costs raised them instead. “Our system is broken and needs to be overhauled,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Efforts at reform, that we have talked about before on the podcast, are a waste of time and effort when the overall system for providing and charging for healthcare is so fundamentally broken.”

About Dr. Steven Goldstein and the Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative (HHI) was founded by respected, Houston neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein. Like many Americans, Dr. Goldstein is concerned about the state of the U.S healthcare system and the sorry state of the public’s health. The Houston Healthcare Initiative web site is an aggregator of news, healthcare pricing information, and resources for those who want to help drive reform for the healthcare industry. HHI’s emphasis for reform is on free market innovation and personal responsibility. Learn even more here at https://houstonhealthcareinitiative.org/about-us/.

The goal of the Houston Healthcare Initiative is to be a catalyst for change in the way Americans receive and pay for medical treatment. To cause change the site aggregates information, tools, and targets for the reform of the healthcare industry with an emphasis on free market innovation and personal responsibility. Visit online at www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Healthcare by the Numbers

Where Does the Money Go When Paying for Healthcare; Prices, Costs, and Value…

Healthcare by the Numbers

March 23, 2021 – On the latest edition of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, Houston based neurologist and the founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative Dr. Steven Goldstein, describes the numbers and dollars associated with health insurance and hospitalization costs. This to inform us all where the money that individuals and employers contribute goes and who really profits most.

Dr. Seven Franklin
Where does your money go when paying for health insurance?

The answers are surprising when it comes to cost, price, and the ultimate value those with health insurance derive from the premiums they and their employers all pay. Ultimately, did the public purchase more benefits or receive a better value as a result of what they were charged? “There is nothing wrong with making a profit, but most people will want to know what they bought and was it worth it,” Dr. Goldstein told his listeners.

Additionally, Dr. Goldstein describes the profits hospitals and health insurance companies accrue, what percentage of their payments actually go to help pay for their healthcare and how much the insurance companies keep. All this to help the public decide if this money was well spent or if it could be better managed.

Where To Listen

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on: Apple Podcasts, LibSyn, Spotify, Radio.Com, Listen Notes, iHeart Radio, Podcast Addict, Podbay, Backtracks, Player FM, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

About the Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein is an information vehicle for people who want to know all medical options for themselves and are interested in reforming the healthcare industry. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative please visit www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Did The Covid-19 Pandemic Cost You Your Job and Health Insurance?

In a time when so many lost their jobs because of the Covid-19 Pandemic….

Job & Health Insurance Loss Come and Go Together; How To Find Affordable Coverage

March 2, 2021 — In December 2020, 66% of Americans who answered a survey said they fear they won’t be able to afford health care this year. Of the 41% of respondents who are very or moderately concerned about health-care costs, 53% are parents with children. The amount of people who were and remain unemployed because of the Covid-19 pandemic remains high. Since most individuals get their health insurance with their jobs, those same folks are also in need of medical coverage.

On his regular podcast, Houston based neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative Dr. Steven Goldstein has immediate and affordable medical insurance solutions for those who need coverage. To hear the podcast visit: Apple Podcasts, Radio.com, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, and the Houston Healthcare Initiative web site. Job & Health Insurance Loss Come and Go Together.

Use the Obama Care National Marketplace

People who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have the burden of finding work and paying for healthcare. As most people’s healthcare is tied to their jobs. “There are alternatives for people who lost both their jobs and accompanying health insurance,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. “The key for those people to get covered is to act quickly.”

One reason for this is that job loss qualifies Americans for a special enrollment period in the health insurance marketplace regulated by the U.S. government, but it only lasts 60 days. “Normally the enrollment period for this is in the month of November, but job loss allows an exception. Just remember the 60-day deadline,” Dr. Goldstein said.

Private Health Insurance

Private health insurance will sometimes offer more flexibility than standard coverage. For example, short-term policies lasting up to one year are available in many states. There are differences between health insurance and private health insurance. People buy private health insurance many times because their place of employment does not offer it. In the case of people who lost their employer provided health insurance, purchasing it like this is an option. Private health insurance is often an option for those who work part time, are self-employed, or own a small business.

Health Co-Ops

Health insurance co-ops are private health insurance plans that serve a small group of people and are owned and operated by the members of that group. The health co-operative or co-op is a member owned not for profit corporation. They are run democratically by the members.

The real benefit of health insurance co-ops are they are significantly cheaper than regular health insurance. “The monthly fees are called membership fees, not premiums, Dr. Goldstein said. “The average cost of a co-op membership is about $40 to $90. To put that into perspective, regular COBRA insurance premiums can cost as much as $650 per month.”

Job loss is unnerving enough at any time. Losing health coverage during a pandemic makes that level of anxiety even higher. Because no one wants to be without medical insurance when a previously unseen virus is spreading.  It could make you or a loved one sick at the worst possible time. Fortunately there are reasons to be optimistic about getting health insurance that is affordable and obtainable if action is taken sooner than later.

The amount of information about this and other similar issues grows ever higher at the Houston Healthcare Initiative web site and its social media sites. To learn more about the Houston Healthcare Initiative go to www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Job & Health Insurance Loss Come and Go Together.

Medstar Washington Offers Transparency Example for Hospitals

Dr. Steven Goldstein discussed the spirit of the law that requires hospitals to make their pricing known to the public on his February 5, 2021 podcast, Medstar Washington Offers Transparency Example for Hospitals. You can listen to that podcast by clicking here: Hospital Price Transparency Podcast.

In late 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services issued the final rules on price transparency for healthcare providers. Prior to the release of these new rules, health insurance companies, and healthcare providers like hospitals negotiated prices for all the things they do for patients and did not make any of this information public.

According to Dr. Goldstein what the spirit of these new rules intended and what is happening in practice are not quite the same. As of January 1, 2021, hospitals are required to make prices, those payer-negotiated rates for their services, available online in a readable format.

The big idea here was to make all of those different rates, payer specific rates all more available and more transparent to patients. Sounds easy enough. But, according to the healthcare industry, procedures and services are often not as cut and dried as placing a price tag on a service and charging your insurance.

According to them, some procedures can affect patients differently, causing them to have different levels of care and other needs that all have different prices. Many healthcare providers also cannot say upfront what exactly the price will be, because doctors do not know the extent of the services until they begin offering care.

But there is one shining example of what looks like full compliance. MedStar in Washington posted its prices in an Excel sheet on its website. It is presented in a way that people can see the charges for various procedures from different insurance companies. It looks like what the spirit of these new rules really intended and an example for others to follow.

Some hospital networks haven’t published their price lists yet because they claim they need more clarification from the federal government on how best to translate complex insurance contracts into straightforward prices for consumers.

They also say they are concerned that a lack of standardization in how hospitals approach job of making prices public will make it impossible for people to accurately compare prices between different systems.

Some hospital networks haven’t published their price lists yet because they claim they need more clarification from the federal government on how best to translate complex insurance contracts into straightforward prices for consumers.

They also say they are concerned that a lack of standardization in how hospitals approach job of making prices public will make it impossible for people to accurately compare prices between different systems and honor the law the way that the podcast describes, Medstar Washington Offers Transparency Example for Hospitals.

All that said, Medstar Washington made a credible attempt to comply with the letter and spirit of the law. Hopefully others will follow this example.

Hospital Price Transparency Podcast

Hospital Price Transparency Podcast

How Some Hospitals Are Balking At These New Rules And One That Is Not

This week respected Houston based neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein will discuss the price’s patients are charged by doctors and hospitals. Specifically, on the new rules about healthcare price transparency. Specifically, on the new rules about healthcare and price transparency. What needed to change on disclosing prices and is anything different as a result? Of course, there are ways that the hospitals are playing around with the information. But there is one shining example of what looks like full compliance.

Why Haven Failed To Fix Healthcare

Forever Closed
Haven is closed forever. Why it went so wrong is the subject of Dr. Goldstein’s podcast.

A healthcare company blessed with lots of money, high tech abilities and really smart people will close up the end of January. Of course, this was Haven, the joint venture between Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan-Chase. Its purpose was to use the leverage of its tens of thousands of employees and its expertise in technology to improve the healthcare system. What lessons can we learn from its failure to accomplish its mission. Here to help reset the focus of reforming healthcare is respected Houston neurologist, Dr. Steven Goldstein.

Why Did Haven Healthcare Fail?

Haven
With the resources of three large and very successful companies, Haven will cease operations in late January, 2021.

Why Did Haven Healthcare Fail? Because they focused and worked on the wrong thing. That is the topic and lesson from Dr. Steven Goldstein on the latest edition of the Houston Healthcare Initiative Podcast.

Haven was a joint venture of Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway, and JPMorgan.  It was formed three years ago to better manage healthcare for the one million employees of these three large, successful and high tech companies. After three years and approximately $100 million Haven will cease operations. Dr. Goldstein tells his podcast audience the reason for the shortfall had nothing to do with resources, talent or intention and everything to do with trying to fix the wrong thing. The people at Haven were approaching the challenge with trying to fix the existing system.

But according to Dr. Goldstein, the existing system is the problem. “Our current healthcare system is focused on treating sick people not preventing illness,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience and he gave an example. “The more people there are in hospital beds, the more money is made by the hospitals, doctors and everyone else involved in patient care. Ours is a volume-based system of reimbursement for getting paid. There is no tie to healthier outcomes for patients or incentives for those same patients to take better care of themselves. It’s just more of the same.” 

The strategies Haven pursued was to leverage the scale of all those employees for better rates and prices. With over a million employees it seems like that might have worked. But it did not because the healthcare industry is not governed by the free market. Instead, it is governed by lobbyists from the hospital, pharmaceutical and insurance industries all who work together to help make sure that little meaningful change is ever introduced never mind adopted. “The focus is not on improving the population’s health, Dr. Goldstein said. “And ultimately that was the biggest mistake the people at Haven made. They were focused on the wrong problem. They might have been able to make a bad system work somewhat better, but it is still a bad system.”

 It was a shame that so much money and time went into this laudable goal but yielded no good outcome.  A common sense approach to managing the public’s health and is exactly what the insurance, hospital, and drug companies do not want. Given the collective influence (deep pockets) of these businesses and their lobbyists, the American public will continue to get the bill for a medical industry that puts maintaining the status quo as its priority. 

 

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The Case for Healthcare Reform in Unsettled Times

Unsettled Healthcare
2021 starts with healthcare no less unsettled than it ended in 2020.

Healthcare reform in unsettled times. That times are troubled was never truer than in 2020 and 2021 will start out that way. But in an unsettled time with so much of the nation’s attention turned to medical care, could it be the time to really push healthcare reform and what might that reform look like? Americans remain in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. What can we learn from it and how can this influence our thinking when it comes to healthcare reform? Or is it all too big for any of us to do anything meaningful? Here to share his insight with us is respected neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative, Dr. Steven Goldstein.