Pharma: Greed Lies and the Poisoning of America

Gerald Posner on the podcast this week.

On this special edition of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, author Gerald Posner discusses the history of the pharmaceutical industry and his new book “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.” This book describes the history of the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry and how we and they got to the place we are now.

Among many shocking facts included are that many of the practices that were incorporated into marketing and selling heroin and cocaine in the early 20th century are still used today. And like before, those same companies are deliberately downplaying of the risk of modern-day medicines like opioids. Refer to www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org and www.posner.com. Be sure to read “Pharma: Greed, Lies, and the Poisoning of America.”

A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding of Hydroxychloroquine

A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding Hydroxychloroquine

A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding of Hydroxychloroquine. No one can unring a bell. When articles published in the Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine published and then retracted an article critical about the possible use of hydroxychloriquine as a treatment for Coronavirus/Covid-19 they may have shown good faith with the retractions but the damage was done. On his regular podcast, Dr. Steven Goldstein discusses how and why the use of an inexpensive drug was widely criticized. An article from Tablet magazine (Hydroxychloroquine: A Morality Tale) describes the issue in detail.

The criticisms were based on the retracted articles, but there was more to it. Political agendas and money both added to the manufactured confusion about a drug that was used to treat malaria, lupus and others without controversy. Dr. Goldstein believes that reforms for government and the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry were never more obvious than in this example. A Retracted Article Drove Misunderstanding of Hydroxychloroquine.

Was There Ever A Better Time To Reform Drug Prices?

US & Canadian Drug Prices

In the Coronavirus/Covid-19 Pandemic Age Come Ideas for Drug Price Reform

In the coronavirus/covid-19 pandemic age drug reform is topical.

According to Dr. Steven Goldstein on his podcast, “without meaningful modification, drug prices and pressure on patient’s ability to pay and manufacturers resources for discovery will reach a tipping point.” Dr. Steven Goldstein lists the reasons for the discrepancy and how the U.S. could reform the laws that govern the ways therapeutic medicine gets from the lab bench all the way to the patient for whom it is intended.

Some of these include:

  • Reform drug patent law. The patent system for drugs needs to be reformed so that drug development costs can be recouped along with a profit. Once this occurs, the patent should expire.
  • Streamline approval. The FDA needs reform so that drug authorizations are more efficient. Possibly, an international FDA funded by a consortium of countries could approve drugs.
  • Eliminate monetary incentives from drug companies for writing prescriptions.
  • Drug discounts to insurance companies and Medicare should be illegal.
  • Enforce the laws already passed. Antitrust laws for price collusion need to be enforced.

    US & Canadian Drug Prices
    In the coronavirus/covid-19 pandemic age drug reform is topical. For U.S. drug prices to be affordable and provide enough resources for continued research serious reform is needed. 

To hear Dr. Goldstein’s podcast listen on SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, iTunes, Stitcher, and the website at www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

 

Why Are Prescription Drugs Cheaper in Canada?

Why Are Prescription Drugs Cheaper in Canada?

Even those with private, employer funded health insurance gasp at the price of some prescription medications. Learning that the same medicine is available north of the border at a substantially reduced price often produces other emotional reactions from surprise to anger. There are plenty of reasons those drugs are priced differently.

drug prices in Canada are lower because the Canadian government regulates the price.
Why Are Prescription Drugs Cheaper in Canada? Prices in Canada are lower because the Canadian government regulates the price.

Listeners to the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast will learn why as respected neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein explains how the combination of foreign government requirements and U.S. government non-regulation combined to give the American public sticker shock at the drug store.

The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on SoundCloud, iHeartRadio, iTunes, Stitcher, and the website at www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org.

Canadian Government Declares Prices

In short, drug prices in Canada are lower because the Canadian government regulates the price. In Canada, a review board decides on pricing and what they believe are reasonable or excessive prices. If they decide a drug is priced too high, they will not allow it on the drug formulary. This board, the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, is described in Canada as a quasi-judicial agency.

Before a prescription drug can be sold in Canada it is scientifically reviewed to make certain that it can do what it is supposed to do. A committee of experts known as the Human Drug Advisory Panel will make recommendations about other valid drugs on which to make comparison, in addition to recommendations for the categorization of new drugs. The level of therapeutic improvement of an existing patented drug is used to determine a ceiling price, known as the Maximum Average Potential Price, at its introduction.

U.S. Prices Set by Industry

The U.S. government is prohibited by law from negotiating prices for Medicare and other government programs. “Obviously, the drug company needs to recoup the cost of research, manufacture, advertising and the cost of getting the drug approved by the FDA,” Dr. Goldstein told his listeners. “The people in this country essentially pay for all of this work as countries like Canada do not allow their citizens to share the cost.” New drugs are issued a patent giving the drug company a monopoly on sale of the drug for 20 years. The drug company is free to set whatever price it likes for prescription drugs. Prices are then negotiated between insurance companies and the manufacturers.

Needed Drug Price Reforms

The U.S. and Canadian systems each present two very different models for drug pricing, neither of which is reasonable. The Canadian system does not allow enough incentive for new drugs to be created. The American system results in unaffordable prices. “There are several needed reforms,” Dr. Goldstein said. “We are not able to flip a switch and adopt the prices charged in Canada, though that would be nice.”

The reforms Dr. Goldstein recommends are:

  • Reform drug patent law. The patent system for drugs needs to be reformed so that drug development costs can be recouped along with a profit. Once this occurs, the patent should expire.
  • Streamline approval. The FDA needs reform so that drug authorizations are more efficient. Possibly, an international FDA funded by a consortium of countries could approve drugs.
  • Eliminate monetary incentives for writing prescriptions.
  • Drug discounts to insurance companies and Medicare should be illegal.
  • Enforce the laws already passed. Antitrust laws for price collusion need to be enforced.

“If these reforms were enacted, prices for drugs would be determined more by supply and demand,” Dr. Goldstein said. “This would ensure an adequate supply at the lowest price. For high priced drugs of marginal benefit, demand would be low and would tend to cause the price to drop. For new orphan drugs, the government could provide subsidies.”

About Houston Healthcare Initiative

Houston Healthcare Initiative (HHI) was founded by Dr. Steven Goldstein. Like many Americans, Dr. Goldstein is concerned about the state of the U.S healthcare system as well as 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.

 

Why Canadian Drug Prices Are Lower Than US Drug Prices

US & Canadian Drug Prices

What are the reasons prices for prescribed medicine here are far higher than they are in Canada? Is there a good reason or any reason? Add to this the recent federal government action to bring U.S. drug prices close to or on par with their costs in Canada. To make sense of this, please listen to the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast. Listen here to find out Why Canadian Drug Prices Are Lower Than US Drug Prices.

Listen for more here at https://soundcloud.com/you/tracks.

 

Patients Can Save Money When They Pay Their Doctor In Cash

Even for those who have private insurance…

Patients Can Save Money When They Pay Their Doctor In Cash

Even patients who have their own health insurance can often save themselves money by paying cash. The Houston Healthcare Initiative website (www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org) now has a page that lists seventy-eight separate medical services that will accept cash payments. The number expands almost daily as independent providers look for ways to compete with the large conglomerates that provide most of the care here in the U.S. and provide more and better service to their patients. To go directly to the “Healthcare Pricing” page click here: https://houstonhealthcareinitiative.org/pricing.

There is no charge to visit the site, nor is there any fee to those who want to list their practice or

Medical Price Transparency
Save money when paying cash, even when patients have their own health insurance. 

facility.

Direct Payments Are Counter Intuitive

How could a patients’ direct payments be more affordable than those from their health insurance? “People who have health insurance assume that the insured price is always better than the cash price, but that is not always the case,” said neurologist and founder of the Houston Healthcare Initiative, Dr. Steven Goldstein. This has to do with meeting deductibles that are now higher than in years past. “Businesses who provide their employees with health insurance often require them to bare more of the cost in the form of higher deductibles, paying thousands of dollars on their healthcare before they can make a claim.” It is for these people and families that direct payments for service, on the day provided, makes sense.

But Do Not Go Without

Of course, this is not always the case nor is it a good reason to completely forgo health insurance. “Health insurance can protect people from high fees associated with serious long-term illnesses and accidents that could potentially bankrupt them,” Dr. Goldstein said. “But if someone has a high deductible and wants to save, this is a reasonable alternative that is at least worth investigation.”

Good For Doctors Too?

It is costly and labor intensive to administer health insurance. Healthcare providers benefit from accepting cash because of lower administrative and collection costs. “The labor required to file claims, negotiate with the insurance company and wait for payment, chase down their compensation from the insurance company or the patient saves the office manager a lot of time and hassle,” Dr. Goldstein said. “So much so that providers can pass that savings on to those who can pay cash.”

Potential Downside

The biggest potential negative for those who want to pay in cash is that often those payments will not count toward a deductible. All insurance companies have different rules for out of pocket payments and where the cap is for them. It is a good idea for those with such policies to investigate what the requirements and restrictions are in advance. Cash payment makes more sense for someone with a deductible not met or high enough that it likely will not be reached anytime in the same calendar year (deductibles reset annually). The insurance company web site or employer administrator will be able to answer these questions. “There is no substitute for knowing what a policy will or will not allow,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Before making a decision make sure it is informed.”

About Houston Healthcare Initiative

The Houston Healthcare Initiative web site is an aggregator of health 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.

 

Court Rules Against the Hospital Industry Mandates Price Disclosure

Court Rules Against the Hospital Industry Mandates Price Disclosure. Hospital prices that were historically rigged by the medical business along with the insurance industry, and kept secret from the public, will see the light of day January 1, 2021. This because on June 23, 2020 a federal judge in Washington D.C. dismissed a suit brought by the American Hospital Association (AHA) that challenged the Department of Health and Human Services rule mandating hospitals to disclose their privately negotiated prices with health insurance companies.  This ruling, and what it means for doctors, patients and the industry, is the subject of the latest edition of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast. The Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast can be heard on SoundCloud, iTunes, iHeart, Spotify and on the Houston Healthcare Initiative website.

Court Ruling Allows Transparency

Hospital Price Transparency
Court Rules Against the Hospital Industry & Mandates Price Disclosure.

The court ruled that an executive order from the Trump administration requiring hospitals to disclose pricing was legal. A federal judge upheld a policy that requires hospitals and health insurers to publish their negotiated prices for health services, numbers that are typically kept secret. The policy is part of a major push by the Trump administration to improve transparency in health care. Insurers and health providers usually negotiate deals behind closed doors, and patients rarely know the cost of services until after the fact.

Healthcare Industry Public Relations Offensive

The meaning of the ruling and what will happen are different. As Dr. Goldstein told his audience, “there will be an appeal accompanied by a full court public relations press by the hospital industry to derail this effort.” Dr. Goldstein went on to say, “if the battle can be dragged out until after the presidential election, hospitals and insurance companies can hope a new administration will rescind the executive order.”

Four organizations are now urging the Department of Health and Human Services to delay implementation of the price transparency rule until after the appeals court makes a decision in the case. The American Hospital Association, the Federation of American Hospitals, the Association of American Medical Colleges and the Children’s Hospital Association made their request in a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar on June 29, five days after these associations and others filed an appeal against the ruling which would implement a rule on price transparency on January first. The groups said the rule would ‘pose a burden to hospitals and health systems responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency.’ Thirty-four hospital groups have already urged HHS to delay the start of the price disclosure.

In an article published in “Becker Hospital Review” AHA General Counsel Melinda Hatton said, “the proposal does nothing to help patients understand their out-of-pocket costs.” She added, “it also imposes significant burdens on hospitals at a time when resources are stretched thin and need to be devoted to patient care. Hospitals and health systems have consistently supported efforts to provide patients with information about the costs of their medical care. This is not the right way to achieve this important goal.”

About The Houston Healthcare Initiative

Dr. Steven Goldstein is a Houston based neurologist. He founded the Houston Healthcare Initiative and is an advocate for common sense solutions to the healthcare crisis that confronts the citizens and residents of the United States of America. Court Rules Against the Hospital Industry Mandates Price Disclosure.

What The Court Ruled About Hospital Price Transparency

This week on the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, Dr. Steven Goldstein takes a deeper dive into a court decision where hospitals must reveal private negotiated rates with insurers starting this coming January 1, 2021. Plus, he will provide more insight into how hospitals decide what and how much to charge us, and man is that a story. It’s all more than a little complex. The podcast is available on all the popular podcast networks including SoundCloud, iHeart, and Spotify among others.

How Are Prices Now Assessed

Hospital prices are not based on the free market. Instead, prices are agreed on via secret agreements between hospitals and insurance companies. The truth is that pricing for medical services as paid by insurance companies are artificially set and not competitive at all. Prices are agreed to in advance by the hospital and the insurance company, not disclosed to the public. “We are led to believe that our insurance providers negotiate on behalf of their policyholders,” Dr. Goldstein told his audience. This is not the case. The court has ruled that this will no longer be permitted, that hospitals will have to reveal these negotiated rates and thus hospitals must reveal private negotiated rates .

Hospitals must reveal private negotiated rates to the public.
Hospitals must reveal private negotiated rates to the public.The court ruling that upheld a Trump Administration policy that forces hospitals to reveal their prices.

Why Hospitals Object

One reason many hospitals do not list their actual prices is that, according to them, some cases are more complicated than others. “An appendectomy may go smoothly or may be complicated by other factors such as adhesions from a previous surgery that caused scarring,” Dr. Goldstein said. “This may require additional operating room time resulting in a higher cost.  Thus hospitals claim they can only give estimates.”

Alternatively, this could be handled in one of two ways. 1). Publish the price for each procedure at what the hospital perceives as the average price. Then find ways to cut costs so that average cost is lowered resulting in increased profit for the hospital.  2). Alternatively, publish a price for operating room time by the hour that would include all the ancillary charges + publish the range of operating room times for each procedure.

How Prices Are Set Now

With the use of computer technology, hospitals are able to establish a charge for each product or service, no matter how small. “Every aspirin, every blood test, every x-ray, every bandage, every suture has a charge; Dr. Goldstein said. “Some of these charges beg credulity e.g. the $20 aspirin. All these charges are added up to give the total hospital charge. Of course, this doesn’t include multiple physician charges that are separate.” This all resulted in the Trump administration’s order that hospitals must reveal private negotiated rates to the public.

But the final charge is the “sticker price”. The insurance companies never pay this price. They have a secret, negotiated price based on the Medicare price for those services.

Secret Revealed on Pricing Practices of Health Insurance Companies & Hospitals

The actual price of what a medical test, procedure, exam and often prescription cost and how charges are assigned is not based on the free market. Instead, prices are agreed on via secret agreements between hospitals and insurance companies. This is the subject of the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast with Dr. Steven Goldstein. To hear the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast, please visit: SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts, iHeart, PlayerFM, or the Houston Healthcare Initiative web site. Secret Revealed on Pricing Practices of Health Insurance Companies & Hospitals.

Pay More Attention

Price Transparency
Price transparency from insurance companies and medical companies is a rare thing.

Most people get health insurance from their employer which is the reason, so few pay much attention to the price of the medical services and pharmaceuticals that Americans purchase. Employer funded insurance pays for most of what is charged with individuals picking up a smaller deductible. But according to neurologist Dr. Steven Goldstein, it is past time to start devoting attention to not just what is charged but how the health insurance companies, and the medical community decides what to charge and why. Spoiler Alert: it is not based on the free market.

The idea that pricing for medical services as paid by insurance companies are artificially set and not competitive at all. They are agreed to in advance by the hospital and the insurance company, not disclosed to the public, and we are all led to believe that our insurance providers were negotiating on behalf of the people that pay the premiums.

It Is Expensive But…

The fact that the charges for visits to the doctor, hospital and pharmacist are mostly paid for by employer funded insurance does not make us any less likely to get both overcharged and underserved. It is a lack of transparency that makes medical costs so high. It was not wrong to believe that research, new equipment, and pharmaceutical discovery were what was behind the increase in healthcare prices; they account for some. “The issue is that patients do not know the actual price of services,” Dr. Goldstein told his listeners. “The list price is the price charged to patients without insurance. Each insurance company negotiates a discounted price.”

Thus, there are multiple discounted prices depending on the insurance company plus a different price for Medicare and Medicaid. These prices have traditionally been secret. There is no competition between hospitals based on price. “Medicare sets the price standard based on costs,” he said. “Thus, hospitals are cost plus operations with little incentive to reduce costs.”

Why Not Just Pay Cash?

Cash prices are often much less than what is charged even to the insurance companies. People often can secure better deals if they don’t use their insurance. A 2016 Wall Street Journal investigation found that hospitals frequently offer far better deals for people who pay in cash rather than use their insurance. “Price transparency allows individuals to shop for the best nonemergency deal. It would also force hospitals to compete, thus saving consumers money. It gives them a choice,” Dr. Goldstein said. The way any of us chooses to spend our money is the most democratic thing anyone can do.

Price transparency allows individuals to find the best non-emergency deal. It would also force hospitals to compete, thus saving consumers money. “If prices were known, posted in public, people could shop for the non-emergency services,” Dr. Goldstein said.

About Houston Healthcare Initiative

Dr. Steven Goldstein is a Houston based neurologist. He founded the Houston Healthcare Initiative and is an advocate for common sense solutions to the healthcare crisis that confronts the citizens and residents of the United States of America.Secret Revealed on Pricing Practices of Health Insurance Companies & Hospitals

 

For Those Who Lost Their Employer Funded Health Insurance; Resources Are Available

Provided at no charge by the Houston Healthcare Initiative.  

For Those Who Lost Their Employer Funded Health Insurance Resources Are Available

Because of the Coronavirus/Covid-19 pandemic, 25–43 million people could lose their jobs and their health insurance. People who had a serious illness before the outbreak and job loss could be dealt a literally fatal blow. Others who had symptoms and even serious accidents while unemployed and without insurance could suffer more than they would have if their insurance were in place. But there are resources available as described this week on the Houston Healthcare Initiative podcast. To learn more, go to www.houstonhealthcareinitiative.org. To hear about this on Dr. Goldstein’s podcast, please visit: Job Losses Equal Employer Funded Health Insurance Loss.

  • Testing for the Coronavirus/Covid-19 illness: testing for the Coronavirus/Covid-19 virus is free. But if the test is positive and you have the virus, the treatment for it can get expensive. Fortunately, most people recover at home. However, an estimated 15% of infected people may end up hospitalized, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Recent data suggests that patients who go to intensive care stay there for an average of 20 days. The Castlight Covid-19 test site finder will provide information on Coronavirus testing near you: https://my.castlighthealth.com/corona-virus-testing-sites/.
  • The Health Insurance Exchange: Open enrollment typically runs from November to January, depending on the state in which you live. But people are allowed a change in coverage when experiencing a life altering event. One such event is the loss of a job and employer sponsored health insurance. You can shop for health plans through your state’s insurance marketplace. But don’t wait around, there are 30 to 60 days to sign up after a qualifying life event before the end of that special enrollment period. Go to this link and find out if you qualify for coverage: https://www.healthcare.gov.
  • Medicaid: Medicaid provides health coverage for some low-income people, families and children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities in all fifty states.  In some states the program covers all low-income adults below a certain income level. But do not assume that you do or do not qualify. There are online resources available from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services along with state references to guide you. Visit the official U.S. government Medicaid site to see of you are eligible: https://www.medicaid.gov.
  • CHIP: CHIP stands for Children’s Health Insurance Program. If your children need health coverage, they may be eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP covers pregnant women. Each state offers CHIP coverage and works closely with its state Medicaid program. Get all the details, go to: https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program/.
  • Faith Based Cooperatives: Faith-based plans are designed to provide essential coverage for the good health and physical well-being of their members. In return they expect members to live faith-based lives in adherence to the principles behind such plans. As such, faith-based plans will not cover hospital costs that stem from activities they deem immoral or unessential. Faith based plans most often share expenses among members. Each member pays a monthly premium. When one of the members becomes ill or needs treatment for an injury, his or her contributions cover the expenses, in conjunction with the collective input of fellow members. As such, the premiums are lower in comparison to those of traditional health care. These operate with exemptions to the mandates of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obama Care. There are several options. Here are a few:Medi-Share, Liberty HealthShare, Samaritan MinistriesOneShare, Christian Healthcare Ministries.

This is not an exhaustive list for those who lost their employer funded health insurance but is some go the most popular ones that are available.

About Houston Healthcare Initiative And Dr. Steven Goldstein

Dr. Steven Goldstein is a Houston based neurologist. He founded the Houston Healthcare Initiative and is an advocate for common sense solutions to the healthcare crisis that confronts the citizens and residents of the United States of America.