Saturday, April 30, 2016

John Stossel rants about health care system

'Customer service stinks,' complains Fox reporter from lung cancer hospital bed

John Stossel
John Stossel, a 69-year-old libertarian Fox consumer reporter, can be sardonic.

Even when he's in a New York-Presbyterian Hospital bed being treated for lung cancer.

Maybe especially when he's in a New York-Presbyterian Hospital bed being treated for lung cancer.

In a recent opinion piece for Fox, he wrote: "I'll be fine. Soon I will barely notice that a fifth of my lung is gone. But…I have to say, the hospital's customer service stinks. Doctors keep me waiting for hours, and no one bothers to call or email to say, 'I'm running late.'"

Stossel, who says he never smoked cigarettes, goes on to gripe about getting "X-rays, EKG tests, echocardiograms, blood tests," questioning if all were really needed. 

"I doubt it," he answers himself, "but no one discussed that with me or mentions the cost. Why would they? The patient rarely pays directly. Government or insurance companies pay."

The reporter's rant against the health care system continues: "Customer service is sclerotic because hospitals are largely socialist bureaucracies [that] report to government, lawyers and insurance companies," not consumers.

Some of his nurses, he says, "were great — concerned about my comfort and stress — but other hospital workers were indifferent. When the customer doesn't pay, customer service rarely maters."

In a follow-up column, he responds to some who objected in print to his extreme views: "My local supermarket is open 24/7. They rarely make me wait, prices are low, there's plenty of choice and they rarely poison me. That's what competition brings — if people pay with their own money."

Stossel is the host of his own Friday night program on the Fox Business Network that deals with consumer affairs — and also appears regularly on the Fox News Channel and "The O'Reilly Factor" providing a libertarian analysis.

The Princeton grad previously was co-anchor of ABC's newsmagazine, "20/20."

He's won 19 Emmy Awards.

For a non-libertarian point of view of patient care, you can check out "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, aimed at male caregivers.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Big Pharma, insurers, hospitals play blame game

'Financial navigators' helping patients cope with high cost of cancer drugs and treatment 

Laurie McGinley
As soon as you or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, you concentrate on survival.

Not on what that may cost.

But as soon as treatments and drugs start being prescribed, the money factor is likely to grab your attention.

Which in turn may lead to sticker shock.

Or depression.

A recent story by health-and-medicine writer Laurie McGinley in The Washington Post indicates that out-of-pocket $10,000 per month fees for a single drug isn't that unusual.

A monthly regimen of multiple drugs can run into the thousands of dollars in co-pays.
S. Yousuf Zafar

The Post article refers to patients suffering from "financial toxicity" — a term coined in 2013 by S. Yousuf Zafar at the Duke University School of Medicine — as well as the "mix of economic stress, anxiety and depression cancer patients often endure."

It focuses on "financial navigators [who] help people survive financially as well as medically [by taking] a highly individualized approach, working closely with patients and oncologists from the time of diagnosis and continuing through the twists and turns of a protracted illness."

As cancer costs continue to rise, and the health-care system grows more complex, the piece continues, the navigators'  strategy "is to pull every lever possible to extract maximum assistance from pharmaceutical companies, the government, foundations and…hospitals."

Meanwhile, Big Pharma blames insurance companies for making patients absorb higher deductibles and co-pays.

And in a turn-around, according to McGinley, "insurers say excessive hospital charges, doctor fees and drug prices are the culprits."

Hospitals join the blame game, too. They point fingers at "pharmaceutical companies [that] are inflating prices [and insurers that] are failing to adequately cover needed treatments."

The article also quotes a Seattle researcher to the effect that "people battling cancer are, on average, about 2-1/2 times more likely to file for bankruptcy than people without cancer — and that post-bankruptcy patients are nearly 80 percent more likely to die from any cause compared with others with cancer."

"Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," a VitalityPress book I, Woody Weingarten, wrote for male caregivers, addresses the costs of meds and treatments as well as the emotional toll on patients and their loved ones alike.

But be wary. The financial bell can be tolling for thee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Dying boy gets last wish to be famous in China

Sad tale ends with the death of 8-year-old media darling — but foundation offers upbeat note

I, Woody Weingarten, wrote the VitalityPress book "Rollercoaster: How a man can survive his partner's breast cancer," aimed at male caregivers, to show how having cancer can have an upside.

But the sad story of an 8-year-old Rhode Island boy with terminal cancer whose last wish was to become famous may bring with it even more hope.

Dorian Murray died about a month ago, not long after his story went viral and, in turn, led to his becoming an instant media darling.

Dorian Murray
For the most part, Dorian's 15 minutes of fame has already faded, supplanted on feature pages by slightly less meaningful articles about the size of Donald Trump's genitalia, the dwindling effects of El NiƱo, and Cameron Diaz supporting Drew Barrymore through her third divorce.

The courageous little boy, who lost a four-year battle with rhabdomyosarcoma, a rare and untreatable soft tissue cancer, initially had garnered world-wide attention through social media — including celebrities such as Justin Bieber, William Shatner, Paula Abdul, Conan O'Brien and Morgan Freeman.

The subsequent media explosion revolved around his seemingly inexplicable wish to become famous in China before he shuffled off to Heaven.

The wish resulted, among other things, in people sending photos of themselves on the Great Wall holding signs promoting his hashtag, #DStrong.

Murray's parents, Chris and Melissa, are now hoping that the Dorian J. Murray Foundation they founded can support research and, moreover, spread awareness of pediatric cancer.

As a result, although the public's appetite for sensationalism apparently is insatiable, Dorian's death may not be the end of the story.

It might become a new, upbeat note of hope.