Medical Malpractice Needs an Overhaul

Changes in medical malpractice laws are coming soon.

The system as it stands is considered broken and is blamed for contributing to driving up the cost of medical care.

Each year, physicians faced a 7.4 percent likelihood of facing a claim, but only 1.6 percent of claims received a payment, either through a settlement or jury award. Nonetheless, defending and insuring against these claims is costly for doctors.

Obesity Hurts Everyone

If you think that being overweight effects only the obese then think again.

Obesity is fast replacing tobacco as the single most important preventable cause of chronic non-communicable diseases, and will add an extra 7.8 million cases of diabetes, 6.8 million cases of heart disease and stroke, and 539,000 cases of cancer in the United States by 2030.

Some 32 percent of men and 35 percent of women are now obese in the United States, according to a research team led by Claire Wang at the Mailman School of Public Health in Columbia University in New York. They published their findings in a special series of four papers on obesity in The Lancet.

Big insurance companies and the fight to protect profits

This story is disgusting.

As health care costs soared nationally, a small Michigan firm gave Ford Motor Co. a proposal to cut its physical therapy costs. The automaker signed up for an in-state pilot program, which was so successful Ford expanded it last year to cover about 390,000 employees, retirees and their families nationwide.

Yet the cost-saving program created by Pontiac-based TheraMatrix has come under attack from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

Court records allege Blue Cross used its position as the state’s dominant insurer to try to crush TheraMatrix as it worked to also sign up Chrysler and General Motors. A USA TODAY review of hundreds of pages of e-mails and internal documents that are part of a lawsuit TheraMatrix filed against Blue Cross indicates that TheraMatrix’s efforts to carve out a niche market in managing outpatient physical therapy costs was seen as a threat by officials at Blue Cross and by some Michigan hospitals.

In one sense, it’s not surprising that a big company will play rough with an upstart competitor. But in the health care area, where costs are exploding, this is indefensible. Also, Blue Cross is a nonprofit – go figure.

Alison Young then goes on to write the following, which gets to the crux of the issue:

The aggressive tactics employed against TheraMatrix raise questions about whether relationships between hospitals and insurers are inflating medical prices and stifling competition needed to control costs.

The government needs to get tough with insurance companies.

Companies are shifting more health costs to higher earners

With the costs of health insurance rising, companies are trying to find creative ways to ease the burden for lower wage workers who are getting crushed by higher premiums.

With health care costs climbing even higher during this enrollment season, more employers are adopting a tiered system to pass on the bulk of those costs to their employees by assigning bigger contributions to workers in top salary brackets and offering some relief to workers who make less money.

For years, employees have seen what they pay toward health care go up as companies ask them to contribute more to premiums and deductibles. But now, as people enroll in health plans for the coming year, the sticker shock is more jolting than ever because so many companies are passing on to their workers most, if not all, of the higher costs.

A worker’s share of a family policy is approaching $4,000 a year on average, and is most certainly going to keep on rising through the next few years. For lower-salaried workers, those additional costs have only compounded their struggle in a brutal economy.

More and more companies in the last year or so have begun signaling their recognition of the added burden shouldered by workers in low- and middle-income jobs by varying the premiums they pay based on salary. Consultants say the trend is likely to continue, as employers devise various ways of spreading increased health care costs among their staff and balancing that side of the ledger against fewer raises and other compensation.

It will be interesting to see if the new health care law affects insurance rates over time.

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