Medicare Itemizes Its $103 Billion Drug Bill

The federal government popped the cap off drug spending on April 30, detailing doctor-by-doctor and drug-by-drug how Medicare and its beneficiaries spent $103 billion on pharmaceuticals in 2013. The data show that 14 drugs cost the federal government and Medicare beneficiaries more than $1 billion each, accounting for nearly a quarter of Medicare prescription drug spending in 2013. Most of those drugs are used to treat chronic conditions that plague the elderly, including diabetes, depression, high cholesterol and blood pressure, …

AARP Applauds Fix for Medicare Payments to Doctors

After 17 years of kicking the proverbial can down the road, Congress has come together in bipartisan fashion to repeal and replace Medicare’s flawed formula for reimbursing doctors with an improved payment plan. With President Obama’s April 21 signature of the Medicare and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), Medicare beneficiaries can finally feel more secure in knowing that they can keep seeing their physicians each year. AARP has advocated for a permanent fix of the old doctor payment formula, called the …

Permanent Fix for Medicare Payments to Doctors Moves to Obama

This post was updated April 21, 2015. President Barack Obama signed into law on April 21 a permanent solution to a problem that has plagued the Medicare system for years. Doctors never knew whether the payments they received for treating Medicare beneficiaries would suddenly drop, making it difficult for them to make long-term business plans and causing some to stop taking Medicare patients altogether. Obama once compared the flawed payment formula to a “guillotine” hanging permanently over doctors’ heads. Approving …

Are Older Adults Being Overtreated for Diabetes?

Older patients are not the same as younger patients. You’d think this was obvious, yet doctors often use a one-size-fits-all approach to prescribing treatment that can put their older patients at risk. The latest example of this: another study showing that patients 65 or older with diabetes may be overtreated by doctors who too aggressively try to control blood sugar levels, regardless of their patients’ other health problems. The new study, by Yale researchers, analyzed a decade of data on 1,288 …

So Why Are Waiting Room Magazines So Old?

Ever wonder why the magazines in your doctor’s waiting room are so out of date? One office I was in had a Golf Digest from 2012. Are our docs just trying to bore us to death? Do they put out only old magazines and keep the new ones for themselves? Or is something else going on? New Zealand doctor Bruce Arroll kept getting complaints about the magazines in his general practice office, so he and a colleague decided to find …

When Is ‘No Treatment’ the Best Treatment?

The swift, lethal nature of brain cancer — and the terrible decisions it forces families to face — has been in the news recently, with three of its victims forcing us to think about choices we hope we never have to make. There was, of course, the well-publicized death of Brittany Maynard, 29, diagnosed with the most common and deadly form of brain cancer — glioblastoma. Doctors don’t know what causes these insidious growths, according to the National Brain Tumor …