It’s not always an easy question for a consumer to answer, yet it comes up for more people than you might think. In the case of certain heart defibrillators, for example, consumers with defective devices run the risk that their device will either deliver an unnecessary jolt of electricity—akin to being hit across the chest with a baseball bat—or, worse, simply fail, potentially leading to cardiac arrest and death.
When my parents got into their 80s, sometimes I thought they were arguing because they were shouting. Then I realized they were just having trouble hearing each other. Unfortunately, this went on for some time because they did not have hearing aids. They said hearing aids were too expensive.
The June 5 release of the Medicare Trustees Report has triggered alarm bell-style media headlines. Dozens of news reports about Medicare’s worsening financial outlook have painted a bleak picture—some bleaker than others, with one boldface headline announcing, “Medicare will go broke three years earlier than expected.”
In 2011, some widely used implantable heart defibrillators, designed to correct potentially fatal irregular heart rhythms, developed cracked insulation on their high-voltage electrical wires. The result was that in some cases they caused severe shocks, and even deaths.
Implantable devices, such as hip replacements and heart valves, are a central part of medical treatment today. Americans receive about 370,000 cardiac pacemakers and about 1 million total hip and knee replacements per year. Despite how common the use of implantable devices is, little information is publicly available on the prices paid for these devices in the United States. Limited information about prices and performance of many implantable devices has raised concerns that providers, consumers and insurers may be paying too much for these devices.
If you’re one of the roughly 2 million Medicare beneficiaries placed under observation each year, there’s (potentially) good news for you: You may be less vulnerable to sticker shock when you get your medical bill. But Medicare hasn’t gotten the details right just yet.
Since October 2012, the Medicare program has penalized hospitals when too many patients in traditional Medicare are re-hospitalized within a month of discharge. This policy appears to be having unintended consequences for patients in Medicare and in the commercial market.
If you think you are having a stroke, you'll probably go to the nearest ER. But will the hospital admit you? After you have been checked into the ER, the doctor may instead put you under "observation," especially if it is unclear whether you have had a stroke, a fainting spell or something else.
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