Nov 26, 2019

Add-on expenses for medical students pile up

The cost of medical school is a barrier to diversity in the medical profession, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: Diversity among doctors hasn't moved much between 1988 and 2017, according to data from the Association of American Medical Colleges. More than three-quarters of American medical school students came from affluent households.

By the numbers: Medical school graduates in 2018 had a median debt of $200,000, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

  • Expenses for equipment and study aids totaled more than $4,000.

The bottom line, per NYT: "That top medical schools seem to favor the rich is especially disturbing to low-income students because they know that their diverse experiences and perspectives are an asset, not a liability."

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The White House is unhappy with private equity's surprise medical billing ads

Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The White House hasn't weighed in on how to resolve the debate over surprise medical bills, but Joe Grogan, head of the Domestic Policy Council, had some choice words about ads being run by private equity-backed groups:

What they're saying: "The advertisements that are targeting members on this and are being run by the private equity groups who are using the arbitrage on surprise medical billing should make every American and member want to puke," Grogan told Axios.

Go deeperArrowNov 27, 2019

Surprise bills often hit in emergencies

Reproduced from Kaiser Family Foundation; Chart: Axios Visuals

People who are in the middle of a health crisis often are at an especially high risk for surprise medical bills, according to previously unreleased data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The big picture: The new data underscore the importance of a legislative solution to help patients who are powerless to protect themselves.

Details: People having surgery or receiving mental health and substance abuse treatment at an in-network hospital are the most likely to experience a surprise bill from an out-of-network provider.

  • Among people with employer-based insurance, out-of-network charges were 50% higher among heart-attack victims than for other diagnoses.
  • 21% of women undergoing mastectomies experienced out-of-network provider charges.

My thought bubble: It’s hard to imagine many patients who are so prepared and insurance-savvy that they could protect themselves from an out-of-network bill in the middle of a heart attack.

Why it matters: It doesn’t take a headline-sized bill to wreak havoc on family budgets.

  • Half of the American people say they would have to borrow money or go into debt to pay a $500 medical bill, or wouldn’t be able to pay it at all.
  • Unexpected medical bills are the public’s top health cost concern, ahead of deductibles, premiums, drug costs, and even paying the rent or the mortgage.
  • People with major medical conditions and chronic illnesses are most likely to experience problems paying their medical bills.

The bottom line: Congress is torn between two competing ideas solving this issue and settling payment disputes between insurers and providers. Each plan has its own implications for premiums and industry negotiations, but for patients, just getting a fix is the most important thing.

Physician staffing firm has sued thousands of Tennessee patients for medical debt

Memphis skyline. Photo: Visions of America/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

An emergency room staffing firm owned by TeamHealth has filed thousands of lawsuits against patients in Memphis in the last few years, ProPublica and MLK50 report.

Why it matters ... This is a collision of two storylines: the aggressive billing practices of private equity-backed health care companies, and providers' decision to take patients to court to collect their medical debts.

Go deeperArrowDec 2, 2019