Aug 17, 2019

More healthy people are paying cash for elective genomic sequencing

2 of Boston's top hospitals are rolling out clinics that claim to predict potential diseases with elective (non-essential) genomic sequencing, Stat News' Rebecca Robbins reports.

Why it matters: Healthy people can pay up to thousands in cash, out of pocket, to visit similar genomics clinics at academic centers or hospitals. There is currently no strong evidence to show that healthy patients are benefitting from these clinics, most of which didn't exist more than 5 years ago.

  • The National Human Genome Research Institute is funding research on sequencing outcomes from the Boston Brigham and Women's Preventive Genomics Clinic, according to Dr. Robert Green, a medical geneticist directing Brigham's research.
  • Results from Brigham's genomic sequencing enter the patient's medical record just like any other clinical data, according to Green.

What they're saying: “The idea that genomic sequencing is only going to be accessible by wealthy, well-educated patrons who can pay out of pocket is anathema to the goals of the publicly funded Human Genome Project, and creates new disparities in our health care system,” Dr. Jonathan Berg, a genetics professor at the University of North Carolina, tells Stat News.

The big picture: The University of California in San Francisco, the Mayo Clinic and the nonprofit HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Alabama also offer elective genomic sequencing programs, per Stat News.

By the numbers: Patients at Brigham and Women's Preventive Genomics Clinic pay out of pocket for sequencing that ranges from $250 to $2,950. Patients at HudsonAlpha pay up to $7,000 for "whole genome sequencing and interpretation," Stat News reports.

Driving the news: Gene therapies expected to come with big price tags

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Hospital lawsuits unearth "cracks in our system"

Data: Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals

Low-income patients often face steeper out-of-pocket health care costs — and that means they're also more likely to be sued by hospitals when they can't pay their bills.

Driving the news: The New York Times yesterday reported on Carlsbad Medical Center's prolific use of lawsuits to collect its patients' medical debts, which often leads to wage garnishment or property liens.

Go deeperArrowSep 4, 2019

The plight of America's rural health care

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Rural America is stuck in a cycle of increasingly vulnerable patients with declining access to health care.

Why it matters: Rural patients often can't afford care, are being hounded by hospitals and collection agencies over their unpaid bills, and are facing the reality of life in communities where the last hospital has closed.

Go deeperArrowAug 21, 2019 - Health

NIH's All of Us program will begin offering genetic counseling soon

People from a rural and financially struggling area of New York waiting to see doctors in a mobile clinic. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The National Institutes of Health on Wednesday announced a $4.6 million award in initial funding to health tech company Color to provide results and genetic counseling when desired to the participants in its huge research project, All of Us.

Why it matters: The All of Us project aims to create the largest health database that's inclusive of diverse communities to improve precision medicine. But, the agency also wants the participants — many of whom are in underrepresented communities and may not normally have access to genetic testing and counseling — to receive benefits as well.

Go deeperArrowAug 22, 2019