Good morning. Today's Vitals is a short 811 words, or about a 3-minute read. Happy Monday to you.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Taking care of the aging population is a crisis in the making, and no one — not families, not government programs and not the health care workforce — is prepared for it, Axios' Sam Baker reports.
The big picture: Providing health care to aging baby boomers will strain Medicare's finances, but the problem is even bigger than that.
Long-term care — the kind of services typically performed in a nursing home or by a home health aide — largely falls through the cracks of both public and private health insurance, saddling seniors and their families with financial and emotional burdens they often didn't anticipate or plan for.
By the numbers: Estimates differ on the specifics, but they generally agree that somewhere between half and two-thirds of seniors will need at least some long-term care.
How it works: Medicare doesn't cover most long-term care services. The market for private long-term care insurance is tiny and fraught with failure.
Medicaid is already the biggest line item in most states' budgets — so as the need for long-term care grows, it will cost seniors, families, states and the federal government all at the same time.
Poplar Bluff Regional Medical Center — a hospital in rural Southeast Missouri — has filed more than 1,100 lawsuits so far this year to collect unpaid medical bills, the Washington Post reports.
Between the lines: The patients being sued — including many who have insurance — often can't afford to pay their bills.
The other side: Three nearby hospitals have closed in the recent past, leaving Poplar Bluff — which is owned by Community Health Systems — as the last full-service hospital serving 5 rural counties.
My thought bubble: This story is a collision of some of health care's most vexing problems: The steady rise in costs, patients' increasing exposure to these costs via their deductibles, America's lingering uninsured population and rural hospitals' financial predicament.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Two of Boston's top hospitals are rolling out clinics that claim to predict potential diseases through elective gene sequencing, Stat's Rebecca Robbins reports.
The intrigue: Healthy people can pay thousands in cash to visit similar gene clinics at academic centers or hospitals, Axios' Orion Rummler writes.
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," Jonathan Berg, a genetics professor at the University of North Carolina, told Stat.
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."
Colorado emergency department visits cost wildly varying amounts, according to a new analysis by the Center for Improving Value in Health Care that used the state's all-payer claims database.
There's no standard charge for an emergency room visit. And there are insane outliers.
Why it matters: This analysis includes data from one state for one kind of care. This is essentially the kind of transparency that the Trump administration wants to bring to all hospital care.