Good morning. Today's Smart Brevity word count is 767 words, ~3 minutes.
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Emergency rooms' prices are skyrocketing, and experts say that may be a side effect of the same factors that leave patients on the hook for unexpected bills.
Why it matters: Emergency rooms are collecting more money from private insurance plans, and at the same time they're also surprising patients with the news that their care wasn't covered.
The big picture: Hospitals get paid more for complex treatments than simple ones. Over the past decade, they've been categorizing more and more visits as complex, while also raising their prices for complex care.
Between the lines: HCCI's analysis doesn't include ER care that isn't covered by insurance — and that's the source of many of the surprise bills that have sparked so much political controversy.
"A lot of the increase in code-specific rates likely stems from emergency physician groups more fully utilizing the leverage from the threat to surprise bill patients," Brookings' Loren Adler said.
What's next: Policymakers — in Congress and in the states — are eyeing a variety of ways to rein in surprise billing.
Go deeper: We all pay for surprise emergency room bills
Rising deductibles paired with the rising cost of medications for chronic conditions has left middle-income Americans saddled with debt and skipping out on their treatment, the L.A. Times reports in a story worthy of your time.
For example, one recent study found that in 2016, people taking multiple sclerosis drugs paid, on average, $3,708 in out-of-pocket costs for the drugs each year. The cost for patients with high deductible plans was, on average, almost $8,000 a year.
Why it matters: When patients ration their own care to try to save money, it puts their health — and even their lives — at risk.
Human pap smear showing chlamydia in the vacuoles at 500x and stained with H&E. Photo: Media for Medical/UIG via Getty Images
The world sees more than 1 million new, curable cases of sexually transmitted infections every day, amounting to more than 376 million new cases annually, according to new data from the World Health Organization.
Why it matters: Rapid resistance to antibiotics is a growing health threat to these curable infections, which include chlamydia, gonorrhoea, trichomoniasis and syphilis.
Hundreds of thousands of seniors may be about to get a bill for up to five months' premiums, which they didn't realize weren't paid, due to a Social Security Administration mistake, Kaiser Health News reports.
The Washington Post's story this week on how Pfizer opted out of pursuing a link between one of its blockbuster drugs and Alzheimer's prevention may have been overblown, Derek Lowe writes in Science Translational Medicine's blog.
What they're saying: Undertaking an Alzheimer's trial is a huge endeavor, Lowe argues, and is both risky and expensive. "The clinical success rate for Alzheimer's trials is arguably zero per cent," he writes.
Have a great weekend!