Tag Archives: ahcj09

Reinhardt breaks down income statements

Princeton economist – and Health Journalism 2009 keynote speaker – Uwe Reinhardt’s latest post on The New York Times’ Economix Blog provides a clear primer on how to read an insurance company’s income statement.

Uwe Reinhardt at Health Journalism 2009

In the post, Reinhardt systematically runs through insurance heavyweight WellPoint’s income statement and, not only explains exactly how major insurers earn their money, but also teaches the reader how to deduce all of this from a publicly available income statement.

Reinhardt promises another blog posting this week that will “explore how the add-ons for marketing, administration and profits on top of expected outlays for health care to set the insurance premiums can be astonishingly high for individually sold policies. Up to half the premium can go for these non-medical items.”


Primer on reform draws from AHCJ presentation

Sarasota Health News reporter and editor David Gulliver released his own evaluation of health care reform, drawing on the Dartmouth Atlas and the speech Princeton economist Uwe Reinhardt delivered in “brilliant – and, believe it or not, hysterically funny – style at the Association for Health Care Journalists national conference in April.”

Uwe Reinhardt

Uwe Reinhardt

After sketching a clear and convincing portrait of a failing system, Gulliver takes his assessment even further, venturing authoritative predictions on what a final health care reform package will look like. Gulliver goes into some detail, with the general idea being that the final product will include a universal insurance mandate, a public option that would only go into effect if that mandate’s goals were not met and increased regulation of the insurance industry. Gulliver’s straightforward, un-muddled approach makes the piece both accessible to a broad audience and interesting even to those who read and write about health for a living.

Find a copy of Reinhardt’s Health Journalism 2009 presentation here.

Reinhardt calls for price research/transparency

Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt – the keynote speaker at Health Journalism 2009 spoke to U.S. News & World Report‘s Dr. Bernadine Healy about health reform. Their discussion revolved around the lack of transparency in medical pricing and the role it plays in high health care costs and also touched on insurance reform and the research needed to better understand what has caused regional health care cost disparities.

According to Reinhardt, American health care is expensive because our prices are high. It’s a surprisingly obvious statement. When compared to citizens from other countries, Americans pay higher prices for the same health products and services. To reduce this disparity, Reinhardt calls for full transparency in medical pricing and a standardized insurance coverage package.

My wife, May, called up the Princeton hospital and asked what a normal delivery would cost. She got nowhere. I called about a colonoscopy and got the same runaround. So I asked a guy at New Jersey Blue Cross. He just roared. “Are you serious? We pay 50 prices. We pay every hospital a different price. We pay the same hospital five different prices.”

I asked, “Are they public? Can I look them up?” The answer was, “No. That’s proprietary.” Imagine if a bunch of people were blindfolded, shoved into Macy’s, and told to shop prudently.

For years, I’ve argued hospitals should post their fees relative to Medicare. I’ve put it to the White House, the Senate. People look at me: “Are you serious? Transparency?”

Find a copy of Reinhardt’s Health Journalism 2009 presentation here (pdf).

Genetic, environmental factors at work in aging process (#ahcj09)

Aging is a biological, psychological and social process, as four researchers explained at Health Journalism 2009. Aging research is important to learn how to slow down the process. At age 50, humans have about 62 years left of their lives, according to Matt Kaeberlein, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Pathology, University of Washington (or we might if we learned how to slow down the aging process).

One of the biggest factor of aging is smoking, which affects reproduction, cardiovascular, pulmonary, skin, bone and neoplasia. Genes actually play the biggest role in lifespan. Kaeberlein noted that there is no reason that the human body has to wear out with time, and aging must be “programmed.”

Independent journalist Laura Gater writes about the panel – links to the speakers’ presentations are included.

Blog breaks down Wyden’s talk, plan (#ahcj09)

AHCJ board member Ivan Oransky blogged about Sen. Ron Wyden’s talk at Health Journalism 2009 on April 17.

Wyden’s Healthy Americans Act would require nearly everyone to buy health insurance. He believes the way to pay for everyone to be covered is by limiting the tax-exempt status of health insurance premiums.

Oransky lays out some details about Wyden’s plan and brings up some questions that the senator didn’t answer during his presentation.