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Six tips on managing health care costs – Fox Business



Health care costs are a financial burden for many Americans. A survey from West Health and Gallup found that Americans in large numbers are borrowing money, skipping treatments and cutting back on household expenses because of high health care costs. The survey of more than 3,500 adults found that 45 percent fear a major health event could bankrupt them.

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“If you look at public records today, the number one cause of bankruptcy in the United States is health care costs,” says Paul Ketchel, CEO of MD Save. “If you look at health care spending in general and as a percentage of household income, it’s one of the highest items if not the highest item for most families and individuals.”


Ketchel says there are six things consumers can do to lower their health care costs:

Use transparency tools to compare prices

The West Health and Gallup survey found that 47 percent of people are never aware of how much they will pay of pocket when they go to the emergency room. Fully 21 percent do not even know how much they will pay for a checkup or a physical. If you are going to have a health care procedure, Ketchel advises consumers to research the cost before walking into the provider’s office or deciding to move forward. You can do that by using transparency tools – websites that help you compare the cost of health care services.

“It’s a lot like if you went to the car dealership and bought a car,” he says. “When you drove off they said I hope you like that car. In three months or so, we are going to send you a bill and tell you how much that car cost.”

Ketchel says driving a few miles out of your way can make a big difference.

“If you look around the country today in the local market, there’s about 300 percent price variation from provider to provider for the same procedure with no difference in quality or outcome,” he says. “If you look at the same procedure on a national view, there’s a 750 percent variation for the same procedure.”

Stay on top of your preventative care

Ketchel says a little bit of preventative maintenance can go a long way in reducing your financial costs and improving your health care outcome.

“A simple example might be a colonoscopy once a year,” he says. “That is often paid for by your health plan under the Affordable Care Act. If not, there are transparency options that you can get those for $1,500 or less. If you can catch that early at $1,500, you might not only have a better health outcome, but your costs could be a few thousand dollars. Whereas, if you catch a disease condition like that in a later stage, it could cost tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

See the right kind of doctor

If you’re like most people, Ketchel says you don’t have a primary doctor. He says that’s why many of us are not having our annual checkups. Instead, we are visiting urgent care or walk-in clinics.

“This is a good treatment option from a cost-sensitive standpoint if you have a cold or the flu,” Ketchel says. “But you are really losing that connection to the provider. In the past, primary care providers were the ones who would do that preventative check on you and then refer you to the proper specialist. It’s important to see a provider that sees a large bulk of the type of complications you are having.”

Save the emergency room for emergencies

Emergency rooms are designed for emergencies. Ketchel says there’s no place where consumers overpay more for health care than an emergency room visit.

“They are staffed with emergency physicians,” he says. “There’s a certain process they have for giving care. They are designed to treat complicated issues that are time sensitive. Going to the emergency room for ordinary care is like consuming extra health care you don’t need.  Because there are specialists working in the emergency room, those rates are significantly higher.”

Ketchel says that emergency room visit can cost you 10 times as much for the same exact service.

“You may have a cold or a cough and there may be an emergency room you can walk to down the street,” he says. “In that example, you are going to have an emergency room visit that could be ranked as a level three emergency. That may be $800, $900 just for that checkup and visit. The same exact visit could be performed at an urgent care or a walk-in clinic for $99. “

Take advantage of covered preventative care

In order to be licensed in most states, the Affordable Care Act requires insurers to provide consumers with a list of mandated coverage requirements. Ketchel says that could include a diagnostic colonoscopy if you are over 40 or an annual mammogram.

“What you’ll find is that there’s a lot of preventative care at no cost to you for you to utilize,” he says. “You are paying for that care because it’s built into your insurance premium. It’s coming out of your paycheck each week.  If you don’t use that preventive screening, you are paying for something you are not using. It’s not only good to help you reduce costs; it’s also good to manage your health.”


If you are unsure what preventative care is covered, visit the website of your health plan or call the 1-800 number on the back of your card.

Don’t rush to pay health care bills

If you start receiving multiple medical bills for a health care visit, Ketchel says don’t rush to pay it right away.

“Wait until you have collected all of the bills,” he says. “Review them. Call your provider’s office. Have them walk you through each one of those bills to ensure everything is correct. In the United States, 90 percent of medical bills are inaccurate. If you are writing that check, there is a good chance you are overpaying for something you may or may not have received.”

Linda Bell joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in 2014 as an assignment editor. She is an award-winning writer of business and financial content.  You can follow her on Twitter @lindanbell

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Tips for Helping Men Seek, Get Mental Health Care – Public News Service




Professional mental health experts say when people open up about their feelings of depression or other issues, don’t try to fix the problem or change the subject, but listen patiently and actively. (Publicdomainpictures)

May 20, 2019

DENVER – STRIDE Community Health Center has joined the Let’s Talk Colorado campaign, a coalition of more than 20 health organizations, and this year’s emphasis is to address some of the unique challenges men face with mental health.

STRIDE psychologist Erin Baurle says men don’t seek care at the rate women do, even though numbers show they suffer from depression, anxiety and other obstacles to their well-being the same as everyone else.

She says stigma continues to be one of the biggest barriers for people seeking treatment.

“The lack of treatment for mental health exceeds any other health condition that we have, and people are again real reticent to seek care and not getting the care that they need to address issues and concerns that are very real,” she states.

Baurle notes at STRIDE, mental health is seen as integral to overall health and well-being, and licensed mental health professionals stand side by side with medical providers during a patient’s medical visit.

Six million men across the U.S. admit to experiencing depression, and men are almost four times as likely to die from suicide as women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Of the nearly 1,200 Coloradans who died from suicide in 2017, almost 900 were men.

Baurle says it’s common for men to shy away from talking about their feelings directly or in formal settings, so using a shoulder-to-shoulder approach can help bring issues out in the open.

She says it’s a good idea to let men in your lives know – as you’re driving or out on a walk – that when they are ready, you’re open to talking and are there for support.

“So it might not be in that moment that you first broach the topic, it might be at some other point,” she states. “And when he does come to you, it’s important to really focus and listen because men can more easily feel brushed off or ignored if other things are going on.”

Baurle says catching issues early in the cycle, when someone is starting to feel overly stressed, is a good time to seek professional care before the problem gets worse.

She says a good first step to getting professional help is to talk with your primary care provider.

All of Colorado’s 20 community health centers have behavioral health services onsite, or have arrangements with a community partner to whom they can refer patients.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service – CO

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Health expert Dr. Ian Smith gives tips, dispels myths on clean eating and healthy living – Qcity metro




Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in America, according to the American Heart Association. For African Americans, we account for nearly a quarter of the 610,000 people that die every year from heart disease.

The recent death of filmmaker John Singleton following a massive stroke sent shock waves throughout the African American community. Black men in the U.S. are at a greater risk of having a stroke and are more likely to have one at a younger age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes and higher rates of obesity are a few of the culprits.

Black Americans also suffer from some of the highest rates of high blood pressure in the world. The American Heart Association reported that more than 40% of Black men and women have high blood pressure, and we’re getting it earlier in life.

That hit home for me. John Singleton was 51. My grandfather died of a heart attack at 45. My mother was diagnosed with hypertension at the same age.

In March, at 37, I decided to make major changes in my lifestyle that will hopefully save my life. As I near the age my mother was diagnosed, transitioning to a healthier lifestyle was more than trying to look good in a bikini. I hired a trainer, ditched meat and began intermittent fasting. Although I’m not vegan, I frequent local vegan restaurants.

Dr. Ian Smith. Photo: T. Smith

New York Times best-selling author Dr. Ian Smith visited the Queen City to promote his latest book, “Clean & Lean: 30 Days, 30 Foods, A New You.” We met to chat about nutrition, fitness and fad diets.

You were appointed by President Obama to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. During your time on the council, what was the most alarming health fact that you discovered about African Americans?

What I first found surprising is that the Council had no jurisdiction or enforcement ability. We would make policy suggestions, but we couldn’t legislate it. We were more in an advisory role. We worked with First Lady Michelle Obama on the Let’s Move campaign. I wanted to have a solidified interventional role.

I’ve been doing this for a very long time. I focus on everyone, but obviously, I have a predisposition to be overly concerned about African Americans. It just confirmed things that have plagued us for a long time such as levels of obesity, levels of inactivity and dietary lifestyles. It’s what I’ve been fighting to reverse and get people to change their lifestyles.

What are the biggest misconceptions that you hear from people who are considering making the transition to healthier lifestyles?

African Americans have to tear themselves away from the fallacy that we are genetically predisposed to be large or big boned. Our bones are no bigger than anyone else’s.

Now, we are predisposed to be more curvaceous, but that’s different, that’s soft tissue. Our bones are the same size. What we pack onto our bones is up to us, the shape of it is genetic. The way we deposit fat and soft tissue is in a curvaceous form. We are made to be more curvaceous but not to be heavier.

As you travel around the country, what have you found that people struggle with the most?

People are having a hard time being able to access and afford healthy foods and figuring out how to squeeze their workout into their day. Granted, some of that is that people just don’t like to work out. Another part of that is that people are stressed and busy. You have single parents and people with scheduling issues.

My intention with “Clean and Lean” was to think about someone with a limited income, someone who’s busy and doesn’t have two hours to spend in the kitchen cooking. I wanted to create a program that would work for them.


Dr. Ian Smith says dinner can include options like grilled chicken with brown rice and vegetables.

Let’s talk about a popular weight management trend, intermittent fasting. Critics say those who commit to the practice will gain the weight back when the fasting period is over. Is there a certain profile (age, weight, pre-existing conditions, etc.) that you’d recommend avoiding intermittent fasting?

Everyone intermittent fasts. When you are asleep, you are fasting. Intermittent fasting is periods of eating, or fueling, with periods of fasting. Some of us have longer fast periods. Some of us are more disciplined in respect to fast. I think intermittent fasting is healthy, if not done to the extreme. The three tracks that I believe in are: 16-hour feeding with an 8-hour fast; 14-hour feeding and a 10-hour fast, and a 12-hour feeding with a 12-hour fast.

To speak to the issue of gaining weight back, typically if you are losing weight via an extreme measure, then when you stop applying the extreme measure, you’re going to gain the weight back. To me, keto is extreme. Keto is effective for short-term weight loss. However, when a person stops eating in a keto fashion they will gain the weight back plus some.

Now that Dr. Ian explained why we should stop blaming weight gain on being big boned, it’s time to begin making healthier lifestyle choices. Maybe it’s increasing your physical activity or decreasing your intake of processed ingredients. Instead of focusing on summer body goals, let’s make changes this spring to improve the quality of our lives.

Nakisha Washington is a journalist who interviewed America’s first self-made female billionaire, a presidential candidate and her favorite reality TV personality all within 72 hours. Catch her talking career and lifestyle tips to curious millennials on her

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3 tips for reporting on rural health – Journalist's Resource




Mark Holmes is a professor in the department of health policy and management in the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health and director of the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center.

At the North Carolina Rural Health Research and Policy Analysis Center, Holmes studies rural hospital closures across the country, as well as the effects of Medicare and Medicaid on rural populations and health care providers.

Earlier this month, Holmes participated in a panel on rural health at Health Journalism 2019, the annual conference of the Association of Health Care Journalists (AHCJ). Beforehand, we took the opportunity to sit down with him and ask about his tips for reporting on rural health. Below are three of the key takeaways from our conversation.

Tip #1: Be specific about what you mean when you say “rural.” Different regions face different issues.

The term “rural” can be used as a monolithic catchall for vast and diverse areas of the country: for example, the U.S. Census defines rural as “territory, population, and housing units not classified as urban.”

“I think there’s an under appreciation of the nuance of ‘rural,’ in that rural North Carolina is very different from rural Wyoming, and we tend to lump them all together,” Holmes said. “I think certainly people have been talking about the difference in the demographics –the rural South versus rural Midwest — but also I think the notion of isolation, geographic isolation, can be quite varied.” In other words, be specific about what you mean when you’re talking about rural: Is the area isolated? Far from a hospital? Sparsely populated?

The upshot: It’s important to know the issues facing the various rural regions in the United States.

With that in mind, we asked Holmes to provide, to the extent that he was comfortable, a categorization of many of the rural regions across the U.S. and the key health issues for local journalists to keep an eye on. Here are his suggestions:

Northeast New England (categorized by Holmes as consisting primarily of Maine, northern Vermont and New Hamsphire, and western Massachusetts):  Holmes said the key concerns in the rural Northeast are the opioid epidemic and an aging population.

“A lot of New England is not terribly far from other large health care systems,” Holmes qualified.

South (including the Mississippi Delta, Appalachia and the ‘Stroke Belt’): Key health-related issues include racial disparities, poverty, homicide, rural hospital closures and rural hospital financial distress – i.e., hospitals struggling to cover their costs.

Upper Midwest (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North and South Dakota, Iowa): “From a mortality standpoint, the Midwest tends to be some of our healthiest regions — not just rural, but urban as well,” Holmes said.  However, the upper Midwest is “generally more isolated than we see in the South. You can get into a frontier area in the Midwest pretty quickly.” Holmes explained that the isolation in some parts of the Midwest means rural residents might not have ready access to hospitals.

Mountains West: Suicide – particularly suicide involving firearms– is a major issue in the rural, mountainous West, he said.

Rural California (particularly the Central Valley and the southern border region): Holmes said this region faces “its own acute or more specific challenges particularly associated with migrant farm workers.”

Alaska: Geographic isolation creates health-related challenges here.

Hawaii: The state is unique, Holmes said, in that it is geographically isolated, but each island has its own hospital, so access to health care is not impeded by its isolation. The issue then becomes the economic and operational challenges of maintaining hospitals that are underused. “Those are some of the most underused hospitals,” Holmes said. “You’ll have a hospital on an island that might have, like, one patient a week. But when you need it, they’re there.”

Tip #2: Don’t just focus on problems; also cover successful community-based solutions in rural America.

“I think the biggest [issue with coverage of rural health] is every story about rural is despondent, despair,” Holmes said. “I think some really groundbreaking approaches have been developed in these kinds of communities.”

Holmes described his own experience growing up in rural Michigan. After a spate of teen deaths in car accidents, Holmes said the community came to a realization: “Now we have a crisis. And so the whole community rallies around each other and sort of figures out what we’re going to do about it.

“You can see faster action, I think, in rural communities, because at the coffee shop you can get the three people that matter together on a Thursday afternoon without a lot of the hassles you might see in larger communities.

“Those are harder stories to find, but I think they’re really interesting, because as researchers we pound the table and say you need to use evidence-based programs, and draw from what we know works,” he says. “But innovation often happens in rural communities where they say, you know what, we got this thing over here and this thing over here and in using our assets in an innovative area, or in an innovative manner, we can try something new. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Tip #3: Understand that health care touches other newsroom beats, and other beats touch health care. Consider, for example, its connections with economic development.

“Rural areas face a wide variety of decisions about what their economic development strategy will be — keeping people and recruiting people,” he said. “Having a viable, strong health care system, it is really important, and of course it goes the other way as well — the economy improves the health care system.

“My bread and butter is rural hospital closures,” Holmes said. But he and his team also research rural hospital openings. “We found two in one year and looked at the stories, and both of the justifications were highly dependent on: we want to create a place where people want to live, because having the hospital here makes it worth it,” he said.

Additional resources

Holmes recommended the following resources for journalists looking to learn more about rural health:

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