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Friday Favorites: High deductibles, adult vaccines, and a doctor shortage

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If you have a high-deductible health plan, how has it affected your health care decisions?

It's a beautiful weekend for a trip to Joshua Tree National Park!

Joshua Tree, home to a vast desert and its otherworldly trees, is also where I fell and hit my head in January. I ended up getting three stitches in the emergency room – at a cost of at least $1,600. I'll pay that bill, and possibly many more, before I reach my deductible of $3,000.

Here's my story about high-deductible health plans, plus KPCC's other top consumer-focused health stories of the week:

Are high-deductible health plans keeping you from seeking care?

A 2012 study from the California HealthCare Foundation finds that consumers with high deductible plans spend less on care, which is how high deductibles are supposed to work. But the study finds that people are also cutting back "on preventive care such as immunizations and cancer screeenings - even though that care was not subject to a deductible."


Are high-deductible health plans keeping you from seeking care?

Doctors Seek Higher Fees From Health Insurers

Adam Berry/Getty Images

In 2014, 80 percent of all covered workers had an annual deductible, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Back in January, I had a little accident in Joshua Tree National Park.

I fell backwards, clocked my skull on a rock, and got a sweet gash on the back of my head. I ended up going to the local emergency department and getting the wound closed up with three staples.

I had no idea what this trip would cost me, but because I'm on a high-deductible health plan I knew I'd be on the hook for a lot of it.

I recently received the Explanation of Benefits from my insurance company. It looks like I’ll owe at least $1,600. If that's the case, I'll be halfway to meeting my $3,000 deductible for the year.

High deductibles

Like me, more and more Americans are now responsible for a larger share of their health costs.

The Kaiser Family Foundation's 2014 Employer Health Benefits Survey has the proof: In 2014, 80 percent of all covered workers faced an annual deductible, or the amount they must pay before most services are covered by their health plan.


Adults need vaccines too, but many don't have them

Beyond the flu shot – which she recommends for virtually every adult, every year – there are four major vaccines that adults should have, says Dr. Sharon Orrange, an assistant professor of medicine at Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Earlier this week, I told you about the California Medical Association Foundation's new campaign focused on adult vaccinations. The campaign – called Community Immunity – is intended to raise low vaccination rates among adults.

How low are we talking about?

Everyone over 19 years old should get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. But in 2013, fewer than two in three adults ages 19 to 64 had done so, according to a February report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The numbers are even worse for the herpes zoster shot, which prevents shingles and is recommended for all adults over age 60. Less than one in four adults in that age group had received the shot in 2013, according to the CDC.

I reached out to several Los Angeles-area doctors to find out why adult vaccination rates are so low. I also asked them for  more information about which vaccinations adults should definitely get.


New campaign spotlights need for adult vaccination

Sanofi Pasteur / Gabriel Pagcaliwagan via Flickr Creative Commons

The California Medical Association Foundation says it's distributing an adult vaccination guide to thousands of doctors and patient advocates.

The California Medical Association Foundation has launched a campaign to educate doctors and their patients about adult vaccinations. 

As part of its "Community Immunity" campaign, the CMA Foundation is distributing an adult vaccination guide to thousands of doctors and patient advocates. The guide features vaccine recommendations for adults based on age, dosage and vaccine type.

In a statement, Dr. David Holley, chair of the CMA Foundation, said unvaccinated adults expose themselves to contagious diseases, and also "endanger vulnerable populations including infants, the elderly, and pregnant women, who are increasingly vulnerable to serious illness."

The campaign has a lot of ground to make up: A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that adult vaccination rates are low for several recommended shots.


Almost all pediatricians have patients asking to delay vaccines, survey finds

Sanofi-aventis Argentina

Eric Larrayadieu

A vast majority of pediatricians in a survey are concerned that not vaccinating kids on time leaves them susceptible to contagious diseases. Meanwhile, 82 percent believe that if they agree to bend the schedule, it will build trust with families.

Back in December, I reported that staunchly pro-vaccination doctors were agreeing to bend the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommended vaccination schedule for shot-wary parents.

For that story, Santa Monica pediatrician Dr. Marcy Hardart estimated that about one out of every five families she saw asked to delay the vaccination schedule. Hardart told me parents would ask her:

"Can’t we start later?"…Do we have to do all of them at once? Can we spread them out?"

I reported that more and more doctors were complying with such requests, in the hopes that children would eventually become fully vaccinated.

I wrote that it was nearly impossible to determine how widespread these alternative vaccination schedules were, since the state doesn’t begin tracking immunizations until kids enter childcare or kindergarten.