Helping make the health care system work for you

Health Highlights: Consumers want price transparency, and some doctors do, too

David Goehring via Flickr Creative Commons

This week, most of KPCC's top consumer health stories are all about your money: How much you’re paying out of your own pocket for care, how much you’re paying for prescription drugs, and a new way to pay for health insurance.

Shopping for health care: These doctors commit to doing no (financial) harm

Over the past several weeks, I've been sharing tips on getting affordable health care.

A big takeaway: Patients need to talk with their doctors about costs and ask a lot of questions. (Listen to this Impatient segment on Take Two to find out how to start these conversations.)

This week's tips come from doctors, who say they and their colleagues also need to be prepared to have these conversations. They told me that if they know a patient is paying for care out of pocket, they could be more sensitive to costs when making health recommendations.

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Shopping for health care: These doctors commit to doing no (financial) harm

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Dear Impatient readers, you may have noticed that we're writing a lot about the importance of asking about the cost of your health care. It's part of our ongoing mission to give you the tools to navigate our rapidly changing medical system, particularly with regard to how much care costs. 

Along the way we've talked about how patients - especially those on high-deductible health plans - should broach issues of cost with their doctors, even if it means having potentially awkward conversations. These discussions, experts advise, could spur doctors to be more cost-conscious when ordering tests or prescribing medications.

This week, we turn the tables and talk to some doctors who think they and their colleagues also need to be prepared to have these conversations.

Do no (financial) harm

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Health Highlights: Vaccines and welfare, granola bars and a sleep quiz

TruthOut.org via Flickr Creative Commons

How do you shop for affordable health care?

Are popular granola bars healthy – or more like candy bars?

Are you a morning lark or a night owl?

We have the answers to these questions - and more - in this week's roundup of KPCC's best consumer-focused health stories.

Shopping for health care: Patient advocates say do your homework, then haggle

I've been collecting tips from experts on how to shop for affordable health care. This week, I got some great advice from patient advocates – people who fight high costs and unfair bills for a living.

They say it boils down to understanding the nitty-gritty of your health plan and asking a lot of questions, like:

  • Is a particular provider or facility considered in-network for my insurance plan?
  • If a doctor says a nurse is going to draw blood, ask which labs are being ordered to avoid unnecessary duplication.
  • If a doctor recommends surgery, ask if there are more conservative alternatives or treatments that could be tried first.
  • If a doctor recommends a prescription, ask if it's a brand-name drug and, if so, if there's an alternative, such as a generic option or a lower dose.

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Terminally ill Orange County mom says assisted suicide is a bad idea

Stephanie Packer - 1

Stephanie O'Neill/ KPCC

The Packer family gathers in the kitchen to cook dinner. From left: Jacob, 8; Brian Sr. ;Brian Jr., 11; Savannah, 5; Scarlett, 10; and Stephanie.

Stephanie Packer - 2

Stephanie O'Neill/ KPCC

Stephanie Packer's daily pill regimen.


As the state legislature considers SB 128, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide in California, Impatient is featuring people's stories about how they or a loved one dealt with an end-of-life situation.

Last week, we shared the story of Amber Phillips of Pasadena, who regrets resisting her mother's requests to stop treatment for breast cancer. This week we bring you the story of Stephanie Packer of Orange, who is determined to live as long as possible as she confronts the end of her life.

A terminal diagnosis

It’s lunch time on a recent spring break afternoon and Stephanie Packer is in her kitchen, preparing lunch with her four children.

"Do you want to help?" she asks the eager crowd of siblings gathered tightly around her at the stovetop. 

"Yeah!" yells 5-year-0ld Savannah.

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Shopping for health care: Patient advocates say do your homework, then haggle

Thomas Hawk via Flickr Creative Commons

Last week, I shared some tips on how to get affordable health care from David Newman, executive director of the Health Care Costs Institute in Washington, D.C.

As promised, I'm back with more tips. This batch comes from patient advocates – people who fight high costs and unfair bills for a living.

(In case you missed it: Check out this piece from the Los Angeles Times about consumers' increasing reliance on such advocates to help them navigate the health care and insurance systems.)

I found advocates Claire Freeman, Martine Brousse and Lisa Berry Blackstock on the consumer finance website NerdWallet.com.

Understand your plan

First things first: Patient advocate Claire Freeman, of Chino Hills, preaches the importance of understanding the fine points of your health insurance plan.

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