Helping make the health care system work for you

Health Highlights: Finding doctors, buying insurance

Justin Henry via Flickr Creative Commons

Looking for a new doctor now – or during Covered California’s open enrollment period this fall? Either way, there are a lot of factors to consider. Luckily, there are apps to help you find a doctor you like.

That right there was my mishmash of KPCC's top consumer health stories of the week. Read on to get the full scoop on these stories and more!

Looking for a doctor? Word-of-mouth, data both helpful

As I wrote this week, finding a high-quality primary care doctor that you like and is covered by your insurance is a challenge.

Getting a recommendation from a friend or colleague is a tried-and-true approach. And now, you can get a sort of second opinion on those recommendations, through companies like ZocDoc and BetterDoctor. They provide patients with more information about doctors, such as biographical information, patient reviews and performance data.

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Looking for a doctor? Word-of-mouth, data both helpful

Sybren Stüvel via Flickr Creative Commons

My friend Sarah Rothbard recently started a new job. That meant switching insurance plans and finding a primary care doctor in her network that she liked.

And that proved to be a challenging task, even though she took a textbook approach to finding a doctor:

  • She tried asking friends for recommendations.
  • When that didn't work, she went to the website of her insurance company, Aetna, and searched for in-network doctors near her home or work.
  • She checked out where the doctors went to medical school and when they graduated, and cross-referenced this information with online reviews.

"I'm a pretty meticulous planner, so when I plan a vacation, I'll Google it, then I'll ask friends and I'll also go to TripAdvisor," Rothbard, 31, says. "I thought I would do this kind of thing for finding a doctor and it didn't really work out that way."

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Health Highlights: Birth center costs, teen sex, a West Nile death

Hands holding one week old baby boy.

Leanne Temme/Getty Images

Hands holding one week old baby boy.

This week's health stories are a reminder to stay vigilant - about the threat of West Nile virus and the need to buy health insurance. They're also a reminder that more information is better - when you're considering birthing facilities and when talking to teenagers about sex.

Tell me what you think of 'em, and let me know what you're reading this week!

Readers respond: Birth centers should be 'more available option'

This week on this blog and on Take Two, I delved into the cost of having a child at a birthing center.

I explained that it could definitely be cost-effective, at a societal level, for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth outside of the hospital. But I pointed out that it's harder to determine whether individual mamas will save money using a birthing center.

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Readers respond: Birth centers should be 'more available option'

baby babies newborn infant FILE Changes Announced In Maternity Services

Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Wednesday on this blog and on Take Two, I delved into the cost of having a child at a birthing center. I explained that it can definitely be cost-effective, at a societal level, for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies to give birth outside of the hospital. But I pointed out that it's harder to determine whether individual mamas will save money using a birthing center.

That led me to ask our blog readers and Take Two audience a couple of questions: Did you have a child at a birthing center? If so, was it cost-effective for you?

Several people responded and provided thoughtful answers on KPCC's Facebook page. Their answers are below. If you've used a birthing center, or have considered this option, please join this conversation!

She'd use a birthing center if insurance covered it

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#PriceCheck: How much does it cost to have a baby at a birthing center?

Birthing Center

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Elizabeth Bachner is a midwife and acupuncturist and owner of GraceFull, a birthing center in Silverlake. She's sitting on a stool that women can use during childbirth.

Birthing Center

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Elizabeth Bachner is a midwife and acupuncturist and owner of GraceFull, a birthing center in Silverlake. She demonstrates how women can use a swing to ease their childbirth.

Birthing Center

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

GraceFull, a birthing center in Silverlake, has two birthing centers. Each comes with a bed and tub.


Last week, we started crowdsourcing the cost of childbirth.

In a blog post introducing this next phase of our #PriceCheck project, I pointed out the huge variation in average charge prices between a vaginal birth in a birthing center in California in 2010 ($1,980) and an uncomplicated vaginal birth in a hospital ($15,760).

That led me to wonder: Why would the charged price in a birthing center be so much cheaper than in a hospital? Keeping in mind that charged prices are often extremely inflated, I also wondered: Once insurance is factored in, is it cost-effective for women to give birth in birthing centers?

'A safe option'

I asked the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology for its opinion on birthing centers, and I was referred to Dr. Sarah Kilpatrick, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She says accredited birthing centers using licensed midwives can be a good option for healthy women with low-risk pregnancies who want a low-intervention birth in a home-like setting.

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