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Health Highlights: Crowdsourcing birth costs, naming babies to prevent mistakes

Will Murphy via Flickr Creative Commons

Babies are crawling throughout the news this week! Check out several stories about infant health in this week’s installment of Health Highlights.

#PriceCheck: How much does childbirth cost in SoCal?

As part of our #PriceCheck project, we’re crowdsourcing the cost of giving birth in Southern California.

Here's how it works: If you or someone you know recently gave birth, we hope you’ll grab your Explanation of Benefits and go here to share three pieces of information with us. We're looking for what the facility charged for the care, what insurance paid and what you paid.

If something shocked you about your bill, you can also e-mail me directly at

Waiting to pick your baby's name raises the risk for medical mistakes

Parents may have little control over the bill for childbirth, but they do have control over at least one thing that can affect a child's health: The name.


#PriceCheck: How much does childbirth cost in SoCal?

Howard Ignatius via Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past two months, we've been crowdsourcing the cost of colonoscopies through our #PriceCheck project.

A lot of you shared your bills with us, and we found a huge variation in charges for this common (and dreaded!) procedure. Several of you told me that you were shocked by these high listed prices, even if insurance picked up most of the tab.

Starting this week, we're soliciting prices for another extremely common condition: Giving birth.

Childbirth is a fertile topic (sorry) for #PriceCheck: It's the leading cause of hospital admission in the country, but costs vary significantly. A recent article in the journal Health Affairs finds a ten-fold variation in 2011 in the average cost of low-risk childbirths. The authors analyzed costs at 463 hospitals and found a range from about $1,200 to almost $12,000. Our friends at also found a wide range in prices.


Health Highlights: Birth control costs drop, assisted suicide bill stalls

Sarah Mirk via Flickr Creative Commons

This week's top consumer health stories are about drugs and dying. Check them out and let me know about other health stories you're reading this week.

A proposed tool to help doctors, patients weigh value of cancer treatments

I reported this week on a draft framework that the American Society of Clinical Oncology has developed for assessing the value of cancer treatment options. The society recommends that doctors and patients work together to weighing the clinical efficacy, toxicity and cost of various treatments.

I also discussed this new approach during our weekly Impatient segment on Take Two.

Are you currently weighing different cancer treatment options, or have you recently gone through this process? If so, please share your story below or e-mail me at


A proposed tool to help doctors, patients weigh value of cancer treatments

UCSF Cancer Center Uses Latest Technologies To Battle Cancer

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

About a month ago, we launched Just Ask, an initiative to encourage doctors and patients to talk more openly and frequently about the cost of medical care.

The thinking is: If doctors know their patients are cost-conscious, they can tailor their recommendations to meet patients' health and economic needs. That could mean that doctors more carefully consider which tests patients truly need or prescribe a less expensive alternative drug that's almost as good as their first choice.

These conversations get much stickier when it comes to conditions like cancer. Should doctors and patients address the cost of potentially life-saving medications during one of the most difficult and stressful periods of a patients' life?

The American Society of Clinical Oncology - which claims a membership of more than 35,000 cancer professionals from more than 120 countries - says: Yes.


At South LA clinic, cost and health are intertwined

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

The diabetes class at St. John's Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles includes a healthy breakfast, dancing and a discussion.

Rebecca Plevin/KPCC

Dr. Shom Dasgupta, director of social medicine and health equity at St. John's Well Child and Family Center, has learned that discussing costs is critical to improving the health of his poor, diabetic patients.

Doctors and patients traditionally have not discussed the cost of health care. But that's beginning to change, as doctors recognize that value is an important part of high-quality care. At St. John's Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles, one doctor has learned that discussing cost is critical to improving the health of poor, diabetic patients.

On a recent morning, several dozen Latina women gather at the clinic for a weekly diabetes class. They eat a healthy breakfast and then turn on some music and dance for exercise.

Dr. Shom Dasgupta, director of social medicine and health equity at St. John's, sits at a nearby table and holds one-on-one meetings with patients. The class atmosphere is festive, but when Dasgupta talks with 56-year-old Rosa Aviles, their conversation is far from light-hearted party chitchat.