Helping make the health care system work for you

Writer David Sedaris loves his Fitbit. Do you?

walking sign

Photo by Keoni Cabral via Flickr Creative Commons

In the New Yorker, writer David Sedaris describes how he became addicted to meeting – and increasing – his activity goals.

Wearable technology is all the rage these days.

Need proof? Look at the wrists of the people around you. No doubt, several of them are wearing one of those activity-tracking bracelets.

Need more proof? Writer David Sedaris has written a very funny piece about his relationship with his Fitbit for this week's edition of the New Yorker.

The Fitbit – a fancy version of a pedometer – vibrates when you’ve reached your walking goal, he explains. In the article, Sedaris describes how he became addicted to meeting – and increasing – his activity goals.

"I was travelling myself when I got my Fitbit, and because the tingle feels so good, not just as a sensation but also as a mark of accomplishment, I began pacing the airport rather than doing what I normally do, which is sit in the waiting area, wondering which of the many people around me will die first, and of what. I also started taking the stairs instead of the escalator, and avoiding the moving sidewalk."

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Join #pricecheck: Help make health care costs more transparent

Health Care Costs

Photo by 401(K) 2012 via Flickr Creative Commons

Price Check aims to bring transparency to the costs of certain health care tests.

Have you ever gone to the doctor or hospital for a routine test or procedure, and later received a shockingly high bill?

Who could have thought that service – whether it's an ultrasound or an MRI – could cost so much? And what should it cost, anyway?

The reality is, it's often next to impossible to find out the cost of health care tests, treatments and services.

Price Check

Enter Price Check, an exciting project that KPCC is launching today, in collaboration with KQED in San Francisco and Clearhealthcosts.com, a health costs transparency company that has been gathering cost data on a variety of medical tests, procedures and services from around the country.

Through this project, we aim to build a robust database of certain health care prices in California - with your help! 

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Calling young adults: Has Obamacare lowered your costs and improved your health?

Supreme Court Upholds Obama's Affordable Care Act

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The provision of the federal health law that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance through age 26 has had an impact on many, according to a new study.

Earlier this week, I told you how the Affordable Care Act has proven to be a "godsend" for Nikki Lang, a 22-year-old musician with Type 1 diabetes.

Thanks to the law, she can stay on her family's insurance until age 26. When she ages out of that plan, she can buy her own insurance, without worrying that she'll be denied coverage due to her preexisting condition.

Turns out, the provision of the federal health law that allows young people to stay on their parents' insurance through age 26 has had an impact on many others, too.

Cheaper costs, better health

A new article in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that since that provision took effect in 2010, adults younger than 26 have:

  • saved on out-of-pocket costs, including copays and deductibles
  • reported better physical and mental health

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Is your surgeon profiting from the device he's implanting in you?

PODS 02

Benjamin Brayfield/KPCC

Azike Ntephe kept the surgical implants that Dr. Ali Mesiwala allegedly used on him improperly. For two years Ntephe lived with more than 40 pieces of unnecessary hardware in his back before having them removed.

Are you considering spinal surgery?

Do you know if your doctor is part of a Physician Owned Distributorship, or POD?

If your reaction is – "Wait…what?" – you’re not alone.

"It's virtually impossible for the patient to know" if a doctor is part of a POD, KPCC investigative producer Karen Foshay told me. Her two-part series on PODS, Selling the Spine, aired this week.

But a patient should be armed with this knowledge before undergoing intensive surgery, she said. Here's what consumers should know about PODs:

What's a POD?

It's a business model where the doctor is an investor in – and distributor of – the devices or hardware he or she may put into patients. Multiple doctors can have a financial interest in one POD.

Check out PODS 101 for more background information. 

What's the concern with PODs?

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One easy way pregnant women can protect newborns from whooping cough

When depression strikes during pregnancy

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

The whooping cough vaccine should be a regular part of prenatal care, state health officials say.

Pregnant women, listen up!

Whooping cough has reached epidemic proportions in California, and there's one very easy thing that you can do to protect your infants from the disease:

Get vaccinated during your third trimester.

State health officials say that when pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine – which protects against whooping cough, as well as tetanus and diphtheria – they also pass their immunity on to their infants.

This helps protect the newborns until they can get their first dose of the DTaP vaccine, at around six weeks. (Children are not considered fully protected until they’ve received at least three of the five recommended doses - usually by the time they are six months old.) 

This is a relatively new strategy. During the last whooping cough epidemic, in 2010, the public health recommendation was to surround infants with adults who’d been vaccinated – an approach called "cocooning."

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