Impatient | Helping make the health care system work for you

Health Highlights: A colonoscopy song, sunscreen confusion

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Confused about what all of those health insurance terms mean, which sunscreen to buy, or why your prescription drugs are so expensive?

If there's one takeaway from this week's news, it's this: When you're confused, #JustAsk.

Here at KPCC, we're so committed to this idea that we've written a song about it. More on that below, plus this week's top consumer health news.

#PriceCheck: The high costs (and horrors!) of colonoscopies

As part of our #PriceCheck collaboration, we've been crowdsourcing the cost of colonoscopies and other medical procedures. I recently reached out to several of the people who have generously shared their colonoscopy costs with us so far. (There's still time to share yours!)

While they were grateful that their insurance covered most of their bills, two people told me that they were shocked by the prices charged by the facilities (even though their insurers ultimately negotiated a lower price).

And each of them had the same takeaway: It's important to #JustAsk in advance how much a procedure will cost. Sometimes, it's worth asking if there's a cheaper option.

Here at KPCC, we feel so strongly about this message that we asked Levi Petree, KPCC employee by day, rock ‘n’ roll star by night, to write a song about it. We played his song, and Alex Cohen sang her own version, during this week’s Impatient segment on Take Two. Take a listen!

Defeat by deductible: Millennials aren't hip to health insurance lingo

A study published this week in the Journal of Adolescent Health concludes that young adults are finding it especially hard to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, Maanvi Singh reports for NPR.

The results? Half of the participants couldn't define "deductible," and three quarters couldn't explain "coinsurance," Singh writes. Most were unaware of available insurance subsidies, and had no clue what insurance plans generally cost.

If you're buying health insurance for the first time, check out our guide for young adults. And if you or someone you know is turning 26 and celebrating a "health care birthday," be sure to download our greeting card!

When it comes to SPFs and sunscreens, we're still in the dark

A study published this week in JAMA Dermatology finds that sunscreen labels are a mystery to most people. For example, in a survey of 114 people, just 7 percent knew that "broad spectrum" on a sunblock label means it defends against early aging, writes Nadia Whitehead for NPR.

Whitehead offers this advice to stymied sunscreen shoppers:

Tip: To know if a sunscreen helps ward off skin cancer, look for the term 'broad spectrum' on the label. That means the product offers protection against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays — two types of radiation that are both associated with cancer. An SPF of 15 or higher is recommended, but the FDA says there's no evidence that SPFs of higher than 50 provide additional protection.

20 percent of prescription drug users struggle with costs, survey says

A new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that nationwide, about 20 percent of people who take prescription drugs say it's hard to pay for them.

Of those taking prescription drugs, one-quarter say they or a family member didn't fill a prescription in the past year because of its cost. Nearly one in five say they or a relative cut pills in half or skipped doses to make the medicine last longer.

Have you had an experience with unreasonable drug costs? E-mail me about it at I hope to report more on this issue soon.

Let me know what you think about any of the stories we're covering in the comments section below. And tell me about other consumer health stories you're reading. You can reach me at or on Twitter.