5 Things to Read on Health Care Costs

This week’s reads on health care costs cover alternatives to expensive ambulance rides, a new type of medical tourism, and how nutrition could be an effective weapon against high costs.

Take a ride-share over an ambulance?

Ambulance rides are expensive. They’re staffed with trained health care workers and equipment that can save lives. But experts estimate about 30 percent of ambulance rides are inappropriate. “Ambulances are for emergencies,” one doctor and researcher told The New York Times’ Upshot blog. “If you’re not having one, it’s reasonable to consider another form of transportation.” Ride apps like Uber or Lyft may be more appropriate (and affordable), according to the piece.

Americans spend six times more on cardiac implants

study in Health Affairs found prices for cardiac implants were two to six times higher in the U.S. than in European countries. Prices also varied from hospital to hospital within countries. The researchers didn’t draw any conclusions on why prices vary so much.

Utahans cross the border in search of cheaper medicine

The nonprofit trust that provides health benefits to Utah’s public employees and their families is paying to get members to Mexico so they can save money on certain prescription drugs. The “pharmacy tourism program” also gives members a $500 cash reward for traveling to Mexico to fill the prescriptions. The approach is a response to a new state law requiring rewards for state employees who choose less expensive treatment options. Read more in The Salt Lake Tribune.

Could food be key to lower health care costs?

The president of health care philanthropy the Commonwealth Fund outlines how paying for meals tailored for the chronically ill can help save money and keep them healthy. Read his take in The Wall Street Journal.

Cancer patients may face tough choices with precision medicine

A promising new approach to battling cancer involves testing a patient’s DNA to find drugs that might work better for them. The strategy is considered experimental for most types of cancer, so the patient’s health plan may not cover the genetic tests or the suggested treatments. The drugs may cost thousands of dollars a month even though there may be little or incomplete evidence to support using them for the patient’s cancer type. Read more about patients facing this dilemma in Kaiser Health News.

[Related: A New Kind of Drug May Demand New Ways to Pay]

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