A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Trudy Lieberman: Losing your job can mean losing health insurance; a guide to replacing your coverage

The growing numbers of unemployed Americans – likely to hit 20 million or more due to the coronavirus – bring with them a loss of employer-provided health insurance coverage. The pandemic has laid bare the deficiencies in America’s main vehicle for providing health insurance. The system, which grew up after World War II as a way to attract workers, had already begun to decline. Over the past...

Trudy Lieberman: Low-value tests are costly, can lead to harm; limit medical costs by avoiding them

We know too well the cost of American health care keeps rising as far as the eye can see. In 1995 health care accounted for 13.4 percent of GDP; in 2018 it consumed 17.7 percent. It is projected to rise even more. Despite all the talk about how patients should become wise consumers of medical care, they can’t really do much to stop the big hospital systems, big physician groups, or powerful drug...

Trudy Lieberman: Exploring Medicare Advantage plans during open enrollment period can be tricky

Along with crunchy leaves and pumpkins, fall brings a slew of advertising for insurance plans that fill the gaps in Medicare coverage. Misleading and confusing messages continue to reach beneficiaries and those nearing Medicare age. To take myself as an example, I’ve received an invitation to a Medicare Advantage plan informational meeting. I’ve gotten a solicitation from my physician’s medical...

Trudy Lieberman: Rising drug prices put pressure on Congress, but drug makers remain a powerful lobby

Maybe – just maybe – Americans will get some relief from the relentlessly rising prices of pharmaceuticals. That, of course, depends on Congress pushing back against the drug companies’ formidable lobbying machine, their generous campaign contributions, and the industry’s historical coziness with members of Congress. But this year seems different. When you consider that the country’s spending...

Trudy Lieberman: Medicare Advantage may not be an advantage for you, look beyond premium costs alone

Making decisions about Medicare coverage has never been easy. Over the years the task has become more complicated as Congress has moved to privatize the system. Open enrollment, the time for evaluating your coverage and making changes if you can, opens Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 7 this year. This is the first of two columns that address decisions people about to become eligible for Medicare and...

Commentary: Dual track insurance proposal could send us back to bad old days of American health care

By Trudy Lieberman Special to KyForward A decade ago I interviewed a Florida woman who was the victim of the kind of egregious health insurance abuses that finally disappeared with the Affordable Care Act. They could surface again if the Republicans succeed with the latest health reform proposal offered by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, which would result in a two-track insurance market. Insurers would be able...

Commentary: Price transparency in health care thwarted by providers who want to keep deals secret

By Trudy Lieberman Special to KyForward In a recent column I reported on an effort in Ohio to bring price transparency to medical services. Ohio state Rep. Jim Butler had spearheaded passage of legislation that would require healthcare providers, including doctors and hospitals, to disclose prices for their services. The law was supposed to take effect last summer, but Gov. John Kasich, the Ohio Hospital...

Ignore the election results, rhetoric — shop around for the best deal on subsidized health insurance

By Trudy Lieberman Rural Health News Service Even though the election is over and Republicans are in a position to repeal and replace Obamacare as they’ve been vowing to do for several years, that doesn’t mean you should avoid signing up for 2017 insurance coverage. If you’re eligible and need insurance, the state shopping exchanges are open for business even if options this year are limited...

Commentary: Health-insurance premiums for 2017 will be going up if you’re on the individual market

By Trudy Lieberman Special to KyForward Recently I got a note from a reader of these columns who lives in Warren, Ohio. He had seen conflicting reports about next year’s insurance premiums. The man was skeptical of an article he had read, which reported that insurance premiums are cheaper than they were in 2010, and that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will cost $2.6 trillion less...

Creative solutions needed to combat the national problem of skyrocketing drug prices

By Trudy Lieberman Rural Health News Service Recently a tweet from Lauren Sausser, a fine health reporter I know in South Carolina, caught my eye. “Crazy drug prices became personal. My dad will start Keytruda regimen on Friday, $15,000 per infusion, once every three weeks indefinitely.” The high cost of pharmaceuticals had hit home! Her 61-year-old father, Jim McCallister, who lives in Spartanburg,...

Hospitals ratings may contradict advertising, prompt low scorers to improve, health journalist says

Hospital rankings have been making news. Most recently, U.S. News and World Report ranked more than 5,000 U.S. hospitals and most in Kentucky. But the bigger news were the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rankings of 3,662 hospitals, also including most in Kentucky. The release of ratings by the federal agency, over the objections of the hospital industry and its allies in Congress, “sends...

Commentary: Health-care consumers finding it more difficult to get help resolving complaints

By Trudy Lieberman Special to KyForward Who protects consumers of healthcare? Two recent emails from readers got me thinking about that question. I don’t mean consumers in their role as patients whose medical well-being is looked after by state medical boards and health departments that police doctors and hospitals. Those organizations don’t always do a perfect job protecting patients from harm,...

Women in small-town America aren’t living as long as before; alcohol, drugs, food, pollution to blame

By Trudy Lieberman Rural Health News Service Those of us who grew up in small rural communities in the 1950s and ’60s expected to have longer life spans than our parents. The trends were in our favor. White women born in 1900 could expect to live, on average, just shy of 49 years; white men 46.6 years. Those were our grandparents and our neighbors. By 1950, life expectancy had climbed to 72 years...