Why end-of-life planning saves money
October 4th, 2011
04:00 PM ET

Why end-of-life planning saves money

It's something no one wants to think about, but a reality if worst happens: What do you want to happen if you are on the brink of death and can't communicate?

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that advance directives are linked to less Medicare spending, lower likelihood of dying in a hospital, and higher usage of hospice care in areas of the U.S. that tend to spend the most on end of life care generally.  Advance directives, also called living wills, are documents that specify what kind of treatment you do or don't want to be given in various situations when your life is on the line.


June 24th, 2011
03:53 PM ET

Protecting Justin in the face of Medicaid cuts

This week, Dr. Sanjay Gupta examines New Jersey’s proposed cuts to Medicaid, a program that provides critical parts of the care the Genevieve Spielberg’s son, Justin, requires. For more on their story and the future of the federal insurance program, tune in to “Sanjay Gupta, M.D.,” 7:30 a.m. ET, Saturday-Sunday.

July 5, 2000, was going to be a magical day as my husband and I traveled to New York City for my scheduled C-section in great anticipation of welcoming the newest member of our family. Our 2-year-old son, Spencer, was going to be a big brother.

Little did I know that the same day our lives would change forever. After a normal pregnancy including tests, sonograms and an amnio, I delivered a baby boy who I only saw briefly, but during that time noticed his angulated thumbs which was surprising as my vision without my glasses is not the greatest.

To this day I remember saying, “What’s with his thumbs?” as the 90-degree angulations were not typical, but alas they whisked our Justin away and all hell broke loose.


June 21st, 2011
11:47 AM ET

Man says he robbed bank to get health care

A man walks into a bank and slips a note to the teller.

The note reads: “This is a bank robbery. Please only give me one dollar.”

Then the man tells the bank employees, “I’ll be sitting right over there in the chair waiting for the police."

He perches himself on a chair outside the bank he just robbed and waits for the police to arrive.

That suspect, James Verone, who is from Gaston County, North Carolina, told CNN affiliate WCNC that he robbed a bank for $1 for the sole reason of getting in jail so he could get free health care. He was not armed during the robbery. FULL POST

April 12th, 2011
03:03 PM ET

HHS takes aim at medical errors, health care costs

Tens of thousand of lives and millions of dollars in health care costs can be saved, by taking steps to reduce medical errors.  That's what health officials say will happen by implementing a new initiative announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, "Partnership for Patients" will save 60,000 lives over the next three years by reducing millions of preventable hospital related complications and injuries.  Sebelius says the new partnership will also save about $35 billion in health care costs including $10 billion in Medicare savings.


Health care law turns 1: Who's up; who's down?
March 23rd, 2011
09:57 AM ET

Health care law turns 1: Who's up; who's down?

The White House is saying “Happy Birthday” to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act , signed into law by President Obama one year ago today. But you might not hear many celebrations.  Legal challenges were once considered a longshot, but more than two dozen states have signed on to lawsuits to try to overturn the PPACA, winning victories in Florida and Virginia. The Supreme Court seems likely to have the final word.

More subtly, some states – especially those led by Republicans – are simply refusing to implement parts of the law. In Georgia last month, Gov. Nathan Deal killed an effort to start developing a health insurance “exchange” – an organized marketplace to make comparison-shopping easy – even though the PPACA requires an exchange in every state by 2014.

Even among supporters, the birthday celebration is muted because it’s too soon to tell whether the law is a success.


February 4th, 2011
11:48 AM ET

Health quiz: How's your nose for news?

This week the USDA told us to eat less salt, but how much is OK?  Take our quiz to test your knowledge of that and other news, plus some health trivia questions.  Good luck.

Filed under: Health Care Costs • Health Quiz

Terminally ill patients need frank conversation about prognosis, cancer group says
January 24th, 2011
07:14 PM ET

Terminally ill patients need frank conversation about prognosis, cancer group says

 In an effort to improve the communications between doctors and patients, the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO) just released a new policy statement and a patient guide for conversations about the time when treatment options run out.

"While improving survival is the oncologist's primary goal, helping individuals live their final days in comfort and dignity is one of the most important responsibilities of our profession," says ASCO president, Dr. George W. Sledge, Jr.   The organization is urging its members to make the first move and initiate these very difficult conversations.


Cost of treating heart disease projected to triple
January 24th, 2011
02:57 PM ET

Cost of treating heart disease projected to triple

The cost of treating heart disease is projected to triple by 2030, according to a new study from the American Heart Association.

Researchers predict the cost of medical care for heart disease will rise from $273 billion to $818 billion between 2010 and 2030. "The fact that it would go up threefold over the course of 20 years was unexpected," says lead study author Dr. Paul Heidenreich. "We can take steps to reduce it, if we take steps to prevent cardiovascular disease."

The American Heart Association estimates more than 80 million people in the United States have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease.


Cancer costs could increase 66% by 2020
January 12th, 2011
06:15 PM ET

Cancer costs could increase 66% by 2020

The costs associated with caring for cancer patients in the United States could increase as much as 66% by 2020, according to a study released Wednesday by the National Cancer Institute.

The predicted rise in cost is due in part to the nation's growing population of elderly, who are aging into a period of their lives when they are at increased risk of developing common cancers.

"We're expecting to see a lot more cancer in the future," says Dr. Robin Yabroff, an epidemiologist with the National Cancer Institute and one of the study's authors. "It's mostly in the elderly."


2011: incredible shrinking doughnut hole (and more)
December 31st, 2010
03:37 PM ET

2011: incredible shrinking doughnut hole (and more)

Along with noisemakers, hangovers and second-tier bowl games, the new year rolls in changes to health insurance rules that stand to save Americans – especially those over age 65 – a lot of money in 2011. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) – “Obamacare,” to critics – was signed into law in March but was built to take effect in stages. Several key provisions take effect on Saturday.

The most prominent change will shrink the so-called “doughnut hole.” Up to now, seniors hit the doughnut hole once they and their insurer have purchased $2,800 worth of medications. The next chunk – up to a $4,550 out-of-pocket maximum – cannot be reimbursed by insurance. Under the ACA, the gap will be closed in increments over the next 10 years. It starts Saturday; in 2011 Medicare will pick up half the cost of brand-name medications for patients in the dreaded doughnut hole.

Another 2011 change is a federal requirement that health insurers pay at least 80 percent of the total premiums they collect, on small plans. Plans for large employers, which cover most Americans, will have to pay out at least 85 percent of premiums. Those who don’t will have to offer rebates. Insurers who raise rates more than 10 percent will have to justify the increase to state and federal regulators. FULL POST

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.