Marshall Allen investigates why we pay so much for health care in the United States and get so little in return. He is one of the creators of ProPublica’s Surgeon Scorecard, which published the complication rates for about 17,000 surgeons who perform eight common elective procedures. Allen’s work has been honored with several journalism awards, including the Harvard Kennedy School’s 2011 Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting and coming in as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for work at the Las Vegas Sun, where he worked before coming to ProPublica in 2011. Before he was in journalism, Allen spent five years in full-time ministry, including three years in Nairobi, Kenya. He has a master’s degree in Theology.
CPAP units, heart monitors, blood glucose meters and lifestyle apps generate information that can be used in ways patients don’t necessarily expect. It can be sold for advertising or even shared with insurers, who may use it to deny reimbursement.
Millions of sleep apnea patients rely on CPAP breathing machines to get a good night’s rest. Health insurers use a variety of tactics, including surveillance, to make patients bear the costs. Experts say it’s part of the insurance industry playbook.
With its employee health plan in financial crisis, Montana hired a former insurance insider who pushed back against industry players with vested interests in keeping costs high. She proved, essentially, that bargaining down health care prices works.
Without any public scrutiny, insurers and data brokers are predicting your health costs based on data about things like race, marital status, how much TV you watch, whether you pay your bills on time or even buy plus-size clothing.
A study in Washington state found that in a single year more than 600,000 patients underwent treatment they didn’t need, at an estimated cost of $282 million. “Do no harm” should include the cost of care, too, the report author says.
This year ProPublica documented the many ways waste is baked into our health care system, from destroying perfectly good medication to junking brand new supplies. Eliminating the waste could insure millions of Americans.
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