Reflex: November 2, 2011

The US spends $6.8 billion a year on just 12 unnecessary tests and treatment, reports Michelle Andrews. The most common of these was a complete blood count ordered at a routine physical exam. But just one of them – ordering a brand-name statin before trying a generic drug first – cost the health care system an extra $5.8 billion alone. Aaron’s comment: To be honest, I was surprised the number  was so low. I bet this was a conservative estimate. We do tons of things which are wasteful, and stopping that could save a lot of money.

North Carolina’s Infant Mortality Rate drops sharply, reports Jay Price. The rate declined from nearly 8/1,000 live births in 2009 to 7/1,000 in 2010; the largest gains were among African Americans who still have the highest rate in the state at 12.7/1,000 (white rate is 5.3/1,000). Don’s comment: The gains appear to be linked to several programs, namely The Nurse Family Partnership that provides advice and coaching to at risk families who have their first child, and similar programs that provide help specifically to African American families focusing on breast feeding and sleep safety. State budget cuts may put some of these efforts at risk next year.

Erskine Bowles could support raising Medicare age (Modern Healthcare via Igor Volsky): Bowles said, “If I think about it, I could support raising the eligibility age for Medicare.” Austin’s comment: I would like those who advocate such a policy to answer the following questions: What do we do when the amount of money this saves is overtaken by health care inflation in just a few months? Do we just keep raising the eligibility age? Until these questions are addressed, I think Bowles and others should think about it some more.

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