Public Health News Roundup: April 18
Doctors’ Knowledge of Lab Test Costs Reduces Unnecessary Testing
Knowing the cost of a laboratory tests makes doctors less inclined to order them for hospitalized patients, according to a new study in JAMA Internal Medicine. About $226 billion was wasted on unnecessary tests in 2011, according to the study from researchers at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. Unnecessary tests also increase the risk of patient harm and false positives. "The rational approach to ordering tests is something we should all be interested in, and something—if we did better—that would save the system money and save the patients the horror of causing harm," said Leonard Feldman, MD, of Johns Hopkins. Read more on access to health care.
Mass. Study Shows Importance of Simplifying Health Insurance Benefits Options
Just six months before open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces begins, a new study in the journal Health Affairs shows that some Massachusetts families who enrolled in unsubsidized Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector Authority plans experienced higher financial burdens due to health care costs. The study found that 38 percent saw financial burdens and 45 percent saw higher-than-expected out-of-pocket costs—indicating that lower-income families with increased health care needs and multiple children are at particular risk for higher costs. “Given the complexity of health insurance choices and consumers’ limited understanding of health insurance benefits, policy makers need to reach out and simplify information to promote optimal plan choices for the people,” wrote the study’s authors. Read more on community health.
CSPI Classifies Ginkgo Biloba as ‘Avoid’
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is now recommending people avoid Ginkgo biloba after a National Toxicology Program study linked it to liver cancer in mice and thyroid cancer in rats. The substance can be found in many dietary supplements, herbal teas and energy drinks. "Ginkgo has been used in recent years to let companies pretend that supplements or energy drinks with it confer some sort of benefit for memory or concentration," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "The evidence for those claims has been dubious, at best. The pretend benefits are now outweighed by the real risk of harm." The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has previously sent warning to drink manufacturers stating that the ingredient is not generally considered safe for food. Read more on nutrition.