Last year about one in four adults under 65 reported having medical debt, an all-time high for the country. That’s because health care costs continue to rise at the same time people are losing their jobs and health coverage.
The Center partnered with KQED Public Radio for this project.
People who live between Fresno and Bakersfield are more likely to undergo procedures for clogged arteries than almost any other Californians, according to a new study.
Imagine this: A 35-year-old woman comes to the doctor for vague chest pain without a clear cause.
A doctor puts her on a treadmill, a cheap and easy -- but not very accurate -- test for heart disease. The result comes back "mildly abnormal" but she has no risk factors for heart disease such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
"It's a dilemma: Do you do an angiogram?" said William Bezdek, a Bakersfield cardiologist. "It's not easy."
Doctors and hospitals in the Sacramento region had mixed success in their attempts to rein in medical procedures that were being done at higher rates than the norm. After the first year of the Sacramento collaboration among Blue Shield of California, Catholic Healthcare West and Hill Physicians Medical Group, officials found that knee surgeries did not decline, but invasive hysterectomies did. Weight-loss surgeries fell by 13 percent among the patients who were part of the collaboration, said Tricia Griffin, spokeswoman for Catholic Healthcare West.
Researchers long ago established that certain medical procedures are performed at dramatically different rates from place to place, and that these disparities affect the quality and cost of health care. Now, health insurers, hospitals and government agencies from the Bay Area to Washington, D.C., are getting more aggressive about tackling variation in medical care.
The California HealthCare Foundation plans to release findings associated with this measure development effort for the following procedures: angiography, percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI), coronary artery bypass graft surgery (CABG), carotid endarterectomy, hip replacement, knee replacement, cholecystectomy, induction of child birth, cesarean section, vaginal birth after delivery (VBAC), hysterectomy, mastectomy and weight loss surgery.