hospitals

One of the most common reasons patients head to an emergency room is pain. In response, doctors may try something simple at first, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. And, at least up until recently, if that isn't effective, the second line of attack has been the big guns.

"Percocet or Vicodin," says Dr. Peter Bakes, an emergency medicine specialist at Swedish Medical Center in Englewood, Colo. "Medications that certainly have contributed to the rising opioid epidemic."

Doctors at some of the country's largest hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible.

Now the doctors shoulder part of the blame for the country's opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, they've begun to issue an uncomfortable warning to patients: You're going to feel some pain.

The expansion of Medicaid helps rural hospitals stay afloat in states like Colorado, which added 400,000 people to the health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act.

Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid were about 6 times less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states, according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

The study was published Monday in the January edition of the journal Health Affairs.

Tightening the screws on pricey imaging exams, health insurer Anthem will no longer allow many patients to get MRI or CT scans at hospital-owned outpatient facilities, requiring them to use independent imaging centers instead. The insurer began phasing in these changes in July and expects to finish by March.

Anthem says the change is aimed at providing high-quality, safe care while reducing medical costs.

To get a sense of how severe the opioid crisis is in the U.S., you can look at the number of fatal overdoses — more than 33,000 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That means, on average, 91 people are dying after overdosing on opioids each day. And for every fatal overdose, there are believed to be roughly 30 nonfatal overdoses.

Even before media reports and a congressional hearing vilified Valeant Pharmaceuticals International for raising prices on a pair of lifesaving heart drugs, Dr. Umesh Khot knew something was very wrong.

Natalia Merzlyakova, 123RF Stock Photo

Rural hospitals in west Tennessee could face closures if the American Health Care Act passes.

Every Friday, Christine Crawford has a counseling session at a clinic at New York City's Mount Sinai Health System as she moves ahead with plans for gender transition surgery later this year. In addition to the many medical and psychosocial issues, there are practical ones as well. So, Crawford was thrilled when a Mount Sinai representative told her they would assign a lawyer to help her legally change her name to Christine.

The Republican health care overhaul working its way through the House is opposed by Democrats and by many Republican conservatives. It's none too popular with the people on the front lines of health care, either — including doctors, nurses and hospitals.

The chief medical officer of Medicaid, Dr. Andrey Ostrovsky, tweeted out his opposition on Wednesday. "Despite political messaging from others at HHS, I align with the experts ... in opposition to #AHCA," the career staffer said.

The open enrollment window for health insurance is open. As of Sunday, people could start shopping for coverage through the state and federal marketplaces. Naturally, when the options are on the table (or screen), questions pop up about how the buying process works and how to choose the best plan. Here are some recent questions and answers.

I like the low premiums of marketplace plans with high deductibles, but even though I'm pretty healthy, I'm worried about having to pay for everything until I meet that deductible. Is there any way around that?

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