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Daily Rounds: Exploding Cancer Costs; Autism Coverage Uncertainty; Huge Medicare Fraud; Fathers' Hearts Healthier?

Lancet: Cancer Costs Swell, RIsk Becoming 'Unsustainable' (Bloomberg via Jack's Posterous) -- "Cancer treatment costs are rising at such a rapid rate that they threaten to become “unsustainable” even for rich countries, according to an expert panel assembled by The Lancet Oncology medical journal. About 12 million people worldwide get cancer every year, and the costs associated with new cases was at least $286 billion in 2009, according to a report compiled by 37 experts from countries including the U.K., the U.S. and Germany. “With an aging global population and an endless conveyor belt of expensive new drugs and technologies and increasing financial pressures, the cost of cancer care in high-income countries is becoming unsustainable,” The Lancet Oncology said in a statement."

Uncertainty Surrounds Autism Coverage Mandate (Kaiser Health News) — "Autism treatment advocates have won one legislative battle after another since 2007, most recently in California, which sent a bill to the governor this month mandating that insurers cover the disorder. Now more than half the states have such requirements, but that success could be in jeopardy as federal officials set new national standards for health coverage. A provision in the 2010 health overhaul law gives the federal government authority to define “benefits” that will be offered on the health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, to individuals and small businesses starting in 2014. If states mandate a benefit, but it isn’t on the federal list, the states would be responsible for the cost of the coverage. As a result, autism benefits and dozens of other state-required benefits, covering services and conditions such as infertility, acupuncture and chiropractic care, could be at risk."

To Save On Health Care, First Crack Down On Fraud (The New York Times) — "Before charging consumers more and eliminating valuable services, we should be much more aggressive in recovering money stolen from these taxpayer-supported programs. According to some estimates, health care fraud is a $250 billion-a-year industry, and about $100 billion of that is stolen from Medicare, the health care program for the elderly, and Medicaid, the insurance program for the poor and disabled. There are many ways to defraud taxpayers. For example, a hospital chain can buy drugs at a steep discount and then bill Medicare for high sticker prices. Doctors can bill for procedures that never happened, or for drugs that were supplied to them by pharmaceutical companies free of charge, or pharmaceutical companies can promote a drug for risky, unapproved uses."

Fathers Face Fewer Fatal Heart Issues (AP via boston.com) -- "Fathers are a little less likely to die of heart-related problems than childless men are, new research suggests. The study, which involved 138,000 men, is the largest ever on male fertility and mortality. Although this type of research cannot prove that fatherhood and mortality are related, there are plenty of reasons to think they might be, several heart disease researchers said. Marriage, having lots of friends, and even having a dog can lower the chance of heart problems and cardiac-related deaths, previous research suggests. Similarly, children might help take care of you or give you a reason to take better care of yourself."

This program aired on September 27, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

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