Daily Rounds: Insurers Rake It In; Reform Hearing Today; Hot Health Apps; Using Bone Drugs Right

This article is more than 9 years old.

Huge Profits for Health Insurers as Americans Put Off Care - The nation’s major health insurers are barreling into a third year of record profits, enriched in recent months by a lingering recessionary mind-set among Americans who are postponing or forgoing medical care. The UnitedHealth Group, one of the largest commercial insurers, told analysts that so far this year, insured hospital stays actually decreased in some instances. In reporting its earnings last week, Cigna, another insurer, talked about the “low level” of medical use. Yet the companies continue to press for higher premiums, even though their reserve coffers are flush with profits and shareholders have been rewarded with new dividends. (

Health-cost checkup -
Gov. Deval Patrick and other top leaders plan to testify today at the first of five public hearings on Patrick’s plan to radically alter the way insurers pay Bay State medical providers. “Controlling health-insurance costs is and must be a priority,” Patrick said Friday in a speech to the Associated Industries of Massachusetts. “The plan we have proposed (gives) doctors, other medical professionals, hospitals and insurers some new tools and latitude to innovate costs down.” (Boston Herald) (Check CommonHealth and WBUR today for extensive coverage of this hearing.)

Mobile technology is changing how we think about health care - The Boston Globe
Dale Hoyt sees his cardiologist every six weeks at Massachusetts General Hospital, but he’s never out of touch for long. Every day, he checks his blood pressure, heart rate, and weight and logs them on his iPhone, and periodically he e-mails the data to Dr. Kimberly Parks. Hoyt, 60, of Berlin, Conn., has congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. He’s on the heart transplant list, and while he waits, he needs to track his vital signs and symptoms meticulously. But until he met Parks, in 2009, he wasn’t doing it. Then Parks introduced him to HeartWise. (

Bones: Experts rethink long-term use of drugs -
Bone experts are rethinking the way they treat osteoporosis now that research has linked widely prescribed drugs to rare but serious leg fractures. Bisphosphonates, a class of drugs that are highly beneficial in reducing bone fractures in people with osteoporosis, the experts say, should not be prescribed to patients who don't have the disease but are at risk of developing it, as often has been the practice in recent years. And osteoporosis patients should talk to their doctors about taking a "holiday" from the drugs after two or three years on the medications, says Ken Lyles, director of geriatrics research at Duke University. The drugs can be taken intermittently after several years, he says. (

This program aired on May 16, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.