During the five years Tony Price roamed the streets and dozed in doorways, the emergency rooms of Sacramento’s hospitals were a regular place for him to sleep off a hard day’s drinking.
“A lot of times I would pass out, and then I’d wake up in the hospital,” said Price, 50.
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. Khot is a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic, which prides itself on outstanding heart care. The health system’s pharmacists had alerted doctors about the skyrocketing cost of the drugs, nitroprusside and isoproterenol. But these two older drugs, frequently used in emergency and intensive care situations, have no direct alternatives.
Even if there’s a retail health clinic less than a 10-minute drive away, consumers are just as likely to go to the emergency department for low-level problems like bronchitis or urinary tract infections, a recent study found.
At some hospitals, posters on the wall in the emergency department list the drugs that are in short supply or unavailable, along with recommended alternatives.
Retail clinics, long seen as an antidote to more expensive doctor offices and emergency rooms, may actually boost medical spending by leading consumers to get more care, a new study shows.
This week I answered a grab bag of questions from readers about premium tax credit repayments for marketplace plans, out-of-network emergency care and nursing home bills.