Impatient | Helping make the health care system work for you

Health Highlights: Health care birthday, hospital charges

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Navigating the health care system and its labyrinthine payment system can be challenging, whether you're a young person with a new insurance plan or a veteran patient.

In this week's Health Highlights, I'm featuring several of KPCC's best stories about the consumer health experience. I hope they provide you with some guidance - or at least demonstrate that you're not alone in your frustration with this system!

Study: Some for-profit hospitals charging 10x Medicare rates

A study in the June issue of the journal Health Affairs uses 2012 Medicare data to examine hospitals that charge on average more than ten times their costs. It finds that 20 of the 50 U.S. hospitals that charge the most for their services are located in Florida, and all but one of them are for-profit, according to the AP.

Here's one reason you should care about these hefty charges: These exorbitant costs can be disastrous for uninsured patients, who are often charged the full cost of a procedure. Insured patients who go out of network may also get hit with huge surprise bills, according to the study.

Why hospitals are hiring 'chief patient experience officers'

Now that hospitals' Medicare reimbursements are linked to positive customer surveys, facilities are beginning to focus more closely on the patient experience.

One way they're doing this? Hospitals are hiring so-called chief patient experience officers, according to this Take Two segment. They're also asking consultants from five-star hotel chains to help redesign their lobbies. Hear more about this trend on Take Two.

Happy 'health care birthday!' It's time to buy insurance

Under the Affordable Care Act, young people can now stay on their parents' health insurance until they turn 26. At that point, they must either get insurance through their employer or purchase it through the insurance marketplace.

If you - or someone you know - is turning 26, be sure to steer them toward this Impatient post. It features advice on using your new insurance - and a downloadable health care birthday card! I also offered advice during our weekly Impatient segment on Take Two.

LA Supervisors approve ambitious plan for HIV-prevention drug 

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has approved the development of an ambitious program for countywide distribution of Truvada, an HIV prevention drug, KPCC's Elizabeth Aguilera reports.

The drug is part of a larger strategy that includes screening, testing and treatment to prevent the spread of HIV and help those who contract the infection manage it, according to Supervisor Shiela Kuehl, who authored the motion.

"It’s not a panacea, but having it available for use along with all our other prevention strategies will definitely save lives," Kuehl wrote on her Facebook page moments after the vote.

Let me know what you think about any of these stories in the comments section below. And tell me about other consumer health stories you're reading. You can reach me at or on Twitter.