October 2014 Newsletter

The cost of health care is at the top of our health agenda at Consumer Reports. And when open enrollment season rolls around, consumers' decisions about which health plan to choose will have a major impact on their budget and their care.


I want to tell you about some of the new resources we've released this month to raise awareness about the issue of health-care costs and choosing health plans that deliver value for money:


In the November issue of Consumer Reports magazine,  "It's time to get mad about the outrageous cost of health care" explains why costs are so high, how this affects consumers' wallets -- and what consumers can do about it.  

And on Oct. 8, we released the results of a CR survey showing that Americans are resigned to high health costs but are still capable of outrage over what they regard as unfair prices. They yearn for more transparent price information from insurers, doctors, and hospitals.


The Health Ratings Center has partnered again with NCQA to publish new rankings of health insurance plans and identified plans that can help members avoid unnecessary medical care.   

Over the coming weeks, through our new online insurance page, we'll offer guidance on open enrollment, Medicare, the new health-care marketplace, and how to navigate "Obamacare."  

Consumer Reports' Health Impact partners provide a powerful channel for distributing easy-to-read resources that empower consumers in the communities they serve. If you want to help raise consumer awareness about insurance and help them navigate the health-care maze, please contact us.

Tara Montgomery
Senior Director, Health Impact

New tools for explaining insurance
Through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Consumer Reports is developing "props" that will help navigators and assistors describe health insurance options to their clients.  CR has assembled a team of navigators to be advisors on the project,  and together we have identified nine high-priority items to create.  These include a simple, one-page leaflet explaining deductibles, and a short video series to support these explanations.  The items will be designed by experts in low-literacy communication and will be consumer-tested for understanding and ease of use.  These items could greatly facilitate the work of navigators and assistors; we're aiming to deliver the first ones in November.
Checking up on doctors' industry ties
Consumers are increasingly concerned about the influence drug companies have on their doctors' prescribing habits. Under the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, the federal government now releases details of payments from pharmaceutical and medical device makers to doctors for promotional speaking, consulting, meals, travel, research, and other activities. A new website lets consumers see whether their doctor is among the more than 500,000 physicians in the United States that have industry ties.
Choosing Wisely PSAs on TV in Michigan
For 12 months, television viewers in central Michigan have been able to learn about Choosing Wisely while watching Queen Latifah, the morning news, or even Animal Planet. How? MiHIA (Michigan Health Information Alliance, Inc), one of the 21 Choosing Wisely grantees, secured a significant amount of low-cost TV play-time to show the "5 Questions" public service announcement that Consumer Reports created. The goal of these animated PSAs is to help people learn to ask about the need, risks and alternatives for tests, treatments and procedures that their doctor has recommended. So far, the PSA is having an impact. People who have seen the PSA, including one visiting Michigan from Florida, have already called MiHIA to learn where to get more information. 

Washington releases CW action manual
The Washington State Choosing Wisely Task Force recently released their Choosing Wisely Action Manual, 18 pages of ideas for how providers can integrate Choosing Wisely recommendations into practice. Beginning with an overview of the campaign and the state initiative, the manual then provides an eight-step process for leading change and integrating the campaign. Each of these steps -- which range from establishing a sense of urgency to communicating the vision for buy-in to incorporating changes into the culture -- is highlighted by concrete examples and resources. 

We welcome two new partners
The Rhode Island Business Group on Health (RIBGH) assists Rhode Island employers of all industries and sizes in navigating the healthcare marketplace and in getting the most from their healthcare investment. RIBGH strives to promote better care delivery, transparency and healthier outcomes at affordable, predictable costs. RIBGH leads the effort -- on behalf of Rhode Island employers and in collaboration with other interested stakeholders -- to promote sound healthcare investment and well workforces in the business community.

Dossia is a digital health solutions company dedicated to helping individuals make smart health decisions and become more discerning healthcare consumers. Founded in 2006 by a consortium of Fortune 500 companies, Dossia integrates personal health information with health apps, and offers consumers a lifetime, portable and personally controlled health record. Dossia's Population Health Management System consists of two web-based portals that provide employers, health plan administrators and providers with solutions that empower individuals to adopt and sustain healthier lifestyles. 


Support our work
Knowing that you're a fan of Consumer Reports Health, we'd like to invite you to make a charitable contribution. Your contribution will help us remain a leading voice in championing consumers' access to high-quality health care. We hope you'll find it's a cause worthy of your support.

You can easily donate online or email us at healthimpact@cr.consumer.org if
you have questions.

In the news
The American Academy of Nursing has released its Choosing Wisely list, "Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question." 


New Haven Register: Consumer Reports' collaboration with VNA Community Health Care is a "wonderfully useful program."

Engaging the Patient: Do You Really Need that Test, Treatment or Procedure? 


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