Update

March 21, 2008

Practice and financial news you can use

ORGANIZED MEDICINE

Doctors bristle over new Aetna policy

Physicians in New Jersey and New York are banding together to appeal to Aetna officials, who have decided to stop reimbursing for the use of the intravenous anesthetic propofol in routine colonoscopies, effective April 1. The insurer will, however, pay for an anesthesiologist to administer the drug to patients it considers high risk. Representatives from the group NJ Physicians, a new statewide organization for doctors, are planning to meet with Aetna officials to secure coverage for all patients, regardless of risk status. They'll likely be joined at the table by members of the national organization known as the GA Alliance, which includes gastroenterology and anesthesiology groups in New Jersey and New York.

REAL ESTATE

The great mortgage dilemma

You've got some extra cash each month that you can't decide how to invest. Should you put it in the stock market, or use it to pay down your mortgage? The folks at Consumer Reports decided to put that question under the microscope. They found that, in most cases, investors get a bigger payoff by putting an extra $100 a month into a low-cost S&P 500 Index mutual fund than they would by adding the money to their mortgage payment. In several different scenarios in which a home was refinanced and sold after 10 years, the fund investment returned $10,058 on average, vs $4,051 for the bigger mortgage payment. For a 10-year horizon, investing turned out to be the better strategy two-thirds of the time, and the wiser choice 100 percent of the time when the hypothetical home was sold after 15 or 20 years. The average gains for those periods: $19,613 and $41,931, respectively.

PRICING INFORMATION

Rx websites are hit and miss

Patients are generally poorly served by the drug-price-comparison websites that promise to help them, according to a study released by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). The problem? All but one of the 10 states HSC studied use Medicaid pharmacy claims data, which often contain usual and customary price information. That data is usually relevant only to the uninsured. Insured patients generally pay lower prices because a pharmacy benefit manager is negotiating on their behalf. Moreover, since the states don't require pharmacies to report pricing information, the number of drugs posted on each website varied widely, from as few as 26 in Maryland to 400 in Minnesota.