The Weekender: note from Holly, health care profits, quiet road trips, Alzheimer’s + food

What is this? ‘The Weekender’ is a weekly round-up to spotlight what you might have missed on BirdDog and why a few headlines from elsewhere matter for Tennessee.

A note from Holly:

BirdDog turned 1 (week) on Wednesday — and you’ve helped make its first few days a huge success!

The first week outpaced any expectation I, in my wildest dreams, had regarding interest, traffic, Twitter and thoughtful email responses.

The next phase of this adventure will try two updates a week, instead of three. If my inboxes are any indication of how many newsletters, sales pitches and other things vie for your attention — then you’re overrun.

Remember, BirdDog is at its core an experiment so its look, feel and timing will morph. Tell me what you like or are interested in seeing:

I hope you continue to find the articles intriguing and pass the emails and links to your friends. Thank you so much for being a part of this journey. -HF

From BirdDog

Ranking puts suboxone at top spot in Tenn., raising questions about how people fill medications and data access

Haslam: Tennessee’s health ‘a slow turning battleship’

What’s in Gov. Bill Haslam’s $30 million opioid proposal? Health policy experts mapped it.

From Elsewhere

1. Which firms profit most from America’s health-care system

The Economist’s Schumpeter column

Don’t go blaming pharma, because spoiler: It’s not.

Excerpt from The Economist: “The excess profits of the health-care firms are equivalent to $200 per American per year, compared with $69 for the telecoms and cable TV industry and $25 captured by the airline oligopoly. Only the five big tech “platform” firms, with a figure of $250, are more brazen gougers.”

The U.S. health care industry is Byzantine and, for most people, impossible to navigate. In a previous job, I reported my husband’s attempt to prevent a surprise bill. We both understand, at least more so than many patients, how the system is structured. In the end, we only found out the providers were in-network after the bills arrived.

The Economist column draws a parallel between product complexity and layers of subsidies and regulation of health care to that of mortgage-backed securitizations — an analogy after my own solar-securitization loving heart.

2.  America’s Loneliest Roads, Mapped

Linda Poon, CityLab

For the roadtrippers seeking solace, Geotab, a GPS company, charted the road less trodden in each state. A 414-mile stretch of road  in Alaska, the Dalton Highway, is ranked at the top with the least amount of traffic and as the most scenic.

The featured Tennessee drive is a 114-mile trek on Rte. 104 in West Tennessee that starts in Milan and runs through Saltilo.

Channel your inner Clarkson, May and Hammond and take a mini-Grand Tour of your own.

3. How people buy health insurance when they aren’t under a corporate umbrella will be a persistent issue taken up by state and federal legislators, as long as the people feel gouged by either premiums or deductibles.

Health insurance costs can easily overwhelm a family’s budget — but a serious or unexpected injury or disease could financially bury a family.

There’s a push in some states, notably Iowa this last week, to allow people to get around the Affordable Care Act with association plans.

Tennessee’s Farm Bureau Health Plans was a holdout through the first eight years of the ACA with this structure. People pay an annual membership fee to join Farm Bureau ($25 a year and you don’t have to be a farmer), to get access to underwritten health insurance — that yes, comes with premiums and costs tailored to your health. Yet, some people may not be coverable.

The quest for workarounds or alternative approaches will probably be on the rise in the coming years as states and groups try to sidestep the federal law, which was not implemented to its full extent in a lot of states, including Tennessee.

Farm Futures, an industry trade pub, went deep into the options for farmers in Minnesota through a cooperative. It’s worth a read.

There’s a growing effort led in large part by Music Health Alliance in Nashville to connect musicians — who like farmers have variable income and little-to-no access to corporate umbrellas —for more affordable care and coverage.

Read Nate Rau on the death of a musician who at age 28 fell through the health care cracks and a fund that’s established to prevent future deaths.

Fair Warning: BirdDog will do a lot of health insurance reporting because it’s a vital, yet cumbersome, part of the health care infrastructure that determines access and is sending a lot of people, in both employer-sponsored and individual plans, into sticker shock.

4. The road to Alzheimer’s disease is lined with processed foods

Lisa Mosconi, PhD, and author of ‘Brain Food: The Surprising Science of Eating for Cognitive Power,’ writing for Quartz

Did you know that 45 percent of Tennesseans don’t eat a fruit every day? Or that 23 percent don’t eat a vegetable? Those habits are risk factors for various chronic diseases, which cost the state an extra $5.3 billion a year, per the Sycamore Institute.

Improving lifestyle — yes, food decisions are part of that — could help prevent a variety of diseases, including Alzheimer’s and cancer, writes Mosconi, associate director of the Alzheimer’s Prevention Clinic at Weill Cornell Medical College/NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Excerpt from Quartz: “The consensus among scientists is that over one third of all Alzheimer’s cases could be prevented by improving our lifestyle. This includes ameliorating cardiovascular fitness, keeping our brains intellectually stimulated, and perhaps most of all: eating better.”

This is interesting to juxtapose against the imperative from Tennessee leaders to make the state’s culture healthier — or risk poor health bringing down its economy and future vibrancy.

Gov. Bill Haslam said on March 27, “the battle has not been won.”

Photo by Audrey Fretz