What We're Reading: US Suicide Rate Soars, Fueled by Addiction, Economic Woes

Stories on unsettling data on a rising suicide rate, Louisiana's Medicaid expansion efforts, and a Florida consumer education tool.

Since 2000, and especially since the Great Recession, the US suicide rate has taken off—with increased levels of drug addiction, social isolation, divorce among older couples, and economic distress driving the rate up 24% from 1999 to 2014. Rates rose among all groups except the elderly, and the increase was especially high among women.

Data released today by the National Center for Health Statistics confirm and amplify stunning findings from late 2015 by Princeton economists Angus Deaton and Anne Case, who found that middle-aged whites with less education and lower incomes were dying at younger ages, with drug and alcohol and suicide driving up the statistics.

Medicaid expansion to bring healthcare to Louisiana’s working poor represents “the major opportunity of this generation,” said the head of the state’s health department Wednesday.

Rebekah Gee, MD, MPH, secretary of the Department of Health and Hospitals, used an appearance at a business group to discuss the call of the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards, to bring healthcare to households earning $33,460 for a family of 4, which could extend care to another 300,000 people.

Gee encouraged the audience to think about different models of payment based on accountability, quality and outcomes, and paying for improvements” in order to develop and shift “to models that work in the community.”

Florida healthcare consumers now have a new shopping tool to compare medical costs. A startup, ClearHealthCosts.com, described as a health cost transparency company, has formed a partnership with 3 South Florida media companies to launch PriceCheck, which collects data for common procedures in the area and provides them to consumers.

“People should know what things cost in healthcare,” said Jeanne Pinder, founder of ClearHealthCosts.com.

According to information provided on HealthNews Florida, a website of WUSF and the University of South Florida, only pricing and procedure information will be shared publicly. Pinder said that consumers who choose to do so can provide an email, but this is optional. Consumers who provide an email to the service may be contacted in the future for additional information about the data they have provided.

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