SmartMoney Blogs

Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

Healthcare - All posts in category Healthcare

  • Apr 22, 2011
    6:00 AM ET

    Easter Bunny: Public Enemy No. 1

    The Chattering Classes On … The Easter Bunny: He has become an unwitting pawn in the increasingly surreal battle between nutritionists and the food industry in the run-up to Easter Sunday – when kids across America will get an all-day pass from their parents to feast on chocolate eggs, jelly beans and other candy.

    Getty Images

    The Washington-based National Confectioners Association says there are 90 million chocolate Easter Bunnies manufactured each year and 16 billion jelly beans made especially for Easter. It’s the second top-selling confectionery holiday after Halloween. But some commentators and critics have been more alarmist than others.

    Hence, the kerfuffle.

    This article, “Call To Turn Easter Bunny Into A Healthy Lifestyle Pin-Up,” published on Medical News Today, quotes a public health specialist, Dr. Nathan Grills. Grills says the Easter Bunny – whom he mostly refers to with the initials E.B. – “promotes energy-dense, nutrient-poor food to children.”

    Grills believes the Easter Bunny’s greatest role awaits. “Given the E.B.’s potential for good, it could become a public health pin-up bunny, supporting campaigns that encourage children to eat the recommended daily five servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit,” he writes. “Chocolate egg hunts could become Brussels sprout hunts.”

  • Apr 15, 2011
    5:30 PM ET

    One Man’s Meat Is Another Man’s MRSA

    A new study found almost half of all meat and poultry from grocery stores in five American cities were contaminated with the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus. Those who like their filet mignon rare, like the French, or prefer it raw (steak tartare) also take note: The American Meat Institute is hitting back, saying the only thing unsafe here is the study’s findings.

    Getty Images

    It doesn’t make for easy pre-dinner reading. The study, in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, says 47% of the meat contained the bacteria, 52% of which was resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics, including three MRSA strains. Fortunately, it’s rendered harmless when cooked but the study warns that densely-stocked industrial farms, where food animals are steadily fed low doses of antibiotics, are “ideal breeding grounds” for drug-resistant bacteria.

    The report by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (or TGen for short) collected and analyzed 136 samples of beef, chicken, pork and turkey from 26 retail stores in Los Angeles, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Flagstaff and Washington, D.C. “For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant ‘Staph’, and it is substantial,” said Lance B. Price, one of the authors.

  • Mar 29, 2011
    10:30 AM ET

    Should The Government Stay Out Of Your Kitchen?

    Talking Shop: J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst at the non-profit Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, believes government regulations should not try to influence consumer choice, or the ingredients in products provided by food companies.

    Getty Images

    He is a frequent writer of newspaper op-ed articles and letters on the subject, and an occasional television pundit. As nutritionists push for a tax on junk food, Wilson tells Pay Dirt that the government should not penalize the choices we make – even the unhealthy ones.

    Pay Dirt: Although the organization is called the Center for Consumer Freedom, it represents interests in the food and drink industry.

    It was called the Guest Choice Network many, many moons ago. We are like a chamber of commerce for food issues. I don’t like to hide the ball. Part of our funding certainly comes from the food industry.

    Is this a culture war between corporations and big government, or a commercial one?

    There’s certainly an enormous culture war that’s going on. I don’t think it’s someone decision to tell us what we put in our bodies.

  • Mar 17, 2011
    9:15 AM ET

    Drug Companies Hike Their Prices, Blame Everyone Else

    It’s a pity there’s no miracle drug to help companies take responsibility for their actions. Despite efforts in Washington to curb drug costs, they’re on the rise again, putting further pressure on those with little or no insurance. The average price of prescription drugs rose a hefty 6.9% last year, according to Barclays Capital. U.S. underlying inflation rose 1.1% on the year in February.

    Getty Images

    Sales of prescription medicine have now hit around $300 billion a year. The reason for the price hikes vary wildly, depending on who you ask. Drug companies blame R&D costs, while others admit they need to boost profits before drug patents expire. Most quietly sidestep the costs of their marketing and advertising when they get their product to market.

    However, compounding this problem of drug affordability is the lack of adequate insurance. A report in the latest American Journal of Medicine published last week concluded that the percentage of personal bankruptcies related to medical bills or illness in Massachusetts hasn’t improved much since a 2006 law there requiring people to buy health insurance.

    “Medical bankruptcy in Massachusetts: Has health reform made a difference?” surveyed bankruptcy filers in that state in 2009 and compared them with those from 2007. The answer to that question: no. Medical bankruptcies as a percentage of personal bankruptcies eased only slightly to 52.9% from 59.3%, which doesn’t bode well for the Obama administration’s healthcare reform.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.