Peeling back the veil of ignorance — why medical costs vary so much, and what Health 2.0 might do to help

The burgeoning movement known as “Health 2.0″ makes some pretty big claims about the power of social networks and Web services to transform the sprawling mess we like to call the U.S. healthcare system. One of the central principles is that providing individuals with better information about medical treatments and procedures will make them better “medical consumers” capable of exerting market pressure that can improve quality and lower prices.

Personal genomics and the end of insurance

Not too long from now, your genes are likely to be at war with your health insurer — and your genes may well have the upper hand.

Extend Health raises $15M for “defined contribution” health plans

Extend Health, a Burlingame, Calif., provider of “defined contribution” health plans designed to cut costs for business, raised $15 million in a second funding round. Investors included Psilos Group Partners and Revolution Health Group.

Is Big Pharma down for the count?

Between the sweeping job cuts across Big Pharma, falling stock prices, stalled drug approvals, safety problems with drugs like Avandia and an expected avalanche of generic competitors to billion-dollar brand-name drugs, it’s certainly starting to look like the traditional drug industry’s best days are behind it.

Healthcare roundup: Doctor shortages everywhere, why the states can’t do universal healthcare, how to reform consumer drug ads, and more

Patients, patients everywhere, yet not a doc to treat — From Massachusetts to Colorado, there’s an increasingly acute shortage of primary-care physicians. In Massachusetts, where the nation’s only universal healthcare plan is gearing up, hundreds of thousands of newly insured individuals are having trouble finding doctors. According to this report, new patients wait an average of 52 days to see an internist or family doctor for a routine visit, and with up to 500,000 people set to get insurance this year, the head of the Massachusetts Medical Society is predicting a crisis of healthcare access. There’s more here and here, just for starters. Google “Massachusetts doctor shortage” for much more.

Best of the blogosphere’s health-policy wonkery

The Health Wonk Review, a selection of the blogosphere’s best posts on health policy, is published every two weeks by a blogger volunteer. The latest edition is now up at David Williams’ Health Business Blog.

Ringing in the healthcare-reform debate

(UPDATED: See below.) Ever since the Clinton health plan went down in flames 13 years ago, discussion of significant reforms to the U.S. healthcare system has been largely academic. Until now.

Roundup: Guilt-free stem cells, the trials of Avandia, sponsor research bias, news from ASCO, and more

Flip switch for stem cells — Three research teams reported a technique for “reprogramming” skin cells into embryonic stem cells, those primordial bits of protoplasm that can propagate themselves indefinitely and, under the right conditions, transform themselves into any type of cell in the body. Deriving embryonic stem cells normally requires destroying an embryo — the main reason research with the cells remains limited, as does federal support for the work.

Implant maker Amedica files for $75M IPO

Salt Lake City-based Amedica filed to raise up to $74.8 million in an IPO, just a week after it raised $13.2 million in a fourth funding round. The maker of ceramic implants for spinal and joint repair said it doesn’t expect its first products to reach the market until next year.

Andy Grove’s placebo pill for U.S. healthcare

Having survived prostate cancer and now facing a mild form of Parkinson’s disease, former Intel chairman Andy Grove has turned his analytical eye on the increasingly dysfunctional U.S. healthcare system.