Health Buzz: Birth of Octuplets and Other Health News

How much you should pay for healthcare; what experts think about rating hospitals and doctors.

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Fertility Experts Weigh In on Birth of Octuplets

While doctors at a California hospital haven't said whether a woman who gave birth Monday to octuplets received fertility treatments in order to conceive the babies, infertility specialists told the Los Angeles Times that they question whether enough was done to prevent such a risky pregnancy. Chances are very small that the babies were conceived naturally, experts said, and reproductive-medicine specialists have the expertise to avoid high-risk pregnancies such as this one. The octuplets—two girls and six boys—were born via cesarean section about 9½ weeks early at Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center in Bellflower, Calif. The babies weighed between 1 pound, 8 ounces and 3 pounds, 4 ounces, according to the Times . The parents of the babies have not been identified. The octuplets are in stable condition, the hospital reports, and two babies who initially had needed help breathing were well enough to have breathing tubes removed yesterday.Infertility can be a frustrating, upsetting problem for affected couples. U.S. News delved into the mysteries of unexplained infertility and described a fix for one cause of male infertility. And here's another fertility tip: Try eating right.

How Much Should You Pay for Medical Care?

Estimating the cost of a medical procedure or service ought to be as straightforward as pricing a used car—or at least that's the idea behind a new website, www.healthcarebluebook.com, Michelle Andrews reports. You pick a procedure, type in your ZIP code, and, presto, the site tells you the average fee accepted by providers in your area for that service. If you're uninsured or if your plan has a high deductible or coinsurance amount, you may be able to use this information to negotiate a lower rate similar to what typical insurers pay, according to the site. It even provides a handy "binding price estimate agreement," which spells out the estimated charge, that you could present to the doctor or hospital to sign before you receive services.Still, while it may be reasonable to shop for uncomplicated services like an MRI by comparing prices, most medical care isn't that clear cut. Take brain surgery, for instance. According to the website, in the Boston area, adult brain surgery to remove a tumor costs $42,827, on average. That price includes $4,490 for the surgeon's fee, $36,671 for the hospital, and $1,666 for anesthesia services. But anyone who's ever examined a hospital bill knows there are often hundreds of moving parts that affect the cost.Keep in mind that healthcare providers aren't likely to sign an advance agreement with you that limits how much they can charge for a medical procedure or service. Also, consider these 4 ways to save on your medical bills, and learn how to take the bite out of the cost of dental care.

Best Hospitals, Rating Docs, a 'Healthier Web'

Some savvy Internet users are familiar with health blogs and websites that rate hospitals and doctors. But most of the public has no idea that these types of websites exist, and their quality is all over the map. This was among the issues hashed out at an all-day conference last week devoted to a "healthier Web." The conference was sponsored by Consumer Reports and held at the magazine's headquarters in Yonkers, N.Y. U.S. News's Avery Comarow participated in a panel that addressed ratings. Almost all of the panelists and attendees were bloggers, and quite a few were physicians. Among the problems with health information on the Web, according to conference attendees, is that some doctors blog out of their areas of expertise and post information that is simply wrong. And some physician blogs are loaded with promotional ads for products.Use U.S. News's list of America's Best Hospitals to find facilities in your area. Last month, a new hospital-rating tool, WhyNotTheBest.org, was launched by the Commonwealth Fund, a New York-based foundation that underwrites research in healthcare reform. And in November, Comarow explored whether hospital ratings are a mess, a message, or both.