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The Average Monthly Health Plan Premium in the U.S. Hit $885 in 2016

  Three years after the launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the big picture of employer-sponsored health benefits in the U.S. show stability, with modest changes in costs being kept in check by a growing younger workforce, according to the 2016 ADP Annual Health Benefits Report. Roughly 9 in 10 employees in large companies are eligible to participate in health insurance plans at the workplace, with two-thirds of people participating, shown in the chart. Younger people, under 26 years of age, have much lower participation rates than those over 26, with many staying on their parents’ plans (taking advantage of

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U.S. Health Spending Will Comprise 20% of GDP in 2025

Spending on health care in America will comprise $1 in every $5 of gross domestic product in 2025, according to National Health Expenditure Projections, 2015-25: Economy, Prices, And Aging Expected to Shape Spending and Enrollment, featured in the Health Affairs July 2016 issue. Details on national health spending are shown by line item in the table, excerpted from the article. Health spending will grow by 5.8% per year, on average, between 2015 and 2025, based on the calculations by the actuarial team from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), authors of the study. The team noted that the Affordable Care

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The Hospital of the Future Won’t Be a Hospital At All

In the future, a hospital won’t be a hospital at all, according to 9 in 10 hospital executives who occupy the c-suite polled in Premier’s Spring 2016 Economic Outlook. Among factors impacting their ability to deliver health care, population health and the ACA were the top concerns among one-half of hospital executives. 1 in 4 hospital CxOs think that staffing shortages have the biggest impact on care delivery, and 13% see emerging tech heavily impacting care delivery. Technology is the top area of capital investment planned over the next 12 months, noted by 84% of hospital execs in the survey.

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U.S. National Health Spending Up Due to More People Covered and Higher Drug Costs

National health spending in American grew by 5.3% in 2014, hitting the $3 trillion mark. This represented an up-tick nearly twice the growth rate of 2.9% in 2013, the slowest rate of growth in 55 years, according to the latest analysis of the U.S. health economy published by Health Affairs. The first chart illustrates the factors that contribute to that 5.3% growth in health spending. The two largest factors were medical prices and so-called “residual use and intensity.” The medical price increase portion was 1.8% in 2014, up from 1.3% in 2013. The use and intensity component was attributable to

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Physical Healthcare Facilities Can Bolster Health Consumerism

Reluctantly accepting the Affordable Care Act, health executives and their architects now see opportunities for re-imagining the hospital and health care services, according to Healthcare Industry Trends, a publication that’s part of the 2015 Building & Development Leadership Series provided by Mortenson, a construction services firm that’s active with healthcare organizations. Mortenson conducted a survey at the 2015 ASHE Planning, Design, and Construction Summit, the results of which were published in this report. The over 300 respondents included healthcare executives, facilities managers, and healthcare architects. Thus the lens on the data in this survey is through the eyes of physical

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The Tricky Journey From Volume To Value In Health Care – Prelude To Health 2.0

By 2018, 90% of health care delivered to people enrolled in Medicare will be paid-for on the basis of quality, not on the amount of services delivered (that is, volume). But as providers must up their game in that new value-oriented health payment world, they are bound up in work flows and organizational structures built for fee-for-service reimbursement. This changing future is discussed in Healthcare’s alternative payment landscape, PwC’s Healthcare Research Institute report on the volume-to-value shift. PwC notes that health care providers’ ability to adapt to changing payment regimes vary and fall into four categories: traditional, lagging, vanguard and

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The Affordable Care Act As New-Business Creator

While there’s little evidence that the short-term impact of the Affordable Care Act has limited job growth or driven most employers to drop health insurance plans, the ACA has spawned a “cottage industry” of health companies since 2010, according to PwC. As the ACA turned five years of age, the PwC Health Research Institute led by Ceci Connolly identified at least 90 newcos addressing opportunities inspired by the ACA: Supporting telehealth platforms between patients and providers, such as Vivre Health Educating consumers, such as the transparency provider HealthSparq does Streamlining operations to enhance efficiency, the business of Cureate among others

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Value is in the eye of the shopper for health insurance

While shopping is a life sport, and even therapeutic for some, there’s one product that’s not universally attracting shoppers: health insurance. McKinsey’s Center for U.S. Health System Reform studied people who were qualified to go health insurance shopping for plans in 2015, covered by the Affordable Care Act. McKinsey’s consumer research identified six segments of health insurance plan shoppers — and non-shoppers — including 4 cohorts of insured and 2 of uninsured people. The insureds include: Newly-insured people, who didn’t enroll in health plans in 2014 but did so in 2015 Renewers, who purchased health insurance in both 2014 and

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Health care costs, access and Ebola – what’s on health care consumers’ minds

The top 3 urgent health problems facing the U.S. are closely tied for first place: affordable health care/health costs, access to health care, and the Ebola virus. While the first two issues ranked #1 and #2 one year ago, Ebola didn’t even register on the list of healthcare stresses in November 2013. Gallup polled U.S. adults on the biggest health issues facing Americans in early November 2014, and 1 in 6 people named Ebola as the nation’s top health problem, ahead of obesity, cancer, as well as health costs and insurance coverage. Gallup points out that at the time of

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Health Care in the 2014 Mid-Term Election

In the November 2014 mid-term elections, Democrats tend to favor continuing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as-is, and Republicans favor scrapping it, scaling it back, or fully replacing the law with something yet to be defined. But it’s hard to read just where the ACA will end up after tomorrow’s election, because many key battleground states are too close to call…and the two major parties have such polar views on health reform. What’s most significant this year is that those most likely to vote are less likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports the ACA (40%) than would

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Rationing health care, driven by high deductibles

Concerns about Death Panels and government restricting health services for people that have been key arguments used against the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) detractors and, even before the advent of the ACA, proposed health reforms under President Clinton. But it’s peoples’ self-rationing in the U.S. health system that’s causing true rationing — driven by high deductible health plans (HDHPs) that are fast-growing in the health insurance market, and by the high cost of specialty drugs and prescriptions. There are plenty of data demonstrating the consumer health rationing trend being collected and reviewed by think tanks like RAND here, and by The

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Employers engaging in health engagement

Expecting health care cost increases of 5% in 2015, employers in the U.S. will focus on several tactics to control costs: greater offerings of consumer-directed health plans, increasing employee cost-sharing, narrowing provider networks, and serving up wellness and disease management programs. The National Business Group on Health’s Large Employers’ 2015 Health Plan Design Survey finds employers committed to health engagement in 2015 as a key strategy for health benefits. More granularly, addressing weight management, smoking cessation, physical activity, and stress reduction, will be top priorities, shown in the first chart. An underpinning of engagement is health care consumerism — which

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In pursuit of healthiness – Lancet talks US public health

It’s Independence Day week in America, and our British friends at The Lancet, the UK’s grand peer reviewed medical journal, dedicate this week’s issue to the Health of Americans – exploring life, death (mortality), health costs, chronic disease, and the Pursuit of Healthiness. This project is a joint venture between The Lancet and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which took 18 months to foster, called The Health of Americans Series. Americans mostly die from chronic diseases, aka non-communicable diseases, which are largely amenable to lifestyle changes like eating right, quitting smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and moving around more. 1 in

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Online is to go-to place for health insurance info, but lots of uninsured people live offline

A vast majority of people shopping for a health plan on a Health Insurance Exchange for coverage in 2014 obtained information online via websites. One-half of these shoppers used only online information, and 29% combined both websites and other sources like direct assistance, informal assistance, and via (offline) media. In the Health Reform Monitoring Survey from the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, a research team, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Ford Foundation, looked into data collected from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey in March 2014 at the end of the 2014 open enrollment period for the

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The Season of Healthcare Transparency – HFMA’s Price Transparency Manifesto – Part 1

As Big Payors continue to shift more costs onto health consumers in the U.S., the importance of and need for transparency grows. 39% of large employers offered consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) in 2013, and by 2016, 64% of large employers plan to offer CDHPs.  These plans require members to pay first-dollar, out-of-pocket, to reach the agreed deductible, and at the same time manage a health savings account (HSA). In the past several weeks, many reports have published on the subject and several tools to promote consumer engagement in health finance have made announcements. This week of posts provides an update on

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What, We Worry? Thinking About Healthcare (Costs) Is Stressing Us Out

Three-quarters of us are concerned about health care, a fraction fewer than those of us worried about the economy. Underneath stress about healthcare, people are worried about costs and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Say hello to the Healthcare Worry Scale, developed by Chase Communications, a firm focused on marketing and media, largely in the health industry. Chase found that: – 93% believe that their health care costs will continue to increase – 49% say the ACA’s impact is a “major” worry – 43% say getting a disease, medical condition, or injury that health insurance doesn’t fully

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3 Things I Know About Health Care in 2014

We who are charged with forecasting the future of health and health care live in a world of scenario planning, placing bets on certainties (what we know we know), uncertainties (what we know we don’t know), and wild cards — those phenomena that, if they happen in the real world, blow our forecasts to smithereens, forcing a tabula rasa for a new-and-improved forecast. There are many more uncertainties than certainties challenging the tea leaves for the new year, including the changing role of health insurance companies and how they will respond to the Affordable Care Act implementation and changing mandates

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Health care and costs on front-burner for people in America (again)

This week in America, the concept of “health care consumer” is in a tug-of-war, and those of us trying to behave as such feel bloodied in the skirmish. One side of the tug-of-war is the obvious, post October 1st reality of the sad state of the Health Insurance Exchanges. This has been well covered in mass media, right, left and center. And Americans polled by Gallup last week express their knowledge of that fact — even if they didn’t know what Healthcare.gov was on the 1st of October. The first chart shows that health care is now a front-burner issue

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Innovating and thriving in value-based health – collaboration required

In health care, when money is tight, labor inputs like nurses and doctors stretched, and patients wanting to be treated like beloved Amazon consumers, what do you do? Why, innovate and thrive. This audacious Holy Grail was the topic for a panel II moderated today at the Connected Health Symposium, sponsored by Partners Heathcare, the Boston health system that includes Harvard’s hospitals and other blue chip health providers around the region. My panelists were 3 health ecosystem players who were not your typical discussants at this sort of meeting: none wore bow ties, and all were very entrepreneurial: Jeremy Delinsky

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The new era of consumer health risk management: employers “migrate” risk

The current role of health insurance at work is that it’s the “benefits” part of “compensation and benefits.” Soon, benefits will simply be integrated into “compensation and compensation.” That is, employers will be transferring risk to employees for health care. This will translate into growing defined contribution and cost-shifting to employees. Health care sponsorship by employers is changing quite quickly, according to the 2013 Aon Hewitt Health Care Survey published in October 2013. Aon found that companies are shifting to individualized consumer-focused approaches that emphasize wellness and “health ownership” by workers to bolster behavior change and, ultimately, outcomes. The most

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U.S. Health Citizens Needed a Dummies Guide to the ACA

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed in March 2010; that month, 57% of U.S. adults did something to self-ration health care, such as splitting prescription pills, postponing necessary health care, and putting off recommended medical tests, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll of March 2010. 57% of U.S. adults are still self-rationing health care in September 2013, according to KFF’s latest Health Tracking Poll, completed among 1,503 U.S. adults just two weeks before the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplaces on October 1, 2013. As of September 2013, only 19% of U.S. adults said they had heard

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The slow economy is driving slower health spending; but what will employers do?

By 2022, $1 in every $5 worth of spending in the U.S. will go to health care in some way, amounting to nearly $15,000 for each and every person in America. From biggest line item on down, health spending will go to payments to: Hospitals, representing about 32% of all spending Physicians and clinical costs, 20% of spending Prescription drugs, 9% of spending Nursing, continuing care, and home health care, together accounting for over 8% of health spending (added together for purposes of this analysis) Among other categories like personal care, durable medical equipment, and the cost of health insurance.

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Food and the household health budget: one pocket, shrinking access

Over 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have not had enough money to buy food for themselves or their families in the past year, according to the August 2013 Gallup Healthways Index. This is as many consumers as those who couldn’t afford food during the deepest months of the last recession. Lack of access to food is a challenge for a cadre of Americans who lack access to other basic needs such as shelter and health care. Gallup’s Basic Access Index looks at this market basket, and has found that Americans’ access to basic needs at 81.4 in August

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Health information search online, an hour a week. Time with a doctor? An hour a year.

In game-scoring unit terms, 52 is the number of hours an average American spends seeking health information online each year. The 1 (hour) is roughly equivalent to the approximate total time a patient spends with a physician (an average of 3 visits, with an average time per vision of 20 minutes). Thus, 52:1. This means that the average U.S. health consumer spends much more time DIYing her health using digital information resources than speaking face-to-face with their physician in the doctor’s office. Still, the physician continues to be a go-to source for health information, according to Makovsky, a health communications

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Consumers don’t get as much satisfaction with high-deductible health plans

Since the advent of the so-called consumer-directed health care era in the mid-2000s, there’s been a love-gap between health plan members of traditional plans, living in Health Plan World 1.0, and people enrolled in newer consumer-driven plans – high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). That gap in plan satisfaction continues, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI)’s poll of Americans’ consumer engagement in health care. The survey was conducted with the Commonwealth Fund. As the bar chart illustrates, some 62% of members in traditional plans were satisfied (very or extremely) with their health insurance in 2012.

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Criticizing health reform has jumped the shark for mainstream Americans

You might see potato and I might see po-tah-to when looking at the Affordable Care Act – health reform — but it’s clear we don’t want to call the whole thing off. (Go to 1:44 seconds in this video to get my drift, thanks to the Gershwin’s). I’m talking about the latest August 2013 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from Kaiser Family Foundation finds a health citizenry suffering ennui or a form of split personality about health reform: while many Americans don’t believe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will help them, most don’t want Congress to de-fund it, either. Several graphs from

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HSAs for Dummies: improving health insurance literacy

Most Americans don’t understand what a health savings account (HSA) is – including people who are enrolled in the plans. While health literacy is generally acknowledged to be a public health challenge in America, health insurance literacy is not well recognized. Yet in the emerging consumer-directed health plan era of U.S. health care, peoples’ lack of understanding of health financial accounts will get in the way of people who really need care seeking care at the right time. This leads to greater health spending later when the consumer-patient can develop a health condition that could have been prevented (say, pre-diabetes

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Chief Health Officers, Women, Are In Pain

Women are the Chief Health Officers of their families and in their communities. But stress is on the rise for women. Taking an inventory on several health risks for American women in 2013 paints a picture of pain: of overdosing, caregiver burnout, health disparities, financial stress, and over-drinking. Overdosing on opioids. Opioids are strong drugs prescribed for pain management such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. The number of opioid prescriptions grew in the U.S. by over 300% between 1999 and 2010. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.

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Working for health care in 2013: workers’ health insurance cost burden still grows faster than wages

Insurance premium costs grew 4% for families between 2012 and 2013, with workers now bearing 39% of health premiums in 2013 compared with only 26% ten years ago, in 2003. That’s a 50% increase in health plan premium “burden” for working families, by my calculation. This snapshot of health insurance in 2013 comes to us from the 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey, provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). This research is one of the most important annual reports to hit the health care industry every year, and this year’s analysis provides strategic context

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Americans’ health insurance illiteracy epidemic – simpler is better

Consumers misunderstand health insurance, according to new research published in the Journal of Health Economics this week. The study was done by a multidisciplinary, diverse team of researchers led by one of my favorite health economists, George Loewenstein from Carnegie Mellon, complemented by colleagues from Humana, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Yale, among other research institutions. Most people do not understand how traditional health plans work: the kind that have been available on the market for over a decade. See the chart, which summarizes top-line findings: nearly all consumers believe they understand what maximum out-of-pocket costs are, but only one-half do.

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The health care automat – Help Yourself to healthcare via online marketplaces

Imagine walking into a storefront where you can shop for an arthroscopy procedure, mammogram, or appointment with a primary care doctor based on price, availability, quality, and other consumers’ opinions? Welcome to the “health care automat,” the online healthcare marketplace. This is a separate concept from the new Health Insurance Marketplace, or Exchange. This emerging way to shop for and access health care services is explored in my latest paper for the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), Help Yourself: The Rise of Online Healthcare Marketplaces. What’s driving this new wrinkle in retail health care are: U.S. health citizens morphing into consumers,

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10 Reasons Why ObamaCare is Good for US

When Secretary Sebelius calls, I listen. It’s a sort of “Help Wanted” ad from the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that prompted me to write this post. The Secretary called for female bloggers to talk about the benefits of The Affordable Care Act last week when she spoke in Chicago at the BlogHer conference. Secretary Sebelius’s request was discussed in this story from the Associated Press published July 25, 2013. “I bet you more people could tell you the name of the new prince of England than could tell you that the health market opens October 1st,” the

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Cost prevents people from seeking preventive health care

3 in 4 Americans say that out-of-pocket costs are the main reason they decide whether or not to seek preventive care, in A Call for Change: How Adopting a Preventive Lifestyle Can Ensure a Healthy Future for More Americans from TeleVox, the communications company, published in June 2013. TeleVox surveyed over 1,015 U.S. adults 18 and over. That’s the snapshot on seeking care externally: but U.S. health consumers aren’t that self-motivated to undertake preventive self-care separate from the health system, either, based on TeleVox’s finding that 49% of people say they routinely exercise, and 52% say they’ve attempted to improve eating habits.

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Americans’ health not keeping up with the world: why to spend more on social determinants of health

The American health infrastructure is not First World or First Rate, based on the outcomes. This, despite spending more on health care per-person than any country on the planet. Two seminal reports are out this week reminding Americans that our return-on-investment in health spending is poor. The first research comes from JAMA titled  The State of US Health, 1990-2010:  Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors. There is some good news in this report at the top line: that life expectancy for Americans increased in the two decades from 75.2 years to 78.2 years. But this positive quantitative outcome comes with

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What to expect from health care between now and 2018

Employers who provide health insurance are getting much more aggressive in 2013 and beyond in terms of increasing employees’ responsibilities for staying well and taking our meds, shopping for services based on cost and value, and paying doctors based on their success with patients’ health outcomes and quality of care. Furthermore, nearly one-half expect that technologies like telemedicine, mobile health apps, and health kiosks in the back of grocery stores and pharmacies are expected to change the way people regularly receive health care. What’s behind this? Increasing health care costs, to be sure, explains the 18th annual survey from the National

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They call it “primary” care because it comes first — and it should

It’s called “primary” care for a reason: it’s first and foremost important in the health care services a person can use. In its report, Primary care: our first line of defense, The Commonwealth Fund explains why primary care is crucial to one’s individual health, and how primary care is morphing into medical teams and patient-centered medical homes. And that’s a good thing for you and me, the Fund says. That’s because people in the U.S. who have a primary care doctor have 33% lower health costs and 19% lower risk of dying than people who see only a specialist (Source:

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Driving innovation in health through the use of open data: Health Datapalooza, Year 4

In the $3 trillion economy that is American health care, the role of information technology is central to transforming this huge piece of U.S. fiscal activity. This week convened the fourth annual Health Datapalooza (HDP) in Washington DC, with the underlying theme, “health engagement is the blockbuster drug of the 21st century” (quoting Leonard Kish). This meeting of over 2,000 registrants – huge growth from the first year’s 400 attendees — is organized by the Health Data Consortium (HDC) , whose CEO Dwayne Spradlin kicked off remarks on Day 2 of HDP4. He described the HDC, a public-private collaboration led

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The health and wellness gap between insured and uninsured people

If you have health insurance, chances are you take several actions to bolster your health such as take vitamins and supplements (which 2 in 3 American adults do), take medications as prescribed (done by 58% of insured people), and tried to improve your eating habits in the past two years (56%). Most people with insurance also say they exercise at least 3 times a week. Fewer people who are uninsured undertake these kinds of health behaviors: across-the-board, uninsured people tend toward healthy behaviors less than those with insurance. This is The Prevention Problem, gleaned from a survey conducted by TeleVox

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Health care costs for a family of 4 in 2013: a college education, a diamond or a 4-door sedan

If you have $22,030 in your wallet, you can buy: A princess-cut diamond A Ford Focus 4-door A year’s tuition at James Madison University (in-state, 2013-14) A health plan for a family of four. The 2013 Milliman Medical Index gauges the annual health care costs for a typical American family at $22,030, up $1,302 from 2012 — a 6.3% increase, nearly 6x the all-items increase of 1.1% for the U.S. Consumer Price Index from April 2012-April 2013. That 1.1% includes the costs of food and energy, along with cars, tobacco, shelter, and other consumer goods. In 2013, the average family will

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Most employers will provide health insurance benefits in 2014…with more costs for employees

Nearly 100% of employers are likely to continue to provide health insurance benefits to workers in 2014, moving beyond a “wait and see” approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As firms strategize tactics for a post-ACA world, nearly 40% will increase emphasis on high-deductible health plans with a health savings account, 43% will increase participants’ share of premium costs, and 33% will increase in-network deductibles for plan members. Two-thirds of U.S. companies have analyzed the ACA’s cost impact on their businesses but need to know more, according to the 2013 survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).

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Americans feeling more financially insecure

One in three workers does not feel financially secure. The proportion of Americans who feel “not at all secure” grew to 16% from 12% between 2011 and 2012, based on the question, “When it comes to paying your bills and keeping up with living expenses, how financially secure do you feel these days?” Women are much more likely than men to feel financially insecure, representing a 33% growth rate in financial insecurity. These sobering financial statistics come to us from the UNUM study, 2012 Employee Education and Enrollment Survey: Employee Perspectives on Financial Security, published May 8, 2013. Based on the question asked – paying

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Un-directed Americans in a consumer-directed healthcare world

U.S. employers have been implementing various flavors of consumer-directed health plans for the better part of a decade. But consumers feel neither “directed” nor especially competent in managing their way through these plans. It appears that employers also have their own sort of health plan illiteracy when it comes to understanding health reform — the Affordable Care Act — according to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR) based on a survey of 1,900 benefits managers and over 5,200 U.S. workers conducted in January 2013. While you might know the Aflac Duck, you may not be aware that Aflac is the

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The Slow Economy Has Slowed Health Spending

Why has health cost growth in the U.S. slowed in the past few years? It’s mostly due to the economy, argues the Kaiser Family Foundation in Assessing the Effects of the Economy on the Recent Slowdown of Health Spending. The answer to this question is important because, as the American economy recovers, it begs the next question: will costs increase faster once again as they did in previous go-go U.S. economies, further exacerbating the budget deficit problems in the long-term? KFF worked with Altarum to develop an economic model to answer these questions. The chart illustrates the predicted vs. actual

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US Health Executives Predict the ACA Will Increase Health Insurance Premiums

As a result of implementing the Affordable Care Act (health reform), most U.S. health executives crystal balls foresee health care insurance premiums will increase over 10% in the next three years. 4 in 10 predict premiums will grow over 25% over the next 3 years. This sobering forecast comes out of a Munich RE Health survey conducted among 326 health industry executives in March 2013. Those polled included representatives from health plans, managed care, disease management firms, and health insurance brokers and agents. How do health execs expect employers would deal with such fast-rising health premium costs? Why shift more

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The need for a Zagat and TripAdvisor in health care

  Patient satisfaction survey scores have begun to directly impact Medicare payment for health providers. Health plan members are morphing into health consumers spending “real money” in high-deductible health plans. Newly-diagnosed patients with chronic conditions look online for information to sort out whether a generic drug is equivalent to a branded Rx that costs five-times the out-of-pocket cost of the cheaper substitute. While health care report cards have been around for many years, consumers’ need to get their arms around relevant and accessible information on quality and value is driving a new market for a Yelp, Travelocity, or Zagat in

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U.S. Health Costs vs. The World: Is It Still The Prices, and Are We Still Stupid?

Comparing health care prices in the U.S. with those in other developed countries is an exercise in sticker shock. The cost of a hospital day in the U.S. was, on average, $4,287 in 2012. It was $853 in France, a nation often lauded for its excellent health system and patient outcomes but with a health system that’s financially strapped. A routine office visit to a doctor cost an average of $95 in the U.S. in 2012. The same visit was priced at $30 in Canada and $30 in France, as well. A hip replacement cost $40,364 on average in the

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The Not-So-Affordable Care Act? Cost-squeezed Americans still confused and need to know more

While health care cost growth has slowed nationally, most Americans feel they’re going up faster than usual. 1 in 3 people believe their own health costs have gone up faster than usual, and 1 in 4 feel they’re going out about “the same amount” as usual. For only one-third, health costs feel like they’re staying even. As the second quarter of 2013 begins and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “health reform” and “Obamacare”) looms nearer, most Americans still don’t understand how the ACA will impact them. Most Americans (57%) believe the law will create a government-run health plan,

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Most consumers will look to health insurance exchanges to buy individual plans in 2013

  As the Affordable Care Act, health reform, aka Obamacare, rolls out in 2013, American health insurance shoppers will look for sources of information they can trust on health plan quality and customer service satisfaction — as they do for automobiles, mobile phone plans, and washing machines. For many years, one of a handful of trusted sources for such insights has been J.D. Power and Associates. J.D. Power released its 2013 Member Health Plan Study (the seventh annual survey) and found that most consumers currently enrolled in a health plan have had a choice of only “one” at the time

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Bill Clinton’s public health, cost-bending message thrills health IT folks at HIMSS

In 2010, the folks who supported health care reform were massacred by the polls, Bill Clinton told a rapt audience of thousands at HIMSS13 yesterday. In 2012, the folks who were against health care reform were similarly rejected. President Clinton gave the keynote speech at the annual HIMSS conference on March 6, 2013, and by the spillover, standing-room-only crowd in the largest hall at the New Orleans Convention Center, Clinton was a rock star. Proof: with still nearly an hour to go before his 1 pm speech, the auditorium was already full with only a few seats left in the

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Consumer health empowerment is compromised by complex information

  The U.S. economy is largely built on consumer purchasing (the big “C” in the GDP* – see note, below Hot Points). Americans have universally embraced their role as consumers in virtually every aspect of life — learning to self-rely in making travel plans, stock trades, photo development, and purchasing big-dollar hard goods (like cars and washing machines). Consumers transact these activities thanks to usable tools and information that empower them to learn, compare, and execute smarter decisions. That is, in every aspect of life but in health care. While the banner of “consumerism” in health care has been flown

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The Accountable Care Community opportunity

“ACOs most assuredly will not…deliver the disruptive innovation that the U.S. health-care system urgently needs,” wrote Clay Christensen, godfather of disruptive innovation, et. al., in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal of February18, 2013. In the opinion piece, Christensen and colleagues make the argument that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as initially conceived won’t address several key underlying forces that keep the U.S. health care industry in stasis: Physicians’ behavior will have to change to drive cost-reduction. Clinicians will need “re-education,” the authors say, adopting evidence-based medicine and operating in lower-cost milieus. Patients’ behavior will have to change. This requires

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Health reform, costs and the growing role of consumers: PwC’s tea leaves for 2013

PwC has seen the future of health care for the next year, and the crystal ball expects to see the following: Affordable Care Act implementation, with states playing lead roles The role of dual eligibles Employer’s role in health care benefits Consumers’ role in coverage Consumers’ ratings impact on health care Transforming health delivery Population health management Bring your own device Pharma’s changing value proposition The medical device industry & tax impact. In their report, Top health industry issues of 2013: picking up the pace on health reform, PwC summarizes these expectations as a “future [that] includes full implementation of

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Americans #1 health care priority for the President: reduce costs

Reducing health care costs far outranks improving quality and safety, improving the public’s health, and upping the customer experience as Americans’ top priority for President Obama’s health care agenda, according to a post-election poll conducted by PwC’s Health Research Institute. In Warning signs for health industry, PwC’s analysis of the survey results, found that 7 in 10 Americans point to the high costs of health care as their top concern in President Obama’s second term for addressing health care issues. Where would cost savings come from if U.S. voters wielded the accountant’s scalpel? The voters have spoken, saying, Reduce payments

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Consumers blame insurance and pharma for health costs, but love their primary care doctors

The 78% of U.S. adults with primary care physicians (think: medical homes) are very satisfied with their doctors’ visits. The main reasons for this high level of satisfaction include communication (listening, talking), customer service (caring, personable), and clinical (good diagnosis and treatment). More women than men have a primary care physician relationship, more college grads do, and more people with incomes of $75,000 a year or more do, as well. 90% of those 55 and over have a primary care doctor – a stat heavily influenced by the fact that Medicare coverage kicks in for older people. This consumer profile

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From fragmentation and sensors to health care in your pocket – Health 2.0, Day 1

The first day of the Health 2.0 Conference in San Francisco kicked off with a video illustrating the global reach of the Health 2.0 concept, from NY and Boston to Mumbai, Madrid, London, Tokyo and other points abroad. Technology is making the health world flatter and smarter…and sometimes, increasing problematic fragmentation, which is a theme that kept pinching me through the first day’s discussions and demonstrations. Joe Flowers, health futurist, offered a cogent, crisp forecast in the morning, noting that health care is changing, undergoing fundamental economic changes that change everything about it. These are driving us to what may

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3 in 5 physicians would quit today if they could

Being a doctor isn’t a happy profession in 2012: 3 in 5 doctors say that, if they could, they’d retire this year. Over three-fourths of physicians are pessimistic about the future of their profession. 84% of doctors feel that the medical profession is in decline. And, over 1 in 3 doctors would choose a different professional if they had it all to do over again. The Physicians Foundation, a nonprofit organization that represents the interests of doctors, sent a survey to 630,000 physicians — every physician in the U.S. that’s registered with the AMA’s Physician Master File — in March-June

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The rise and rise of retail clinics: a growing site for primary care, everywhere

There were nearly 6 million patient visits to retail health clinics in 2009. Such visits to retail clinics rose four-fold between 2007 and 2009, according to a RAND study published in the September 2012 issue of Health Affairs. Visits for prevention versus acute care in 2009 were roughly evenly split, with 47.5% and 51.4% of people over 18 seeking prevention vs. acute care from retail clinics, respectively. The most common acute care complaints in the retail setting were upper respiratory infections, pharyngitis, otitis externa, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, and allergies. What’s underneath the impressive rise is important to parse out

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Employees will bear more health costs to 2017 – certainty in an uncertain future

Amidst uncertainties and wild cards about health care’s future in the U.S., there’s one certainty forecasters and marketers should incorporate into their scenarios: consumers will bear more costs and more responsibility for decision making. The 2012 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Employers finds them, mostly, planning to subsidize health benefits for workers over the next few years, while placing greater financial and clinical burdens on the insured and moving more quickly toward high-deductible health plans and consumer-directed plans. In addition, wellness, prevention and targeted population health programs will be adopted by most employers staying in the health care game, shown in

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Converging for health care: how collaborating is breaking down silos to achieve the Triple Aim

  On Tuesday, 9 July 2012, health industry stakeholders are convening in Philadelphia for the first CONVERGE conference, seeking to ignite conversation across siloed organizations to solve seemingly intractable problems in health care, together. Why “converge?” Because suppliers, providers, payers, health plans, and consumers have been fragmented for far too long based on arcane incentives that cause the U.S. health system to be stuck in a Rube Goldbergian knot of inefficiency, ineffectiveness and fragmentation of access….not to mention cost increases leading us to devote nearly one-fifth of national GDP on health care at a cost of nearly $3 trillion…and going up.

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Why we now need primary care, everywhere

With the stunning Supreme Court 5-4 majority decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), there’s a Roberts’ Rules of (Health Reform) Order that calls for liberating primary care beyond the doctors’ office. That’s because a strategic underpinning of the ACA is akin to President Herbert Hoover’s proverbial “chicken in every pot:” for President Obama, the pronouncement is something like, “a medical home for every American.” But insurance for all doesn’t equate to access: because 32-some million U.S. health citizens buy into health insurance plans doesn’t guarantee every one of them access to a doctor. There’s a

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The selling of a health plan, part two

Calling Don Draper, Donny Deutsch, and the spirit of David Ogilvy: the President needs you. The President must sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people now that Justice Roberts wrote the Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 majority opinion supporting the Act, and especially the individual mandate. He argued for the majority that while the mandate is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause which would “command people to buy insurance,” he said that the mandate is a de facto tax, as people who would choose to opt out of insurance would have an alternative of paying an IRS fine. Senator Eric

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The gender gap in U.S. health economics

50% more women than men are worried about health care affordability and access in the U.S., revealed in a new Kaiser Opinion Poll, the Health Security Watch, based on interviews from May 2012. Overall, about the same proportion of men and women had problems paying medical bills in the past year — 26% vs. 27%, respectively. However, when it comes to self-rationing health care — delaying or skipping treatment due to cost — gender gap shows, with 52% of men and 64% of women delaying or skipping health care. Underneath these numbers are even greater gaps between men and women.

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58% of Americans self-rationing health care due to cost

Since the advent of the Great Recession of 2008, more Americans have been splitting pills, postponing needed visits to doctors, skipping dental care, and avoiding recommended medical tests due to the cost of those health care services. Call it health care self-rationing: the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has been tracking this trend for the past several years, and the proportion of American adults rationing health demand is up to 58%. This KFF Health Tracking Poll interviewed 1,218 U.S. adults age 18 and older via landline and cell phone in May 2012. As the chart illustrates, 38% of people are “DIYing” health care

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The pharmaceutical landscape for 2012 and beyond: balancing cost with care, and incentives for health behaviors

Transparency, data-based pharmacy decisions, incentivizing patient behavior, and outcomes-based payments will reshape the environment for marketing pharmaceutical drugs in and beyond 2012. Two reports published this week, from Express Scripts–Medco and PwC, explain these forces, which will severely challenge Pharma’s mood of market ennui. Express-Scripts Medco’s report on 9 Leading Trends in Rx Plan Management presents findings from a survey of 318 pharmacy benefit decision makers in public and private sector organizations. About one-half of the respondents represented smaller organizations with fewer than 5,000 employees; about 20% represented jumbo companies with over 25,000 workers. The survey was conducted in the

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A health plan or a car: health insurance for a family of four exceeds $20K in 2012

The saying goes, “you pays your money and you makes your choice.” In 2012, if you have a bolus of $20,700 to spend, you can choose between a health plan for a family of four, or a sedan for the same family. That’s the calculation from the actuaries at Milliman, whose annual Milliman Medical Index is the go-to analysis on health care costs for a family of four covered by a preferred provider organization plan (PPO). While the 6.9% annual average cost increase is lower than the 7.3% in 2011, it is nonetheless, a record $1,335 real dollar increase at

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Patient engagement and medical homes – core drivers of a high-performing health system

It was Dr. Charles Safran who said, “Patients are the most under-utilized resource in the U.S. health system,” which he testified to Congress in 2004. Seven years later, patients are still under-utilized, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Yet, “when patients have an active role in their own health care, the quality of their care, and of their care experience improves,” assert researchers from The Commonwealth Fund in their analysis of 2011 global health consumer survey data published in the April/June 2010 issue of the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management. This analysis is summarized in International Perspectives on

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Employers shopping for value in health – Towers Watson/NBGH 2012 survey results

Employers expect total health costs to reach $11,664 per active employee this year, over $700 more than in 2011. Employees’ share of that will be nearly $3,000, the highest contribution by workers in history. In 2012, workers are contributing 34% more to health costs than they did 5 years ago. The metric is that for every $1,000 employers will spend on health care in 2012, workers will pay $344 for premium and out-of-pocket costs. Still, health care cost increases are expected to level off to about 6% in 2012, that’s still twice as great as general consumer price inflation. with

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The state of health IT in America: thinking about the Bipartisan Policy Center report on health IT

There are few issue areas within the Beltway of Washington, DC, that have enjoyed more support across the political aisle than health care information technology. In 2004, George Bush asserted that every American would/should have an electronic medical record by 2014. Since then, Democrats and Republicans alike have supported the broad concept of wiring the U.S. health information infrastructure. With the injection of ARRA stimulus funds earmarked in the HITECH Act to promote health providers’ adoption of electronic health records, we’re now on the road to Americans getting access to their health information electronically. It won’t be all or even

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Health IT in 2012: a dynamic sector in the context of a fiscally-challenged health system

2012 will be a dynamic year for health information technology (health IT) in the U.S., which I outline in my annual health IT forecast in iHealthBeat, the online publication on technology and health care published by the California HealthCare Foundation. The full forecast can be found here. The key headlines for you Reader’s Digest abridged fans are that: The Health IT sector will continue to grow jobs in the ongoing Great Depression, particularly in key competencies in data security, analytics, integration, and EHR implementation. There will be more data breaches, and consumers will be justifiably concerned about data security. Government will more consistently

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What’s baked into the Affordable Care Act? Half of Americans still don’t realize there’s no-cost preventive care

The U.S. public’s views on health reform — the Affordable Care Act (ACT) – remain fairly negative, although the percent of people feeling favorably toward it increased from 34% to 37% between October and November. Still, that represents a low from the 50% who favored the law back in July 2010. It’s quite possible that American health citizens’ views on health reform are largely reflective of their more general feelings about the direction of the country and what’s going on in Washington right now, versus what’s specifically embodied in the health care law, according to the November 2011 Kaiser Health

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Workplace wellness: the cost of unhealthy behaviors in the American workforce is $623 per worker

The health status of the American workforce is declining. Every year, unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers $623 per employee annually, according to the Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index. People point to smoking, obesity and stress as the 3 most important factors impacting health costs. Thomson Reuters and NPR polled over 3,000 Americans on their health behaviors, utilization and costs of health care, publishing their results in a summary, Paying for Unhealthy Behaviors in October 2011. 4 in 5 overall — and 9 in 10 of those with over $50,000 annual income — believe that people with healthy behaviors should receive a

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Get into the sunshine, church is out – the GAO report on health care price transparency

This morning during my still-dark-at-5:15 am walk, my iPod was motivating me to “get up offa that thing,” as James Brown was motivating me to “release the pressure.” Two minutes into the song, he urges, “Get into the sunshine, church is out.” This brought to mind a publication I’ve taken time to review from the General Accounting Office (GAO) report to the U.S. Congress, Health Care Price Transparency – Meaningful Price Information Is Difficult for Consumers to Obtain Prior to Receiving Care, published in September 2011. While employers and health plans want consumers to become more engaged in their health, a key barrier facing

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Health insurance: employers still in the game, but what about patient health engagement?

U.S. employers’ health insurance-response to the nation’s economic downturn has been to shift health costs to employees. This has been especially true in smaller companies that pay lower wages. As employers look to the implementation of health reform in 2014, their responses will be based on local labor market and economic conditions. Thus, it’s important to understand the nuances of the paradigm, “all health care is local,” taking a page from Tip O’Neill’s old saw, “all politics is local.” The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) visited 12 communities to learn more about their local health systems and economies, publishing their

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Walmart’s rollback of health insurance for employees: just another employer facing higher health care costs?

Walmart is increasing premium sharing costs for employees subscribing to health insurance, and cutting the benefit for part-timers. Quoted in the New York Times, a company rep said, “over the last few years, we’ve all seen our health care rates increase and it’s probably not a surprise that this year will be no different. We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates’ medical costs.” In so doing, Walmart told the Times that they will, “strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.” MarketWatch wrote that Walmart will increase health care premium costs

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Telemedicine is an enabler of health reform

Globally, in developed economies, the challenges of increasing health care costs, access to quality health care, aging citizens and the supply of clinicians are universal. CSC says telemedicine can address these challenges as part of reforming health care delivery and financing throughout the world. In Telemedicine: An Essential Technology for Reformed Healthcare, CSC sees telemedicine as an enabler for health reforms’ goals the world over. In the U.S., telemedicine is explicitly mentioned in the Affordable Care Act. In April 2011, the Federal Register included language about health financing reform that said, “The ACO shall define processes to promote evidence-based medicine and patient engagement, report

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The average annual health costs for a U.S. family of four approach $20,000, with employees bearing 40%

Health care costs have doubled in less than nine years for the typical American family of four covered by a preferred provider health plan (PPO). In 2011, that health cost is nearly $20,000; in 2002, it was $9,235, as measured by the 2011 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). To put this in context, The 2011 poverty level for a family of 4 in the 48 contiguous U.S. states is $22,350 The car buyer could purchase a Mini-Cooper with $20,000 The investor could invest $20K to yield $265,353 at a 9% return-on-investment. The MMI increased 7.3% between 2010 and 2011, about the same

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Where have all the doctors gone? What physician supply means for health reform

The good news that was packaged in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), that is, health reform, was that millions of uninsured Americans would receive health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program. But insurance doesn’t equal access; there’s a limiting factor that’s a formidable obstacle in many of these millions of newly-insured people getting care: the physician supply in the U.S., which varies from region to region of the U.S. There’s both a quantitative aspect to this challenge along with a qualitative one. The U.S. has long had a maldistribution of physicians in both urban cores and rural towns; that’s the quantitative challenge.

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Don’t underestimate the costs of adopting health IT

Mature users of electronic health records bear many scars and learnings, having been through the first several rungs of the health information technology (HIT) adoption ladder. A few of these lessons for HIT adoption success… Implementing EMRs is a strategic and not just an IT-department initiative. HIT adoption requires top-down commitment and engagement. It takes longer and costs more than the planners of systems expect. During transition to an EMR, hospitals see an 80% “spike” (increase) in IT operating expenses — directly impacting the hospital’s overall operating budget as much as 200 basis points or more. There is evidence that those spikes

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U.S. employers put health care cost containment at the top of reform priorities

1 in 5 among all U.S. employers (22%) would likely drop health insurance coverage and let workers buy a plan through a health insurance exchange. However, most employers would expand wellness programs driven by incentives in health reform. Employers’ perspectives on the Affordable Care Act/health reform are mixed, according to a survey conducted by the Midwest Business Group on Health, co-sponsored by the National Business Coalition on Health, Business Insurance and Workforce Management. Not surprisingly, these views vary by whether the firm is large (>500 employees) or small. More large employers support the creation of Health Insurance Exchanges and would expand wellness services;

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The growing costs of health scuttle Boomers’ retirement plans

As household incomes in the U.S. have been, at best, stagnating in the past several years, the cost of health insurance premiums rose three times faster between 2003 and 2009. By 2015, the average premium for a family of four will reach nearly $18,000, according to The Commonwealth Fund. State Trends in Premiums and Deductibles, 2003-2009: How Building on the Affordable Care Act Will Help Stem the Tide of Rising Costs and Eroding Benefits from the Fund calculates that deductibles per insured person in the U.S. increased an average of 77% between 2003-09. In a related analysis, the Fund forecasts the

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What health care IT holds for 2011: politics vs. market realities

The one issue in health politics that’s got bipartisan support is health care IT. While Republicans in the House may try to pick away parts of the Affordable Care Act, the HITECH Act — part of the 2009 stimulus package formally known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — will stay intact, according to most industry analysts (including me). However, political agreement doesn’t equal market adoption. So forecasting what 2011 will mean for health information technology requires some deeper analysis of additional issues. For today’s Health Populi, take a look at my annual health IT forecast in California HealthCare Foundation‘s

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A longer road to EMR adoption? CDC and CHIME surveys hint

1 in 2 office-based physicians in the U.S. use any sort of electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR). However, only 10% of doctors have a fully functional EMR or EHR system. This means that the great majority of doctors currently using electronic records are not yet meeting meaningful use criteria as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Physicians reported the computerized functions of their electronic records systems as part of the annual Centers for Disease Control‘s (CDC) National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS). The chart illustrates the good news: that every year since 2003, U.S. physicians are

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The Decline of the White American Household Health Economy

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 9 December 2010 in Health Consumers, Health Economics, Health reform, PPACA

During the latest economic recession in the U.S., the growth in the number of the health-uninsured was greater for white people and native-born citizens than for others in the nation. At the same time, the erosion of employer-sponsored health insurance continued. The 2007-09 Recession And Health Insurance Coverage, published in Health Affairs in December 2010, analyzes data from the Census Bureau focusing on “health insurance units” in the U.S.: these are defined as nuclear families in the U.S. who can be covered under one insurance policy–the policyholder and his/her family members. The chart incorporates data from the Health Affairs article, as well

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U.S. health citizens are less health-confident and satisfied than their peers overseas

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 19 November 2010 in Global Health, Health Economics, Health reform, PPACA

Among all the world’s health citizens, there’s one nation over all that’s most likely to postpone health care due to cost: Americans. The Commonwealth Fund has surveyed the people of 11 nations to ascertain How Health Insurance Design Affects Access To Care And Costs By Income, In Eleven Countries. That’s the title of their analysis in Health Affairs, published online November 18, 2010. The U.S. spends far more per capita on health care than any of these nations, as well as much more as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) on health. However, as the chart shows, more money/spending doesn’t

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The biggest consumers of prescription drugs, seniors, need patient-centered medical homes, too

“The use of medications in older patients is arguably the single most important health care intervention in the industrialized world,” Dr. Jerry Avorn asserts in a concise analysis called Medication Use in Older Patients in the October 13, 2010, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Since the population over 65 is the biggest consumer of health care services (and thus, driver of costs), and continues to grow, the segment commands the attention of health system stakeholders: policymakers, payers, medical schools, and pharmaceutical drug researchers. Medicare Part D, which covers payment for seniors’ drug costs, put the Federal government in the

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Seniors Are Happy With Rx Plans, Five Years After Part D Begins

Contrary to stereotypes, older people can adapt, learn, and use new products and services. The introduction of Medicare Part D five years ago was an experiment in public policy, with some policymakers fretting about seniors’ ability to navigate a new system. It appears Medicare Part D is a hit, and people are working well with it across gender, age cohorts, incomes (from very low to upper-income strata), educational levels, and especially very sick and disabled people. Among all seniors, 90% have prescription drug coverage. 61% of U.S. adults 65 and over have a Medicare prescription drug plan, 16% are covered by an employer-sponsored

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The Other Half Struggles for Health Care in the Great Recession

There are two faces of America in The Great Recession: one is doing pretty well, thank you very much; the other is losing ground, and a lot of it. One Recession, Two Americas from the Pew Research Center is a survey of Americans’ home economics 30 months since the start of the recession which began in December 2007. The recession technically ended in June 2009, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). One year after that ‘technical’ end, though, it appears about 1 in 2 Americans haven’t gotten the memo. Some of the Pew’s survey results appear in the chart. See the

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No relief: medical costs will increase by double-digits again in 2011

Medical costs will grow between 10% and 11% in 2011, depending on whether an enrollee is opting for a PPO (11%), a POS (11.2%) or an HMO plan (10.2%). These growth rates are similar to 2010 increases, with the largest percentage growth projected for point-of-service plans from 10.6% in 2010 to 11.2% next year. These cost increases are roughly eight-times inflation in the consumer price index (CPI), gauged at 1.2% in July 2010 for urban consumers. The 2011 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey reflects additional costs the benefits consultants that plan sponsors will incur to comply with the Affordable Care

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It’s still the economy for U.S. voters in November, with health reform a distant second

There’s more confusion among U.S. voters than ever about what health reform, the Accountable Care Act (ACA), means. The September 2010 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll reveals an electorate that’s not only confused, but quite split in their support — with those who oppose the law even stronger against it than the pro’s support it. The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey found that the percentage of ACA proponents actually increased by 4 percentage points between August and September, from 45% to 49%. 41% of registered voters are “unfavorable,” and 10% still have no opinion about the law.  When it comes to

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Health and tax breaks in the U.S. – a global perspective

The U.S. has among the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios in the developed world, including state and local taxes. Only Mexico, Turkey and Korea have lower tax-to-GDP ratios among OECD members, at somewhere between 20 and 28%. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) believes that U.S. tax rates are, in fact, too low and, even with modest tweaks upward, “would still keep the overall tax burden at a relatively moderate level and not impose excessive costs,” OECD states in its Economic Survey of the U.S., released today. “Tax breaks have grown significantly since the major tax reform of 1986,” the report notes, and

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Prescription Drug Nation

In 2008, 2 in 3 people in the U.S. over 60 took 3 or more prescription drug medications in the past month, and 14% of kids 11 and under regularly took an Rx. The CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics latest issue brief on prescription drug use illustrates that prescription drugs are as much of American popular culture and life as fast-moving consumer goods. It’s the more intense use of Rx drugs, 5 or more, where the most significant growth has been since 1999-2000, when 6.3% of Americans took 5 or more prescription drugs in the past month. In 2007-8, the proportion

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More employers will offer health insurance, RAND forecasts

What will employers do with their health insurance sponsorship once health reform kicks into full-implementation in 2014? Will they drop coverage? There’s been some speculation that more employers would exit covering employees, but researchers at RAND see quite the opposite scenario. An additional 13.6 million workers will be offered health insurance coverage in a post-ACA America, based on a forecasting model the RAND team constructed. This increases the percentage of employers offering workers health insurance from 84.6% of workers to 94.6% of workers post-reform. The increase is driven, the model predicts, by two key factors: More demand for coverage by workers due

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A primer on primary care

More patients find doctor is not in, NPR asserted on August 30, 2010, as part of its ongoing series covering the primary care shortage in America. To understand why this statement is so important, let’s go back to the definition of “primary care.” The American Association of Family Physicians says the domain of primary care includes the primary care physician, other physicians who include some primary care services in their practices, and some non-physician providers. Central to the concept of primary care is the patient, according to AAFP. Thus, the first definition of primary care, AAFP says, is “care provided by physicians specifically

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The role of retail health clinics post-health reform

  Retail health clinics have served American health consumers for about a decade. What have we learned over these ten years? As retail clinics proliferate the U.S. health care ecosystem, what is their impact on the health system, health consumers, and the health economy? The RAND report, Policy Implications of the Use of Retail Clinics, responds to these issues. The key implications of RAND’s study are that: – Health programs should be designed and paid-for to incorporate the adoption of retail clinics and reduce fragmentation and dis-continuity of care. – Learn from the best practices and patient outcomes gained from

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As employers’ health costs increase 8.9% in 2011, employees will have more skin in the game

Large employers expect health care costs to increase by 8.9% in 2011, up from 7.0% in 2011. To stem cost increases, employers will adopt an array of tactics, most prominently offering consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and expanding wellness programs that encourage incentives to healthy lifestyles. These expectations come from Large Employers’ 2011 Health Plan Design Changes, a survey report from the National Business Group on Health poll of large employers. 1 in 5 employers say CDHPs are the most effective approach for managing health care cost growth, as shown in the chart. 61% of employers will off CDHPs in 2011, 20% of whom will

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How to save $40 billion in health care: implement health IT in hospitals

Electronic health records (EHRs) broaden access to patient data and provide the platform for pushing evidence-based decision support to clinicians at the point-of-care. This promotes optimal care for patients, reduces medical errors, optimizes the use of labor, reduces duplication of tests, and by the way, improves patient outcomes. When done in aggregate across all health providers, a team from McKinsey estimates that $40 billion of costs could be saved in the U.S. health system. Reforming hospitals with IT investment in the McKinsey Quarterly talks about the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act’s (ARRA) $20+ billion worth of stimulus funding under the HITECH Act

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Addressing the primary care shortage: the importance of community health centers, coupled with mobile health technology

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka health reform, will move 32+ million Americans to the insured population, and looks to the primary care ‘front-end’ of health care delivery to take in these newly-covered patients. Today’s USA Today reports on the primary care shortage in America. How to reconcile the influx of new patients in the U.S. health system with the deficit of primary care providers? First, the Community Health Center is one part of the solution to the primary care supply challenge. Furthermore, CHCs are integrated into ACA, seen as a key component for redesigning American health care delivery to improve quality, lower

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That’s Dr. Geek Squad to you

Best Buy is teaming up with Cardiac Science, targeting potential purchasers of electronic health records (EHRs) and noninvasive cardiac devices. The venture looks to take advantage of economic stimulus funding available through the HITECH Act aimed at motivating physicians to adopt EHRs. Cardiac Science is a medical device company focused on the noninvasive management of heart disease. Their products include defibrillators, ECG/EKG devices, stress testing equipment, Holter and vital sign monitors. These heart-hardware products are designed to connect with electronic health records systems in hospitals and physician offices. and are used in many settings outside of health institutions including schools, emergency

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Mayberry RFDHHS

Now showing in a 60-second spot during the 6 o’clock news: Andy Griffith’s got the starring role in promoting the peoples’ use of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). Here is the announcement of the ad in The White House blog of July 30 2010. In the ad, Andy, now 84, recalls the signing of Medicare by President Johnson and moves into some details about the good things PPACA brings to seniors in the U.S. The Christian Science Monitor covers the story and shows the video here. This has caused quite a stir among Republicans who say

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Women win in health reform

Women, on average, have far more contact with the health care system over their lifetimes than men do.   So kicks off an analysis of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010’s (PPACA) impact on women, published by The Commonwealth Fund. Realizing Health Reform’s Potential explains that PPACA should insure some 15 million women as well as give fiscal relief to those women who are under-insured or have pre-existing conditions. One of the key underlying factors which stacks the deck against women in health insurance coverage is the fact that insurance companies see young women a higher risk than

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