Health Care is the #1 Line Item in Our National Economy…and Taking More Out of Our Pockets

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 11 September 2007 in Health Consumers, Health Economics

Health care is as American as apple pie, at least when it comes to spending. The usual metric for the macroeconomy is the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is defined as the market value of all goods and services produced in a country. Arithmetically, the calculation is, GDP = Personal Consumption + Investment + Government Spending + (Exports – Imports) Personal consumption is the largest single component of the economy. Health care comprises over 17% of personal consumption expenditures, and housing, 15%. The third largest line item in personal consumption is food, which eats up 14% of personal consumption expenses.


Welcome to Health Populi

You’re paying more out-of-pocket for health care co-payments and premiums. You are overwhelmed with health care choices. You search for health information online. You might be lucky enough to have health insurance covered by your employer, but you’re worried about losing it if you leave your job. You shop for healthy food, might do Pilates or Yoga, and spend money on health-oriented cosmeceuticals. You want to engage with the health system, and be empowered in your own health and health care. Welcome to Health Populi. As a health economist, I believe that health is a person’s most valuable asset. My


Americans are losing the drug safety battle

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 11 September 2007 in Uncategorized

We’re losing ground on drug safety. This is sobering news, according to the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, based on a study published this week in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The number of serious adverse drug events more than doubled between 1998 and 2005 in the United States, as did the number of related deaths. The FDA says that an adverse drug event is, “an injury resulting from the use of a drug….” including: • Harm caused by the drug (adverse drug reactions and overdoses) • Harm from the use of the drug (including dose reductions and discontinuations of


Rest in Peace, Dame Anita

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 11 September 2007 in Uncategorized

Dame Anita Roddick, 1942-2007My definition of health is expansive: it includes all the activities we engage in to preserve and enhance our personal and the public’s health. One influence on my health-worldview was Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop, who sadly succumbed to a brain hemorrhage last night in a good-die-young scenario. Dame Anita was passionate about Green (decades before the current craze), human rights, and transparency for her entire life. She founded The Body Shop in 1976. I first encountered Dame Anita in 1986 when I moved to London and lived around the corner from The Body


The cost of health insurance and spending on technology: priorities, priorities

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 12 September 2007 in Uncategorized

The average income for a family of four in America reached $48,200 in 2006, which was good news from the Census Bureau released last month. The bad news is that the average cost of health insurance for a family of four will hit $12,106 this year, according to the annual report on employer-sponsored benefits from the Kaiser Family Foundation. While the cost increase was lower this year than last — at 6.1% — this is still more than twice the rate of general infaltion, which was 2.6%. And workers’ wages increased only 3.7%. Thus, health insurance costs continue to rise


Steel, Coffee Beans and Health Care

The UAW and GM have been debating health care as Friday’s deadline for their national contract approaches. This round of negotiation is about survival. Yesterday, I covered the rising costs of employer-sponsored health insurance. Today, let’s visit the intimately-related topic of retiree health benefits. These are eroding even faster than health benefits for employed workers. Many employers have significantly scaled back health benefits for retirees. Currently, one in three large employers offers retire benefits, compared with two in three in the late 1980s. Consider the predicament of the company ranked #3 on the 2006 Fortune 500 list, General Motors. Retirees


Hypothermia is Cool!

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 14 September 2007 in Medical technology, Public health

I’ve been researching the topic of therapeutic hypothermia (TH) for cardiac arrest in the past couple of weeks on behalf of a client (we at THINK-Health work with the full range of stakeholders, which keeps our thinking fresh and the practice continually fascinating). So when Buffalo Bills player Kevin Everett received TH immediately following severe spinal cord injury on the football field, I closely followed his story. I have a dear cousin who became spinal cord injured due to a diving accident several years ago, and so the topic is of very personal interest to me. It is great news


Universal Health Care, American Style

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 17 September 2007 in Baby Boomers and Health

Timing is everything. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton wants to have universal health care implemented by the end of her second term. If she wins the leadership post in November 2008, then all Americans would be covered by a health plan by late 2015. According to my watch, that’s about 5 years into the first phase of Baby Boomer retirements. Health Populi’s Hot Points: We’ve entered the next wave of health reform discussions in the U.S. The phrase, “Universal Health Care,” will be a centerpiece of the debate. Be part of the conversation with your providers, payers, neighbors, communities. Be open


My Magazine, My Health Portal

U.S. News and World Report is well-known for its Top 100 “best” lists assessing hospitals, doctors, and health plans. Watch for it to further build its position as consumer health information provider for Americans by expanding into a comprehensive health portal online. U.S. News published this cover in November 2004. So the magazine is no newcomer to this role. However, the publication and its editors (and savvy financial management) recognize the opportunity to exploit their brand position in the consumer health information space. This isn’t just about arming Americans with health information to be ‘smart.’ This is a smart move


Hammers, nails and health spending – regional variations in the U.S.

There is more money spent on health care for each citizen of Massachusetts and Pennsylvania than for a citizen in Utah, Arizona or Nevada. In fact, per capita health spending was 59% lower in Utah than Massachusetts in 2004. The latest state-by-state spending variations are highlighted in Health Affairs’ web-exclusive feature. Welcome to the statistical phenomenon in health care known as “regional variation.” The guru-researcher of regional variation is John Wennberg, who has detailed these trends in fhe Dartmouth Atlas.   New regional health spending data were published in Health Affairs, which we health economists and policy wonks eagerly anticipate


Cancer and the son (or daughter) of Harry and Louise

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 19 September 2007 in Uncategorized

As the 2008 Presidential candidates offer up their plans for health reform, it’s interesting to watch where stakeholder interests are lining up. No doubt we will see version 2.0 of Harry and Louise soon from the insurance industry. The pharmaceutical lobby represented by PhRMA has already published PR on the positive role of Medicare Part D covering drugs for older Americans, some positive spin supporting the industry’s good works.There’s a new stakeholder taking an early, assertive stance in the health reform debate: the American Cancer Society. It’s as if the ACS anticipates the entrance of Harry and Louise, Jr., onto


Health 2.0 Conference — Present at the Birth

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 21 September 2007 in Uncategorized

Health care bloggers, news reporters, physician entrepreneurs, and the brilliant founder of were there. Venture capitalists, technology developers, genomic gurus and pharmaceutical strategists came. Esther Dyson had a front-row seat and asked some of the hardest questions. And passionate developers of consumer-facing health communities, driven by personal stories, shared their work with us.Welcome to the first Health 2.0 conference, assembled by Matthew Holt, the Health Care Blog meister, strategy consultant and (disclosure) my dear friend; and Indu Subaiya, MD, of Etude Scientific (and my new friend).Matthew and Indu worked hard, with colleagues John and Sara, to bring together over


Very personal health care: the convergence of genomics and health IT

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 23 September 2007 in Uncategorized

Two new important publications point to the emerging world of very personal health care: one, courtesy of your tax dollars at work, from the Department of Health and Human Services; the other, published on 21st September in Science. Personalized Health Care: Opportunities, Pathways, Resources is a white paper from DHHS that provides a straightforward primer on genomics and health IT as the dual foundations of personalized health care. The DHHS rightly notes, that, “Personalized health care is information-based health care.” However, one area that needs more detail in the report is the short paragraph on page 13 titled, “The Patient


Designing for Health – Think Eames and iPod

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 25 September 2007 in Uncategorized

There is an ad on page F2 of today’s New York Times promoting Samsung’s Healthy Living‘s product line. A question is posed, “Can you find the blood pressure monitor in this picture?” The picture is of a feng shui’d living room decorated with a comfy chaise, floor plant, and a chaise-side table featuring photos, a tea cup, a lamp, and what looks like a small flat-screen clock. It is, in fact, a blood pressure monitor. That reminds me of the Magritte painting, asserting that the image “is not a pipe.”The importance of good design in health cannot be overstated. We


GM and the UAW/When I'm 64, and Beyond — Workin' for the Health Care

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 26 September 2007 in Uncategorized

The trend toward early retirement has reversed, and today 2/3 of workers age 50-70 say they plan to work into retirement or never retire. The AARP released its 2007 report card on the best employers for workers over 50, so boomers, take note. My dad worked until he was 84, so I have that role model front-and-center in my own future-view on work. In an important study conducted in 2006, Towers Perrin and AARP projected that, by 2016, there will be a labor shortage in the most industrialized countries, the Group of Seven (G7) nations.* Call it a “grey-drain.” But


The Ratings Guy Rates Health Plan Websites

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 27 September 2007 in Uncategorized

In the quest for enhancing consumer sovereignty and improving online experiences, The Ratings Guy evaluates every sort of website imaginable. Categories include all conceivable aspects of daily living from travel and food (even a dedicated “spicy foods” channel) to shopping and pets. Health and wellness rounds out the offerings. This week, The Ratings Guy published their Top 20 Health Plan websites. Let’s learn a bit about The Ratings Guy before we launch into The List. The mission of The Ratings Guy (which is actually a husband-and-wife tag team) is “to help consumers get to the great sites sooner.” Their criteria


Oprah and Michael and Karen and Uwe

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 27 September 2007 in Uncategorized

What do you get when you mix one part Michael Moore with a preeminent health economist and the head of the American health insurance lobby? A very lively hour on the Oprah Winfrey Show.Today’s Oprah show featured a heated discussion about health care in the U.S. The title of the show was Sick in America: It Can Happen to You. Oprah and the audience saw Michael Moore’s Sicko before the show was taped. Oprah confessed to her millions of viewers that the movie opened her eyes to the problems of access in U.S. health care. A panel was convened to


Purchasing Pink

Pink is all around.    It’s October 1st. The annual proliferation of pink products promoting breast cancer awareness pervades purchasers’ prospective pickings. This year, there are lots of cosmetics to choose from, along with a Filofax, a vacuum cleaner, kitchen appliances, an iPod and various accessories to dress it up, foods, a Swiss army knife, and a set of pink knitting needles. Prevention Magazine online has several suggestions for “Beauty that Gives Back,” cosmetic companies offering products with some percentage of proceeds going to a variety of breast cancer charities. For example, La Mer Skin Creme can be purchased for


Insecurity vs. equity: what's driving health reform in the U.S. (and post-script on class and health)

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 1 October 2007 in Uncategorized

While we Americans might personify a kinder, gentler nation if we believed in health equity, it’s really health insecurity that’s driving current health reform efforts in the U.S. The lead op-ed in the 1st October Financial Times (FT) editorial page forecasts, “Reform is coming to US healthcare.” The column discusses last week’s Congressional vote on the state children’s health insurance program (S-CHIP). The FT editors then talk about how all of the Democratic presidential candidates have plans for, at a minimum, near-universal health care, an issue that was “considered toxic for the (Democratic) party” just a few years ago. Although


The Value of Medical Innovation – personal, global, fiscal

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 2 October 2007 in Uncategorized

One of the key drivers of the medical cost spiral in the U.S. is technology. But it’s also one of the brilliant aspects of our national and state economies, and one of the few positive line items in our balance of trade (exports minus imports). The U.S. is still a leader in med tech innovation. But how do we fund medical innovation as we aim to wring costs out of our system? This week, medical technology is meeting in Washington DC for the annual AdvaMed conference to wrestle with the key issues challenging the industry. Costs and access to care