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The She-Cession – a Financially Toxic Side-Effect of the Coronavirus Pandemic

Along with the life-threatening impact of the coronavirus on physical health, and the accompanying mental health distress activated by self-distancing comes a third unintended consequence with the pandemic: a hard hit on women’s personal economies. The recession of the pandemic is considered by many economists as a “She-Cession,” a downturn in the economy that’s negatively impacting women more acutely than men. This is markedly different than the Great Recession of 2008, the last major financial crisis: that financial decline was coined a “ManCession,” taking a more significant toll out of more typically men’s jobs like construction and manufacturing where fewer

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The Racial Divide Due to COVID-19 Also Applies to Healthcare and Pharma Costs

Into the sixth month of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., it’s clear that COVID-19 has wreaked a greater mortality and morbidity impact on people of color than on white adults. A new Gallup-West Health poll found that the coronavirus also concerns more non-white Americans than whites when it comes to the cost of health care and medicines to deal with the effects of COVID-19. Considering the cost of COVID-19 treatment, across all U.S. adults, 40% of people are concerned (extremely/concerned), and 41% are “not at all concerned.” Broken down by race, there is a stark difference in levels of

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News from the Consumer Technology Association and Withings Further Demonstrates Private Sector’s Role in the Pandemic and Public Health

This week, announcements from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) and Withings further bolster the case for the private sector bolstering public health in this pandemic…and future ones to come beyond the Age of the Coronavirus. Since the pandemic emerged, CTA has been reaching out to members and stakeholders to be a useful resource for the consumer electronics industry and its customers. Digital health resources have been an especially useful touch point for CTA’s constituents (including me, as a member who is active with the Association). On 27th July, CTA announced the Association’s launch of the Public Health Tech Initiative. In

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Wear A Mask and Save 5% of US GDP: My Independence Day Holiday Wish

“And please…please…please wear a face covering,” Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General pleaded on June 30, 2020, during a speech to U.S. Public Health Workers. [You can fast forward to second #42 to hear Dr. Adams’ impassioned plea to his fellow Americans. s Wearing a mask or face covering reminds me of an early economics lesson from Adam Smith: that actions I take that are good for you can be good for me. “In addition to caring about our own well-being, we also naturally care about the well-being of others,” Ryan Patrick Hanley wrote in his assessment of Adam

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U.S. Hospitals Will Lose $323 Billion in 2020 – Before Accounting for Growing COVID Cases

U.S. health systems are projected to lose $323 billion in 2020 due to declining inpatient and outpatient volumes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the “normal” hospital business. Hospitals racked up over $200 bn in losses between March and June 2020. according to the American Hospital Association’s report, Hospitals and Health Systems Continue to Face Unprecedented Financial Challenges Due to COVID-19. AHA suggests that the $323 bn loss figure may be underestimated, as growing coronavirus cases are emerging in certain states: as of this writing, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah among those states heating up.

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Growing Evidence for eConsults – the Asynchronous, Clinician-to-Clinician Platform for Telehealth

Health care providers stood up virtual health care services with lightning speed as the coronavirus pandemic emerged in the U.S. Telehealth and its various flavors enabled both patients and providers to manage the risk of contracting the virus, especially at a time when little was known about the nature of transmission, treatment and prevention — except for washing hands, covering one’s face, and isolating when showing symptoms. In Electronic Consultations (eConsults): A Triple Win for Patients, Clinicians, and Payers, the Milbank Memorial Fund explores the evidence supporting the growth of asynchronous electronic consultation encounters between patients and clinicians. Note that

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Juneteenth 2020: Inequality and Injustice in Health Care in America

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman because it often results in physical death,” Martin Luther King, Jr., asserted at the second meeting of the Medical Committee for Human Rights in Chicago on March 25, 1966. This quote has been shortened over the five+ decades since Dr. King told this truth, to the short-hand, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.” Professor Charlene Galarneau recently enlightened me on Dr. King’s original statement in her seminal essay, “Getting King’s Words Right.” Among

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Saving Money as a Financial Vaccine: BlackRock Finds Consumer Savings Drain and Etsy Sellers Not Saving Much

“Americans are feeling incredible financial pressure as a result of the COVID outbreak,” John Thompson, Chief Program Officer with the Financial Health Network. One in three people in the U.S. has skipped or stopped paying a bill, and over half of Americans have used emergency savings, according to a survey from the BlackRock Emergency Savings Initiative (ESI). BlackRock, the investment firm, allocated $50 million in February 2019 to form the ESI, focused on helping people with lower incomes to bolster savings and financial health. BlackRock partners in the ESI with the Financial Health Network, CommonWealth, the Center for Advanced Hindsight Common

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Stress in America – COVID-19 Takes Toll on Finances, Education, Basic Needs and Parenting

“The COVID-19 pandemic has altered every aspect of American life, from health and work to education and exercise,” the new Stress in America 2020 study from the American Psychological Association begins. The APA summarizes the impact of these mass changes on the nation: “The negative mental health effects of the coronavirus may be as serious as the physical health implications,” with COVID-19 stressors hitting all health citizens in the U.S. in different ways. Beyond the risk of contracting the virus, the Great Lockdown of the U.S. economy has stressed the U.S. worker and the national economy, with 7 in 10

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Consumers Focus on Basic Needs in the COVID-19 Pandemic: Is Self-Care a New Normal?

Personal health, food and medicine, safety and financial security are consumers’ top priorities as of April 2020, learned in consumer research analyzed in How COVID-19 will permanently change consumer behavior from Accenture. Both health and economic concerns plague consumers around the world as people “strive to adapt to a new normal,” Accenture reports. “Fear is running high as individuals contemplate what this crisis means for them…for their families and friends, and the society at large,” the report sets the table on the evolving behaviors of consumers in the pandemic. On an individual, personal level, two-thirds of people are fearful for

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Food, Housing, Energy and Medical Care – the Material Hardships of COVID-19 in America

The Coronavirus has impacted every aspect of human life: first, the direct biological impact of COVID-19 on people, as of today the cause of over 63,000 deaths in the U.S. along with unquantifiable morbidity among millions of Americans who are surviving the virus and the toll on family caregivers. Beyond the direct physical impact of the virus, social and emotional health impacts are emerging now due to physical distancing, mandates to #StayHome, and telecommuting to jobs when possible. Mental health impacts will persist as a pandemic after the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve previously detailed here in Health Populi. On a global

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How COVID-19 is Hurting Americans’ Home Economics in 2020

Beyond the physical and clinical aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic are financial hits that people are taking in the shutdown of large parts of the U.S. economy, impacting jobs, wages, and health insurance rolls. Some 1 in 2 people in the U.S. who have had their income impacted by the coronavirus have either fallen behind in paying off credit card debt or other bills, had problems paying for utilities, have lagged in paying for housing (rent or mortgage), been challenged paying for food, or other out-of-pocket costs. We learn about these fiscal hits from COVID-10 from the latest Health Tracking Poll

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Health, Wealth & COVID-19 – My Conversation with Jeanne Pinder & Carium, in Charts

The coronavirus pandemic is dramatically impacting and re-shaping our health and wealth, simultaneously. Today, I’ll be brainstorming this convergence in a “collaborative health conversation” hosted by Carium’s Health IRL series.  Here’s a link to the event. Jeanne founded ClearHealthCosts nearly ten years ago, having worked as a journalist with the New York Times and other media. She began to build a network of other journalists, each a node in a network to crowdsource readers’-patients’ medical bills in local markets. Jeanne started in the NYC metro and expanded, one node at a time and through many sources of funding from not-for-profits/foundations,

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Healthy Thinking: Inside the Mind of the COVID-19 Consumer

Stress is up, smoking increasing, drinking more alcohol….Americans are tapping into a variety of coping mechanisms in the coronavirus outbreak, with health on their collective minds. Toluna and Harris Interactive are collaborating on the COVID-19 Barometer, publishing biweekly data on consumers’ views on the coronavirus pandemic. The data here are a snapshot of consumers taken through the Toluna-Harris poll conducted among 1,047 U.S. adults between 9-20 April 2020. The first chart shows various life-flows Americans have adopted in April, all risk factors impacting peoples’ overall health status and mental well-being. There were demographic differences across these factors: more women felt

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The Patient-as-Payor in the Coronavirus Pandemic

One in three working age people in the U.S. lost their job as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, some of whom lost health insurance and others anxious their health coverage will be threatened, revealed in a survey from The Commonwealth Fund published on April 21, 2020. 2 in 5 people in America who are dealing with job insecurity are also health insurance insecure, the study found, as shown in the pie chart. The Commonwealth Fund commissioned the poll among 1,001 U.S. adults 18 to 64 years of age between 8-13 April 2020. Nearly all Americans believe the dots of

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In the U.S., the Spread of Infectious Disease Now Seen As Bigger Threat Than Terrorism – Pew

The spread of infectious disease is the new terrorism in the eyes of Americans. The most significant major threat to the U.S. is infectious disease, four in five Americans said in March 2020, closely followed by terrorism (in general), the spread of nuclear weapons, and cyberattacks from other countries. For the study, the Pew Research Center commissioned a telephone survey conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults in March 2020. Large majorities of people are also highly concerned about China’s growing power and influence, global climate change, Russia’s power and influence, the condition of the global economy, and global poverty. The percent

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Americans’ Sense of Well-Being Falls to Great Recession Levels, Gallup Finds

It’s déjà vu all over again for Americans’ well-being: we haven’t felt this low since the advent of the Great Recession that hit our well-well-being hard in December 2008. As COVID-19 diagnoses reached 200,000 in the U.S. in April 2020, Gallup gauged that barely 1 in 2 people felt they were thriving. In the past 12 years, the percent of Americans feeling they were thriving hit a peak in 2018, as the life evaluations line graph illustrates. Gallup polled over 20,000 U.S. adults in late March into early April 2020 to explore Americans’ self-evaluations of their well-being. FYI, Gallup asks consumers

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The Coronavirus Impact on American Life, Part 1 – Life Disrupted, and Money Concerns

Nearly 3 in 4 Americans see their lives disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, according to the early April Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. This feeling holds true across most demographic factors: among both parents and people without children; men and women alike; white folks as well as people of color (although fewer people identifying as Hispanic, still a majority). There are partisan differences, however, in terms of who perceives a life-disruption due to COVID-19: 76% of Democrats believe this, 72% of Independents, and 70% of Republicans. Interestingly, only 30% of Republicans felt this way in March 2020, more than

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Honor Your Doctor – It’s National Doctors Day Today (and EveryDay)

Today, March 30, is National Doctors Day. We honor doctors annually on this day. But every day, we must honor physicians for bolstering the health and wellness of our fellow Americans, our beloved families and friends, and our selves. The Coronavirus Pandemic reminds us of the precious and scarce resource that is our national supply of physicians in America — numbering about 750,000 active clinicians in the U.S. according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, physicians in America had been feeling increasingly burned out and depressed. The 2020 WebMD survey on the state of

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Wistful Thinking: The National Health Spending Forecast In a Land Without COVID-19

U.S. health care spending will grow to 20% of the national economy by 2028, forecasted in projections pre-published in the April 2020 issue of Health Affairs, National Health Expenditure (NHE) Projections. 2019-28: Expected Rebound in Prices Drives Rising Spending Growth. NHE will grow 5.4% in the decade, the model expects. But…what a difference a pandemic could make on this forecast. This year, NHE will be $3.8 trillion, growing to $6.2 trillion in 2028. Hospital care spending, the largest single component in national health spending, is estimated at $1.3 trillion in 2020. These projections are based on “current law,” the team

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In the US COVID-19 Pandemic, A Tension Between the Fiscal and the Physical

“Act fast and do whatever it takes,” insists the second half of the title of a new eBook with contributions from forty leading economists from around the world. The first half of the title is, Mitigating the COVID Economic Crisis.  The book is discussed in a World Economic Forum essay discussing the economists’ consensus to “act fast.” As the U.S. curve adds new American patients testing positive for the coronavirus, the book and essay illustrate the tension between health consumer versus the health citizen in the U.S.  For clinical context, as I write this post on 24th March 2020, today’s U.S.

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Lockdown Economics for U.S. Health Consumers

The hashtag #StayHome was ushered onto Twitter by 15 U.S. national healthcare leaders in a USA Today editorial yesterday. The op-ed co-authors included Dr. Eric Topol, Dr. Leana Wen, Dr. Zeke Emanuel, Dr. Jordan Shlain, Dr. Vivek Murthy, Andy Slavitt, and other key healthcare opinion leaders. Some states and regions have already mandated that people stay home; at midnight last night, counties in the Bay Area in California instituted this, and there are tightening rules in my area of greater Philadelphia. UBS economist Paul Donovan talked about “Lockdown Economics” in his audio commentary today. Paul’s observations resonated with me as

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The Book on Deaths of Despair – Deaton & Case On Education, Pain, Work and the Future of Capitalism

Anne Case and Angus Deaton were working in a cabin in Montana the summer of 2014. Upon analyzing mortality data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they noticed that death rates were rising among middle-aged white people. “We must have hit a wrong key,” they note in the introduction of their book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism. This reversal of life span in America ran counter to a decades-long trend of lower mortality in the U.S., a 20th century accomplishment, Case and Deaton recount. In the 300 pages that follow, the researchers deeply dive into and

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Job #1 for Next President: Reduce Health Care Costs – Commonwealth Fund & NBC News Poll

Four in five U.S. adults say lowering the cost of health care in America should be high priority for the next American president, according to a poll from The Commonwealth Fund and NBC News. Health care costs continue to be a top issue on American voters’ minds in this 2020 Presidential election year, this survey confirms. The first chart illustrates that lowering health care costs is a priority that crosses political parties. This is true for all flavors of health care costs, including health insurance deductibles and premiums, out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs, and the cost of long-term care. While

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The High Cost-of-Thriving and the Evolving Social Contract for Health Care

Millions of Americans have to work 53 weeks to cover a year’s worth of household expenses. Most Americans haven’t saved much for their retirement. Furthermore, the bullish macroeconomic outlook for the U.S. in early 2020 hasn’t translated into individual American’s optimism for their own family budgets. (Sidebar and caveat: yesterday was the fourth day in a row of the U.S. financial markets losing as much as 10% of market cap, so the global economic outlook is being revised downward by the likes of Goldman Sachs, Vanguard, and Morningstar, among other financial market prognosticators. MarketWatch called this week the worst market

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Tools for Paying Medical Bills Don’t Help Health Consumers Manage Their Financial Health

There’s a gap between the supply of digital health tools that hospitals and health systems offer patients, and what patients-as-consumers need for overall health and wellbeing. This chasm is illustrated in The future of the digital patient experience, the latest report from HIMSS and the Center for Connected Medicine (CCM). The big gap in supply to patients vs. demand by health consumers is highlighted by what the arrow in the chart below points to: managing payments and paying bills. Nowhere in the top 10 most commonly provided digital tools is one for price transparency, cost comparing or cost estimating.  In the

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Americans’ Top 2 Priorities for President Trump and Congress Are To Lower Health Care and Rx Costs

Health care pocketbook issues rank first and second place for Americans in these months leading up to the 2020 Presidential election, according to research from POLITICO and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health published on 19th February 2020. This poll underscores that whether Democrat or Republican, these are the top two domestic priorities among Americans above all other issues polled including immigration, trade agreements, infrastructure and regulations. The point that Robert Blendon, Harvard’s long-time health care pollster, notes is that, “Even among Democrats, the top issues…(are) not the big system reform debates…They’re worried about their own lives, their own

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The Federal Reserve Chairman Speaks Out on Health Care Costs: “Spending But Getting Nothing”

On February 12, 2020, the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of the U.S. submitted the Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress and testified to the Senate Banking Committee. Chairman Jerome Powell detailed the current state of the economy, discussing the state of the macroeconomy, GDP growth, unemployment, inflation, and projections for 2022 and beyond. The top line data points are shown in the first chart. After his prepared remarks, Chairman Powell responded to questions from members of the Senate Banking Committee. Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) asked him about health care costs’ impact on the national U.S. economy. The Chairman

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Health Care Costs Concern Americans Approaching Retirement – Especially Women and Sicker People

Even with the prospect of enrolling in Medicare sooner in a year or two or three, Americans approaching retirement are growing concerned about health care costs, according to a study in JAMA Network Open. The paper, Health Insurance Affordability Concerns and health Care Avoidance Among US Adults Approaching Retirement, explored the perspectives of 1,028 US adults between 50 and 64 years of age between November 2018 and March 2019. The patient survey asked one question addressing two aspects of “health care confidence:” “Please rate your confidence with the following:” Being able to afford the cost of your health insurance nad

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USA Today Finds Hidden Common Ground Among Americans For Health Care

“We need to demand our health citizenship. That means our nation must approach medical treatment and data privacy as civil rights that protect everyone.” This is the start of my column, Americans, let’s claim our health care rights, published by USA Today today. USA Today is publishing a 10-part series called “Hidden Common Ground” addressing key issues where Americans can come together. Thus far, the series has covered climate change, and this month health care. Going forward, we’ll see analyses on jobs, gun rights and violence, and immigration through May’s publishing schedule. In their study conducted in December 2020, USA Today

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A Uniting Issue in the United States is Lowering Prescription Drug Costs

Health care continues to be the top-ranked voting issue in the U.S. looking to the November 2020 Presidential and Congressional elections. The Kaiser Family Foundation conducts the monthly poll which gauges U.S. adults’ perspectives on health care, and this month’s January 2020 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll explores Americans’ views on broad healthcare reform plans and specific medical policy issues. Overall, Americans point to prescription drug costs and the preservation of the Affordable Care Act’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions, the first chart tells us. Third and fourth on voters’ minds are protecting patients from surprise medical bills and better

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Most Americans Regardless of Income Say It’s Unfair for Wealthier People to Get Better Health Care

In America, earning lower or middle incomes is a risk factor for having trouble accessing health care and/or paying for it. But most Americans, rich or not, believe that it’s unfair for wealthier people to get better health care, according to a January 2020 poll from NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Life Experiences and Income Equality in the United States. The survey was conducted in July and August 2019 among 1,885 U.S. adults 18 or older. Throughout the study, note the four annual household income categories gauged in the research: Top 1%

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The Suicide Rate in America Increased by 40% between 2000 and 2017. Blue Collar Workers Were Much More At Risk.

The rate of suicide in the U.S. rose from 12.9 per 100,000 population to 18.0 between 2000 and 2017, a 40% increase. Those workers most at-risk for suiciding were men working in construction and mining, maintenance, arts/design/entertainment/sports/media, farming and fishing, and transportation. For women, working in construction and mining, protective service, transportation, healthcare (support and practice), the arts and entertainment, and personal care put them at higher risk of suicide. The latest report from the CDC on Suicide Rates by Industry and Occupation provides a current analysis of the National Violent Death Reporting System which collects data from 32 states,

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Consumers Seek Benefits From Food, a Personal Social Determinant of Health

As consumers in the U.S. wrestle with accessing and paying for medical benefits, there’s another sort of health benefit people increasingly understand, embrace, and consume: food-as-medicine. More people are taking on the role of health consumers as they spend more out-of-pocket on medical care and insurance, and seeking food to bolster their health is part of this behavior change. One in four Americans seek health benefits from food, those who don’t still seek the opportunity to use food for weight loss goals, heart health and energy boosting, according to the 2019 Food & Health Survey from the International Food Information

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Calling Out Health Equity on Martin Luther King Day 2020

Today as we appreciate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., I post a photo of him in my hometown of Detroit in 1963, giving a preliminary version of the “I Have a Dream” speech he would deliver two months later in Washington, DC. Wisdom from the speech: “But now more than ever before, America is forced to grapple with this problem, for the shape of the world today does not afford us the luxury of an anemic democracy. The price that this nation must pay for the continued oppression and exploitation of the Negro or any other minority group is

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The Patient As Payor: Workers Covered by Employer Health Insurance Spend 11.5% of Household Incomes on Premiums and Deductibles

Workers covered by health insurance through their companies spend 11.5% of their household income on health insurance premiums and deductibles based on The Commonwealth Fund’s latest report on employee health care costs, Trends in Employer Health Coverage, 2008-2018: Higher Costs for Workers and Their Families. The topline of this study is that average annual growth in employer premiums rose faster between 2016 and 2017, by about 5% for both single and family plans. The bottom line for families is that workers’ premium payments grew faster than median incomes did over the ten years 2008 to 2018. Average deductibles also outpaced

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Longevity Stalls Around the World And Wealth, More Concentrated

Two separate and new OECD reports, updating health and the global economic outlook, raise two issues that are inter-related: that gains in longevity are stalling, with chronic illnesses and mental ill health affecting more people; and, as wealth grows more concentrated among the wealthy, the economic outlook around most of the world is also slowing. First, we’ll mine the Health at a Glance 2019 annual report covering data on population health, health system performance, and medical spending across OECD countries. The first chart arrays the x-y data points of life expectancy versus health spending for each of the OECD countries

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More Evidence of Self-Rationing as Patients Morph into Healthcare Payors

Several new studies reveal that more patients are feeling and living out their role as health care payors as medical spending vies with other household line items. This role of patient-as-the-payor crosses consumers’ ages and demographics, and is heating up health care as the top political issue for the 2020 elections at both Federal and State levels. In research from HealthPocket, 2 in 5 Americans said they needed to reduce other household expenses to be able to afford their monthly insurance premiums. Four in ten consumers said their monthly health insurance premiums were increasing. One in four people in the

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A Tale of Two Americas as Told by the 2019 OECD Report on Health

It was the best of times, It was the worst of times, It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, … starts Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities.  That’s what came to my mind when reading the latest global health report from the OECD, Health at a Glance 2019, which compares the United States to other nations’ health care outcomes, risk factors, access metrics, and spending. Some trends are consistent across the wealthiest countries of the world, many sobering, such as: Life expectancy rates fell in 19 of the

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Thinking About Health Care One Year From the 2020 Presidential Election

Today is 4th November 2019, exactly one year to the day that Americans can express their political will and cast their vote for President of the United States. Health care will be a key issue driving people to their local polling places, so it’s an opportune moment to take the temperature on U.S. voters’ perspectives on healthcare reform. This post looks at three current polls to gauge how Americans are feeling about health care reform 365 days before the 2020 election, and one day before tomorrow’s 2019 municipal and state elections. Today’s Financial Times features a poll that found two-thirds

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Will Consumers Cross the Cost-and-Trust Chasm Between Prescription Drugs and Hospitals?

People in the U.S. rank prescription drugs, lab tests, emergency room visits, dental and vision care, preventive services, chronic disease management and mental health care as the “most essential” health care services, according to the 2019 Survey of America’s Patients conducted by The Physicians Foundation. When asked what factors contribute to rising health care costs in America, most consumers cite the cost of prescription drugs. Taken together, these two data points demonstrate the potent political import of prescription drug prices as the U.S. approaches the 2020 Presidential election. The Physicians Foundation surveyed 2,001 U.S. adults between 27 and 75 years

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While Costs Are A Top Concern Among Most U.S. Patients, So Are Challenges of Poverty, Food, and Housing

Rising health care costs continue to concern most Americans, with one in two people believing they’re one sickness away from getting into financial trouble, according to the 2019 Survey of America’s Patients conducted for The Physicians Foundation. In addition to paying for “my” medical bills, most people in the U.S. also say that income inequality and inadequate social services significantly contribute to high medical spending for every health citizen in the nation. The Physicians Foundation conducts this study into Americans’ views on the U.S. health care system every other year. This year’s poll was conducted in September 2019 and included input

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Learning from Dr. Eric Topol, Live from Medecision Liberation 2019

“Bold thinking is great. Bold doing is better,” Dr. Eric Topol introduced his talk yesterday at Medecision’s Liberation 2019 conference. I have the opportunity, for which I’m so grateful, of not only attending this meeting but playing a role as a speaker, a sometimes stage “emcee,” and a keynote speaker. And as an attendee, I learn so much from other speakers, fellow attendees, and Medecision staff all sharing perspectives during breakouts and networking breaks. In mode of attendee (and self-confessed collegial-groupie of Dr. Topol’s), I took in his remarks taking notes as fast as I could thanks to Mom teaching

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Americans’ Top Sources of Stress are Money, Money, Money and Family

ABBA sang the song “Money Money Money” back in 1976. The lyrics feel, sadly, spot-on when thinking about health care costs, job-lock and Americans’ home economics in 2019. “Work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay Ain’t it sad And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me That’s too bad… Money, money, money must be funny In the rich man’s world.” That year, ’76, wasn’t just the U.S. bicentennial — it was a year when the U.S. allocated 8.6% of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product for health care.

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Health Consumer Behaviors in the U.S. Stall, Alegeus Finds in the 2019 Index

In the U.S., the theory of and rationale behind consumer-directed health has been that if you give a patient more financial skin-in-the-game — that is, to compel people to spend more out-of-pocket on health care — you will motivate that patient to don the hat of a consumer — to mindfully research, shop around, and purchase health care in a rational way, benefit from lower-cost and high-quality healthcare services. For years, Alegeus found that patients were indeed growing those consumer health muscles to save and shop for health care. In 2019, it appears that patients have backslid, according to the

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What the 2019 Nobel Prize Winners in Economics Teach Us About Health

The three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Economics — Banerjee and Duflo (both of MIT) and Kremer (working at Harvard) — were recognized for their work on alleviating global poverty.” “Over 700 million people still subsist on extremely low incomes. Every year, five million children still die before their fifth birthday, often from diseases that could be prevented or cured with relatively cheap and simple treatments,” The Nobel Prize website notes. To respond to this audaciously huge challenge, Banerjee, Duflo and Kremer asked quite specific, granular questions that have since shaped the field of development economics — now

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Wasted: $1 of Every $4 Spent on Health Care In America

A study in JAMA published this week analyzed research reports that have measured waste in the U.S. health care system, calculating that 25% of medical spending in America is wasted. If spending is gauged at $3.8 trillion, waste amounts to nearly $1 trillion. If spending is 18% of the American gross domestic product (GDP), then some 4.5% of the U.S. economy is wasted spending by the health care system and its stakeholders. In “Waste in the US Health Care System,” a team from Humana and the Univrsity of Pittsburgh recalibrated the previous finding of 30% of wasted spending to the 25%,

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The Hospital CFO in the Anxiety Economy – My Talk at Cerner’s Now/Next Conference

As patients have taken on more financial responsibility for first-dollar costs in high-deductible health plans and medical bills, hospitals and health care providers face growing fiscal pressures for late payments and bad debt. Those financial pressures are on both sides of the health care payment transaction, stressing patients-as-payors and health care financial managers alike. I’m speaking to health industry stakeholders on patients-as-payors at Cerner’s Now/Next conference today about the patient-as-payor, a person primed for engagement. That’s as in “Amazon-Primed,” which patients in their consumer lives now use as their retail experience benchmark. But consumers-as-patients don’t feel like health care today

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How Can Patients Be Health Consumers in an Un-Transparent World?

That question in the title of this post is begged in the annual 2019 consumer survey released this week from UnitedHealthcare (UHC). UHC gauges peoples’ views on health care, insurance, and costs in its yearly research. This year, transparency and health literacy challenges top the findings. When the three in ten folks do shop, four in ten people used the internet or mobile apps to do so — a dramatic increase from 2012. Shopping is most commonly done among Millennials, one-half of whom shop for health care services. Of people who have used digital tools for health care shopping, 8

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The Pharma Industry Hits Bottom of Consumers’ Industry Rankings, and Healthcare Is Only Marginally Higher on the List

from Gallup’s 2019 survey into Americans’ Views of U.S. Business Industry Sectors. Since reaching a relative high regard in 2015, the pharma industry reputation among consumers has declined each year since to the low this year with 58% of Americans having a negative view. This was a 31 percentage point drop in reputation in one year. This is one negativity point above peoples’ low regard for the Federal government. Gallup notes that Americans are over two times more likely to rank the pharmaceutical industry negatively (58%) as positively (27%). The healthcare industry, apart from pharma, didn’t fare well this year in

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The New Employer Wellness Lens Includes Mental Health, Telehealth and Women’s Health

U.S. employers are tightening their focus on mental and behavioral health, addressing workers’ chronic conditions, emphasizing women’s health, and allocating more resources to digital and telehealth investments, we learn from Optum’s Ten Years of Health and Well-Being at Work: Learning from our past and reimagining the future. Four in five medium, large and jumbo companies expect their spending on health and wellness programs will increase over the next three years. That spending will have a strong focus on behavioral health services: 9 in 10 employers are concerned with the level of access workers have to mental health services. Companies will

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Talking “HealthConsuming” on the MM&M Podcast

Marc Iskowitz, Executive Editor of MM&M, warmly welcomed me to the Haymarket Media soundproof studio in New York City yesterday. We’d been trying to schedule meeting up to do a live podcast since February, and we finally got our mutual acts together on 6th August 2019. Here’s a link to the 30-minute conversation, where Marc combed through the over 500 endnotes from HealthConsuming‘s appendix to explore the patient as the new health care payor, the Amazon prime-ing of people, and prospects for social determinants of health to bolster medicines “beyond the pill.” https://www.pscp.tv/MMMnews/1eaJbvgovBYJX Thanks for listening — and if you

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Love ACA Provisions, Not the ACA – KFF Poll Reveals American Voters’ Views on Health Care Reform

Today is the bridge day between The Battle of the Democratic Primary Candidates Debate #2 Part 1 and tonight, Part 2. So it’s a good time to take stock of U.S. voters’ views on health care, through the lens of the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Health Tracking Poll for July 2019 published yesterday. Health care is the top issue Democrats want to hear about in the debates, well ahead of climate change, women’s issues, immigration and gun policy. Let’s start with an overall context statistic from this poll: that is that 86% of insured U.S. adults like their health insurance plan

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Milliman Finds PPO for Family of 4 in 2019 Will Cost $28,386

This year, an employer-sponsored PPO for a family of four in the U.S. will cost $28,386, a 3.6% increase over 2018, according to the 2019 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). Based on my annual read of this year’s Index, the PPO costs roughly the same as a new Dodge Charger or a year attending the engineering school at Alfred University. The Milliman MMI team has updated the methodology for the Index; the chart shown here is my own, recognizing that the calculations and assumptions beneath the 2019 data point differ from previous years. The key points of the report are that:

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Finances Are the Top Cause of Stress, and HSAs Aren’t Helping So Much…Yet

If you heed the mass media headlines and President Trump’s tweets, the U.S. has achieved “the best economy” ever in mid-July 2019. But if you’re working full time in that economy, you tend to feel much less positive about your personal prospects and fiscal fitness. Nearly nine in 10 working Americans believe that medical costs will rise in the next few years as they pondering potential changes to the Affordable Care Act. The bottom line is that one-half of working people are more concerned about how they will save for future health care expenses. That’s the over-arching theme in PwC’s

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Retail Pricing in U.S. Health Care? Why Transparency Is Hard to Do

“It’s the prices stupid,” Uwe Reinhardt and Gerard Anderson and colleagues asserted in the title their seminal Health Affairs manifesto on U.S. healthcare spending. Sixteen years later, yesterday on 8th July 2019, a Federal U.S. judge blocked, in the literal last-minute, a DHHS order mandating prescription drug companies to publish “retail prices” of medicines in direct-to-consumer TV ads. I was getting this post on transparency together just before that announcement hit the press, so this post would have had a different nuance yesterday compared with today. And that’s how health care politics and economics in America roll these days. Welcome to

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Gaps in Health Equity in America Are Growing

There’s been a “clear lack of progress on health equity during the past 25 years in the United States,” asserts a data-rich analysis of trends conducted by two professors/researchers from UCLA’s School of Public Health. The study was published this week in JAMA Network Open. The research mashed up several measures of health equity covering the 25 years from 1993 through 2017. The data came out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System looking at trends by race/ethnicity, sex and income across three categories for U.S. adults between 18 and 64 years of age.

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Prescription Drugs Are Becoming A Luxury Good in America – Join the #HCLDR Chat Tonight

“Drugmakers Push Their Prices Higher” is the top story under the Business & Finance banner in today’s Wall Street Journal. That’s in terms of drugs’ list prices, which most patients don’t pay. But drug costs to patients are in the eye of the beholder, who in a high-deductible plan or Medicare Part D donut hole becomes the first-dollar payer. Patients continue to face rising drug costs, pushing them into what I’ve been thinking about as luxury-goods territory. The economic definition of a luxury good is a product for which demand increases more than proportionally as income rises, so that spending

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Health Care and the Democratic Debates – Part 1 – Medicare For All, Rx Prices, Guns and Mental Health

Twenty Democratic Presidential candidates each have a handful of minutes to make their case for scoring the 2020 nomination, “debating” last night and tonight on major issues facing the United States. I watched every minute, iPad at the ready, taking detailed notes during the 120 minutes of political discourse conducted at breakneck speed. Lester Holt, Savannah Guthrie, and Jose Diaz-Balart asked the ten candidates questions covering guns, butter (the economy), immigration, climate change, and of course, health care — what I’m focusing on in this post, the first of two-debate-days-in-a-row. The first ten of twenty candidates in this debate were,

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Healthcare Costs Inspire Employer Activism and Employee Dissatisfaction – What PwC Found Behind the Numbers

In the U.S. each year between 2006 and 2016, employees’ healthcare cost sharing grew 4.5%. In that decade, Americans’ median wages rose 1.8% a year, PwC notes in their annual report, Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2020 from the firm’s Health Research Institute. Medical cost trend is the projected percent growth in healthcare costs over a year based on an equivalent benefit package from one year to the next. As the first chart shows, trend will grow 6% from 2019 to 2020. This is an increase of 0.3 percentage points up from 5.7% for 2019, which was flat from

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The Most Important Trends For Health in Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Report Aren’t About Health Care

The health care section of Mary Meeker’s 334-page annual report, Internet Trends 2019, comprises 24 of those pages (270 through 293). These two dozen exhibits detail growing adoption of digital tech in health care, the growth of genomics and EHR adoption, examples of these tools from “A” (Apple) to “Z” (Zocdoc), and on the last page of that chapter, medical spending in the U.S., the highest in raw and per capita numbers versus the rest of the world. But the most important implications for American health care aren’t found in those pages: they’re in other parts of the report addressing

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Americans Could Foster a Health Consumer Movement, Families USA Envisions

Employers, health care providers, unions, leaders and — first and foremost, consumers — must come together to build a more accessible, affordable health care system in America, proposes a call-to-action fostered by a Families USA coalition called Consumers First: The Alliance to Make the Health Care System Work for Everyone. The diverse partners in this Alliance include the American Academy of Family Physicians, AFSCME (the largest public service employees’ union in the U.S.), the American Benefits Council (which represents employers), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), First Focus (a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization), and the Pacific Business Group on Health

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People Want to Flourish, Not Just Live – Speaking Health Politics to Real People

“How should we define ‘health?'” a 2011 BMJ article asked. The context for the question was that the 1948 World Health Organization definition of health — that health is, “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”– was not so useful in the 21st century. The authors, a global, multidisciplinary team from Europe, Canada and the U.S., asserted that by 2011, human health was marked less by infectious disease and more by non-communicable conditions that could be highly influenced, reversed and prevented through self-care by the individual and public health policy

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Health Care Costs Still Americans’ Top Financial Worry Among All Money Concerns

Health care costs rank ahead of Americans’ money-worries about low wages and availability of cash, paying for college, house payments, taxes, and debt, according to the latest Gallup poll on peoples’ most important family financial problems in 2019. Medical costs have, in fact, ranked at the top of this list for three years in a row, with a five percentage point rise between 2018 and 2019. No other financial concern had that growth in increase-of-money-worries in the past year. Health care costs rank the top financial problem for people across all income levels. One in five families (19%) earning under

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Will Health Consumers Morph Into Health Citizens? HealthConsuming Explains, Part 5

The last chapter (8) of HealthConsuming considers whether Americans can become “health citizens.” “Citizens” in this sense goes back to the Ancient Greeks: I return to Hippocrates, whose name is, of course, the root of The Hippocratic Oath that physicians take. Greece was the birthplace of Democracy with a capital “D.” Hippocrates’ book The Corpus is thought to be one of the first medical textbooks. The text covered social, physical, and nutritional influences, and the concept of “place” for health and well-being. Here, the discussion detailed the roles of air and water for health. The Hippocratic texts also coached doctors to

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Listen Up, Healthcare: Hear The Patient’s Voice!

Consider the voice of a patient before the advent of the Internet in the digital 1.0 world, and then the proliferation of social networks in v 2.0. One patient could talk with another over their proverbial neighborhood fence, a concerned parent at the PTA meeting with others dealing with a children’s health issue, or a recovering alcoholic testifying in person at an AA session. Today, the voice of the patient is magnified one-to-many, omnichannel and multi-platform — via video, blogs, podcasts, social networks, listservs….and, yes, still in live forums like AA meetings, church basements, Y-spaces, and the Frazzled Cafe meet-ups

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The United States of Diabetes: a $1,240 Tax on Every American

Pharmaceutical company executives are testifying in the U.S. Congress this week on the topic of prescription drug costs. One of those medicines, insulin, cost a patient $5,705 for a year’s supply in 2016, double what it cost in 2012, according to the Health Care Cost Institute. Know that one of these insulin products, Lilly’s Humalog,  came onto the market in 1996. In typical markets, as products mature and get mass adoption, prices fall. Not so insulin, one of the many cost components in caring for diabetes. But then prescription drug pricing doesn’t conform with how typical markets work in theory.

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What $285,000 Can Buy You in America: Medical Costs for Retirees in 2019

The average 65-year old couple retiring in 2019 will need to have a cash nest-egg of $285,000 to cover health care and medical expenses through retirement years, Fidelity Investments calculated. Fidelity estimates the average retiree will allocate 15% of their annual spending in retirement on medical costs. As if that top-line number isn’t enough to sober one up, there are two more caveats: (1) the $285K figure doesn’t include long-term care, dental services and over-the-counter medicines; and, (2) it’s an after-tax number. So depending on your tax bracket, you have to earn a whole lot more to net the $285,000

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World Health Day 2019: Let’s Celebrate Food, Climate, Insurance Coverage and Connectivity

Today, 7 April, is World Health Day. With that in mind, I devote this post to three key social determinants of health (SDOH) that are top-of-mind for me these days: food for health, climate change, and universal health coverage. UHC happens to be WHO’s focus for World Health Day 2019. [As a bonus, I’ll add in a fourth SDOH in the Hot Points for good measure and health-making]. Why a World Health Day? you may be asking. WHO says it’s, “a chance to celebrate health and remind world leaders that everyone should be able to access the health care they need,

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Medical Costs Are Consuming Americans’ Financial Health

Spending on medical care costs crowded out other household spending for millions of Americans in 2018, based on The U.S. Healthcare Cost Crisis, a survey from West Health and Gallup. Gallup polled 3,537 U.S. adults 18 and over in January and February 2019. One in three Americans overall are concerned they won’t be able to pay for health care services or prescription drugs: that includes 35% of people who are insured, and 63% of those who do not have insurance.   Americans borrowed $88 billion in 2018 to pay for health care spending, West Health and Gallup estimated. 27 million Americans

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In the U.S., Patients Consider Costs and Insurance Essential to Their Overall Health Experience

Patients in the U.S. assume the role of payor when they are enrolled in high-deductible health plans. People are also the payor when dealing with paying greater co-payments for prescription drugs, especially as new therapeutic innovations come out of pipelines into commercial markets bearing six-digit prices for oncology and other categories. For mainstream Americans, “the math doesn’t add up” for paying medical bills out of median household budgets, based on the calculations in the 2019 VisitPay Report.  Given a $60K median U.S. income and average monthly mortgage and auto payments, there’s not much consumer margin to cover food, utilities, petrol,

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Most Americans Blame Drug Companies, Insurers, and Hospitals for High Health Care Costs

There’s little agreement between Democrats and Republicans on a plethora of issues in American public life. But one issue that brings U.S. citizens together is agreement that the cost of health care is too high in the country, and that pharma, health plans, and providers are to blame. Welcome to health politics in America as of March 2019, according to The Public and High U.S. Health Care Costs, a poll conducted by POLITICO and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The first chart illustrates the common ground shared by Americans by party affiliation, with vast majorities across parties playing

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The Evolution of Self-Care for Consumers – Learning and Sharing at CHPA

Self-care in health goes back thousands of years. Reading from Hippocrates’ Corpus about food and clean air’s role in health sounds contemporary today. And even in our most cynical moments, we can all hearken back to our grandmothers’ kitchen table wisdom for dealing with skin issues, the flu, and broken hearts. The annual conference of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association (CHPA) convened this week, and I was grateful to attend and speak on the evolving retail health landscape yesterday. Gary Downing, CEO of Clarion Brands and Chairman of the CHPA Board, kicked off the first day with a nostalgic look

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Medical Issues Are Still The #1 Contributor to Bankruptcy in the U.S., An AJPH Study Asserts

Medical costs in America are still the top contributor to personal bankruptcy in the U.S., a risk factor in two-thirds of bankruptcies filed between 2013 and 2016. That’s a sad fiscal fact, especially as more Americans gained access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, according to a study published this month in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPA). Between 2013 and 2016, about 530,000 bankruptcies were filed among U.S. families each year associated with medical reasons, illustrated in Table 1 from the study. The report, Medical Bankruptcy: Still Common Despite the Affordable Care Act, updates research from 2007 which

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Patients, Health Consumers, People, Citizens: Who Are We In America?

“Patients as Consumers” is the theme of the Health Affairs issue for March 2019. Research published in this trustworthy health policy publication covers a wide range of perspectives, including the promise of patients’ engagement with data to drive health outcomes, citizen science and participatory research where patients crowdsource cures, the results of financial incentives in value-based plans to drive health care “shopping” and decision making, and ultimately, whether the concept of patients-as-consumers is useful or even appropriate. Health care consumerism is a central focus in my work, and so it’s no surprise that I’ve consumed every bit of this publication. [In

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Can AI Make Healthcare Human Again? Dr. Topol Says “Yes”

“The Fourth Industrial Age,” Dr. Abraham Verghese writes, “has great potential to help, but also to harm, to exaggerate the profound gap that already exists between those who have much and those who have less each passing year.” Dr. Verghese asserts this in his forward to Deep Medicine, Dr. Eric Topol’s latest work which explores the promise of artificial intelligence (AI), Big Data, and robotics — three legs of the Fourth Industrial Age stool. [If you don’t know the work of Dr. Verghese, and since you’re reading the Health Populi blog, you must get to know Dr. V now. Your

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National Health Spending Will Reach Nearly 20% of U.S. GDP By 2027

National health spending in the U.S. is expected to grow by 5.7% every year from 2020 to 2027, the actuaries at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services forecast in their report, National Health Expenditure Projections, 2018-2927: Economic And Demographic Trends Drive Spending And Enrollment Growth, published yesterday by Health Affairs. For context, note that general price inflation in the U.S. was 1.6% for the 12 months ending January 2019 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth rate for health care costs exceeds every period measured since the high of 7.2% recorded in 1990-2007. The bar chart illustrates the

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Open Table for Health: Patients Are Online For Health Search and Physician Reviews

Seeking health information online along with researching other patients’ perspectives on doctors are now as common as booking dinner reservations and reading restaurant reviews, based on Rock Health’s latest health consumer survey, Beyond Wellness for the Healthy: Digital Health Consumer Adoption 2018. Rock Health has gauged consumes’ digital health adoption fo a few years, showing year-on-year growth for “Googling” health information, seeking peer patients’ physician and hospital reviews, tracking activity, donning wearable tech, and engaging in live telehealth consultations with providers, as the first chart shows. The growth of tracking and wearable tech is moving toward more medical applications beyond fitness

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The Cost of Prescription Drugs, Doctors and Patient Access – A View from HIMSS19

Most patient visits to doctors result in a prescription written for a medicine that people retrieve from a pharmacy, whether retail in the local community or via mail order for a maintenance drug. This one transaction generates a lot of data points, which individually have a lot of importance for the individual patient. Mashed with other patients’, prescription drug utilization data can combine with more data to be used for population health, cost-effectiveness, and other constructive research pursuits. At HIMSS19, there’s an entire day devoted to a Pharma Forum on Tuesday 12 February, focusing on pharma-provider-payor collaborations. Allocating a full

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In U.S. Health Care, It’s Still the Prices, Stupid – But Transparency and Consumer Behavior Aren’t Working As Planned

I’m glad to be getting back to health economic issues after spending the last couple of weeks firmly focused on consumers, digital health technologies and CES 2019. There’s a lot for me to address concerning health care costs based on news and research published over the past couple of weeks. We’ll start with the centerpiece that will provide the overall context for this post: that’s the ongoing research of Gerard Anderson and colleagues under the title, It’s Still The Prices, Stupid: Why The US Spends So Much On Health Care, And A Tribute To Uwe Reinhardt. It is bittersweet to

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Rationing Care in America: Cost Implications Getting to Universal Health Coverage

It would not be surprising to know that when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2008, one in three Americans delayed medical treatment due to costs. Ten years later, as media headlines and the President boast an improved American economy, the same proportion of people are self-rationing healthcare due to cost. That percentage of people who delay medical cost based on the expense has remained stable since 2006: between 29 and 31 percent of Americans have self-rationed care due to cost for over a decade. And, 19% of U.S. adults, roughly one-in-five people who are sick and dealing with

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Americans End 2018 Worried About Healthcare Costs

Nearly one-half of Americans are quite concerned they won’t have enough money to pay for medical care, according to the latest Gallup poll. Health insurance in-security is mainstream as of November 2018, when Gallup polled U.S. adults about views on healthcare costs. It’s a major concern among six in ten people that their health plan would require they pay higher premiums or a bigger portion of their healthcare expenses. It’s also a big concern for four in ten people that someone in their family would be denied health insurance covering for a pre-existing condition, or that they might have to

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While National Health Care Spending Growth Slowed in 2017, One Stakeholder’s Financial Burden Grew: The Consumer’s

National health care spending growth slowed in 2017 to the post-recession rate of 3.9%, down from 4.8% in 2016. Per person, spending on health care grew 3.2% to $10,739 in 2017, and the share of GDP spent on medical care held steady at 17.9%. Healthcare spending in America is a $3.5 trillion micro-economy…roughly the size of the entire GDP of Germany, and about $1 trillion greater than the entire economy of France. These annual numbers come out of the annual report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, published yesterday in Health Affairs. Underneath these macro-health economic numbers is

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Most Americans Want the Federal Government to Ensure Healthcare for All

Most people in the U.S. believe that the Federal government should ensure that their fellow Americans, a new Gallup Poll found. This sentiment has been relatively stable since 2000 except for two big outlying years: a spike of 69% in 2006, and a low-point in 2003 of 42%. In 2006, Medicare Part D launched, which may have boosted consumers’ faith in Federal healthcare programs. In contrast, in 2013 the Affordable Care Act was in implementation and consumer-adoption mode, accompanied by aggressive anti-“Obamacare” campaigns in mass media. That’s the top lighter green line in the first chart. But while there’s majority support

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Healthcare Costs Stress Out U.S. Voters One Week Ahead of 2018 Mid-Term Elections

With seven days until voters go to the polls for what some call the most momentous U.S. election in decades, most Americans say that healthcare costs are a major stress, second only to money. So warns the Sixth Annual Nationwide TCHS Consumers Healthcare Survey, with the tagline: “Stressed Out: Americans and Healthcare.” Perhaps this is why healthcare has become a top voting issue for the 2018 mid-term elections that will be held on November 6 one week from today. The first chart illustrates that healthcare costs, the economy, and family responsibilities all closely cluster as sources of stress for a

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Financial Stress Is An Epidemic In America, Everyday Health Finds

One in three working-age people in the U.S. have seen a doctor about something stress-related. Stress is a way of American life, based on the findings in The United States of Stress, a survey from Everyday Health. Everyday Health polled 6,700 U.S. adults between 18 and 64 years of age about their perspectives on stress, anxiety, panic, and mental and behavioral health. Among all sources of stress, personal finances rank as the top stressor in the U.S. Over one-half of consumers say financial issues regularly stress them out. Finances, followed by jobs and work issues, worries about the future, and relationships cause

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The Single Market for Healthcare in Europe: Learnings for the U.S.

When I asked my longtime colleague and friend Robert Mittman, with whom I collaborated at Institute for the Future for a decade, how he managed international travel and jet lag, he said simply, “The time zone you’re in is the time zone you’re in.” This lesson has stayed with me since I received Robert’s advice over twenty years ago. Over the next two weeks, as I work alongside colleagues and clients in the EU and soon-to-Brexit UK, I am in time zones five and six hours later than my home-base of US Eastern Time. But the time zones I’m working

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How MedModular Fits Into the New Lower-Cost, High-Quality, Consumer-Enchanted Healthcare World

In American health economics, there’s a demand side and a supply side. On the demand side, we’ve done a poor job trying to nudge patients and consumers toward rational economic decision making, lacking transparency, information symmetry, and basic health literacy. On the supply side, we’ve engaged in a medical arms race allocating capital resources to shinier and shinier new things, often without cost-benefit rationale or clinical evidence. On that supply side, though, I met up with an innovation that can help to bend the capital cost curve of how we envision and build new hospitals and clinics. This week, I

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As Workers’ Healthcare Costs Increase, Employers Look to Telehealth and Wearable Tech to Manage Cost & Health Risks

Family premiums for health insurance received at the workplace grew 5% in 2018: to $19,616, according to the 2018 KFF Employer Health Benefits Survey released today by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). These two trends combine for a 212% increase in workers’ deductibles in the past decade. This is about eight times the growth of workers’ wages in the U.S. in the same period. Thus, the main takeaway from the study, KFF President and CEO Drew Altman noted, is that rising health care costs absolutely remain a burden for employers — but a bigger problem for workers in America. Given that

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The Importance of Broadband and Net Neutrality for Health, to the Last Person and the Last Mile

California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a net neutrality bill this weekend. Gov. Brown’s proverbial swipe of the pen accomplished two things: he went back to the Obama-era approach to ensure that internet service providers treat all users of the internet equally; and, he prompted the Department of Justice, representing the Trump Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC), to launch a lawsuit. California, home to start-ups, mature tech platform companies (like Apple, Facebook and Google), and countless digital health developers, is in a particularly strategic place to fight the FCC and, now, the Department of Justice. Nearly two dozen other states

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When Life and Health Insurance Blur: John Hancock, Behavioral Economics, and Wearable Tech

Most consumers look to every industry sector to help them engage with their health. And those companies include the insurance industry and financial services firms, we found in the 2010 Edelman Health Engagement Barometer. John Hancock, which covers about 10 million consumers across a range of products, is changing their business model for life insurance. Here’s the press release, titled, “John Hancock Leaves Traditional Life Insurance Model Behind to Incentivize Longer, Healthier Lives.” “We fundamentally believe life insurers should care about how long and well their customers live. With this decision, we are proud to become the only U.S. life insurance

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Prescription Drugs: From Costs and Bad Reputation to Civica Rx and Amazon to the Rescue

The prices of medicines prescribed in outpatient settings rose, on average, 10.3% in 2018. Wages increased about 2.6%, and consumer prices, 1.3%, based on the 2019 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey. Segal forecasts that medical cost trends will moderate for 2019, lower than 2018 rates. But to the patient, now feeling like a consumer dealing with high-deductibles and the growing sticker shock of specialty drug prices, a so-called “moderate” trend still feels like a big bite in the household budget. Specifically, specialty drug trend is expected to be 14.3% in 2019, compared with 17.7% in 2018 — still several

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Consumers Don’t Know What They Don’t Know About Healthcare Costs

The saving rate in the U.S. ranks among the lowest in the world, in a country that rates among the richest nations. So imagine how well Americans save for healthcare? “Consumers are not disciplined about saving in general,” with saving for healthcare lagging behind other types of savings, Alegeus observes in the 2018 Alegeus Consumer Health & Financial Fluency Report. Alegeus surveyed 1,400 U.S. healthcare consumers in September 2017 to gauge peoples’ views on healthcare finances, insurance, and levels of fluency. As patients continue to take on more financial responsibility for healthcare spending in the U.S., they are struggling with finances and

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Health Il-Literacy Costs

The complexity of the U.S. healthcare system erodes Americans’ health literacy, Accenture asserts in their report, The Hidden Cost of Healthcare System Complexity.                             And that complexity costs, Accenture calculated, to the tune of nearly $5 billion in administrative cost burden to payors. Accenture developed a healthcare system literacy index to quantify the relationship between peoples’ understanding of how health insurance works and what a lack of understanding can cost the system. The index looks at consumer comprehension of health insurance terms like premium, deductible, copayment, coinsurance, out-of-pocket

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More U.S. Companies Offering Health Insurance After 8 Years of Decline

After eight years of decline, more U.S. employers offered health insurance to workers in 2017, EBRI reports in its latest Issue Brief. In 2017, 46.9% of U.S. companies offered health insurance to their employees, up by 1.6 percentage points from a low of 45.3% in 2016. For perspective, ten years earlier in 2008, 56.4% of employers offered health insurance, shown in the first bar chart (Figure 1 from the EBRI report). The largest percentage point increase in health plan offer-rates came from the smallest companies, those with less than 10 employees: while 21.7% of those companies offered health insurance in

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Multimorbidity In the US – Obesity As A Key Driver of Health Spending

In the U.S., the growing prevalence of multi-morbidity is contributing to increased mortality and healthcare cost growth in America. Underlying this clinical and economic phenomenon is obesity, which primary care doctors are challenged to deal with as a chronic condition along with typically co-occurring comorbidities of hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia. The line chart come from a new study into Multimorbidity Trends in United States Adults, 1988-2014, published in the July-August 2018 issue of the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. The authors, affiliated with the West Virginia University Department of Family Medicine, call out that obesity (the pink-red line)

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Disruption Is Healthcare’s New Normal

Googling the words “disruption” and “healthcare” today yielded 33.8 million responses, starting with “Riding the Disruption Wave in Healthcare” from Bain in Forbes, Accenture’s essay on “Big Bang Disruption in Healthcare,” and, “A Cry for Encouraging Disruption” in the New England Journal of Medicine Catalyst. This last article responded to the question, “Can we successfully deliver better quality care for patients at a lower cost?” asked by François de Brantes, Executive Director of the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute. “Disruption” as a noun and an elephant in our room has been with us in healthcare since the September/October 2000 issue of

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Wealth is Health and Health, Wealth, Fidelity Knows – with Weight a Major Risk Factor

The two top stressors in American life are jobs and finances. “My weight” and my family’s health follow just behind these across the generations. Total Well-Being, a research report from Fidelity Investments, looks at the inter-connections between health and wealth – the combined impact of physical, mental, and fiscal factors on our lives. The first chart summarizes the study’s findings, including the facts that: One-third of people have less than three months of income in the bank for emergency Absenteeism is 29% greater for people who don’t have sufficient emergency funds saved People who are highly stressed tend not to

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Benefit Cost Increases Overwhelm Flat Wages for Most in US: Pew

Today’s financial news reports and the bullish stock market generate headlines saying that the U.S. economy is riding high. President Trump forecasted in late July, “we are now on track to hit an average GDP annual growth of over 3% and it could be substantially over 3%,” Trump said. “Each point, by the way, means approximately $3 trillion and 10 million jobs. Think of that.” Indeed, unemployment is at its lowest rate in decades at 4%. Today, NASDAQ reported that, “the U.S. economy stays strong as the Fed holds steady.” For mainstream working people, though, even with a job in a high employment

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Healthcare, and Especially Covering Pre-Existing Conditions, Ranks High for Voters in 2018

President Trump and his administrative have been trying to make the ACA fail, claim most U.S. adults. Thus, the public holds the POTUS and the Republican party responsible for moving the Affordable Care Act forward….or not, according to the July 2018 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Health care will be a key issue in the 2018 mid-term elections that will be held in November. Among U.S. voters’ key health care concerns in 2018, one ranks “most” or “very important” for two-thirds of Americans: that is continuing to protect people with pre-existing health conditions. Other issues

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