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The Pandemic’s Death Rate in the U.S.: High Per Capita Income, High Mortality

The United States has among the highest per capita incomes in the world. The U.S. also has sustained among the highest death rates per 100,000 people due to COVID-19, based on epidemiological data from the World Health Organization’s March 28, 2021, update. Higher incomes won’t prevent a person from death-by-coronavirus, but risks for the social determinants of health — exacerbated by income inequality — will and do. I have the good fortune of access to a study group paper shared by Paul Sheard, Research Fellow at the Mossaver-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. In reviewing

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The Cost of Healthcare Can Drive Medical Rationing and Crowd Out Other Household Spending

One in five people in the U.S. cannot afford to pay for quality health care — an especially acute challenge for Black and Hispanic Americans, according to a West Health-Gallup poll conducted in March 2021, a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. “The cost of healthcare and its potential ramifications continues to serve as a burdensome part of day-to-day life for millions of Americans,” the study summary observed. Furthermore, “These realities can spill over into other health issues, such as delays in diagnoses of new cancer and associated treatments that are due to forgoing needed care,” the researchers expected. The first table

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Housing as Prescription for Health/Care – in Medecision Liberation

COVID-19 ushered in the era of our homes as safe havens for work, shopping, education, fitness-awaking, bread-baking, and health-making. In my latest essay written for Medecision, I weave together new and important data and evidence supporting the basic social determinant of health — shelter, housing, home — and some innovations supporting housing-as-medicine from CVS Health, UnitedHealth Group, AHIP, Brookings Institution, the Urban Land Institute, and other stakeholders learning how housing underpins our health — physical, mental, financial. Read about a wonderful development from Communidad Partners, working with the Veritas Impact Partners group, channeling telehealth to housing programs serving residents with

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How Fruits and Veg Can Make Health and Lower Costs – Calling Chef José Andrés to the White House

Springtime is finally emerging on the east coast of the U.S. and my local CSA farm is on my mind. It’s timely, then, to re-visit a research paper on subsidizing fruits and vegetables from a March 2019 issue of PLOS as an introduction to a new initiative growing out of The Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School (CHLPI) on produce prescriptions. Timely, too, that Chef José Andrés has been called to President Biden’s White House to help address food security in America. First, let’s look at the research in PLOS: Cost-effectiveness of financial incentives for

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The Ongoing Reality of COVID-19 – My Conversation with Dr. Michael Osterholm at SXSW

“So close and yet so far” feels like the right phrase to use a year after the World Health Organization used the “P-word,” “pandemic,” to describe the coronavirus’s impact on public health, globally. One year and over 550,000 COVID-related deaths in the U.S. later, we face a New Reality that Dr. Michael Osterholm and I are brainstorming today at the 2021 South-by-Southwest Festival. Usually held live and very up-close-and-personally crowded in Austin, Texas, this year we are all virtual — including the film, music, and interactive festivals alike. While I regret to not be in the same room as Dr.

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How to Restore Americans’ Confidence in U.S. Health Care: Deal With Access and Cost

With a vaccine supply proliferating in the U.S. and more health citizens getting their first jabs, there’s growing optimism in America looking to the next-normal by, perhaps, July 4th holiday weekend as President Biden reads the pandemic tea leaves. But that won’t mean Americans will be ready to return to pre-pandemic health care visits to hospital and doctor’s offices. Now that hygiene protocols are well-established in health care providers’ settings, at least two other major consumer barriers to seeking care must be addressed: cost and access. The latest (March 2021) Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll learned that at least one

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“Hope Springs Eternal” With the COVID Vaccine for Both Joe Biden and Most People in the U.S.

More Americans are happier in March 2021 than they’ve been for a year, based on consumer research from Civic Science polling U.S. adults in early March 2021. For the first time, a larger percent of Americans said they were better off financially since the start of the pandemic. This week, Civic Science shared their latest data on what they’re seeing beyond the coronavirus quarantine era to forecast trends that will shape a post-COVID America. Buoying peoples’ growing optimism was the expectation of the passage of the American Cares Act, which President Biden signed into effect yesterday. The HPA-CS Economic Sentiment Index

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Value-Based Health Care Needs All Stakeholders at the Table – Especially the Patient

2021 is the 20th anniversary of the University of Michigan Center for Value-Based Insurance Design (V-BID). On March 10th, V-BID held its annual Summit, celebrating the Center’s 20 years of innovation and scholarship. The Center is led by Dr. Mark Fendrick, and has an active and innovative advisory board. [Note: I may be biased as a University of Michigan graduate of both the School of Public Health and Rackham School of Graduate Studies in Economics].   Some of the most important areas of the Center’s impact include initiatives addressing low-value care, waste in U.S. health care, patient assistance programs, Medicare

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Ten Forces Shaping Health Care in 2021: A View from CVS Health

Expanding omni-channel, data-driven, cost-effective health care in the community, tailoring that care, and attending to mental health paint the picture of health through the lens of CVS Health. The company published the Health Trends Report 2021 today, calling out ten forces shaping health care this year. Those themes are, The Year of the Pharmacist The Next Step Forward in Cardiac Care Cancer Needs a Better Roadmap The EHR Hits Its Stride The Mental Health Shadow of COVID-19 Tailor Care to the Older Patient More Agents that Predict Disease Paying for the New Medical Miracle Virtual Care Goes Mainstream, and Diabetes

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The Economics of the Pandemic Put Costs at the Top of Americans’ Health Reform Priorities

A major side-effect of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 was its impact on the national U.S. economy, jobs, and peoples’ household finances — in particular, medical spending. In 2021, patients-as-health-consumers seek lower health care and prescription drug costs coupled with higher quality care, discovered by the patient advocacy coalition, Consumers for Quality Care. This broad-spanning patient coalition includes the AIMED Alliance, Autism Speaks, the Black AIDS Institute, Black Women’s Health Initiative, Center Forward, Consumer Action. Fair Foundation, First Focus, Global Liver Institute, Hydrocephalus Association, LULAC, MANA (a Latina advocacy organization), Myositis Association, National Consumers League, National Health IT Collaborative, National Hispanic

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The Social Determinants of Prescription Drugs – A View From CoverMyMeds

The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to define what were basic or essential needs to them; for most people, those items have been hygiene products, food, and connectivity to the Internet. There’s another good that’s essential to people who are patients: prescription drugs. A new report from CoverMyMeds details the current state of medication access weaving together key health care industry and consumer data. The reality even before the coronavirus crisis emerged in early 2020 was that U.S. patients were already making painful trade-offs, some of which are illustrated in the first chart from the report. These include self-rationing prescription drug

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Three in Four People Avoiding Health Care in the Pandemic Have Had Chronic Conditions

By the autumn of 2020, U.S. physicians grew concerned that patients who were avoiding visits to doctor’s offices were missing care for chronic conditions, discussed in in Delayed and Forgone Health Care for Nonelderly Adults during the COVID-19 Pandemic from the Urban Institute. More than three-fourths of people who delayed or forewent care had at least one chronic health condition. The pandemic may have led to excess deaths from diabetes, dementia, hypertension, heart disease, and stroke, as well as record drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in May 2020. In their JAMA editorial on these data, Dr. Bauchner and

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The Health Care Cost Curve is Bending Down – A New View from Deloitte

Over the next 20 years, health care spending in the U.S. will migrate toward well-being and the early detection of disease, away from the funding of America’s sick-care system, according to Breaking the cost curve, a forecast of U.S. health economics in the year 2040 from Deloitte. Current spending on health care in America is roughly $4 trillion (with a “t”) dollars, approaching 20% of the nation’s economy. By 2040, spending is projected to be $8.3 trillion based on future health trends — not historic workflows and delivery mechanisms which would consume an additional $3.5 trillion — close to what we

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Ten In Ten: Manatt’s Healthcare Priorities to 2031

The coronavirus pandemic has exposed major weaknesses in the U.S. health care system, especially laying bare inequities and inertia in American health care, explained in The Progress We Need: Ten Health Care Imperatives for the Decade Ahead from Manatt Health. The report details the ten objectives that are central to Manatt’s health care practice, a sort of team manifesto call-to-action and North Star for the next decade. Their ten must-do’s for bending the cost curve while driving constructive change for a better health care system are to: Ensure access Achieve health equity Stability the safety net and rebuild public health

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Americans A Year Into the Pandemic – A View from Pew

Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the same percent of Americans say strengthening the U.S. economy and dealing with the coronavirus outbreak should be a top priority for President Biden and Congress to address this year, according to data from the Pew Research Center collected during the second week of January 2021. Two-thirds of people in the U.S. also want government leaders to prioritize improving the employment situation, defending against terrorism, and improving the political system, the study learned. At Americans’ low end of the priority list for the President and Congress are dealing with global trade, improving transportation,

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Call It Deferring Services or Self-Rationing, U.S. Consumers Are Still Avoiding Medical Care

Patients in the U.S. have been self-rationing medical care for many years, well before any of us knew what “PPE” meant or how to spell “coronavirus.” Nearly a decade ago, I cited the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Security Watch of May 2012 here in Health Populi. The first chart here shows that one in four U.S. adults had problems paying medical bills, largely delaying care due to cost for a visit or for prescription drugs. Fast-forward to 2020, a few months into the pandemic in the U.S.: PwC found consumers were delaying treatment for chronic conditions. In October 2020, The American Cancer

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The Biden Administration’s Whole-of-Government Approach to Equity – in Health and Beyond

In the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed disparities in housing, food, and job security, and the role that one’s ZIP code and social determinants play in health outcomes. Overall, America has done poorly in light of being 4% of the world’s population but having one-fifth of the planet’s deaths due to the coronavirus. But these have disproportionately hit non-white people, who are nearly three times as likely to die from COVID-19 than white Americans. I’ve been head-down reviewing the first two days of President Biden’s signing Executive Orders, reading the National Strategy for COVID-19 Response, and inventorying line items

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Our Homes Are Health Delivery Platforms – The New Home Health/Care at CES 2021

By Jane Sarasohn-Kahn on 18 January 2021 in Aging, Aging and Technology, Baby health, Big data and health, Bio/life sciences, Bioethics, Boomers, Broadband, Business and health, Connected health, Consumer electronics, Consumer experience, Consumer-directed health, Coronavirus, COVID-19, Data analytics and health, Demographics and health, Dental care, Design and health, Diagnostics, Digital health, Digital therapeutics, Electronic medical records, Exercise, Fitness, Food and health, GDPR, Grocery stores, Guns and health, Health and Beauty, Health at home, Health care marketing, Health citizenship, Health Consumers, Health costs, Health disparities, Health Economics, Health ecosystem, Health engagement, Health equity, Health marketing, Health media, Health Plans, Health policy, Health politics, Health privacy, Health regulation, Healthcare access, Healthcare DIY, Heart disease, Heart health, HIPAA, Home care, Hospitals, Housing and health, Internet and Health, Internet of things, Medical device, Medical innovation, Nutrition, Obesity, Oral care, Patient engagement, Patient experience, Pharmacy, Physicians, Popular culture and health, Prevention and wellness, Primary care, Privacy and security, Public health, Remote health monitoring, Retail health, Robots and health, Safety net and health, SDoH, Self-care, Sensors and health, Sleep, Smartwatches, Social determinants of health, Social responsibility, Sustainability, Telehealth, Telemedicine, Transparency, Trust, Virtual health, Wearable tech, Wearables, Wellbeing

The coronavirus pandemic disrupted and re-shaped the annual CES across so many respects — the meeting of thousands making up the global consumer tech community “met” virtually, both keynote and education sessions were pre-recorded, and the lovely serendipity of learning and meeting new concepts and contacts wasn’t so straightforward. But for those of us working with and innovating solutions for health and health care, #CES2021 was baked with health goodness, in and beyond “digital health” categories. In my consumer-facing health care work, I’ve adopted the mantra that our homes are our health hubs. Reflecting on my many conversations during CES

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“The virus is the boss” — U.S. lives and livelihoods at the beginning of 2021

“The virus is the boss,” Austan Goolsbee, former Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Obama, told Stephanie Ruhle this morning on MSNBC. Goolsbee and Jason Furman, former Chair of Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, tag-teamed the U.S. economic outlook following today’s news that the U.S. economy lost 140,000 jobs — the greatest job loss since April 2020 in the second month of the pandemic. The 2020-21 economic recession is the first time in U.S. history that a downturn had nothing to do with the economy per se. As Uwe Reinhardt, health economist guru, is whispering in my

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The 2021 Shkreli Awards: Lown Institute Counts Down the Top 10 Healthcare Industry Abuses in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The first year of the coronavirus pandemic in America was a kind of stress test on the U.S. health care system, revealing weak links and opportunities for bad behavior. “These are not just about individual instances or bad apples,” Dr. Vikas Saini, President of The Lown Institute, explained, referring to them as “cautionary tales” of the current state of U.S. health care. Dr. Saini and his colleague Shannon Brownlee released the annual Lown Institute 2020 Shkreli Awards this week, highlighting their ten most egregious examples of the worst events in U.S. health care that happened in the past year —

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Will 2021 Be the Year of Sicker Americans? Pondering Late 2020 Data from IQVIA

Yesterday, IQVIA presented their end-of-year data based on medical claims in the U.S. health care system tracking the ups, downs, and ups of the coronavirus in America. IQVIA has been tracking COVID-19 medical trends globally from early 2020. The plotline of patient encounters for vaccines, prescribed medicines, foregone procedures and diagnostic visits to doctors begs the question: in 2021, will Americans be “sicker,” discovering later-stage cancer diagnoses, higher levels of pain due to delayed hip procedures, and eroded quality of life due to leaky guts? Here are a few snapshots that paint a picture for greater morbidity and potentially more “excess

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U.S. Health Consumers’ Growing Financial Pressures, From COVID to Cancer

Before the coronavirus pandemic, patients had been transforming into health care payors, bearing high deductibles, greater out of pocket costs, and financial risk shifting to them for medical spending. In the wake of COVID-19, we see health consumers-as-payors impacted by the pandemic, as well as for existing diagnoses and chronic care management. There is weakening in U.S. consumers’ overall household finances, the latest report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) asserted (published 25 November 2020). In John Leer’s look into the BEA report in Morning Consult, he wrote, “Decreases in income, the expiration of unemployment benefits and increased

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Consumers Seek Health Features in Homes: How COVID Is Changing Residential Real Estate

The coronavirus pandemic has shifted everything that could “come home,” home. THINK: tele-work, home schooling for both under-18s and college students, home cooking, entertainment, working out, and even prayer. All of this DIY-from-home stuff has been motivated by both mandates to #StayHome and #WorkFromHome by government leaders, as well as consumers seeking refuge from contracting COVID-19. This risk-shift to our homes has led consumers to re-orient their demands for home purchase features. Today, home is ideally defined as a safe place, offering comfort and refuge for families, discovered in the America at Home Study. The Study is a joint project of

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Financial Health Is On Americans’ Minds Just Weeks Before the 2020 Elections

Financial health is part of peoples’ overall health. As Americans approach November 3, 2020, the day of the real-time U.S. Presidential and down-ballot elections, personal home economics are front-of-mind. Twenty-seven days before the 2020 elections, 7 in 10 Americans say their financial health will influence their votes this year, according  to the doxoINSIGHTS survey which shows personal financial health as a key voter consideration in the Presidential election. Doxo, a consumer payments company, conducted a survey among 1,568 U.S. bill-paying households in late September 2020. The study has a 2% margin of error. U.S. voters facing this year’s election are

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Health Citizenship in the America. If Not Now, When?

On February 4th, 2020, in a hospital in northern California, the first known inpatient diagnosed with COVID-19 died. On March 11th, the World Health Organization called the growing prevalence of the coronavirus a “pandemic.” On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died at the hands of police in Minneapolis. This summer, the Dixie Chicks dropped the “Dixie” from their name, and NASCAR cancelled the confederate flag from their tracks. Today, nearly 200,000 Americans have died due to the novel coronavirus. My new book, Health Citizenship: How a virus opened hearts and minds, launched this week. In it, I

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Only in America: The Loss of Health Insurance as a Toxic Financial Side Effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic

In terms of income, U.S. households entered 2020 in the best financial shape they’d been in years, based on new Census data released earlier this week. However, the U.S. Census Bureau found that the level of health insurance enrollment fell by 1 million people in 2019, with about 30 million Americans not covered by health insurance. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans rose by 2 million people in 2018, and by 1.9 million people in 2017. The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the erosion of the health insured population. What havoc a pandemic can do to minds, bodies, souls, and wallets. By September 2020,

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50 Days Before the U.S. Elections, Voters Say Health Care Costs and Access Top Their Health Concerns — More than COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed deep cracks and inequities in U.S. health care in terms of exposure to COVID-19 and subsequent outcomes, with access to medical care and mortality rates negatively impacting people of color to a greater extent than White Americans. The pandemic has also led to economic decline that, seven weeks before the 2020 elections in America, is top-of-mind for health citizens with the virus-crisis itself receding to second place, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation September 2020 Health Tracking Poll. KFF polled 1,199 U.S. adults 18 years of age and older between August 28 and September 3,

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Americans Worry About Medical Bankruptcy, As Prescription Drug Costs Play Into Voters’ Concerns

One in two people in the U.S. are concerned that a major health event in their family would lead to bankruptcy, up 5 percent points over the past eighteen months. In a poll conducted with West Health, Gallup found that more younger people are concerned about medical debt risks, along with more non-white adults, published in their study report, 50% in U.S. Fear Bankruptcy Due to Major Health Event. The survey was fielded in July 2020 among 1,007 U.S. adults 18 and older. One of the basic questions in studies like these is whether a consumer could cover a $500

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The Burden of Depression in the Pandemic – Greater Among People With Fewer Resources

In the U.S., symptoms of depression were three-times greater in April 2020 in the COVID-19 pandemic than in 2017-2018. And rates for depression were even higher among women versus men, along with people earning lower incomes, losing jobs, and having fewer “social resources” — that is, at greater risk of isolation and loneliness. America’s health system should be prepared to deal with a “probable increase” in mental illness after the pandemic, researchers recommend in Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic in JAMA Network Open. A multidisciplinary team knowledgeable in medicine, epidemiology, public health,

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How COVID-19 Is Reshaping Cities and Inspiring Healthcare Innovation

The coronavirus pandemic added a new concept to our collective, popular lexicon: “social distancing” and “physical distancing.” This was one pillar for the public health prescription we were given to help mitigate the spread of a very tricky, contagious virus. A major negative impact of our sheltering in place, working from home, and staying indoors has been a sort of clearing out of cities where people congregate for work, for culture, for entertainment, for education, for travel and tourism…for living out our full and interesting lives and livelihoods. Intel gave Harbor Research a mandate to “re-imagine life in a post-pandemic

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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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