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Healthcare Policies We Can Agree On: Pre-Existing Conditions, Drug Prices, and PillPack – the June 2018 KFF Health Tracking Poll

There are countless chasms in the U.S. this moment in social, political, and economic perspectives. but one issue is on the mind of most American voters where there is evidence of some agreements: health care, as evidenced in the June 2018 Health Tracking Poll from Kaiser Family Foundation. Top-line, health care is one of the most important issues that voters want addressed in the 2018 mid-term elections, tied with the economy. Immigration, gun policy, and foreign policy follow. While health care is most important to voters registered as Democrats, Republicans rank it very important. Among various specific health care factors, protecting

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Obese, Access-Challenged and Self-Rationing: America’s Health Vs Rest-of-World

          The U.S. gets relatively low ROI for its relatively exorbitant spending on healthcare, noted once again in the latest Health at a Glance, the annual OECD report on member nations’ healthcare systems. The report includes U.S. country data asking, “How does the United States compare?” with its sister OECD countries. The answer is, “not well across most population health, access, and mortality measures.” For the Cliff’s Notes/Where’s Waldo top-line of the research, find the two long bars in this chart heading “south” of the OECD average, and one long blue bar going “north.” The northern climbing bar

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The True Costs of Diabetes Go Well Beyond the Wallet

The daily life of a person managing diabetes feels many costs: at work, on relationships, at play, during sleep, on time, on mental health, and to be sure, on personal finances. The True Cost of Diabetes report from Upwell details the many tolls on the person with diabetes. The first-order impact for a patient engaging in self-care to manage diabetes is time that the many tasks in a day borrow from work, sleep, home-keeping, and relationships. Seventy percent of PwD (people with diabetes) checks blood sugar at least once a day (41% one to two times, 29% three to five

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It Could Take Five Generations for a Low-Income US Family to Reach Average Income in America

Social mobility in America has a lot of friction: children of wealthier people tend to grow into affluence, and children of low-income parents tend to struggle to move up the income and education ladder, according to A Broken Social Elevator: How to Promote Social Mobility, a new report from the OECD. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studied member nations’ economies, demographics, income and opportunities to gauge each country’s social mobility. Social mobility, the OECD explains, is multi-faceted. It can refer to inter-generational mobility between parents, children, and grandchildren. Alternatively, social mobility can look at intra-generational mobility, over the course

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As Medical Cost Trend Remains Flat, Patients Face Growing Health Consumer Financial Stress

When it comes to healthcare costs, lines that decline over time are generally seen as good news. That’s how media outlets will cover the top-line of PwC’s report Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2019. However, there are other forces underneath the stable-looking 6.0% medical trend growth projected for 2019 that will impact healthcare providers, insurers, and suppliers to the industry. There’s this macro-health economic story, and then there’s the micro-economics of healthcare for the household. Simply put: the impact of growing financial risk for healthcare costs will be felt by patients/consumers themselves. I’ve curated the four charts from the

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Doing Less Can Be Doing More for Healthcare – the Biggest Takeaway From ASCO 2018

Less can lead to more for so many things: eating smaller portions, lowering sugar consumption, and driving less in favor of walking or cycling come to mind. When it comes to healthcare utilization, doing less can also result in equal or even better outcomes. Groundbreaking research presented at this week’s ASCO meeting found that some women diagnosed with certain forms of cancer do not benefit from undergoing chemotherapy. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is one of the largest medical meetings annually, and at this huge meeting these research results for the TAILORx trial were huge news with big

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Personalized Medicine: Consumer Concerns About Coverage, Affordability and Privacy

Two in 3 Americans haven’t heard the phrases “personalized medicine” or “precision medicine.” When the concept of therapies tailored to individual patients is explained, most people like the idea of diagnostic tools that can identify biological markers and marry to personal medical records data to help determine medical treatments that best fit them. This picture of U.S. consumers’ views on personalized medicine comes from a survey conducted for PMC, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, and GenomeWeb, published in May 2018. The poll results are published in Public Perspectives on Personalized Medicine, with the top-line finding that life science industry innovators must

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Health Care for a Typical Working Family of Four in America Will Cost $28,166 in 2018

What could $28,166 buy you in 2018? A new car? A year of your child’s college education? A plot of land for your retirement home? Or a year of healthcare for a family of four? Welcome to this year’s edition of the Milliman Medical Index (MMI), one of the most important forecasts of the year in the world of the Health Populi blog and THINK-Health universe. That’s because we’re in the business of thinking about the future of health and health care through the health economics lens; the MMI is a key component of our ongoing environmental analysis of the

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A Tale of Two America’s for Health

  Disparities in Americans’ health vary among people living in each of the 50 states. These differences in health status generally fall into two regions: north and south, found in the Commonwealth Fund’s 2018 Scorecard on State Health System Performance. The map shows this stark geography-is-health-destiny reality: the worse-than-average states, the Fund found, run from Nevada southeast to Arizona, through New Mexico and Texas all the way to Atlantic Ocean and the Carolinas, then north west all the way up through the industrial Midwest states through Michigan to the north. Wyoming is the only non-contiguous state in the worse-performing U.S. state

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The Gap Between the Trump Administration’s Promise of Reducing Rx Costs for Consumers and What People Really Want

This is what happened to pharma stock prices on Friday after President Trump and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar outlined their new policies focusing on prescription drug prices. The graph is the Nasdaq U.S. Smart Pharmaceuticals Index (NQSSPH) from May 11, 2018, the date when POTUS and Secretary Azar made their announcement. What this upward driving curve indicates, from the start of stock trading in the morning until the ring of the closing bell, is that the pharma industry players, both manufacturers and PBMs, were quite delighted with what they heard. The blueprint for restructuring the prescription drug industry,

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Guns, Jobs, or Health Care? In 2018, Voters Split as to Top Issue

It’s a fairly even split between voting first on gun policy, jobs, or healthcare for the 2018 mid-term elections, ac cording to the May 2018 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll. Arguably, gun policy can cut in two ways: in light of the Stoneman Douglas High School shootings and wake-up call for #NeverAgain among both students and the public-at-large, vis-a-vis Second Amendment issue voters. And, as a growing public health issue, “guns” could also be adjacent to health. “If it isn’t a health problem, then why are all these people dying from it?” rhetorically asked Dr. Garen Wintemute, professor of emergency

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Having Health Insurance Is a Social Determinant of Health: the implications of growing uninsured in the U.S.

The rolls of the uninsured are growing in America, the latest Gallup-Sharecare Poll indicates. The U.S. uninsurance rate rose to 12.2% by the fourth quarter of 2017, up 1.3 percentage points from the year before. 2017 reversed advancements in health insurance coverage increases since the advent of the Affordable Care Act, and for the first time since 2014 no states’ uninsured rates fell. The 17 states with declines in insurance rates were Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Among these, the greatest

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Universal Health Care and Financial Inclusion – Two Sides of the Wellness Coin

Two weeks in a row, The Economist, the news magazine headquartered in London, included two special reports stapled into the middle of the magazines. Universal health care was covered in a section on 28 April 2018, and coverage on financial inclusion was bundled into the 5th May edition. While The Economist’s editors may not have intended for these two reports to reinforce each other, my lens on health and healthcare immediately, and appreciatively, connected the dots between healthcare coverage and financial wellness. The Economist, not known for left-leaning political tendencies whatsoever, lays its bias down on the cover of the section here: universal healthcare

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Americans’ Trust in the Healthcare System Low Compared to Rest-of-World’s Health Citizens

In the U.S., trust in the healthcare industry declined by 9 percentage points in just one year, declining from 62% of people trusting — that’s roughly two-thirds of Americans — down to 53% — closer to one-half of the population. I covered the launch of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer across all industries here in Health Populi in January 2018, when this year’s annual report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos as it is each year. The Edelman team shared this detailed data on the healthcare sector with me this week, for which I am grateful. Check

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How Walmart Could Bolster Healthcare in the Community

Walmart has been a health/care destination for many years. The company that defined Big Box stores in their infancy grew in healthcare, health and wellness over the past two decades, pioneering the $4 generic prescription back in 2006. Today, that low-cost generic Rx is ubiquitous in the retail pharmacy. A decade later, can Walmart re-imagine primary care the way the company did low-cost medicines? Walmart is enhancing about 500 of 3500 stores, and health will be part of the interior redecorating. Walmart has had ambitious plans in healthcare since those $4 Rx’s were introduced. Here’s a New York Times article from

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The Health of A Nation – Being Healthy In America Depends on Where You Live

In the US, when it comes to life and death, it’s good to live in Hawaii, Utah, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Iowa — the top five states with the greatest life expectancy and healthy life expectancy at birth in 2016. For health and longevity, sorry to see the lowest five ranked states are Washington DC which ranks last, along with Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Alabama. This sober geography-is-health-destiny update was published this week in JAMA, The State of US Health, 1990-2016: Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Among US States. The first chart illustrates states down the left

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Livongo and Cambia Allying to Address Chronic Disease Burden and Scale Solutions to Consumers

Chronic diseases are what kill most people in the world. In the U.S., the chronic disease burden takes a massive toll on both public health and mortality, accounting for 7 in 10 deaths in America each year. That personal health toll comes at a high price and proportion of national health expenditures. A new alliance between Livongo and Cambia Health seeks to address that challenge, beginning with diabetes and scaling to other chronic conditions. Livongo has proven out the Livongo for Diabetes program, which has demonstrated positive outcomes in terms of patient satisfaction and cost-savings. The plan with Cambia is

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What Would Healthcare Feel Like If It Acted Like Supermarkets – the 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings

U.S. consumers rank supermarkets, fast food chains, retailers, and banks as their top performing industries for experience according to the 2018 Temkin Experience Ratings. Peoples’ experience with health plans rank at the bottom of the roster, on par with rental cars and TV/Internet service providers. If there is any good news for health plans in this year’s Temkin Experience Ratings compared to the 2017 results, it’s at the margin of “very poor” performance: last year, health plans has the worst performance of any industry (with the bar to the furthest point on the left as “low scoring”). This year, it

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Please Stop Hating on Amazon, Mr. President. It’s Americans’ Favorite Brand.

The most beloved company in America is Amazon, according to the 2018 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient Rankings which were published on 22nd March 2018. This was the third year in a row that Amazon garnered the top position in this corporate reputation poll, which gauges consumers’ views on workplace environment, social responsibility, emotional appeal, financial performance, vision and leadership, and products and services. Mr. President, why pick on Americans’ favorite brand? The brand defines the 2018 consumer’s benchmark for a best-retail experience, which is what people increasingly expect across the various interactions they have throughout a day. [As a sidebar,

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The New Financial Toxicity in Health Care: The Cost of Hospitalization

In healthcare, we use the word “toxicity” when it comes to taking a new medicine, especially a strong therapy to cure cancer. That prescription may be toxic as a harmful side effect on our journey to getting well. The concept of “financial toxicity” for cancer patients was raised by concerned clinicians at Sloane-Kettering Medical Center, who discussed the topic on 60 Minutes in 2014 and have published papers on the issue. Beyond strong medicines, a new financial toxicity has emerged for patients due to hospital inpatient admissions. A new article in the New England Journal of Medicine studies Myth and

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How We Spend Versus What We Get: America’s Healthcare Spending Makes for Poor Health

The U.S. spent nearly twice as much as other wealthy countries on healthcare, mostly due to higher prices for both labor and products (especially prescription drugs). And, America spends more on administrative costs compared to other high-income countries. What do U.S. taxpayers get in return for that spending? Lower life spans, higher maternal and infant mortality, and the highest level of obesity and overweight among our OECD peer nations. These sobering statistics were published in Health Care Spending in the United States and Other High-Income Countries this week in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study analyzes

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Tweets at Lunch with Paul Krugman – Health IT Meets Economics

            I greatly appreciated the opportunity today to attend a luncheon at the HX360 meeting which convened as part of the 2018 HIMSS Conference. The speaker at this event was Paul Krugman, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics 10 years ago and today is an iconic op-ed columnist at the New York Times And Distinguished Professor of Economics at the City University of New York (CUNY). I admit to being a bit of a groupie for Paul Krugman’s work. It tickles me to look at Rise Global’s list of the Top 100 Influential Economists:

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Majority Rules? The Right to Affordable Health Care is A Right for All Americans

If we’re playing a game of “majority rules,” then everyone in America would have the right to affordable health care, according to a new poll from The Commonwealth Fund. The report is aptly titled, Americans’ Views on Health Insurance at the End of a Turbulent Year. The Fund surveyed 2,410 U.S. adults, age 19 to 64, by phone in November and December 2017. This is the sixth survey conducted by the Fund to track Americans’ views of the Affordable Care Act; the first survey was fielded in mid-to-fall 2013. 9 in 10 working-age adults say “yes” indeed, my fellow Americans

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Add Behavioral Data to Social Determinants For Better Patient Understanding

“Health agencies will have to become at least as sophisticated as other consumer/retail industries in analyzing a variety of data that helps uncover root causes of human behavior,” Gartner recommended in 2017. That’s because “health” is not all pre-determined by our parent-given genetics. Health is determined by many factors in our own hands, and in forces around us: physical environment, built environment, and public policy. These are the social determinants of health, but knowing them even for the N of 1 patient isn’t quite enough to help the healthcare industry move the needle on outcomes and costs. We need to

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More Working Americans Enrolled in High-Deductible Health Plans in 2017

Over four in 10 U.S. workers were enrolled in a high-deductible health plan in the first 9 months of 2017, according to the latest research published by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report details Health Insurance Coverage: Early Release of Estimates From the National Health Interview Survey, January-September 2017. About 28 million people were uninsured in the U.S. in 2017, about the same proportion as in 2016 — but nearly 20 million fewer than in 2010, as the line chart illustrates. The

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The United States of Care Launches to Promote Healthcare for All of US

Let’s change the conversation and put healthcare over  politics.  Sounds just right, doesn’t it? If you’re reading Health Populi, then you’re keen on health policy, health economics, most of all, patients: now playing starring roles as consumers, caregivers, and payors in their own care. Andy Slavitt, former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), has assembled a diverse group of health care leaders who care about those patients/people, too, appropriately named the United States of Care. Founders include Dr. Bill Frist, former Republican U.S. Senator from Tennessee, Dave Durenberger, former Republican U.S. Senator from Minnesota, and

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U.S. Workers Say Health Care is the Most Critical Issue Facing the Nation

Health care ranks highest among working Americans as the top critical issue facing the country, well above terrorism, the role of the Federal government, unemployment and jobs, education, immigration and taxes. Over half of American workers also rate the country’s healthcare system as “poor” or “fair,” based on the results of the EBRI/Greenwald & Associates Health and Workplace Benefits Survey. Workers dissatisfaction with U.S. healthcare is based largely on cost: one-half of workers experienced an increase in health care costs in the past year. Furthermore, only 22% are satisfied with the cost of their health insurance plan, 18% are satisfied

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Warren Buffett’s Healthcare Cost Tapeworm & His Alliance with Amazon and JPMorgan

The fact that the average U.S. employer committed to spend nearly $27,000 a year for a PPO to cover a family of 4 in America in 2017 is the most important rationale underlying the announcement that Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway, and JP Morgan made on 30th January 2017. That news immediately shook Wall Street trading, sending downward shocks down the proverbial spines of healthcare insurance plans and suppliers to the industry — legacy healthcare companies that scale patient-members and healthcare supplies, like pills and surgical implants. The “new competition” chart published in the Wall Street Journal in the morning illustrates those shock

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The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer – What It Means for Health/Care in America

Trust in the United States has declined to its lowest level since the Edelman Trust Barometer has conducted its annual survey among U.S. adults. Welcome to America in Crisis, as Edelman brands Brand USA in 2018. In the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, across the 28 nations polled, trust among the “informed public” in the U.S. “plunged,” as Edelman describes it, by 23 points to 45. The Trust Index in America is now #28 of 28 countries surveyed (that is, rock bottom), dropping below Russia and South Africa. “The public’s confidence in the traditional structures of American leadership is now fully

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Health Insurance Costs Stress US Whether We’re Rich or Not / and Why a $0 Budget for CFPB Matters for Healthcare

Health care costs cause anxiety for U.S. adults, regardless of their affluence, we learn in Uncertainty About Healthcare, the latest Stress in America poll from the American Psychological Association. The big stat is that 2 in 3 Americans say the cost of health insurance is a stressor for them or their loved ones, whether the person earns more or less than $50,000 a year. Underneath that top-line are some demographic differences. Millennials are most concerned about access to mental health care compared with Boomers and older adults. Reproductive care access is of most interest to Millennials and Gen Xers. Two-thirds

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In the U.S., Spend More, Get Less Health Care: the Latest HCCI Data

Picture this scenario: you, the consumer, take a dollar and spend it, and you get 90 cents back. In what industry is that happening? Here’s the financial state of healthcare in America, explained in the 2016 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). We live in an era of Amazon-Primed consumers, digital couponing, and expectations of free news in front of paywalls. We are all in search of value, even as the U.S. economy continues to recover on a macroeconomic basis. But that hasn’t yet translated to many peoples’ home economics. In this personal

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Healthcare EveryWhere: Philips and American Well Streamline Telehealth

Two mature companies in their respective healthcare spaces came together earlier this month to extend healthcare services where patients live and doctors work, via telehealth services. Philips, celebrating 127 years in business this year, has gone all-in on digital health across the continuum of care, from prevention and healthy living to the ICU and hospital emergency department. American Well is among the longest operating telehealth companies, founded in 2006. Together, these two established organizations will transcend physician offices and ERs and deliver virtual care in and beyond the U.S. I had the opportunity to sit down with Ido Schoenberg, MD,

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Most Americans Say Healthcare is #1 Policy Issue Entering 2018

Concerns about health care are, by a large margin, the top domestic policy issue U.S. voters identified as they enter 2018. The proportion of Americans citing healthcare as the top public agenda priority grew by 50% since 2016, from 31% two years ago to 48%. Taxes rank #2 this year, garnering 31% of Americans’ concerned, followed by immigration, which has remained flat cited by about one-in-four Americans. The Associated Press (AP)-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research polled 1,444 U.S. adults 18 and over between November 30 and December 4, 2017 for this survey. While one-half of Americans would like the

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Health Consumers Face the New Year Concerned About Costs, Security and Caring – Health Populi’s 2018 Forecast

As 2018 approaches, consumers will gather healthy New Year’s Resolutions together. Entering the New Year, most Americans are also dealing with concerns about healthcare costs, cybersecurity, and caring – for physical health, mental stress, and the nation. Healthcare costs continue to be top-of-mind for consumer pocketbook issues. Entrenched frugality is the new consumer ethos. While the economy might be statistically improving, American consumers’ haven’t regained confidence. In 2018, frugality will impact how people look at healthcare costs. 88% of US consumers are likely to consider cost when selecting a healthcare provider, a Conduent survey found. Physicians know this: 81% of

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Patients Continue to Grow Healthcare Consumer Muscles, Alegeus’s 2017 Index Finds

Patients’ health consumer muscles continue to get a work out as more people enroll in high-deductible health plans and face sticker shock for health insurance premiums, prescription drug costs, and that thousand-dollar threshold. The 2017 Alegeus Healthcare Consumerism Index finds growth in patients’, now consumers’, interest and competence in becoming disciplined about planning, saving, and spending for healthcare. Overall, the healthcare spending index hit 60.1 in 2017, up from 54.4 in 2016. This is a macro benchmark that represents most consumers exhibiting greater healthcare spending engagement with eyes on cost as well as adopting purchasing behaviors for healthcare. Underneath that

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The Patient as Payor – Consumers and the Government Bear the Largest Share of Healthcare Spending in America

The biggest healthcare spenders in the United States are households and the Federal government, each responsible for paying 28% of the $3.3 trillion spent in 2016. Private business — that is, employers covering healthcare insurance — paid for 20% of healthcare costs in 2016, based on calculations from the CMS Office of the Actuary’s report on 2016 National Health Expenditures. The positive spin on this report is that overall national health spending grew at a slower rate in 2016, at 4.3% after 5.8% growth in 2015. This was due to a decline in the growth rates for the use of

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Six Healthcare News Stories to Keep Hospital CFOs Up At Night

At this moment, the healthcare job I’d least like to have is that of a non-profit hospital Chief Financial Officer (CFO). Five news stories, published in the past 24 hours, tell the tale: First, Moody’s forecast for non-profit hospitals and healthcare in 2018 is negative due to reimbursement and expense pressures. The investors report cited an expected contraction in cash flow, lower reimbursement rates, and rising expense pressures in the midst of rising bad debt. Second, three-quarters of Federally Qualified Health Centers plan to lay off staff given lack of budget allocations resulting from Congressional inaction. Furthermore, if the $3.6

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CVS + Aetna: An Inflection Point for American Healthcare

The nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain signed a deal to combine with one of the top three health insurance companies. The deal is valued at $69 billion. I wrote about this inflection point for U.S. healthcare four weeks ago here in Health Populi. CVS is both the biggest pharmacy and pharmacy benefit manager in the U.S., as the first chart shows. In my previous post, I talked about the value of vertical integration bringing together the building blocks of retail pharmacy and pharmacist care, retail clinics, the PBM (Caremark), along with Aetna’s health plan member base and business. As Amazon and other

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U.S. Healthcare Spending & Outcomes in Five Charts: #EpicFail in the 2017 OECD Statistics

“Spend more. Get less.” If a retailer advertised using these four words, how many consumers would buy that product or service? This is the American reality of healthcare spending in 2016, told in the OECD report, Health at a Glance 2017. I present five charts from the study in this post, which together take the current snapshot health-economic lesson for the U.S. First, look at health expenditures as a share of gross domestic product: the U.S. is number one above Switzerland, France, and the UK, and about two times the OECD average. Note, too, the proportion of out-of-pocket and so-called

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Health Care Is 2.5 More Expensive Than Food for the Average U.S. Family

The math is straightforward. Assume “A” equals $59.039, the median household income in 2016. Assume “B” is $18,142, the mean employer-sponsored family insurance premium last year. B divided by A equals 30.7%, which is the percent of the average U.S. family’s income represented by the premium cost of health insurance. Compare that to what American households spent on food: just over $7,000, including groceries and eating out (which is garnering a larger share of U.S. eating opportunities, a topic for another post). Thus, health care represents, via the home’s health insurance premium, represents 2.5 times more than food for the

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A Health Consumer Perspective on CVS+Aetna

  A response to Amazon’s potential moves in healthcare and pharmacy…strategic positioning for the post-Trump healthcare landscape…vertical integration to better manage healthcare utilization and costs…these, and other rationale have been offered by industry analysts and observers of the discussions between CVS and Aetna, for the former to acquire the latter. “A pharmacy chain buying a health insurance company?” many have asked me over the past few days. These inquiring minds include people who work both inside and outside of health/care. I ask back: in 2017 and in the future, “What is a pharmacy? What is a health plan?” See the

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CVS Health in Talks to Acquire Aetna – The Changing Retail Health Landscape

Just a few days since CVS Health announced the company would be working with mega-health insurer Anthem on a prescription drug management program, the pharmacy chain today is reportedly in talks to buy Aetna, the national health insurance company, according to CNBC and other credible news outlets like the Wall Street Journal. Remember that Aetna’s bid to acquire Humana was scuttled earlier this year after many months of negotiation and positioning, along with FTC scrutiny about antitrust. That insurance merger “died” on one day in February 2017 along with an Anthem-CIGNA deal, covered here by CNN. A deal between CVS

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Most Americans Are Concerned About Healthcare Policy, and Costs Top the List of Concerns

4 in 5 Americans are aware of potential changes to healthcare policy brewing in Washington, DC. 92% of them are concerned about those changes, according to Healthcare Consumers in a Time of Uncertainty, the fifth annual survey from Transamerica Center for Health Studies. Peoples’ most-shared fears are losing their coverage for pre-existing conditions, out-of-pocket spending, and a ban on lifetime limits. That boils down to one thing: cost. That is, cost, for having to spend money on services not-covered by their health insurance plan; cost for out-of-pocket items under-insured, denied, or requiring coinsurance or co-payments; and, catastrophic costs that rise beyond

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What Health Plans Must Learn from Amazon

One in two U.S. consumers told Aflac that enrolling in health insurance should feel like an experience on Amazon. But health consumers still lack that high benchmark retail experience with health plans, based on new research published in HealthMine’s 2017 Health Intelligence Report focusing on communication and digital healthcare tools. “Most members believe health plan communications are impersonal and centered around bills rather than healthcare guidance,” HealthMine asserts in the introduction to the report. That’s about as un-Amazon as we can imagine.   Top findings from HealthMine’s research are that: 3 in 4 consumers don’t think their health insurance plan

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What Patients Feel About Technology, Healthcare Costs and Social Determinants

U.S. consumers feel positive about the roles of technology and social determinants in improving healthcare, but are concerned about costs, according to the 2017 Patient Survey Report conducted for The Physicians Foundation. The survey gauged patients’ perspectives across four issues: the physician-patient relationship, the cost of healthcare, social determinants of health, and lifestyle choices. Two key threads in the research explain how Americans feel about healthcare in the U.S. at this moment: the role of technology and the cost of health care. First, the vast majority of consumers view technology, broadly defined, as important for their health care. 85% of people

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Consumers Use Digital Health Tools But Still Struggle with Health Literacy

While more U.S. patients are use digital health tools and take on more clinical and financial decision making for their health care, people also have gaps in health engagement and health literacy. Three studies published in early October 2017 provide insights into the state of healthcare consumerism in America. The 2017 UnitedHealthcare Consumer Sentiment Survey found that a plurality of Americans (45%) turn first to primary care providers (doctors or nurses) as their source for the first source of information about specific health symptoms, conditions or diseases. 28% of people also use the internet or mobile health apps as their

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The Patient As Payor – Americans Bundle Financial Wellness and Healthcare Costs

Healthcare and the economy tied for US voters’ top issue last week, as the prospects for repealing the Affordable Care Act faded by the weekend. This Morning Consult poll was published 28th September 2017, as it became clear that the Graham-Cassidy health reform bill would lose at least three key votes the legislation needed for passage: from Rand Paul, Susan Collins, and John McCain. Liz Hamel, who directs the Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey research, told Morning Consult that, “when people say ‘health care,’ they often are actually talking about the economic issue of health care.”          

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Out-Of-Pocket Healthcare Costs Grow in the Family Budget

For each dollar spent on healthcare in the United States, families paid 28 cents, according to the U.S. National Health Expenditure Accounts for 2015. Welcome to the new era of Americans and medical banking, with new insights provided by the largest of banks, JP Morgan Chase, in Paying Out-of-Pocket: The Healthcare Spending of 2 Million U.S. Families, from JP Morgan Chase. Chase is the largest bank in America based on its assets. They’ve mined 2.3 million de-identified records of Chase consumers in their banking network to learn about customers’ healthcare spending. These data represent spending between 2013 and 2016, detailed

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Prescription Drug Coverage at Work: Common, Complex, and Costly

Getting health insurance at work means also having prescription drug coverage; 99% of covered workers’ companies cover drugs, based on the 2017 Employer Health Benefits Survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). I covered the top-line of this important annual report in yesterday’s Health Populi post, which found that the health insurance premium for a family of four covered in the workplace has reached $18,764 — approaching the price of a new 2017 small car according to the Kelley Blue Book. The complexities of prescription drug plans have proliferated, since KFF began monitoring the drug portion of health benefits

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Employees Continue To Pick Up More Health Insurance Costs, Even As Their Growth Slows

The average cost of an employer=sponsored health plan for a family reached $18,764 in 2017. While this premium grew overall by a historically relative low of 3.4%, employees covered under that plan faced an increase of 8.3% over what their plan share cost them in 2016, according to the 2017 Employer Health Benefit Survey published today by the Kaiser Family Foundation. [Here’s a link to the 2016 KFF report, which provided the baseline for this 8.3% calculation]. Average family premiums at the workplace rose 19% since 2012, a slowdown from the two previous five-year periods — 30% between 2007 and 2012, and

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Patients Are Looking to Finance Healthcare Over Time

Most U.S. patients want healthcare providers to offer cost information before a procedure, and whether doctors offer financial options to help them extend payments over time. This is an automotive or home appliance procedure we’re talking about. It’s healthcare services, and American patients are now the third largest payors to providers in the nation. Thus, the title of a new report summarizing a consumer survey from HealthFirst notes, “It’s Never Too Soon to Communicate Pricing and Payment Options. The study found that two-thirds of U.S. consumers would like healthcare providers to discuss financing options; however, only 18 percent of providers have

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Celebrating 10 Years of Health Populi, 10 Healthcare Milestones and Learnings

Happy anniversary to me…well, to the Health Populi blog! It’s ten years this week since I launched this site, to share my (then) 20 years of experience advising health care stakeholders in the U.S. and Europe at the convergence of health, economics, technology, and people. To celebrate the decade’s worth of 1,791 posts here on Health Populi (all written by me in my independent voice), I’ll offer ten health/care milestones that represent key themes covered from early September 2007 through to today… 1. Healthcare is one-fifth of the national U.S. economy, and the top worrisome line item in the American

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A Couple Retiring Today Will Need $275,000 For Health Care Expenses

A 65-year-old couple in America, retiring in 2017, will need to have saved $275,000 to cover their health and medical costs in retirement. This represents a $15,000 (5.8%) increase from last year’s number of $260,000, according to the annual retirement healthcare cost study from Fidelity Investments. This number does not include long-term care costs — only medical and health care spending. Here’s a link to my take on last year’s Fidelity healthcare retirement cost study: Health Care Costs in Retirement Will Run $260K If You’re Retiring This Year. Note that the 2016 cost was also $15,000 greater than the retirement healthcare costs calculated

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Women’s Access to Health Care Improved Under the Affordable Care Act

    The Affordable Care Act (ACT) was implemented in 2010. Since the inception of the ACA, the proportion of uninsured women in the U.S. fell by nearly one-half, from 19 million in 2010 to 11 million in 2016. The Commonwealth Fund has documented the healthcare gains that American women made since the ACA launch in their issue brief, How the Affordable Care Act Has Helped Women Gain Insurance and Improved Their Ability to Get Health Care, published earlier this month. The first chart talks about insurance: health care plan coverage, which is the prime raison d’être of the ACA. It’s

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Cost and Personalization Are Key For Health Consumers Who Shop for Health Plans

        Between 2012 and 2017, the number of US consumers who shopped online for health insurance grew by three times, from 14% to 42%, according to a survey from Connecture. Cost first, then “keeping my doctor,” are the two top considerations when shopping for health insurance. 71% of consumers would consider switching their doctor(s) to save on plan costs. Beyond clinician cost, health plans shoppers are also concerned with prescription drug costs in supporting their decisions. 80% of consumers would be willing to talk with their doctors about prescription drug alternatives, looking for a balance between convenience

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Employer Health Benefits Stable In the Midst of Uncertain Health Politics

As we look for signs of stability in U.S. health care, there’s one stakeholder that’s holding firm: employers providing healthcare benefits. Two studies out this week demonstrate companies’ commitment to sponsoring health insurance benefits….with continued tweaks to benefit design that nudges workers toward healthier behaviors, lower cost-settings, and greater cost-sharing. As Julie Stone, senior benefits consultant with Willis Towers Watson (WLTW), noted, “The extent of uncertainty in Washington has made people reluctant to make changes to their benefit programs without knowing what’s happening. They’re taking a wait-and-see attitude.” First, the Willis Towers Watson 22nd annual Best Practices in Health Care Employer

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Learning From Adam Niskar – Living Beyond The Wheelchair

After diving into Walnut Lake in suburban Detroit, Adam Niskar sustained a spinal injury that would paralyze much of his body for the rest of his life. The trauma didn’t paralyze his life and living, though. But today, my family will celebrate that life at Adam’s memorial service. Adam was my cousin. He was one of the best-loved people on the planet, and that was part of a therapeutic recipe that sustained him from the traumatic accident in 1999 until Monday, July 31st, 2017, when Adam passed away from complications due to an infection that, this time around, his body

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Health Equity Lessons from July 23, 1967, Detroit

On July 23, 1967, I was a little girl wearing a pretty dress, attending my cousin’s wedding at a swanky hotel in mid-town Detroit. Driving home with my parents and sisters after the wedding, the radio news channel warned us of the blazing fires that were burning in a part of the city not far from where we were on a highway leading out to the suburbs. Fifty years and five days later, I am addressing the subject of health equity at a speech over breakfast at the American Hospital Association 25th Annual Health Leadership Summit today. In my talk,

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Self-Pay Healthcare Up, Hospital Revenues Down

For every 4.2% increase in a hospital’s self-pay patient population, the institution’s revenues would fall by 2.8% in Medicaid expansion states. This is based on the combination of a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and more consumers moving to high-deductible health plans. That sober metric was calculated by Crowe Horwath, published in its benchmarking report published today with a title warning that, Self-Pay Becomes Ground Zero for Hospital Margins. The “ground zero” for the average U.S. hospital is the convergence of a potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which could increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million

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Is There Political Will for Healthcare Access in the US?

The Netherlands, France and Germany are the best places to be a patient, based on the Global Access to Healthcare Index, developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). Throughout the world, nations wrestle with how to provide healthcare to health citizens, in the context of stretched government budgets and demand for innovative and accessible services. The Global Access to Healthcare Index gauges countries’ healthcare systems in light of peoples’ ability to access services, detailed in Global Access to Healthcare: Building Sustainable Health Systems. The United States comes up 10th in line (tied with Spain) in this analysis. Countries that score the

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Global Drug Sales Forecasts Fall For Next Five Years

Total prescription drug sales have been trimmed, based on calculations of EvaluatePharma which forecasts a $390 bn drop in revenues between 2017 and 2022. “Political and public scrutiny over pricing of both new and old drugs is not going to go away,” EvaluatePharma called out in its report. The intense scrutiny on pharma industry pricing was fostered by Martin Shkreli in his pricing of Daraprim (taking a $13.50 product raising the price to $750), Harvoni and Sovaldi pricing for Hepatitis C therapies, and last year’s EpiPen pricing uproar. A May 2017 analysis of prescription drug costs by AARP judges that, “Nothing

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Pharmacy and Outpatient Costs Will Take A Larger Portion of Health Spending in 2018

Health care costs will trend upward by 6.5% in 2018 according to the forecast, Medical Cost Trends: Behind the Numbers 2018, from PwC’s Health Research Institute. The expected increase of 6.5% is a half-percentage point up from the 2017 rate of 6.0%, which is 8% higher than last year’s rate matching that of 2014. PwC’s Health Research Institute has tracked medical cost trends since 2007, as the line chart illustrates, when trend was nearly double at nearly 12%. The research consider medical prices, health care services and goods utilization, and a PwC employer benefit cost index for the U.S. The key

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Healthcare Costs for a Family of Four Will Reach $27,000 in 2017

If you had $27,000 in your wallet, would you spend it on a 2017 Kia Optima sedan, 28 shares of Amazon stock, or healthcare? $26,944 is this year’s estimate of what healthcare will cost a family of four in the U.S., based on the 2017 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). This is based on the projected total costs of healthcare for a family covered by an employer-sponsored PPO plan. Milliman, the actuarial consulting firm, has conducted the MMI going back to 2001. I’ve watched the rise and rise of this index for years, explained annually in the Health Populi blog since its inception

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Medicines in America: The Half-Trillion Dollar Line Item

Prescription drug spending in the U.S. grew nearly 6% in 2016, reaching $450 billion, according to the QuintilesIMS Institute report, Medicines Use and Spending in the U.S., published today. U.S. drug spending is forecasted to grow by 30% over the next 5 years to 2021, amounting to $610 billion. In 2016, per capita (per person) spending on medicines for U.S. health citizens averaged $895. Specialty drugs made up $384 of that total, equal to 43% of personal drug spending, shown in the first chart. Spending on specialty drugs continues to increase as a proportion of total drug spending: traditional medicines’ share

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Most Physicians Say Patients, Doctors and Hospitals Are All Losers Under Trump

“Overall, Council members express pessimism about the health are landscape in the wake of the Trump administration’s proposed plans, citing no clear winners, only losers: patients, clinicians, and provider organizations.” This is the summary of the Leadership Survey report, Anticipating the Trump Administration’s Impact on Health Care, developed by the New England Journal of Medicine‘s NEJM Group. The first chart illustrates the “biggest healthcare losers” finding, detailed on the bottom three bars of patients, clinicians, and provider organizations. The stakeholders that will fare best under a President Trump healthcare agenda would be drug companies, payers, and employers. The biggest loser

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Financial Stress As A Health Risk Factor Impacts More Americans

A family in Orange County, California, paid a brother’s 1982 hospital bill by selling 50 pieces of their newly-deceased mother’s jewelry. “It’s what she wanted,” the surviving son told a reporter from The Orange County Register. The cache of jewelry fetched enough to pay the $10,000 bill. Patients in the U.S. cobble together various strategies to pay for healthcare, as the first chart drawn from a Kaiser Family Foundation report on medical debt attests. As health care consumers, people cut back on household spending like vacations and household goods. Two-thirds of insured patients use up all or most of their savings

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Health Care Costs Are A Top Worry for Americans Across Political Parties

Health care costs are out-of-reach for more Americans, among both people who have insurance through the workplace or via health insurance exchanges. The first chart illustrates the growing healthcare affordability challenge for American health consumers, discussed in a data note to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll in March 2017. In 2017, 43% of consumers found it difficult to meet the health care deductible before insurance would kick in 37% of consumers found it difficult to pay for the cost of health insurance each month 31% said it was difficult to pay for copayments for doctor visits and prescription drugs.

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Connecting the Dots Between Population Health and the Local Economy

U.S. counties with better health have better performing economies. There’s a direct link between healthy people and a healthy economy, where healthier regions enjoy lower unemployment and higher incomes, according to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Health Index. When compared to counties with a median BCBS Health Index score, counties within the top 10 percent had: A per capita income that’s $3,700 higher than the median 10-year economic growth that’s 3.5% higher An unemployment rate half a point lower. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA) worked with Moody’s Analytics (part of the Moody’s financial services company) on this second edition of this

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Health Insurance Plans Rank Lowest In Consumer Experience

Consumers love their supermarkets, fast food shops, retailers, delivery services, and banks. These industries rank highest in the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings, my go-to source for understanding consumer service Nirvana. Health insurance companies and internet service providers (ISPs) are at the bottom of the Temkin Ratings, as shown in the first chart. Note that health plans range from a score approaching 70 to under 50, illustrating the very wide range of consumer experience from okay-to-good, too very poor. The top-ranked health plan was Kaiser Permanente, with a rating of 67%; Health Net was ranked the worst of the health plans

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Medical Bill Toxicity: 53% of Americans Say A Big Bill Is As Bad As A Serious Diagnosis

3 in 4 Americans’ health care costs have risen in the past few years. Two-thirds of Americans want to lower their costs, but don’t know how to do that. A survey from Amino released this week, conducted by Ipsos, has found that one in five people could not afford to pay an unexpected medical bill without taking on debt, and another 18% of Americans could only afford up to $100 if presented with an unexpected medical bill. This medical debt side effect more likely impacts women versus men, the less affluent, the unmarried, and those with no college degree. While

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States That Expanded Medicaid Improved Healthcare Access & Patient Outcomes

States that expanded Medicaid since the start of the Affordable Care Act made greater health system access improvements than those States that did not expand Medicaid, according to Aiming Higher: Results from the Commonwealth Fund Scorecard on State Health System Performance. There’s good news and bad news in this report: on the upside, nearly all states saw health improvements between 2013 and 2015, and in particular, for treatment quality and patient safety. Patient re-admissions to hospitals also fell in many states. But on the downside, premature deaths increased in nearly two-thirds of states, a reversal in the (improving) national mortality

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Americans Are Not Sold On the American Health Care Act

Most Americans do not believe that TrumpCare, the GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (the ACA, aka  ObamaCare), will make things better for U.S. health citizens when it comes to peoples’ health insurance coverage, the premium costs charged for those health plans, and protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The March 2017 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll examined U.S. adults’ initial perceptions of AHCA, the American Health Care Act, which is the GOP’s replacement plan for the ACA. There are deep partisan differences in perceptions about TrumpCare, with more Republicans favorable to the plan — although not

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Will Republican Healthcare Policy “Make America Sick Again?” Two New Polls Show Growing Support for ACA

Results of two polls published in the past week, from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Pew Research Center, demonstrate growing support for the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: Future Directions for the ACA and Medicaid was published 24 February 2017. The first line chart illustrates the results, with the blue line for consumers’ “favorable view” on the ACA crossing several points above the “unfavorable” orange line for the first time since the law was signed in 2010. The margins in February 2017 were 48% favorable, 42% unfavorable. While the majority of Republicans continue to be solidly

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20% of the US Economy Will Be Healthcare Spending in 2025

Price increases and growing use of healthcare services will drive national health spending (NHE) in the U.S. to 20% of the nation’s economy by 2025, according to projections calculated by a team from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Health spending will reach $3.6 trillion dollars this year. These were published in a Web-First article in Health Affairs on 15 February 2017 The caveat on these numbers is that the CMS team used economic models based on “current-law framework:” these make no assumptions about legislative changes that may occur in healthcare reform between 2017 and 2025. While that’s a

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My $100 Flu Shot: How Much Paper Waste Costs U.S. Healthcare

An abbreviated version of this post appeared in the Huffington Post on 9 February 2017. This version includes the Health Populi Hot Points after the original essay, discussing the consumer’s context of retail experience in healthcare and implications for the industry under Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price — a proponent of consumer-directed healthcare and, especially, health savings accounts. We’ll be brainstorming the implications of the 2016 CAQH Index during a Tweetchat on Thursday, February 16, at 2 pm ET, using the hashtag #CAQHchat. America ranks dead-last in healthcare efficiency compared with our peer countries, the Commonwealth Fund

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Health Care Worries Top Terrorism, By Far, In Americans’ Minds

Health care is the top concern of American families, according to a Monmouth University Poll conducted in the week prior to Donald Trump’s Presidential inauguration. Among U.S. consumers’ top ten worries, eight in ten directly point to financial concerns — with health care costs at the top of the worry-list for 25% of people. Health care financial worries led the second place concern, job security and unemployment, by a large margin (11 percentage points) In third place was “everyday bills,” the top concern for 12% of U.S. adults. Immigration was the top worry for only 3% of U.S. adults; terrorism and

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Americans Far More Likely to Self-Ration Prescription Drugs Due To Cost

Americans are more than five times more likely to skip medication doses or not fill prescriptions due to cost than peers in the United Kingdom or Switzerland. U.S. patients are twice as likely as Canadians to avoid medicines due to cost. And, compared with health citizens in France, U.S. consumers are ten-times more likely to be non-adherent to prescription medications due to cost. It’s very clear that more consumers tend to avoid filling and taking prescription drugs, due to cost barriers, when faced with higher direct charges for medicines. This evidence is presented in the research article, Cost-related non-adherence to prescribed

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Medical Debt Is A Risk Factor For Consumers’ Financial Wellness

The top reason US consumers hear from a debt collector is due to medical bills, for 6 in 10 people in Americans contacted regarding a collection. This month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) published its report on Consumer Experiences with Debt Collection. Medical bill collections are the most common debt for which consumers are contacted by collectors, followed by phone bills, utility bills, and tax bills. The prevalence of past-due medical debt is unique compared with these other types because healthcare cost problems impact consumers at low, middle, and high incomes alike. Specifically: 62% of consumers earning $20,000 to

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Health Care For All — Only Better, US Consumers Tell Consumer Reports

Availability of quality healthcare, followed by affordable care, are the top two issues concerning U.S. consumers surveyed just prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th U.S. President. Welcome to Consumer Reports profile of Consumer Voices, As Trump Takes Office, What’s Top of Consumers’ Minds? “Healthcare for All, Only Better,” Consumer Reports summarizes as the top-line finding of the research. 64% of people are confident of having access to good healthcare, but 55% aren’t sure they can afford healthcare insurance to be able to access those services. Costs are too high, and choices in local markets can be spotty or non-existent.

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Health Care Costs, Not the ACA, Rank #1 in Americans’ Minds As President Trump Assumes the Presidency

More Americans are worried about their out-of-pocket health care costs than they are about repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll published 6th January 2017, the first KFF poll for the new year. Cost worries fall into two buckets of concerns: the cost of health care, and the cost of prescription drugs. Managing the opioid epidemic falls in third place after health care costs. Repealing the Affordable Care Act? It’s #4 on Americans’ health care priorities as of mid-December 2016, followed by shrinking the Federal’s government’s role in and spending on

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Consumers Taking Healthcare Into Own Hands at CES 2017

Consumer electronics (CE) aren’t just big screen TVs, sexy cars, and videogames anymore. Among the fastest-growing segments in CE is digital health, and health-tech will be prominently featured at the 2017 CES in Las Vegas hours after the champagne corks have popped at the start of the new year. On the second day of 2017, I’ll be flying to Las Vegas for several days of consumer technology immersion, learning about connected and smart homes and cars, and shiny new things all devoted to personal health. Welcome to my all-health lens on CES 2017, once referred to as the Consumer Electronics

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Retail Trumps Healthcare in 2017: the Health Populi Forecast for the New Year

Health citizens in America will need to be even more mindful, critical, and engaged healthcare consumers in 2017 based on several factors shaping the market; among these driving forces, the election of Donald Trump for U.S. president, the uncertain future of the Affordable Care Act and health insurance, emerging technologies, and peoples’ growing demand for convenience and self-service in daily life. The patient is increasingly the payor in healthcare. Bearing more first-dollar costs through high-deductible health plans and growing out-of-pocket spending for prescription drugs and other patient-facing goods and services, we’re seeking greater transparency regarding availability, cost and quality of

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One-Half of Privately-Insured Americans Are Dissatisfied With Healthcare Costs

A plurality of Americans, 4 in 10, are dissatisfied with the healthcare costs they face. The level of dissatisfaction varies by a consumer’s type of health insurance, while overall, 42% of people are dissatisfied with costs… 48% of privately insured people are dissatisfied with thei healthcare costs 29% of people on Medicare or Medicaid are dissatisfied 62% of uninsured people are dissatisfied. Gallup has polled Americans on this question since 2014 every November. Dissatisfaction with healthcare costs is up from 38% from the period 2011-2013. As the line chart illustrates, the current levels of cost-dissatisfaction are similar to those felt

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U.S. Healthcare Spending Hit Nearly $10,000 A Person In 2015

Spending on health care in the U.S. hit $3.2 trillion in 2015, increasing 5.8% from 2014. This works out to $9,990 per person in the U.S., and nearly 18% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Factors that drove such significant spending growth included increases in private health insurance coverage owing to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) coverage (7.2%), and spending on physician services (7.2%) and hospital care (5.6%). Prescription drug spending grew by 9% between 2014 and 2015 (a topic which I’ll cover in tomorrow’s Health Populi discussing IMS Institute’s latest report into global medicines spending). The topic of

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See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me – What The Who’s Tommy Can Teach Healthcare

“See me, feel me, touch me, heal me,” is the lyrical refrain from The Who’s Tommy. These eight words summarize what Deloitte has learned from the firm’s latest look into healthcare consumers, published in the report, Health plans: What matters most to the health care consumer. U.S. consumers’ demands for health care are for: Personalization from doctors, hospitals, and other care providers — the most important priority; Economically rational coverage and care choices; Convenience-drive access and care experience; and, Digitally connected care. Personalization is Job 1: “Consumers want to be heard, understood, and given clear directions through a personalized health care

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Healthcare Reform in President Trump’s America – A Preliminary Look

It’s the 9th of November, 2016, and Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States of America. On this morning after #2016Election, Health Populi looks at what we know we know about President Elect-Trump’s health policy priorities. Repeal-and-replace has been Mantra #1 for Mr. Trump’s health policy. With all three branches of the U.S. government under Republican control in 2018, this policy prescription may have a strong shot. The complication is that the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare in Mr. Trump’s tweet) includes several provisions that the newly-insured and American health citizens really value, including: Extending health

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Self-Care Is the Best Healthcare Reform

The greater a person’s level of health engagement, the better their health outcome will be. Evidence is growing on the return-on-investment for peoples’ health activation and how healthy they are. That ROI is both in survival (mortality) and quality of life (morbidity), as well as hard-dollar savings — personally bending-the-healthcare-cost-curve. But people are more likely to engage in “health” than “healthcare.” We’d rather ingest food-as-medicine than a prescription drug, use walking in a lovely park for exercise, and laugh while we’re learning about how to manage our health insurance benefits. Thus, Campbell’s Soup Company and Hormel are expanding healthy offerings,

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Consumers Feel More Respect from Personal Care and Grocery Brands Than Pharma or Insurance

People feel like get-no-respect Rodney Dangerfield when they deal with health insurance, government agencies, or pharma companies. Consumers feel much more love from personal care and beauty companies, grocery and fitness, according to a brand equity study by a team from C Space, published in Harvard Businss Review. As consumer-directed health care (high deductibles, first-dollar payments out-of-pocket) continues to grow, bridging consumer trust and values will be a critical factor for building consumer market share in the expanding retail health landscape. Nine of the top 10 companies C Space identified with the greatest “customer quotient” are adjacent in some way to health:

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In #Election2016, Americans Care More About the Cost of Prescription Drugs Than the ACA

“When thinking about health care priorities for the next president and Congress to address, dealing with the high price of prescription drugs tops the public’s list while issues specific to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), such as repealing provisions of the law or repealing the law entirely, are viewed as top priorities by fewer Americans,” according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll for October 2016 – the last such survey to be taken before the 2016 Presidential election. The poster child snapshot image representing the high cost of prescription drugs is the increase in cost for an EpiPen, which among

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Americans Have Begun to Raid Retirement Savings for Current Healthcare Costs

While American workers appreciate the benefits they receive at work, people are concerned about health care costs. And consumers’ collective response to rising health care costs is changing the way they use health care services and products, like prescription drugs. Furthermore, 6 in 10 U.S. health citizens rank healthcare as poor (27%) or fair (33%). This sober profile on healthcare consumers emerges out of survey research conducted by EBRI (the Employee Benefit Research Institute), analyzed in the report Workers Like Their Benefits, Are Confident of Future Availability, But Dissatisfied With the Health Care System and Pessimistic About Future Access and

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Looking for Amazon in Healthcare

  Consumers have grown accustomed to Amazon, and increasingly to the just-in-time convenience of Amazon Prime. Today, workers who sign onto employee benefit portals are looking for Amazon-style convenience, access, and streamlined experiences, found in the Aflac Workforces Report 2016. Aflac polled 1,900 U.S. adults employed full or part time in June and July 2016 to gauge consumers’ views on benefit selections through the workplace. Consumers have an overall angst and ennui about health benefits sign-ups: 72% of employees say reading about benefits is long, complicated, or stressful 48% of people would rather do something unpleasant like talking to their ex or

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Costs of Care and the ACA Top Voters’ Healthcare Issues

Two in three US voters put the future of the Affordable Care Act as the #1 healthcare issue in the 2016 President election. The ACA is closely followed by healthcare costs — for insurance premiums, deductibles, and prescription drugs, according to the September 2016 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. The opioid addiction and mortality epidemic is a top healthcare issue for 43% of US voters, and the Zika virus, among 26% of voters. Note that more supporters of Hillary Clinton are healthcare-oriented voters than people who favor Donald Trump. Uninsurance and costs, in addition to the future of the ACA, rank

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Let’s Go Healthcare Shopping!

Healthcare is going direct-to-consumer for a lot more than over-the-counter medicines and retail clinic visits to deal with little Johnny’s sore throat on a Sunday afternoon. Entrepreneurs recognize the growing opportunity to support patients, now consumers, in going shopping for health care products and services. Those health consumers are in search of specific offerings, in accessible locations and channels, and — perhaps top-of-mind — at value-based prices as defined by the consumer herself. (Remember: value-based healthcare means valuing what matters to patients, as a recent JAMA article attested). At this week’s tenth annual Health 2.0 Conference, I’m in the zeitgeist

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Employer Health Insurance Costs $18,142 in 2016, in KFF Study

Consumers face increasing health insurance deductibles in 2016, faster-growing than earnings and well above general price inflation, featured in the Kaiser/HRET Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits, 2016. This report, updated annually, is the go-to source on the availability of, cost for, and trends in U.S. employer-based health plans. The average annual health insurance premium in 2016 reached $18,142, the survey found, about $600 more than in 2015. Over the past ten years since 2006, workers’ contributions to health insurance premiums increased 78%; employers’ contributions grew 58% over the decade.   To help stem costs, employers are adopting new services to

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More Americans See Hillary Clinton As the 2016 Presidential Health Care Candidate

When it comes to health care, more American voters trust Hillary Clinton to deal with health issues than Donald Trump, according to the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll: August 2016 from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). The poll covered the Presidential election, the Zika virus, and consumers’ views on the value of and access to personal health information via electronic health records. Today’s Health Populi post will cover the political dimensions of the August 2016 KFF poll; in tomorrow’s post, I will address the health information issues. First, let’s address the political lens of the poll. More voters trust Hillary Clinton to do

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

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

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Health Care Reform: President Obama Pens Progress in JAMA

“Take Governor John Kasich’s explanation for expanding Medicaid: ‘For those that live in the shadows of life, those who are the least among us, I will not accept the fact that the most vulnerable in our state should be ignored. We can help them.’” So quotes President Barack Obama in the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA, in today’s online issue. #POTUS penned, United States Health Care Reform: Progress to Date and Next Steps. The author is named as “Barack Obama, JD,” a nod to the President’s legal credentials. Governor Kasich, a Republican, was one of 31 Governors who

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Healthcare Consumerism? Not So Fast, Alegeus Finds

Millions of U.S. patients have more financial skin in the American health care game. But are they behaving like the “consumers” they are assumed to be as members in consumer-directed health plans? Not so much, yet, explained John Park, Chief Strategy Officer at Alegeus, during a discussion of his company’s 2016 Healthcare Consumerism Index. This research is based on an online survey of over 1,000 U.S. healthcare consumers in April 2016. Alegeus looks at healthcare consumerism across two main dimensions: healthcare spending and healthcare saving. As the chart summarizes, consumers show greater engagement and focus on buying a TV or car, choosing

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The State of Health Benefits in 2016: Reallocating the Components

Virtually all employers who offer health coverage to workers extend health benefits to all full-time employees. 94% offer health care coverage to opposite-sex spouses, and 83% to same-sex spouses. One-half off health benefits to both opposite-sex and same-sex domestic partners (unmarried). Dental insurance, prescription drug coverage, vision insurance, mail order prescription programs, and mental health coverage are also offered by a vast majority (85% and over) of employers. Welcome to the detailed profile of workplace benefits for the year, published in 2016 Employee Benefits, Looking Back at 20 Years of Employee Benefits Offerings in the U.S., from the Society for Human

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PwC’s “Behind the Numbers” – Where the Patient Stands

The growth of health care costs in the U.S. is expected to be a relatively moderate 6.5% in 2017, the same percentage increase as between 2015 and 2016, according to Medical Cost Trend: Behind the Numbers 2017, an annual forecast from PwC. As the line chart illustrates, the rate of increase of health care costs has been declining since 2007, when costs were in double-digit growth mode. Since 2014, health care cost growth has hovered around the mid-six percent’s, considered “low growth” in the PwC report. What’s driving overall cost increases is price, not use of services: in fact, health care

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