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Health Insurance and Demand for Masking, Testing and Contact Tracing – New Data from The Commonwealth Fund

The coronavirus pandemic occasioned the Great Lockdown for people to shelter-at-home, tele-work if possible, and shut down large parts of the U.S. economy considered “non-essential.” As health insurance for working-age people is tied to employment, COVID-19 led to disproportionate loss of health plan coverage especially among people earning lower incomes, as well as non-white workers, explained in the Commonwealth Fund Health Care Poll: COVID-19, May-June 2020. The Commonwealth Fund commissioned interviews with 2,271 U.S. adults 18 and over between 13 May and 2nd June 2020 for this study. The survey has two lenses: first, on health insurance coverage among working

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What Will Healthcare Costs Be After COVID? PwC Looks Behind the 2021 Numbers

Whether healthcare spending in 2021 increases by double-digits or falls by one-third directly depends on how the coronavirus pandemic will play out over the rest of 2020, based on PwC’s annual report on medical cost trends for 2021. The three cost scenarios are based on assumptions shown in the fine print on the first chart: The medium scenario, a sort of “return to normal” where medical trend could stay even at 6.0%, equal to the 2020 trend. This assumes that healthcare spending recovers by October 2020 as patients return to hospitals and doctors’ offices for regular care patterns. In 2021,

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How Can Healthcare Bring Patients Back? A Preview of Our ATA Session, “Onward Together” in the COVID Era

Today kicks off the first all-virtual conference of the ATA, the American Telemedicine Association. ATA’s CEO Ann Mond Johnson and team turned on a dime over the past few months, migrating the already-planned live conference scheduled in early May to this week, all online. I’ll be midwifing a panel this afternoon at 440 pm Eastern time, initially focused on how health care can garner patient loyalty. That theme was given to us in the fourth quarter of 2019, when initial planning for ATA 2020 had begun. What a difference a few months make. Not only has ATA pivoted to an

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Americans’ Concerns About the US Healthcare System Loom Larger Than Worries About Their Own Care

The coronavirus pandemic has further opened the kimono of the U.S. healthcare system to Americans: four months into the COVID-19 outbreak, most consumers (62%) of people in the U.S. are more concerned about other people not having access to high quality health care versus themselves. This is a 16 point increase in concern in May 2020 compared with the response to the same question asked in February in a poll conducted by the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (the AP-NORC Center). The AP-NORC Poll found more of this

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Trust My Doctor and Fear the Office: The Telehealth Opportunity in and Beyond the COVID-19 Pandemic

Doctors maintain their top status as U.S. patients’ most-trusted source of coronavirus information. However, as patients continue to be concerned about exposure to COVID-19, 3 in 5 are concerned about being at-risk to the virus in their doctor’s office, according to research from the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) and AMCP, the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy. Patients’ concerns of COVID-19 risks have led them to self-ration care in the following ways: 41% have delayed health care services 42% felt uncomfortable going to a hospital for any medical treatment 45% felt uncomfortable using an urgent care or walk-in clinic,

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Health Care In the COVID-19 Era – PwC Finds Self-Rationing of Care and Meds Especially for Chronic Care

Patients in the U.S. are self-rationing care in the era of COVID-19 by cutting spending on health care visits and prescription drugs. The coronavirus pandemic’s impact on health consumers’ spending varies depending on whether the household is generally a healthy family unit, healthy “enthusiasts,” dealing with a simple or more complex chronic conditions, or managing mental health issues. PwC explored how COVID-19 is influencing consumers’ health care behaviors in survey research conducted in early April by the Health Research Institute. The findings were published in a May 2020 report, detailing study findings among 2,533 U.S. adults polled in early April

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What $6,553 Buys You in America: A Luxury Watch, a Year at Valdosta State, or a PPO for One – the 2020 Milliman Medical Index

Imagine this: you find yourself with $6,553 in your pocket and you can pick one of the following: A new 2020 Breitling Navitimer watch; A year’s in-state tuition at Valdosta State University; or, A PPO for an average individual. Welcome to the annual Milliman Medical Index (MMI), which gauges the yearly price of an employer-sponsored preferred-provider organization (PPO) health insurance plan for a hypothetical American family and an N of 1 employee. That is a 4.1% increase from the 2019 estimate, about twice the rate of U.S. gross domestic product growth, Milliman points out in its report.   Milliman bases

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Estimates of COVID-19 Medical Costs in the US: $20K for inpatient stay, $1300 OOP costs

In the midst of growing inpatient admissions and test results for COVID-19, Congress is working as I write this post to finalize a round of legislation to help Americans with the costs-of-living and (hopefully) health care in a national, mandated, clarifying way. Right now in the real world, real patients are already being treated for COVID-19 in American hospitals. Patients are facing health care costs that may result in multi-thousand dollar bills at discharge (or death) that will decimate households’ financial health, particularly among people who don’t have health insurance coverage, covered by skinny or under-benefited plans, and/or lack banked

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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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Telehealth and COVID-19 in the U.S.: A Conversation with Ann Mond Johnson, ATA CEO

Will the coronavirus inspire greater adoption of telehealth in the U.S.? Let’s travel to Shanghai, China where, “the covid-19 epidemic has brought millions of new patients online. They are likely to stay there,” asserts “The smartphone will see you now,” an article in the March 7th 2020 issue of The Economist. The article returns to the advent of the SARS epidemic in China in 2003, which ushered in a series of events: people stayed home, and Chinese social media and e-commerce proliferated. The coronavirus spawned another kind of gift to China and the nation’s health citizens: telemedicine, the essay explains. A

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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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What’s Causing Fewer Primary Care Visits in the US?

Americans who have commercial health insurance (say, through an employer or union) are rarely thought to face barriers to receiving health care — in particular, primary care, that front line provider and on-ramp to the health care system. But in a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, commercially-insured adults were found to have visited primary care providers (PCPs) less often, and 1 in 2 had no PCP visits in one year. In Declining Use of Primary Care Among Commercially Insured Adults in the United States, 2008-2016, the researchers analyzed data from a national sample of adult health

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The Heart of Health at CES 2020 – Evidence & Innovation Bridge Consumers and Doctors

The digital health presence at CES 2020 is the fastest-growing segment of consumer technologies at the Show this year, increasing by 25% over 2019. Heart-focused technologies are a big part of that growth story. In fact, in our search for devices and tools underpinned with clinical proof, evidence is growing for consumer-facing technology for heart-health, demonstrated by this year’s CES. Wrist-worn devices, digital therapeutics, patient engagement platforms, pharma and health plans converged at this year’s CES, with the professional association “blessing” of the American College of Cardiology who granted a continuing medical education credit for physicians attending a one-day “disruptive

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“Digital Health Is An Ecosystem of Ecosystems” – CTA’s 2020 Trends to Watch Into the Data Age

In CTA’s 2020 Consumer Tech Forecast launched yesterday at Media Day 1 at CES, Steve Koenig VP of Research, said that, “digital health is an ecosystem of ecosystems.” Health, medical and wellness trends featured large in the forecast, which brought together key trends for 5G, robotics, voice tech, AR/VR/XR, and the next iteration of IoT — which Steve said will still be called “IoT,” but in this phase will morph into the “Intelligence of Things.” That speaks to Steve’s phrase, “ecosystem of ecosystems,” because that’s not just “digital” health — that’s now the true nature of health/care, and what is

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The 2020 Social Determinants of Health: Connectivity, Art, Air and Love

Across the U.S., the health/care ecosystem warmly embraced social determinants of health as a concept in 2019. A few of the mainstreaming-of-SDoH signposts in 2019 were: Cigna studying and focusing in on loneliness as a health and wellness risk factor Humana’s Bold Goal initiative targeting Medicare Advantage enrollees CVS building out an SDOH platform, collaborating with Unite US for the effort UPMC launching a social impact program focusing on SDoH, among other projects investing in social factors that bolster public health. As I pointed out in my 2020 Health Populi trendcast, the private sector is taking on more public health

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In 2020, PwC Expects Consumers to Grow DIY Healthcare Muscles As Medical Prices Increase

The new year will see a “looming tsunami” of high prices in healthcare, regulation trumping health reform, more business deals reshaping the health/care industry landscape, and patients growing do-it-yourself care muscles, according to Top health industry issues of 2020: Will digital start to show an ROI from the PwC Health Research Institute. I’ve looked forward to reviewing this annual report for the past few years, and always learn something new from PwC’s team of researchers who reach out to experts spanning the industry. In this 14th year of the publication, PwC polled executives from payers, providers, and pharma/life science organizations. Internally,

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Medicare Members Are Health Consumers, Too – Our AHIP Talk About Aging, Digital Immigrants, and Personalizing Health/Care

As Boomers age, they’re adopting mobile and smart technology platforms that enable people to communicate with loved ones, manage retirement investment portfolios, ask Alexa to play Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits, and manage prescription refills from the local grocery store pharmacy. Last week, the Giant Eagle grocery chain was the first pharmacy retailer to offer a new medication management skill via Alexa. That program has the potential to change our Medicare members manage meds at home to ensure better adherence, supporting better health outcomes and personal feelings of efficacy and control. [As an aside, consumers really value pharmacies embedded in grocery

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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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Being Transparent About Healthcare Transparency – My Post on the Medecision Blog

With new rules emanating from the White House this month focusing on health care price transparency, health care costs are in the spotlight at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. A hospital transparency mandate will go into effect in January 2021 as a final rule, and a second rule with a focus on health plans and friendly explanations-of-benefits will receive comments in the Federal Register until January 14, 2020. As patients continue to grow muscles as payors and health consumers, transparency is one key to enabling people to “shop” for those health care and medical products and services that

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Hospitals Suffer Decline in Consumer Satisfaction

While customer satisfaction with health insurance plans slightly increased between 2018 and 2019, patient satisfaction with hospitals fell in all three settings where care is delivered — inpatient, outpatient, and the emergency room, according to the 2018-2019 ACSI Finance, Insurance and Health Care Report. ACSI polls about 300,000 U.S. consumers each year to gauge satisfaction with over 400 companies in 46 industries. For historic trends, you can check out my coverage of the 2014 version of this study here in Health Populi. The 2019 ACSI report bundles finance/banks, insurance (property/casualty, life and health) and hospitals together in one document. Health

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Social Determinants of Health – My Early Childhood Education and Recent Learnings, Shared at the HealthXL Global Gathering

My cousin Arlene got married in Detroit at the classic Book Cadillac Hotel on July 23, 1967, a Sunday afternoon wedding. When Daddy drove us back out to our suburban home about 30 minutes from the fancy hotel, the car radio was tuned to WWJ Newsradio 950, all news all the time. As soon as Daddy switched on the radio, we were shocked by the news of a riot breaking out in the city, fires and looting and gunshots and chaos in the Motor City. Two days later, my father, who did business with Mom-and-Pop retail store owners in the

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The Link Between Wellness & Wealth Is Powerful for Everyone – and Especially Women

In the U.S., the link between wellness and wealth, money and health, is strong and common across people, young and old. But the impacts of money on health, well-being, and life choices varies across the ages, based on a study from Lively, a company that builds platforms for health savings accounts. The first chart illustrates that health care costs challenge people in many ways: the most obvious health care cost problems prevent people from saving more for retirement or paying down debt. Eight in 10 Americans concur that rising health care costs challenge their ability to save for retirement. Beyond the

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Great Expectations for Health Care: Patients Look for Consumer Experience and Trust in Salesforce’s Latest Research

On the demand side of U.S. health care economics, patients are now payors as health consumers with more financial skin in paying medical bills. As consumers, people have great expectations from the organizations on the supply side of health care — providers (hospitals and doctors), health insurance plans, pharma and medical device companies. But as payors, health consumers face challenges in getting care, so great expectations are met with frustration and eroding trust with the system, according to the latest Connected Healthcare Consumer report from Salesforce published today as the company announced expansion of their health cloud capabilities. This is

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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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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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Listening to Osler Listening to the Patient – Liberating Health Care at Medecision Liberation 2019

“Listen to your patient; he is telling you the diagnosis,” Dr. William Osler is quoted to have said around the turn of the 20th century. Dr. Osler had been a strong advocate for the physician-patient conversation to inform the doctor’s diagnostic acumen and improve patient outcomes. This year is the centennial of Dr. Osler’s passing, so it’s especially timely that I introduce this post with his legendary assertion in the context of kicking off the 2019 Medecision Liberation conference. This meeting convenes the company’s clients, partners, and staff to share best practices, spark insights and learnings, and enable networking between

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Patients Growing Health Consumer Muscles Expect Digital Services

Patients’ experiences with the health care industry fall short of their interactions with other industries — namely online retail, online banking and online travel, a new survey from Cedar, a payments company, learned. Survata conducted the study for Cedar among 1,607 online U.S. consumers age 18 and over in August and September 2019. These study respondents had also visited a doctor or hospital and paid a medical bill in the past year. One-third of these patients had a health care bill go to collections in the past year, according to Cedar’s 2019 U.S. Healthcare Consumer Experience Study. Among those people

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Health @ Retail – Prelude to GMDC SelfCare Summit with Updates from Hims & Hers, GoodRx, Sam’s Club and Amazon Care

“We knew millions of people weren’t getting the care they needed — they were either too embarrassed to seek help or felt stuck in a system that was confusing and intimidating. Digital health has the potential to radically change the way people approach their wellness and, since launching in 2017, we’ve outpaced even our own expectations, delivering more than 1 million Hims & Hers products to our customers. In collaboration with highly-qualified doctors and healthcare providers, we’ve built a digital health platform that is changing the way people talk about and receive the care they need.” That’s  a verbatim paragraph

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Why Humana Joined CTA – The Pivot from “Health Insurance” to Behaving as a Health-Tech Start-Up

“Every company is a tech company,” Christopher Mimms asserted in the Wall Street Journal in December 2018. Connectivity, artificial intelligence, and automation are now competencies every company must master, Mimms explains. This ethos underpins Humana’s decision to join CTA, the Consumer Technology Association which hosts CES every January in Las Vegas. If you read this blog, you know one of the fastest-growing “aisles” at the annual conference is digital health. Humana joined up with CTA’s Health and Fitness Technology Division this month. Last year, Humana hired Heather Cox in the new post of Chief Digital Health and Analytics Officer, reporting directly

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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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A Profile of People in Medicare Advantage Plans – HealthMine’s Survey of “Digital Immigrants”

There are over 60 million enrollees in Medicare in 2019, and fully one-third are in Medicare Advantage plans. Medicare is adding 10,000 new beneficiaries every day in the U.S. Medicare Advantage enrollment is fast-growing, shown in the first chart where over 22 million people were in MA plans in January 2019. Better understanding this group of people will be critical to helping manage a fast-growing health care bill, and growing burden of chronic disease, for America. To that end, HealthMine conducted a survey among 800 people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans ag 65 and over with at least one diagnosed

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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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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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Talk to Me About My Health, Medicare Advantage Beneficiaries Tell J.D. Power

Cost is the major reason why Medicare Advantage plan beneficiaries switch plans, but people who switch also tend to have lower satisfaction scores based on non-cost factors. Those ratings have a lot to do with information and communication, according to J.D. Power’s 2019 Medicare Advantage Plan Study. The Study explores MA beneficiaries’ views on six factors: Coverage and benefits Provider choice Cost Customer service Information and communication, and Billing and payment. Kaiser Foundation Health Plan garnered the top spot for the fifth year in-a-row. By feature, Kaiser achieved 5 “Power Circles” for all factors except for cost and provider choice,

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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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How Consumers Look At Social Determinants of Health for Cancer, Diabetes and Mental Health

Enlightened health/care industry and public policy stakeholders have begun to embrace and address social determinants of health. These are the inputs that bolster health beyond health care services: they include economic stability like job security and income level (and equity), education, and access to healthy food, food security, safe neighborhoods, social support, clean environments (water and air), and in my own update on SDoH factors, access to broadband connectivity. As physician leaders in the AMA, technology advocates from AMIA, and numerous health plans focus efforts on strengthening social determinants, what do people – consumers, patients, caregivers — think about these

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Two-Thirds of Americans Say Healthcare Doesn’t Work Well, in RealClear Politics Poll

Health care is the top issue facing the U.S. today, one in three Americans says, with another one-fourth pointing to the economy. Together, health care + the economy rank the top issues for 62% of Americans. Health care and the economy are, in fact, intimately tied in every American’s personal household economy I assert in my book, HealthConsuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen. This poll from RealClear Politics, conducted in late April/early May 2019, makes my point that the patient is the consumer and, facing deductibles and more financial exposure to footing the medical bill, the payor.   Fully

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Scaling the Social Determinants of Health – McKinsey and Kaiser’s Bold Move

People who are in poor health or use more health care services are more likely to report multiple unmet social needs, such as food insecurity, unsafe neighborhoods, lack of good housing, social isolation, and poor transportation access, found through a survey conducted by McKinsey. The results are summarized in Addressing the Social Determinants of Health. The growing recognition of the influence of social determinants reached a tipping point last week with the news that Kaiser-Permanente would work with Unite US to scale services to people who need them. The mainstreaming of SDoH speaks to the awareness that health is made

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Prescription Drug Costs In America Through the Patient Lens, via IQVIA, GoodRx and a New $2 Million Therapy

Americans consumed 17.6 prescriptions per person in 2018, two in three of which treated chronic conditions. Welcome to Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S. , the annual review of prescription drug supply, demand and Rx pricing dynamics from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. In a call with analysts this week in which I participated, the Institute’s Executive Director Murray Aitken discussed the report which looks back at 2018 and forward to 2023 with scenarios about what the U.S. prescription drug market might look like five years from now. The report is organized into four sections: medical use

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Assessing the GAO’s Report on Single-Payer Healthcare in America: Let’s Re-Imagine Workflow

Calls for universal health care, some under the banner of Medicare for All,” are growing among some policy makers and presidential candidates looking to run in 2020. As a response, the Chairman of the House Budget Committee in the U.S. Congress, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), asked the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to develop a report outlining definitions and concepts for a single-payer health care system in the U.S.         The result of this ask is the report, Key Design Components and Considerations for Establishing a Single-Payer Health Care System, published on 1st May by the CBO. The report provides

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A Dose of Optimism Is a Prescription for Financial Health, Says Frost Bank

People define their personal health and well-being broadly, well beyond physical health. Mental wellness, physical appearance, social connections, and financial wellness all add into our self-health definitions. Mind Over Money is a consumer study conducted by Frost Bank, working with FleischmanHillard, connecting the dots between optimism and financial health. The top-line of the study is that people who are optimists have roughly two-thirds fewer days of financial stress per year than pessimists. Put another way, pessimists stress about finances 62% of the year, shown in the first chart from the study. This translates into 62% of optimists having better financial

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Americans’ Trust in U.S. Healthcare Lags Tech — and Women Are Particularly Cynical

The 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer measured the biggest gap in trust for the healthcare industry between the U.S. “informed public” and the mass population. Fewer American women, too, trust the healthcare industry than men do. “This inequality of trust may be reflective of the mass population continuing to feel left behind as compared to others, even as they recognize the advances that are being made that could benefit them. Given tone and tenor of the day, and particularly among mass population, healthcare may continue to see increasing demands for change and regulation,” Susan Isenberg, Edelman’s head of healthcare, notes in

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Telehealth is a digital distribution channel for health care” – catching up with Roy Schoenberg, President and CEO of American Well

Ten years ago, two brothers, physicians both, started up a telemedicine company called American Well. They launched their service first in Hawaii, where long distances and remote island living challenged the supply and demand sides of health care providers and patients alike. A decade later, I sat down for a “what’s new?” chat with Roy Schoenberg, American Well President and CEO. In full  transparency,  I enjoy and appreciate the opportunity to meet with Roy (or very occasionally Ido, the co-founding brother-other-half) every year at HIMSS and sometimes at CES. In our face-to-face brainstorm this week, we covered a wide range

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Telehealth and Virtual Care Are Melting Into “Just” Health Care at HIMSS19

Just as we experienced “e-business” departments blurring into ecommerce and everyday business processes, so is “telehealth” morphing into, simply, health care delivery as one of many channels and platforms. Telehealth and virtual care are key education topics and exhibitor presences at HIMSS19. Several factors underpin the adoption of telehealth in 2019: Consumers’ demand for accessible, lower-cost health care services as people face greater financial responsibility for paying the medical bill (via high-deductible health plans and greater out-of-pocket costs for co-payments) Some consumers’ lacking or losing health insurance as ACA coverage eroded in the past two years, resulting in these patients

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

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

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The Expectation Gap Between What Patients Want Vs What They Get

Talk to me, patients are demanding in unison. Most health consumers expect providers to communicate about routine health care and prevention; this is especially true among those patients trying to manage chronic conditions we learn from 10 Ways to Fulfill Patients’ Communication Wish List, a report based on a consumer survey from West, the communications and network infrastructure company. Four in five patients say that talking to “me” means they want personalized recommendations to their unique needs – but only one-third of patients say they’re getting that level of service from their healthcare providers. Most health consumers expect providers to communicate about

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The Consumer and the Payor, Bingo and Trust: My Day At Medecision Liberator Bootcamp

To succeed in the business of health information technology (HIT), a company has to be very clear on the problems it’s trying to address. Now that EHRs are well-adopted in physicians’ practices and hospitals, patient data have gone digital, and can be aggregated and mined for better diagnosis, treatment, and intelligent decision making. There’s surely lots of data to mine. And there are also lots of opportunities to design tools that aren’t very useful for the core problems we need to solve, for the clinicians on the front-lines trying to solve them, and for the patients and people  whom we

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

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

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The Consumer as Payor – Retail Health at CES 2019

All health/care is retail now in America. I say this as most people in the U.S. who have health insurance must take on a deductible of some amount, which compels that insured individual to spend the first dollar on medical services up until they meet their financial commitment. At that point, health insurance kicks in, and then the insured may have to spend additional funds on co-payments for general medicines and services, and coinsurance for specialty drugs like injectables and high-cost new therapies. The patient is a consumer is a payor, I asserted today during my talk on the expanding

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Costs, Consumerism, Cyber and Care, Everywhere – The 2019 Health Populi TrendCast

Today is Boxing Day and St. Stephens Day for people who celebrate Christmas, so I share this post as a holiday gift with well-wishes for you and those you love. The tea leaves have been brewing here at THINK-Health as we prepared our 2019 forecast at the convergence of consumers, health, and technology. Here’s our trend-weaving of 4 C’s for 2019: costs, consumerism, cyber and care, everywhere… Health care costs will continue to be a mainstream pocketbook issue for patients and caregivers, with consequences for payors, suppliers and ultimately, policymakers. Legislators inside the DC Beltway will be challenged by the

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CVS + Aetna: Inflection Point in US Healthcare, Merger Approved Update

    CVS Health’s acquisition of Aetna was approved this week by U.S. Federal regulators after months of scrutinizing the antitrust-size-market control implications of the deal. I wrote this post on the deal as an inflection point in American healthcare on 3rd December 2017 when CVS and Aetna announced their marriage intentions. This post updates my initial thoughts on the deal, given the morphing US healthcare market on both the traditional health services front and fast-evolving retail health environment. The nation’s largest retail pharmacy chain signed a deal to combine with one of the top three health insurance companies. The deal

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

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

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

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

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Self-Care is Healthcare for Everyday People

Patients are the new healthcare payors, and as such, taking on the role of health consumers. In fact, health and wellness consumers have existed since a person purchased the first toothpaste, aspirin, heating pad, and moisturizing cream at retail. Or consulted with their neighborhood herbalista, homeopathic practitioner, therapeutic masseuse, or skin aesthetician. Today, the health and wellness consumer can DIY all of these things at home through a huge array of products available in pharmacies, supermarkets, Big Box stores, cosmetic superstores, convenience and dollar stores, and other retail channels – increasingly, online (THINK, of course, of Amazon — more on

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Health Il-Literacy Costs

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

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The Top Pain Point in the Healthcare Consumer Experience is Money

Beyond the physical and emotional pain that people experience when they become a patient, in the U.S. that person becomes a consumer bearing expenses and financial pain, as well. 98% of Americans rank paying their medical bills is an important pain point in their patient journey, according to Embracing consumerism: Driving customer engagement in the healthcare financial journey, from Experian Health. Experian is best known as the consumer credit reporting agency; Experian Health works with healthcare providers on revenue cycle management, patient identity, and care management, so the company has experience with patient finance and medical expense sticker shock. In the

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Surprise, Surprise: Most Americans Have Faced a “Surprise” Medical Bill

Most Americans have been surprised by a medical bill, a NORC AmeriSpeak survey found. Who’s responsible? Nearly all Americans (86% net responsible) first blame health insurance companies, followed by hospitals (82%). Fewer U.S. patients blamed doctors and pharmacies, although a majority of consumers still put responsibility for surprise healthcare bills on them (71% and 64% net). Most of the surprise bills were for charges associated with a physician’s service or lab test. Most surprise charges were not due to the service being excluded from a health plans provider network. The poll was conducted among 1,002 U.S. adults 18 and over

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Pre-Existing Conditions: A Trans-Party, National Health Priority

Pre-existing conditions impact Americans north, south, east and west, the Kaiser Family Foundation maps. But those maladies aren’t evenly distributed across the U.S.: the highest incidences of people with pre-existing conditions are generally dotted in the eastern half of the U.S., in diverse metropolitan areas. This study looks at non-elderly adults, people between 18 and 64 years of age. That is, working-age U.S. adults who would be prospects for private health insurance coverage, whether through employers or on the individual insurance market. A striking aspect of this map is that one metro that has a higher rate of people with

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Disruption Is Healthcare’s New Normal

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

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Employers Take on Health Activism, Embracing Behavioral Health, Virtual Care, AI, and Transparency

More U.S. employers are growing activist roles as stakeholders in the healthcare system, according to the 2019 Large Employers Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Consider the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan Chase link up between Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Jamie Dimon, as the symbol of such employer-health activism. The NBGH report is based on survey results collected from 170 large employers representing 13 million workers and 19 million covered lives (families/dependents). This annual survey is one of the most influential such reports released each year, providing a current snapshot of large employers’ views

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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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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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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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Think Like a LEGO Builder in Healthcare – Considering PwC’s New Health Economy Vision

Expect “new combinations” of industry actors and technologies to reorganize and re-imagine healthcare, with an eye on both price and investments in customer experience (CX), PwC envisions in their latest report on The New Health Economy in the Age of Disruption. In this vision, healthcare will be a more flexible marketplace underpinned by data, platforms, and workers. Yes, it’s challenging to get from here-to-there, but PwC explains just how this can happen. Four archetypes, models, of healthcare deals have begun to emerge in the marketplace, illustrated by the Big Deals and announcements reshaping the industry in the past couple of years:

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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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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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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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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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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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Most Consumers Would Trust a Health Info Site “Prescribed” by Their Doctor

Most consumers access the Internet for health information before they ask their doctor for the same information. But virtually everyone who goes online for health information would trust a website recommended to them by their doctor, according to the dotHealth Consumer Health Online – 2017 Research Report. This survey was conducted on behalf of dotHealth, an internet registry company channeling “.health” domains to organizations in the broad health and healthcare landscape. [FYI, both Health Populi and JaneSarasohnKahn are also registered with .health domains, having availed ourselves of this service at launch]. Six in 10 consumers who have used the internet in the

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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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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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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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Weaving Accenture’s Five Digital Health Technology Trends for 2017

Technology should serve people, and Accenture has identified five major key trends that, together, could forge a person-centered, -friendly, -empowering healthcare system. This is Accenture’s Digital Health Technology Vision for 2017. “Should” and “could” are the important adverbs here, because if tech doesn’t deliver, driving efficiency and effectiveness, personalizing medical treatments, and inspiring people to become more health literate and health-engaging, then tech is just a Field of Dreams being built and available, with no people taking advantage of the potential benefits. The five new-new tech trends are: AI is the new UI, where healthcare experience is everything Ecosystem power

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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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U.S. Consumers Expect, But Don’t See, Innovation From the Health & Wellness Industry

U.S. consumers consider Consumer Electronics to be the most innovative industry they know. But people believe that Health & Wellness should be the most innovative sector in the economy. Welcome to the 2017 Klick Health Consumer Survey, which focuses on health innovation in the context of peoples’ hopes for technology to improve health and healthcare. 1 in 2 people say that technology has had a positive impact on their health and wellness, skewing slightly more toward younger people (although 45% of people 55 years of age and older agree that tech positively contributes to health. 41% of consumers say they’ve

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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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Women and Children First? What the AHCA Holds for Vulnerable Populations

In accounting, there’s a rule with acronym “LIFO;” this stands for “last in, first out,” which requires taking account of the most recent cost of products being the first ones to be expensed on the ledger. I’m thinking about LIFO when it comes to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) which narrowly passed through Congress yesterday by 4 votes, with a final tally of 217 to 213. Why “LIFO?” Because long-uninsured folks who just recently received access to health insurance as an on-ramp to health care services could lose this benefit, just months after joining the ranks of the insured. Among

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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