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What If Costco Designed the Prescription Drugs Sales Model?

The good news about prescription drugs, in the context of medical spending in the U.S., is that 9 in 10 medicines prescribed are generics. They comprise only 3% of all U.S. healthcare spending.           But there’s bad news about prescription drugs in the context of medical spending in America. U.S. Consumers Overpay for Generic Drugs, a new paper from the Leonard Schaeffer Center for Health Policy & Economics asserts, with recommendations to address the intermediaries who benefit from the way Americans currently pay for medicines. Generics are “an American success story,” the authors call out, bringing

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The Health of Older Americans in 2022 – Risks from the Pandemic, Isolation, and Social Determinants

For millions of older people in America, health and well-being got worse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical, mental and behavioral health took hits, depending on one’s living situation, social determinants of health risks, and even health plan, I write in the Medecision Liberate Health blog.                     In this essay on health disparities and equity for older adults, I weave together new data from, The United Health Foundation’s study on seniors’ health status in America’s Health Rankings for 2022 RAND and CMS research into seniors health disparities among Medicare Advantage

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Health Care Costs At Retirement in 2022 Hit $315,000, Fidelity Forecasts

A couple retiring in 2022 should budget $315,000 to cover their health care costs in retirement, based on the 21st annual Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate from Fidelity Investments. For context, note that the median sales price of a home in the U.S. in April 2022 was $391,200.             It’s important to understand what the $315,000 for “health care costs” in retirement does not cover, explained in Fidelity’s footnoted methodology: the assumption is that the hypothetical opposite-sex couple is enrolled in Original Medicare (not Medicare Advantage), and the cost estimate does not include other health-related expenses

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Three in Five People 50+ in the US Will Likely Use Telehealth In the Future – An Update from AARP

“Telehealth certainly appears to be here to stay,” the AARP forecasts in An Updated Look at Telehealth Use Among U.S. Adults 50-Plus from AARP.                         Two years after the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, one-half of U.S. adults over 50 said they or someone in their family had used telehealth. In early 2022, over half of those over 50 (the AARP core membership base) told the Association they would likely use telehealth in the future. This future expectation varies by race, the implications of which I discuss below in

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Thinking About Telehealth Through the Lens of Real Estate – Listening to JLL

If you made your living in commercial real estate — and especially, working with hospitals’ and health systems’ office space — would the concept of telehealth be freaking you out right now? If you heed the words of JLL’s 2022 Patient Consumer Survey, you’d chill (at least a bit). The tagline on this paper is, “Convenience and choice drive patient decisions as new digital options take hold.” I was particularly keen to dig into this study based on its sponsoring organization: JLL is a real estate services company serving over a dozen vertical markets — including health care, life sciences,

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Only 1 in 4 People Over 50 Use a Mobile Health App – And They Tend to Be Healthier and Wealthier

Just over 1 in 4 people over 50 in the U.S. use at least one mobile health app, and 56% of older people have never used one. Among seven mhealth tools, the most commonly-used is to track exercise. Among older people who do not use health apps, half say it is because of their lack of interest, we learn from the research in Mobile Health App Use Among Older Adults from the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging, sponsored by AARP. The project is part of Michigan Medicine, U-M’s med school, and directed by the Institute for Healthcare

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The 2022 Health Populi TrendCast for Consumers and Health Citizens

I cannot recall a season when so many health consumer studies have been launched into my email inbox. While I have believed consumers’ health engagement has been The New Black for the bulk of my career span, the current Zeitgeist for health care consumerism reflects that futurist mantra: “”We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run,” coined by Roy Amara, past president of Institute for the Future. That well-used and timely observation is known as Amara’s Law. This feels especially apt right “now” as we enter 2022,

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Fastest-Growing Brands for 2021 Are About Digital Money, Social Connections and Boomers’ Best Lives

Two pharmaceutical companies bubble up among the 20 fastest-growing brands for 2021 in Morning Consult’s report on the Fastest-Growing Brands of 2021. But the surprise in this year’s top 20 brand rankings was that five of them addressed consumers’ financial flows: Coinbase, AfterPay. Cash App, Mastercard, Chime, and Bitcoin. One year ago when I covered this study, I found  that the fastest-growing brands of 2020 had everything to do with the pandemic. They dealt with home entertainment, digital connectivity, hygiene, and indeed, health (with Pfizer and AstraZeneca the two pharma brands top-of-mind for consumers). In this year’s update, exploring consumers’

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Support for Drug Price Negotiation Brings Partisans Together in the U.S.

Most U.S. adults across political parties favor allowing the Federal government authority to negotiate for drug prices — even after hearing the arguments against the health policy. Drug price negotiation, say by the Medicare program, is a unifying public policy in the current era of political schisms in America, based on the findings in a special Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) Health Tracking Poll conducted in late September-early October 2021. Overall, 4 in 5 Americans favor allowing the Federal government negotiating power for prescription drug prices, shown in the first chart from the KFF report. By party, nearly all Democrats agree

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Telehealth is Health: It’s Telehealth Awareness Week

In April 2020, telemedicine morphed into mainstream medical care as hospitals and physicians risk-managed exposure to infection by meeting with patients, virtually, when possible. By March 2020, telehealth channels were replacing visits to doctors and emergency departments as shown in the first chart from the CDC’s report on the early pandemic period. By the spring of 2021, telehealth use stabilized, but health systems had built the processes and policies to deliver on the promise of omni-channel health care — from the patient’s home and hands (via smartphones) into community sites closer-to-home, and returning to brick-and-mortar medical buildings. Welcome to Telehealth

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Pondering Prescription Drugs: Pricing Rx and Going Direct-to-Consumer

There is one health care public policy issue that unites U.S. voters across political party: that is the consumer-facing costs of prescription drugs. With the price of medicines in politicians’ and health citizens’ cross-hairs, the pharmaceutical and biotech industries have responded in many ways to the Rx pricing critiques from consumers (via, for example, Consumer Reports/Consumers Union and AARP), hospitals (through the American Hospital Association), and insurance companies (from AHIP, America’s Health Insurance Plans). The latest poll from the University of Chicago/Harris Public Policy and the Associate Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research quantifies the issue cross-party, finding that 74%

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Health Insurance in Aisle 3: Why a Grocery Chain is Working on Medicare

“You can trust us to help you find the right Medicare coverage for you and your lifestyle,” the tagline reads. What kind of organization would be behind this campaign: a healthcare navigator company, an insurance company, or a social services agency? In fact, it’s a grocery store called Hy-Vee, which launched the “Medicare Aisle” to help consumers living in the eight states in which the chain’s 240+ stores operate to sort through the daunting labyrinth of Medicare choices. “Hy-Vee is a trusted leader in the health and wellness space, and as a retail and specialty pharmacy provider, we are deeply

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Dollar General, the Latest Retail Health Destination?

“What if…healthcare happened where we live, work, play, pray and shop, delivering the highest levels of retail experience?” I asked and answered in my book HealthConsuming: From Health Consumer to Health Citizen. The chapter called “The new retail health” began with that “what if,” and much of the book responded with the explanation of patients evolving toward health consumers and, ultimately, health citizens empowered and owning their health and care. This week, Dollar General announced the hiring of its first Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Albert Wu. With that announcement, America’s largest dollar-store chain makes clear its ambitions to join a

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Aduhelm and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Potential Medicare Budget-Buster Puts A Blazing Light on Health Care Costs and Innovation

The FDA’s approval of the first therapy to treat Alzheimer’s Disease in over twenty years brought attention to a not-yet-convened debate of U.S. health care costs and spending, innovation, and return-on-the-investment (as well as “for whom” do the returns accrue). In my latest post for Medecision, I explore different angles on the Aduhelm and Alzheimer’s discussion, covering: The macro- and micro-economics of Alzheimer’s and the $56,000 list price for the drug The FDA regulatory process and aftermath U.S. consumers’ bipartisan support for drug price regulation through Medicare negotiation and private/commercial sector adoption Congressional legislation addressing the price of medicines in

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Telehealth Bolsters Patient Satisfaction (J.D. Power), and Providers Are Working to Catch Up (BDO)

Two studies published in May 2021 illustrate the value and importance of telehealth to patients in 2020, and a disconnect among many C-level executives working in hospitals, academic medical centers, and other care provider organizations. Together, the two reports from J.D. Power and BDO illustrate some mis-alignment between the demand and supply side of telehealth. On the consumer demand side, patients’ growing use of telehealth in the COVID-19 pandemic along with more frequent digital contacts with health plans bolstered member satisfaction, discovered by the J.D. Power 2021 U.S. Commercial Member Health Plan Study. J.D. Power has conducted the U.S. Commercial

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What Do Democrats and Republicans Agree On? Allowing Negotiations to Lower Rx Prices

People living in the U.S. have weathered over fifteen months of life-shifts for work, school, prayer, fitness, and social lives. So you might think that the most important public priority for Congress might have something to do with COVID-19, vaccines, or health insurance coverage. But across all priorities, it turns out that prescription drug costs rank higher in Americans’ minds than any other issue in the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll for May 2021. Two-thirds of U.S. adults said that allowing the federal government and private insurance plans to negotiate for lower prices on Rx drugs was their top

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Wearables Are Good For Older People, Too — The Latest From Laurie Orlov

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a whole lot of digital transformation for people staying home. For digital natives, that wasn’t such an exogenous shock. For older people who are digital immigrants, they will remember their initial Zoom get-together’s with much-missed family, ordering groceries online in the first ecommerce purchase, and using telemedicine for the first time as a digital health front-door. Laurie Orlov,  tech industry veteran, writer, speaker and elder care advocate, is the founder of the encyclopedic Aging and Health Technology Watch website. She takes this propitious moment to assess The Future of Wearables and Older Adult in a new report.

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The ROI on Virtual Care – Thinking About Value and Future Prospects With the AMA

When a new technology or product starts to get used in a market, it follows a diffusion curve whose slope depends on the pace of adoption in that market. For telehealth, that S-curve has had a very long and fairly flat front-end of the “S” followed by a hockey stick trajectory in March and April 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic was an exogenous shock to in-person health care delivery. The first chart from the CDC illustrates that dramatic growth in the use of telehealth ratcheting up since the first case of COVID-19 was diagnosed in the U.S. Virtual care has

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Health Care Costs for a Couple in Retirement in the U.S. Reach $300,000

To pay for health care expenses, the average nest-egg required for a couple retiring in the U.S. in 2021 will be $300,000 according to the 20th annual Fidelity Investments Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate. I’ve tracked this survey for over a decade here on Health Populi, and updated the annual chart shown here to reflect a $40,000 increase in retiree costs since 2016. While the rate of increase year-on-year since then has slowed, the $300,000 price-tag for retiree health care costs is a huge number few Americans have saved for. That $300K splits up unequally for an opposite-gender couple (in

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

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

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Housing as Prescription for Health/Care – in Medecision Liberation

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

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

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

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The Digital Transformation of Home for Health – Brainstorming with Karsten Russell-Wood of Philips

At the start of CES 2021, I had the opportunity to catch up with Karsten Russell-Wood, Portfolio Marketing Leader, Post Acute & Home, Connected Care at Philips. We brainstormed just as CES 2021 was going to “open,” virtually, for the consumer electronics conference’s first all-virtual meeting. Philips, a longtime major exhibitor at CES, created an entirely new online experience for the CES attendees – a sort of virtual gallery of different exhibits that are accessed from a single point in a “room” with various entry points. One of the company’s key messages for CES 2021 was health care delivered outside

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The 2021 Health Populi TrendCast – Health Care, Self-Care, and the Rebirth of Love in Public Health

In numerology, the symbolic meaning behind the number “21” is death and re-birth. In tarot cards, 21 is a promise of fulfillment, triumph, and victory. How apropos that feels right now as we say goodbye and good riddance to 2020 and turn the page for a kinder, gentler, healthier New Year. It would be sinful to enter a New Year as challenging as 2021 promises to be without taking the many lessons of our 2020 pandemic life and pain into account. For health care in America, it is a time to re-build and re-imagine a better, more equitable landscape for

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Home Is the Health Hub for Older People – Learning from Laurie Orlov

By April 2020, over one million Medicare members were receiving health care via telemedicine. The graph here shows you the hockey-stick growth for virtual care use by older Americans into the second month of the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 public health crisis up-ended all aspects of daily living in America for people of all ages. For older Americans, avoiding the risk of contracting the tricky virus in public, and especially, in health care settings, became Job 1. The pandemic thus nudged older people toward adopting digital lifestyles for daily life, for shopping, for praying, and indeed, for health care. Laurie

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Telehealth Use Among Older Americans: Growing Interest, Remaining Concerns

In the Fear of Going Out Era spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients were loath to go to the doctor’s office for medical care, and even less keen on entering a hospital clinic’s doors. This drove health consumers to virtual care platforms in the first months of the public health crisis — including lots of older people who had never used telemedicine or even a mobile health app. In the August 2020 National Poll on Heathy Aging, the University of Michigan research team found a 26% increase in telehealth visits from 2019 to 2020, March to June 2020 year-over-year.

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The Median Hospital Charge In the U.S. for COVID-19 Care Ranges From $34-45K

The median charge for hospitalizing a patient with COVID-19 ranged from $34,662 for people 23 to 30, and $45,683 for people between 51 and 60 years of age, according to FAIR Health’s research brief, Key Characteristics of COVID-19 Patients published July 14th, 2020. FAIR Health based these numbers on private insurance claims associated with COVID-19 diagnoses, evaluating patient demographics (age, gender, geography), hospital charges and estimated allowed amounts, and patient comorbidities. They used two ICD-10-CM diagnostic codes for this research: U07.1, 2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease; and, B97.29, other coronavirus as the cause of disease classified elsewhere which was the original code

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Most Virtual Care Consumers, Satisfied With Visits in the COVID Era, Expect It for Future Care

Within days of the coronavirus pandemic emerging in the U.S., health care providers set up virtual care arrangements to convene with patients. Three months into the COVID-19 crisis, how have patients felt about these telehealth visits? In Patient Perspectives on Virtual Care, Kyruus answers this question based on an online survey of 1,000 patients 18 years of age and older, conducted in May 2020. Each of these health consumers had at least one virtual care visit between February and May 2020. The key findings were that: Engaging in a virtual visit was a new-new thing for 72% of people Patients’

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Americans Across Political Party Worry About Prescription Drug Prices – Especially to Deal with COVID-19

Nine in ten Americans is concerned about the price of prescription drugs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Gallup and West Health found in their survey on the cost of healthcare, published today. A majority of people across political party share this concern: overall, 88% of U.S. adults are concerned about rising drug prices in response to COVID19, split across party ID with: 94% of Democrats, 86% of Independents, and 84% of Republicans. By demographics, more women than men are concerned about rising costs for the three health care spending categories the survey studied: drug prices, insurance premiums, and

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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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Come Together – A Health Policy Prescription from the Bipartisan Policy Center

Among all Americans, the most popular approach for improving the health care in the U.S. isn’t repealing or replacing the Affordable Care Act or moving to a Medicare-for-All government-provided plan. It would be to improve the current health care system, according to the Bipartisan Policy Center’s research reported in a Bipartisan Rx for America’s Health Care. The BPC is a truly bipartisan organization, co-founded by Former Democratic Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and George Mitchell, and Former Republican Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker and Bob Dole. While this political week in America has revealed deep chasms between the Dems and

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

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

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

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

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Thinking About Health Care One Year From the 2020 Presidential Election

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

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

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

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

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

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The Promise of Telehealth for Older People – the U-M National Poll on Healthy Aging

Older people are re-framing their personal images and definitions of aging, from continuing to work past typical retirement age, Skyping and texting with grandchildren, and traveling to destinations well beyond the “snowbird” locales of Florida and Arizona to more active and often charitable/volunteer situations in developing economies. And so, too, are older folks re-imagining how and where their health care services could be delivered and consumed. Most people over 50 years of age are cautious but open to receiving health care virtually via telehealth platforms, according to the National Poll on Healthy Aging from my alma mater, the University of Michigan. U-M’s

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Growing Support for Medicare for All – But Do People Really Understand What It Means?

Two new data points converge that beg the question in the title of this post. These two surveys are: The Morning Consult’s poll published today finding growing support among Democratic voters for Medicare for All as the centerpiece for health reform in America; and, A recent study from Eligibility.com on “Medicare Myths Explained,” with the tagline, “How much do you know about Medicare?” Not so very much, Eligibility.com found out. Let’s start with the Morning Consult poll results, which compare support for Medicare for All from January 2019 and August 2019. The headline number from this poll is seen 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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Talking “HealthConsuming” on the MM&M Podcast

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

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The New Drug Companies Aren’t Drug Companies At All

The health/care ecosystem continues to morph as the stakeholder groups themselves are blurring across and outside of their core businesses. Today’s example of this is Clover Health, which launched Clover Therapeutics this week. This research organization will develop medicines targeting older adults — which makes sense because Clover Health’s target consumer market is Medicare Advantage beneficiaries. “Clover Therapeutics was created to address the significant unmet needs in chronic progressive diseases in the Medicare population,” Cheng Zhang, Head of Clover Therapeutics, is quoted in the press release. The company will first collaborate with Genentech (Roche) to research and develop therapies based

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Health Care and the Democratic Debates – Round 2 – Battle Royale for M4All vs Medicare for All Who Want It – What It Means for Industry

Looking at this photo of the 2020 Democratic Party Presidential candidate debater line-up might give you a déjà vu feeling, a repeat of the night-before debate. But this was Round 2 of the debate, with ten more White House aspirants sharing views — sometimes sparring — on issues of immigration, economic justice, climate change, and once again health care playing a starring role from the start of the two-hour event. The line-up from left to write included: Marianne Williamson. author and spiritual advisor John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado Andrew Yang. tech company executive Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend,

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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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When Will Self-Service Come to Health Care?

At least one in three people who have tried out virtual health care have done so because they use technology in all aspects of life and want to do the same with their healthcare. This data point has informed my vision for self-care and the home as our health hub, bolstered in part through the research of Accenture from which this first graphic comes. A common theme at health care meetings these days is how and when health care will meet its Amazon, Apple, or Uber moment? Lately, one of my speaking topics is the “Amazon Prime-ing” of health consumers,

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

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

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Health/Care Everywhere – Re-Imagining Healthcare at ATA 2019

“ATA” is the new three-letter acronym for the American Telemedicine Association, meeting today through Tuesday at the Convention Center in New Orleans.  Ann Mond Johnson assumed the helm of CEO of ATA in 2018, and she’s issued a call-to-action across the health/care ecosystem for a delivery system upgrade. Her interview here in HealthLeaders speaks to her vision, recognizing, “It’s just stunning that there’s such a lag between what is possible in telehealth and what is actually happening.” I’m so keen on telehealth, I’m personally participating in three sessions at #ATA19. On Monday 15th April (US Tax Day, which is relevant

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

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

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

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

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Health Is Social – The Social Determinants of Health at HIMSS19

In the health care world, it is now commonly accepted that genes contribute less than half of the influence on peoples’ health status. Other issues play starring roles in overall well-being, including environmental factors, health care services, and social determinants of health (SDOH). These inputs include education, personal economics (like job security and financial stability), physical built environments (think: transportation access, safe and healthy housing), food and nutrition, and access to health care. At HIMSS17, I gave a talk in a big room about how technology can scale SDOH; we had standing room only, which is not a brag —

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Heart Health at #CES2019 – Food and Tech as Medicine

Self-care is the new health care as patients, now consumers at greater financial risk for medical spending, are learning. At #CES2019, I’m on the lookout for digital technologies that can help people adopt and sustain healthy behaviors that can help consumers save money on medical care and enhance quality of life-years. This week’s heart-and-food tech announcements at #CES2019 coincide with an FDA recall on a popular drug prescribed to treat hypertension (high blood pressure). Using food and tech as medicine can help people avoid going on medications like statins and others for heart health. An important example of this self-care

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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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Healthcare Is Local: Channeling Tip O’Neill in the 2018 Midterm Election Results

As Tip O’Neill’s mantra goes, “All politics is local.” In the U.S. 2018 midterm elections, healthcare voting seems to have translated as a local issue, falling into O’Neill’s axiom. In this election, healthcare was the most important voting issue for consumers, PwC found, ranking above the economy, national security, and education. On this morning after 2018 midterm election results are (mostly) out, it looks like healthcare was a local and state issue for U.S. 2018 midterm voters. The Democrats flipped more than 23 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives to gain control of that chamber. The Senate is up

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Healthcare and the F-Word: Health Politics Rank High on November 6, 2018

“Let’s get this thing f-ing done,” Martha McSally passionately asserted on May 4, 2017. Paul Ryan said, on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives without cursing, “A lot of us have waited seven years to cast this vote.” McSally, who represents Tucson, Arizona, in the U.S. Congress, is running to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake. McSally was one of the 217 Republicans in the House who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, subsequently celebrating a victory in the Rose Garden of the White House with jubilant peers. The final vote was 217-213. Here’s the final roll call

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Technology, Aging and Obesity Drive Healthcare Spending, BEA Finds

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released, for the first time, data that quantifies Americans’ spending to treat 261 medical conditions, from “A” diseases like acute myocardial infarction, acute renal failure, ADHD, allergic reactions, anxiety disorders, appendicitis and asthma, to dozens of other conditions from the rest of the alphabet. High Spending Growth Rates For Key Diseases In 2000-14 Were Driven By Technology And Demographic Factors, a June 2018 Health Affairs article, analyzed this data. This granular information comes from the BEA’s satellite account, using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey which nationally examines expenditures by disease;

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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 Patient As Payor: From Rationing Visits Due to Co-Pays to Facing $370K for Healthcare in Retirement

Health care in America is such a scary experience that more people are afraid of paying for care than the actually getting sick part of the scenario. The patient is the payor, and she is afraid…more afraid of the paying than of the illness, according to a survey conducted among U.S. health consumers from WestHealth Institute and NORC, Americans’ Views of Healthcare Costs, Coverage, and Policy from WestHealth and NORC.     See the orange bar on the left: 40% of Americans are “extremely or very afraid” about paying for care if they get seriously ill, and 33% are that afraid

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Heart-Love – Omron’s Holy Grail of Blood Pressure Tracking on the Wrist

It’s February 1st, which marks the first of 28 days of American Heart  Month – a time to get real, embrace, learn about, and engage with heart health. Heart disease kills 610,000 people in the U.S. every year, equal to 1 in 4 deaths in America. It’s the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. Knowing your blood pressure is an important step for managing the risks of heart disease. That hasn’t yet been available to those of us who quantify our steps, weight, sleep, food intake, and other health metrics. In 2017, Hugh Langley

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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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Don’t Touch My Entitlements to Pay For Tax Reform, Most Americans Say to Congress

To pay for tax cuts, take money from foreign aid if you must, 1 in 2 Americans say. But do not touch my Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security, insist the majority of U.S. adults gauged by the November 2017 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll. This month’s survey looks at Americans’ priorities for President Trump and the Congress in light of the GOP tax reforms emerging from Capitol Hill. While reforming taxes is considered a top priority for the President and Congress by 3 in 10 people, two healthcare policy issues are more important to U.S. adults: first, 62% of U.S. adults

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Income Inequality For Older Americans Among Highest in the World – What This Means for Healthcare

Old-age inequality among current retirees in the U.S. is already greater than in ever OECD country except Chile and Mexico, revealed in Preventing Ageing Unequally from the OECD. Key findings from the report are that: Inequalities in education, health, employment and income start building up from early ages At all ages, people in bad health work less and earn less. Over a career, bad health reduces lifetime earnings of low-educated men by 33%, while the loss is only 17% for highly-educated men Gender inequality in old age, however, is likely to remain substantial: annual pension payments to the over-65s today are

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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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Americans Say Healthcare is the Nation’s #1 Problem – Tied with Dissatisfaction with Government

Healthcare tops the list of Americans’ concerns, tied with a dissatisfaction for government, this month (May 2017). According to a Gallup poll published 12 May, poor government leadership and healthcare are together the most important problem currently facing the U.S. Immigration, the economy, jobs, and race relations are distance 3rd places in this survey, which was conducted during the first week of May 2017 among 1,011 U.S. adults 18 years and older. The highest percent of Americans citing healthcare as America’s most important problem was 26%, found in August/September 2008 when town hall meetings round the country were protesting healthcare

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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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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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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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Older Couples Have Lower Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs Than Older Singles

It takes a couple to bend the health care cost curve when you’re senior in America, according to the EBRI‘s latest study into Differences in Out-of-Pocket Health Care Expenses of Older Single and Couple Households. In previous research, The Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has calculated that health care expenses are the second-largest share of household expenses after home-related costs for older Americans. Health care costs consume about one-third of spending for people 60 years and older according to Credit Suisse. But for singles, health care costs are significantly larger than for couples, EBRI’s analysis found. The average per-person out-of-pocket spending for

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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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Aging America Is Driving Growth in Federal Healthcare Spending

Federal healthcare program costs are the largest component of mandatory spending in the U.S. budget, according to An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2016 to 2026 from the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Federal spending for healthcare will increase $77 billion in 2016, about 8% over 2015, for a total of $1.1 trillion. The CBO believes that number overstates the growth in Medicare and Medicaid because of a one-time payment shift of $22 bn to Medicare (from 2017 back into 2016); adjusting for this, CBO sees Federal healthcare spending growing 6% (about $55 bn) this year. The driver

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Health Care Costs in Retirement Will Run $260K If You’re Retiring This Year

If you’re retiring in 2016, you’ll need $260,000 to cover your health care costs during your retirement years. In 2015, that number was $245,000, so retiree health care costs increased 6% in one year according to Fidelity’s Retirement Health Care Cost Estimator. The 6% annual cost increase is exactly what the National Business Group on Health found in their recently published 2017 Health Plan Design Survey polling large employers covering health care, discussed here in Health Populi. The 6% health care cost increases are driven primary by people using more health services and the higher costs for many medicines — specifically, specialty

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U.S. Health Spending Will Comprise 20% of GDP in 2025

Spending on health care in America will comprise $1 in every $5 of gross domestic product in 2025, according to National Health Expenditure Projections, 2015-25: Economy, Prices, And Aging Expected to Shape Spending and Enrollment, featured in the Health Affairs July 2016 issue. Details on national health spending are shown by line item in the table, excerpted from the article. Health spending will grow by 5.8% per year, on average, between 2015 and 2025, based on the calculations by the actuarial team from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), authors of the study. The team noted that the Affordable Care

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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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Better Aging Through Technology

There are 85 million people getting older in America, all mindfully working to not go gentle into their good nights — that is, working hard to stay young and well for as long as they can. This is the market for “active aging” technology products, which will be worth nearly $43 billion in 2020, according to a report from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the Active Aging Study. CTA and Parks Associates define the active aging technology market in three segments with several categories under each: Safety and smart living, which includes safety monitoring, emergency response (PERS), smart living, and home

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Medicare Makes the Case for Outcomes, As Increasing Costs Loom

Health costs in America will grow faster (again), and health outcomes have improved in the past decade. This week, two of the most important health journals feature health economics data and analyses that paint the current landscape of the U.S. health care system – the good, the warts, and the potential. Health Affairs provides the big economic story played out by the forecasts of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in National Health Expenditure Projections, 2014-24: Spending Growth Faster Than Recent Trends. The topline of the forecast is that health spending growth in the U.S. will annually average

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Value is in the eye of the shopper for health insurance

While shopping is a life sport, and even therapeutic for some, there’s one product that’s not universally attracting shoppers: health insurance. McKinsey’s Center for U.S. Health System Reform studied people who were qualified to go health insurance shopping for plans in 2015, covered by the Affordable Care Act. McKinsey’s consumer research identified six segments of health insurance plan shoppers — and non-shoppers — including 4 cohorts of insured and 2 of uninsured people. The insureds include: Newly-insured people, who didn’t enroll in health plans in 2014 but did so in 2015 Renewers, who purchased health insurance in both 2014 and

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Delaying aging to bend the cost-curve: balancing individual life with societal costs

Can we age more slowly? And if so, what impact would senescence — delaying aging — have on health care costs on the U.S. economy? In addition to reclaiming $7.1 trillion over 50 years, we’d add an additional 2.2 years to life expectancy (with good quality of life). This is the calculation derived in Substantial Health And Economic Returns From Delayed Aging May Warrant A New Focus For Medical Research, published in the October 2013 issue of Health Affairs. The chart graphs changes in Medicare and Medicaid spending in 3 scenarios modeled in the study: when aging is delayed, more people qualify

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The slow economy is driving slower health spending; but what will employers do?

By 2022, $1 in every $5 worth of spending in the U.S. will go to health care in some way, amounting to nearly $15,000 for each and every person in America. From biggest line item on down, health spending will go to payments to: Hospitals, representing about 32% of all spending Physicians and clinical costs, 20% of spending Prescription drugs, 9% of spending Nursing, continuing care, and home health care, together accounting for over 8% of health spending (added together for purposes of this analysis) Among other categories like personal care, durable medical equipment, and the cost of health insurance.

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Americans’ health insurance illiteracy epidemic – simpler is better

Consumers misunderstand health insurance, according to new research published in the Journal of Health Economics this week. The study was done by a multidisciplinary, diverse team of researchers led by one of my favorite health economists, George Loewenstein from Carnegie Mellon, complemented by colleagues from Humana, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, and Yale, among other research institutions. Most people do not understand how traditional health plans work: the kind that have been available on the market for over a decade. See the chart, which summarizes top-line findings: nearly all consumers believe they understand what maximum out-of-pocket costs are, but only one-half do.

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10 Reasons Why ObamaCare is Good for US

When Secretary Sebelius calls, I listen. It’s a sort of “Help Wanted” ad from the Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius that prompted me to write this post. The Secretary called for female bloggers to talk about the benefits of The Affordable Care Act last week when she spoke in Chicago at the BlogHer conference. Secretary Sebelius’s request was discussed in this story from the Associated Press published July 25, 2013. “I bet you more people could tell you the name of the new prince of England than could tell you that the health market opens October 1st,” the

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Healthways buys into Dr. Ornish’s approach: will “Ornish-inside” scale wellness in America?

People who live in U.S. cities with low levels of well-being have twice the rate of heart attacks as people who live in healthier America. That’s 5.5% of the population in sicker America versus 2.8% of the population living in healthy America. The first chart illustrates this disparity, taken from the Gallup-Healthways index that examined 190 metropolitan areas in 2012. Based on this study, it’s good to live in parts of Utah, Nebraska and Colorado, but not so healthy to be a resident in West Virginia, Alabama, and parts of Kentucky and Ohio. Heart disease and diabetes are killing a plurality

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Bending the cost-curve: a proposal from some Old School bipartisans

Strange political bedfellows have come together to draft a formula for dealing with spiraling health care costs in the U.S. iin A Bipartisan Rx for Patient-Centered Care and System-Wide Cost Containment from the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). The BPC was founded by Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole, and George Mitchell. This report also involved Bill Frist, Pete Domenici, and former White House and Congressional Budget Office Director Dr. Alice Rivlin who together work with the Health Care Cost Containment Initiative at the BPC. The essence of the 132-page report is that the U.S. health system is

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1 in 5 US consumers asks a doctor for a lower-cost Rx

  With U.S. health consumers spending $45 billion out-of-pocket for prescription drugs in 2011, pharmaceutical products are morphing into retail health products. As such, as they do with any other consumer good, consumers can vote with their feet by walking away from a product purchase or making the spend based on the price of the product and its attributes, along with whether there are substitutes available in the marketplace. When it comes to prescription drugs, it’s not as clear-cut, according to the Centers for Disease Control‘s analysis of data from the 2011 National Health Interview Survey titled Strategies Used by

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The need for a Zagat and TripAdvisor in health care

  Patient satisfaction survey scores have begun to directly impact Medicare payment for health providers. Health plan members are morphing into health consumers spending “real money” in high-deductible health plans. Newly-diagnosed patients with chronic conditions look online for information to sort out whether a generic drug is equivalent to a branded Rx that costs five-times the out-of-pocket cost of the cheaper substitute. While health care report cards have been around for many years, consumers’ need to get their arms around relevant and accessible information on quality and value is driving a new market for a Yelp, Travelocity, or Zagat in

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The Not-So-Affordable Care Act? Cost-squeezed Americans still confused and need to know more

While health care cost growth has slowed nationally, most Americans feel they’re going up faster than usual. 1 in 3 people believe their own health costs have gone up faster than usual, and 1 in 4 feel they’re going out about “the same amount” as usual. For only one-third, health costs feel like they’re staying even. As the second quarter of 2013 begins and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “health reform” and “Obamacare”) looms nearer, most Americans still don’t understand how the ACA will impact them. Most Americans (57%) believe the law will create a government-run health plan,

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Bill Clinton’s public health, cost-bending message thrills health IT folks at HIMSS

In 2010, the folks who supported health care reform were massacred by the polls, Bill Clinton told a rapt audience of thousands at HIMSS13 yesterday. In 2012, the folks who were against health care reform were similarly rejected. President Clinton gave the keynote speech at the annual HIMSS conference on March 6, 2013, and by the spillover, standing-room-only crowd in the largest hall at the New Orleans Convention Center, Clinton was a rock star. Proof: with still nearly an hour to go before his 1 pm speech, the auditorium was already full with only a few seats left in the

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Required reading: TIME Magazine’s Bitter Pill Cover Story

Today’s Health Populi is devoted to Steven Brill and his colleagues at TIME magazine whose special report, Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us, is required reading for every health citizen in the United States. Among many lightbulb moments for readers, key findings from the piece are: Local hospitals are beloved charities to people who live in their market – Brill calls these institutions “Non-Profit Profitmakers). They’re the single most politically powerful player in most Congressional districts The poor and less affluent more often pay the high chargemaster (“retail list”) price for health products and services vs. the wealthy

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Wealthy Americans’ top financial concern is affording health care in retirement

The wealthiest Americans’ top financial concern is being able to afford healthcare and support they’ll need in old age. The #2 financial concern among wealthy investors is worrying about the financial situation of their children and grandchildren, closely followed by a major family health problem occurring and someone to care for them in their old age. These health-financial worries come out of a survey among 2,056 U.S. investors age 25 and over who have at least $250,000 in investable assets conducted by UBS in January 2013. UBS found that staying health and fit is investors’ top objective, with 73% of wealthy

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Health care cost illiteracy: consumers feel the pinch of growing costs, but don’t understand the “why?”

Health care costs for workers lucky enough to receive health insurance at work nearly doubled since 2002. Wages in that decade grew by 33%. This growing affordability gap between health costs vs. wages is shown in the chart. Health consumers in America sharply perceive this gap, according to an analysis of eight focus groups, Consumer Attitudes on Health Care Costs: Insights from Focus Groups in Four U.S. Cities from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To health-covered workers, though, health care “costs” are defined as out-of-pocket health spending for insurance premiums, co-payments and deductibles that come out of paychecks and pocketbooks — not

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Butter over guns in the minds of Americans when it comes to deficit cutting

Americans have a clear message for the 113th Congress: I want my MTV, but I want my Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security,   health insurance subsidies, and public schools. These budget-saving priorities are detailed in The Public’s Health Care Agenda for the 113th Congress, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health, published in January 2013. The poll found that a majority of Americans placed creating health insurance exchanges/marketplaces at top priority, compared with other health priorities at the state level. More people support rather than oppose Medicaid expansion, heavily weighted toward 75%

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Health and consumer spending may be flat, but consumers hard hit due to wage stagnation & self-rationing

There’s good news on the macro-health economics front: the growth rate in national health spending in the U.S. fell in 2011, according to an analysis published in Health Affairs January 2013 issue. Furthermore, this study found that consumers’ spending on health has fallen to 27.7% of health spending, down from 32% in 2000, based on three spending categories: 1. Insurance premiums through the workplace or self-paid 2. Out-of-pocket deductibles and co-pays 3. Medicare payroll taxes. A key factor driving down health spending is the growth of generic drug substitution for more expensive Rx brands. Generics now comprise 80% of prescribed

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Call them hidden, direct or discretionary, health care costs are a growing burden on U.S. consumers

Estimates on health spending in the U.S. are under-valued, according to The hidden costs of U.S. health care: Consumer discretionary health care spending, an analysis by Deloitte’s Center for Health Solutions. Health spending in the U.S. is aggregated in the National Health Expenditure Accounts (NHEA), assembled by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In 2010, the NHEA calculated that $2.6 trillion were spent on health care based on the categories they “count” for health spending. These line items include: Hospital care Professional services (doctors, ambulatory care, lab services) Dental services Residential

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What’s on senior Americans’ minds? Medicare and money

What’s keeping seniors up at night when it comes to retirement? #1, according to 6 in 10 seniors, is the future of Medicare, followed by having enough money to enjoy retirement. In particular, 61% of seniors are concerned about future out-of-pocket health care costs. It’s all about Medicare and money for U.S. seniors, found in the Allsup Medicare Advisor Seniors Survey, Medicare Planning and Trends Among Seniors, published in October 2012. Medicare could be the most beloved government program ever, as 89% of seniors say they’re satisfied with Medicare coverage. Given the program’s shaky financial future, Allsup wanted to get

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58% of Americans self-rationing health care due to cost

Since the advent of the Great Recession of 2008, more Americans have been splitting pills, postponing needed visits to doctors, skipping dental care, and avoiding recommended medical tests due to the cost of those health care services. Call it health care self-rationing: the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) has been tracking this trend for the past several years, and the proportion of American adults rationing health demand is up to 58%. This KFF Health Tracking Poll interviewed 1,218 U.S. adults age 18 and older via landline and cell phone in May 2012. As the chart illustrates, 38% of people are “DIYing” health care

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$12 water and $10 premium increases: how price elasticity is contextual in health and life

A $10 increase in a health plan premium drove up to 3% of retired University of Michigan employees to leave the plan, according to a study from U-M published in Health Economics, The Price Sensitivity of Medicare Beneficiaries. The U-M researchers analyzed the behaviors of 3,182 retirees over four years, to assess the impact of price on beneficiaries’ health plan choices. During the four years, the premium contribution for retirees increased significantly. The researchers conducted this study, in part, to anticipate how Americans will respond to health insurance exchanges in 2014 as they bring health plan information to the market

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