A Health Consumer Bill of Rights: Assuring Affordability, Access, Autonomy, and Equity

Let’s put “health” back into the U.S. health care system. That’s the mantra coming out of this week’s annual Capitol Conference convened by the National Association of Benefits and Insurance Professionals (NABIP). (FYI you might know of NABIP by its former acronym, NAHU, the National Association of Health Underwriters).         NABIP, whose members represent professionals in the health insurance benefits industry, drafted and adopted a new American Healthcare Consumer Bill of Rights launched at the meeting. While the digital health stakeholder community is convening this week at VIVE in Los Angeles to share innovations in health tech, NABIP


Fix the ACA, Most Americans Say

  61% of Americans hold negative views of repealing-and-replacing the Affordable Care Act, according to the July 2017 Health Tracking Poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation. This month’s survey focused on Americans’ views on Republican legislative efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As of the writing of this post, the majority of the Senate rejected the full repeal of the ACA, but the situation is very fluid. Note that this poll was conducted by phone between July 5-10, 2017, among 1,183 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The column chart here illustrates that the proportion of people


Costs of Healthcare Top Americans’ Financial Concerns: It’s Financial Health Matters Day

Americans are most worried about healthcare costs among all financial concerns; most people in the U.S. also believe the Federal government should ensure that all people have health coverage. Two polls published in the past week point to the fact that most U.S. health citizens are concerned about health care for themselves and their families, driving a growing proportion of people to favor a single-payer health system. The first line chart illustrates a dramatic trajectory up of the number of American identifying healthcare costs as their #1 financial problem, rising from 10% of people in 2013 to 17% in 2017.


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

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


Most Americans Favor Some Flavor Of National Health Care Plan

Most US adults favor some kind of national health care plan, based on an Economist/YouGov poll conducted in April 2017. Six in ten people are for expanding so-called “Medicare for All,” where the health plan that currently serves older Americans would extend to all U.S. health citizens. Six in ten people would also favor a Federally-funded health insurance system that would cover all Americans — that is, universal health care. The table details this poll question by political party identification and family income. At least 3 in 4 Democrats would be more likely to favor either of the two healthcare


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


Stress Is A Social Determinant of Health – Money and Politics Top the List in 2017

The American Psychological Association reports that Americans are experiencing greater levels of stress in 2017 for the first time since initiating the Stress in America Survey ten years ago in 2007. This is a statistically significant finding, APA calculated. The member psychologists of the American Psychological Association (APA) began to report that patients were coming to appointments increasingly anxious about the 2016 Presidential election. So the APA polled U.S. adults on politics for the first time in ten years of conducting the Stress in America survey. Two-thirds of Americans are stressed and/or anxious about the future of the nation, and


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

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


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

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


You Don’t Know What You’ve Got ‘Til It’s Gone: More Americans Liking the ACA

It’s human nature to take what we have for granted. But it wasn’t all that long ago that millions of Americans were uninsured. Since the advent of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), American voters’ feelings about the plan were split roughly 50/50, with slightly more U.S. voters, at the margin, disliking Obamacare than liking it. “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone,” Joni Mitchell sang in her iconic song, “Big Yellow Taxi.” In the lyrics, Mitchell was  referring back in 1970 to land development and eroding public green space. “You paved


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


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


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


Growing Sentiment for a Single Payer Healthcare System in the U.S.

There is growing support for a single payer healthcare system in America, found in the latest Gallup Poll and a survey the organization conducted earlier this year in May 2016. A slight majority of Americans favor a single payer system, shown in the first chart. By political party, that splits into 3 in 4 Democrats pro-single payer, and 4 in 10 Republicans (41%). Note that the 41% of Republicans who favor single payer is a much higher number than the 16% who favor keeping the Affordable Care Act in place. Gallup writes, “The general idea of a single payer system seems to


Let’s Go Healthcare Shopping!

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


Employers Changing Health Care Delivery – Health Reform At Work

Large employers are taking more control over health care costs and quality by pressuring changes to how care is actually delivered, based on the results from the 2017 Health Plan Design Survey sponsored by the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Health care cost increases will average 5% in 2017 based on planned design changes, according to the top-line of the study. The major cost drivers, illustrated in the wordle, will be specialty pharmacy (discussed in yesterday’s Health Populi), high cost patient claims, specific conditions (such as musculoskeletal/back pain), medical inflation, and inpatient care. To temper these medical trend increases,


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

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


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


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


The Hospital of the Future Won’t Be a Hospital At All

In the future, a hospital won’t be a hospital at all, according to 9 in 10 hospital executives who occupy the c-suite polled in Premier’s Spring 2016 Economic Outlook. Among factors impacting their ability to deliver health care, population health and the ACA were the top concerns among one-half of hospital executives. 1 in 4 hospital CxOs think that staffing shortages have the biggest impact on care delivery, and 13% see emerging tech heavily impacting care delivery. Technology is the top area of capital investment planned over the next 12 months, noted by 84% of hospital execs in the survey.


Physical Healthcare Facilities Can Bolster Health Consumerism

Reluctantly accepting the Affordable Care Act, health executives and their architects now see opportunities for re-imagining the hospital and health care services, according to Healthcare Industry Trends, a publication that’s part of the 2015 Building & Development Leadership Series provided by Mortenson, a construction services firm that’s active with healthcare organizations. Mortenson conducted a survey at the 2015 ASHE Planning, Design, and Construction Summit, the results of which were published in this report. The over 300 respondents included healthcare executives, facilities managers, and healthcare architects. Thus the lens on the data in this survey is through the eyes of physical


The Affordable Care Act As New-Business Creator

While there’s little evidence that the short-term impact of the Affordable Care Act has limited job growth or driven most employers to drop health insurance plans, the ACA has spawned a “cottage industry” of health companies since 2010, according to PwC. As the ACA turned five years of age, the PwC Health Research Institute led by Ceci Connolly identified at least 90 newcos addressing opportunities inspired by the ACA: Supporting telehealth platforms between patients and providers, such as Vivre Health Educating consumers, such as the transparency provider HealthSparq does Streamlining operations to enhance efficiency, the business of Cureate among others


Health care costs, access and Ebola – what’s on health care consumers’ minds

The top 3 urgent health problems facing the U.S. are closely tied for first place: affordable health care/health costs, access to health care, and the Ebola virus. While the first two issues ranked #1 and #2 one year ago, Ebola didn’t even register on the list of healthcare stresses in November 2013. Gallup polled U.S. adults on the biggest health issues facing Americans in early November 2014, and 1 in 6 people named Ebola as the nation’s top health problem, ahead of obesity, cancer, as well as health costs and insurance coverage. Gallup points out that at the time of


Health Care in the 2014 Mid-Term Election

In the November 2014 mid-term elections, Democrats tend to favor continuing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as-is, and Republicans favor scrapping it, scaling it back, or fully replacing the law with something yet to be defined. But it’s hard to read just where the ACA will end up after tomorrow’s election, because many key battleground states are too close to call…and the two major parties have such polar views on health reform. What’s most significant this year is that those most likely to vote are less likely to vote for a congressional candidate who supports the ACA (40%) than would


Rationing health care, driven by high deductibles

Concerns about Death Panels and government restricting health services for people that have been key arguments used against the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) detractors and, even before the advent of the ACA, proposed health reforms under President Clinton. But it’s peoples’ self-rationing in the U.S. health system that’s causing true rationing — driven by high deductible health plans (HDHPs) that are fast-growing in the health insurance market, and by the high cost of specialty drugs and prescriptions. There are plenty of data demonstrating the consumer health rationing trend being collected and reviewed by think tanks like RAND here, and by The


Employers engaging in health engagement

Expecting health care cost increases of 5% in 2015, employers in the U.S. will focus on several tactics to control costs: greater offerings of consumer-directed health plans, increasing employee cost-sharing, narrowing provider networks, and serving up wellness and disease management programs. The National Business Group on Health’s Large Employers’ 2015 Health Plan Design Survey finds employers committed to health engagement in 2015 as a key strategy for health benefits. More granularly, addressing weight management, smoking cessation, physical activity, and stress reduction, will be top priorities, shown in the first chart. An underpinning of engagement is health care consumerism — which


In pursuit of healthiness – Lancet talks US public health

It’s Independence Day week in America, and our British friends at The Lancet, the UK’s grand peer reviewed medical journal, dedicate this week’s issue to the Health of Americans – exploring life, death (mortality), health costs, chronic disease, and the Pursuit of Healthiness. This project is a joint venture between The Lancet and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) which took 18 months to foster, called The Health of Americans Series. Americans mostly die from chronic diseases, aka non-communicable diseases, which are largely amenable to lifestyle changes like eating right, quitting smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, and moving around more. 1 in


Online is to go-to place for health insurance info, but lots of uninsured people live offline

A vast majority of people shopping for a health plan on a Health Insurance Exchange for coverage in 2014 obtained information online via websites. One-half of these shoppers used only online information, and 29% combined both websites and other sources like direct assistance, informal assistance, and via (offline) media. In the Health Reform Monitoring Survey from the Urban Institute Health Policy Center, a research team, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Ford Foundation, looked into data collected from the Health Reform Monitoring Survey in March 2014 at the end of the 2014 open enrollment period for the


What, We Worry? Thinking About Healthcare (Costs) Is Stressing Us Out

Three-quarters of us are concerned about health care, a fraction fewer than those of us worried about the economy. Underneath stress about healthcare, people are worried about costs and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Say hello to the Healthcare Worry Scale, developed by Chase Communications, a firm focused on marketing and media, largely in the health industry. Chase found that: – 93% believe that their health care costs will continue to increase – 49% say the ACA’s impact is a “major” worry – 43% say getting a disease, medical condition, or injury that health insurance doesn’t fully


3 Things I Know About Health Care in 2014

We who are charged with forecasting the future of health and health care live in a world of scenario planning, placing bets on certainties (what we know we know), uncertainties (what we know we don’t know), and wild cards — those phenomena that, if they happen in the real world, blow our forecasts to smithereens, forcing a tabula rasa for a new-and-improved forecast. There are many more uncertainties than certainties challenging the tea leaves for the new year, including the changing role of health insurance companies and how they will respond to the Affordable Care Act implementation and changing mandates


Health care and costs on front-burner for people in America (again)

This week in America, the concept of “health care consumer” is in a tug-of-war, and those of us trying to behave as such feel bloodied in the skirmish. One side of the tug-of-war is the obvious, post October 1st reality of the sad state of the Health Insurance Exchanges. This has been well covered in mass media, right, left and center. And Americans polled by Gallup last week express their knowledge of that fact — even if they didn’t know what was on the 1st of October. The first chart shows that health care is now a front-burner issue


America’s health care is better due to Todd Park – detractors, be careful what you wish for

In the aftermath of the snafu that was/is the failed launch of the Affordable Care Act’s Health Insurance Exchange comes, today via Reuters, an article called Obama’s tech expert becomes target over healthcare website woes. The piece, by Roberta Rampton and Sarah McBride, states that Todd Park, Chief Technology Officer at The White House, “now finds himself among a handful of officials with targets on their backs as Republicans try to root out who is responsible for this month’s glitch-ridden rollout of,” going on to say that “The White House trotted him out in July to talk up the new version”


Innovating and thriving in value-based health – collaboration required

In health care, when money is tight, labor inputs like nurses and doctors stretched, and patients wanting to be treated like beloved Amazon consumers, what do you do? Why, innovate and thrive. This audacious Holy Grail was the topic for a panel II moderated today at the Connected Health Symposium, sponsored by Partners Heathcare, the Boston health system that includes Harvard’s hospitals and other blue chip health providers around the region. My panelists were 3 health ecosystem players who were not your typical discussants at this sort of meeting: none wore bow ties, and all were very entrepreneurial: Jeremy Delinsky


The new era of consumer health risk management: employers “migrate” risk

The current role of health insurance at work is that it’s the “benefits” part of “compensation and benefits.” Soon, benefits will simply be integrated into “compensation and compensation.” That is, employers will be transferring risk to employees for health care. This will translate into growing defined contribution and cost-shifting to employees. Health care sponsorship by employers is changing quite quickly, according to the 2013 Aon Hewitt Health Care Survey published in October 2013. Aon found that companies are shifting to individualized consumer-focused approaches that emphasize wellness and “health ownership” by workers to bolster behavior change and, ultimately, outcomes. The most


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.


Food and the household health budget: one pocket, shrinking access

Over 1 in 5 people in the U.S. have not had enough money to buy food for themselves or their families in the past year, according to the August 2013 Gallup Healthways Index. This is as many consumers as those who couldn’t afford food during the deepest months of the last recession. Lack of access to food is a challenge for a cadre of Americans who lack access to other basic needs such as shelter and health care. Gallup’s Basic Access Index looks at this market basket, and has found that Americans’ access to basic needs at 81.4 in August


Health information search online, an hour a week. Time with a doctor? An hour a year.

In game-scoring unit terms, 52 is the number of hours an average American spends seeking health information online each year. The 1 (hour) is roughly equivalent to the approximate total time a patient spends with a physician (an average of 3 visits, with an average time per vision of 20 minutes). Thus, 52:1. This means that the average U.S. health consumer spends much more time DIYing her health using digital information resources than speaking face-to-face with their physician in the doctor’s office. Still, the physician continues to be a go-to source for health information, according to Makovsky, a health communications


Consumers don’t get as much satisfaction with high-deductible health plans

Since the advent of the so-called consumer-directed health care era in the mid-2000s, there’s been a love-gap between health plan members of traditional plans, living in Health Plan World 1.0, and people enrolled in newer consumer-driven plans – high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs). That gap in plan satisfaction continues, according to the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI)’s poll of Americans’ consumer engagement in health care. The survey was conducted with the Commonwealth Fund. As the bar chart illustrates, some 62% of members in traditional plans were satisfied (very or extremely) with their health insurance in 2012.


People with doctors interested in EMRs, but where’s the easy button?

1 in two people who are insured and have a regular doctor are interested in trying out an electronic medical record. But they need a doctor or nurse to suggest this, and they need it to be easy to use. The EMR Impact survey was conducted by Aeffect and 88 Brand Partners to assess 1,000 U.S. online consumers’ views on electronic medical records (EMRs): specifically, how do insured American adults (age 25 to 55 who have seen their regular physician in the past 3 years) view accessing their personal health information via EMRs? Among this population segment, 1 in 4 people (24%)


Criticizing health reform has jumped the shark for mainstream Americans

You might see potato and I might see po-tah-to when looking at the Affordable Care Act – health reform — but it’s clear we don’t want to call the whole thing off. (Go to 1:44 seconds in this video to get my drift, thanks to the Gershwin’s). I’m talking about the latest August 2013 Kaiser Health Tracking Poll from Kaiser Family Foundation finds a health citizenry suffering ennui or a form of split personality about health reform: while many Americans don’t believe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will help them, most don’t want Congress to de-fund it, either. Several graphs from


HSAs for Dummies: improving health insurance literacy

Most Americans don’t understand what a health savings account (HSA) is – including people who are enrolled in the plans. While health literacy is generally acknowledged to be a public health challenge in America, health insurance literacy is not well recognized. Yet in the emerging consumer-directed health plan era of U.S. health care, peoples’ lack of understanding of health financial accounts will get in the way of people who really need care seeking care at the right time. This leads to greater health spending later when the consumer-patient can develop a health condition that could have been prevented (say, pre-diabetes


Chief Health Officers, Women, Are In Pain

Women are the Chief Health Officers of their families and in their communities. But stress is on the rise for women. Taking an inventory on several health risks for American women in 2013 paints a picture of pain: of overdosing, caregiver burnout, health disparities, financial stress, and over-drinking. Overdosing on opioids. Opioids are strong drugs prescribed for pain management such as hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone. The number of opioid prescriptions grew in the U.S. by over 300% between 1999 and 2010. Deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among women have increased more than 400% since 1999, compared to 265% among men.


Working for health care in 2013: workers’ health insurance cost burden still grows faster than wages

Insurance premium costs grew 4% for families between 2012 and 2013, with workers now bearing 39% of health premiums in 2013 compared with only 26% ten years ago, in 2003. That’s a 50% increase in health plan premium “burden” for working families, by my calculation. This snapshot of health insurance in 2013 comes to us from the 2013 Employer Health Benefits Survey, provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). This research is one of the most important annual reports to hit the health care industry every year, and this year’s analysis provides strategic context


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.


The health care automat – Help Yourself to healthcare via online marketplaces

Imagine walking into a storefront where you can shop for an arthroscopy procedure, mammogram, or appointment with a primary care doctor based on price, availability, quality, and other consumers’ opinions? Welcome to the “health care automat,” the online healthcare marketplace. This is a separate concept from the new Health Insurance Marketplace, or Exchange. This emerging way to shop for and access health care services is explored in my latest paper for the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF), Help Yourself: The Rise of Online Healthcare Marketplaces. What’s driving this new wrinkle in retail health care are: U.S. health citizens morphing into consumers,


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


Cost prevents people from seeking preventive health care

3 in 4 Americans say that out-of-pocket costs are the main reason they decide whether or not to seek preventive care, in A Call for Change: How Adopting a Preventive Lifestyle Can Ensure a Healthy Future for More Americans from TeleVox, the communications company, published in June 2013. TeleVox surveyed over 1,015 U.S. adults 18 and over. That’s the snapshot on seeking care externally: but U.S. health consumers aren’t that self-motivated to undertake preventive self-care separate from the health system, either, based on TeleVox’s finding that 49% of people say they routinely exercise, and 52% say they’ve attempted to improve eating habits.


Urgent care centers: if we build them, will all patients come?

Urgent care centers are growing across the United States in response to emergency rooms that are standing-room-only for many patients trying to access them. But can urgent care centers play a cost-effective, high quality part in stemming health care costs and inappropriate use of ERs for primary care. That’s a question asked and answered by The Surge in Urgent Care Centers: Emergency Department Alternative or Costly Convenience? from the Center for Studying Health System Change by Tracy Yee  et. al. The Research Brief defines urgent care centers (UCCs) as sites that provide care on a walk-in basis, typically during regular


The promise of ObamaCare isn’t comforting Americans worrying about money and health in 2013

In June 2013, even though news about the economy and jobs is more positive and ObamaCare’s promise of health insurance for the uninsured will soon kick in, most Americans are concerned about (1) money and (2) the costs of health care. The Kaiser Health Tracking poll of June 2013 paints an America worried about personal finances and health, and pretty clueless about health reform – in particular, the advent of health insurance exchanges. Among the 25% of people who have seen media coverage about the Affordable Care Act (alternatively referred to broadly as “health reform” or specifically as “ObamaCare”), 3


They call it “primary” care because it comes first — and it should

It’s called “primary” care for a reason: it’s first and foremost important in the health care services a person can use. In its report, Primary care: our first line of defense, The Commonwealth Fund explains why primary care is crucial to one’s individual health, and how primary care is morphing into medical teams and patient-centered medical homes. And that’s a good thing for you and me, the Fund says. That’s because people in the U.S. who have a primary care doctor have 33% lower health costs and 19% lower risk of dying than people who see only a specialist (Source:


As Account-Based Health Plans Grow, Will Americans Save More in Health Accounts?

The only type of health plan whose membership grew in 2012 was the consumer-directed health plan (CDHP), according to a survey from Mercer, the benefits advisors. Two-thirds of large employers expect to offer CDHPs by 2018, five years from now. 40% of all employers (small and large) anticipate offering a CDHP in five years. The growth in CDHPs going forward will be increasingly motivated by the impending “Cadillac tax” that will be levied on companies that currently offer relatively rich health benefits. Furthermore, Mercer foresees that employers will also expand wellness and health management programs with the goal of reducing health


The part-time medical home: retail health clinics

The number of retail health clinics will double between 2012 and 2015, according to a research brief from Accenture, Retail medical clinics: From Foe to Friend? published in June 2013. What are the driving market forces promoting the growth of retail clinics? Accenture points to a few key factors: Hospitals’ need to rationalize use of their emergency departments, which are often over-crowded and incorrectly utilized in cases of less-than-acute care. In addition, hospitals are now financially motivated under the Affordable Care Act (ACA, health reform) to reduce readmissions of patients into beds (particularly Medicare patients with acute myocardial infarction [heart attacks],


Driving innovation in health through the use of open data: Health Datapalooza, Year 4

In the $3 trillion economy that is American health care, the role of information technology is central to transforming this huge piece of U.S. fiscal activity. This week convened the fourth annual Health Datapalooza (HDP) in Washington DC, with the underlying theme, “health engagement is the blockbuster drug of the 21st century” (quoting Leonard Kish). This meeting of over 2,000 registrants – huge growth from the first year’s 400 attendees — is organized by the Health Data Consortium (HDC) , whose CEO Dwayne Spradlin kicked off remarks on Day 2 of HDP4. He described the HDC, a public-private collaboration led


Health care costs for a family of 4 in 2013: a college education, a diamond or a 4-door sedan

If you have $22,030 in your wallet, you can buy: A princess-cut diamond A Ford Focus 4-door A year’s tuition at James Madison University (in-state, 2013-14) A health plan for a family of four. The 2013 Milliman Medical Index gauges the annual health care costs for a typical American family at $22,030, up $1,302 from 2012 — a 6.3% increase, nearly 6x the all-items increase of 1.1% for the U.S. Consumer Price Index from April 2012-April 2013. That 1.1% includes the costs of food and energy, along with cars, tobacco, shelter, and other consumer goods. In 2013, the average family will


Most employers will provide health insurance benefits in 2014…with more costs for employees

Nearly 100% of employers are likely to continue to provide health insurance benefits to workers in 2014, moving beyond a “wait and see” approach to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). As firms strategize tactics for a post-ACA world, nearly 40% will increase emphasis on high-deductible health plans with a health savings account, 43% will increase participants’ share of premium costs, and 33% will increase in-network deductibles for plan members. Two-thirds of U.S. companies have analyzed the ACA’s cost impact on their businesses but need to know more, according to the 2013 survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans (IFEBP).


Americans feeling more financially insecure

One in three workers does not feel financially secure. The proportion of Americans who feel “not at all secure” grew to 16% from 12% between 2011 and 2012, based on the question, “When it comes to paying your bills and keeping up with living expenses, how financially secure do you feel these days?” Women are much more likely than men to feel financially insecure, representing a 33% growth rate in financial insecurity. These sobering financial statistics come to us from the UNUM study, 2012 Employee Education and Enrollment Survey: Employee Perspectives on Financial Security, published May 8, 2013. Based on the question asked – paying


Un-directed Americans in a consumer-directed healthcare world

U.S. employers have been implementing various flavors of consumer-directed health plans for the better part of a decade. But consumers feel neither “directed” nor especially competent in managing their way through these plans. It appears that employers also have their own sort of health plan illiteracy when it comes to understanding health reform — the Affordable Care Act — according to the 2013 Aflac WorkForces Report (AWR) based on a survey of 1,900 benefits managers and over 5,200 U.S. workers conducted in January 2013. While you might know the Aflac Duck, you may not be aware that Aflac is the


The Slow Economy Has Slowed Health Spending

Why has health cost growth in the U.S. slowed in the past few years? It’s mostly due to the economy, argues the Kaiser Family Foundation in Assessing the Effects of the Economy on the Recent Slowdown of Health Spending. The answer to this question is important because, as the American economy recovers, it begs the next question: will costs increase faster once again as they did in previous go-go U.S. economies, further exacerbating the budget deficit problems in the long-term? KFF worked with Altarum to develop an economic model to answer these questions. The chart illustrates the predicted vs. actual


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


US Health Executives Predict the ACA Will Increase Health Insurance Premiums

As a result of implementing the Affordable Care Act (health reform), most U.S. health executives crystal balls foresee health care insurance premiums will increase over 10% in the next three years. 4 in 10 predict premiums will grow over 25% over the next 3 years. This sobering forecast comes out of a Munich RE Health survey conducted among 326 health industry executives in March 2013. Those polled included representatives from health plans, managed care, disease management firms, and health insurance brokers and agents. How do health execs expect employers would deal with such fast-rising health premium costs? Why shift more


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


U.S. Health Costs vs. The World: Is It Still The Prices, and Are We Still Stupid?

Comparing health care prices in the U.S. with those in other developed countries is an exercise in sticker shock. The cost of a hospital day in the U.S. was, on average, $4,287 in 2012. It was $853 in France, a nation often lauded for its excellent health system and patient outcomes but with a health system that’s financially strapped. A routine office visit to a doctor cost an average of $95 in the U.S. in 2012. The same visit was priced at $30 in Canada and $30 in France, as well. A hip replacement cost $40,364 on average in the


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,


Most consumers will look to health insurance exchanges to buy individual plans in 2013

  As the Affordable Care Act, health reform, aka Obamacare, rolls out in 2013, American health insurance shoppers will look for sources of information they can trust on health plan quality and customer service satisfaction — as they do for automobiles, mobile phone plans, and washing machines. For many years, one of a handful of trusted sources for such insights has been J.D. Power and Associates. J.D. Power released its 2013 Member Health Plan Study (the seventh annual survey) and found that most consumers currently enrolled in a health plan have had a choice of only “one” at the time


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


Consumer health empowerment is compromised by complex information

  The U.S. economy is largely built on consumer purchasing (the big “C” in the GDP* – see note, below Hot Points). Americans have universally embraced their role as consumers in virtually every aspect of life — learning to self-rely in making travel plans, stock trades, photo development, and purchasing big-dollar hard goods (like cars and washing machines). Consumers transact these activities thanks to usable tools and information that empower them to learn, compare, and execute smarter decisions. That is, in every aspect of life but in health care. While the banner of “consumerism” in health care has been flown


Health cost transparency on the W-2: sticker shock at the point-of-paystub

If you receive health insurance benefits from your employer, you’ll see a new line item on your W-2, courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service: the cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage. This new piece of data, shown in Box 12, DD information, comes as part of health reform, The Affordable Care Act, which requires employers with over 250 workers to show how much they spend on employer-sponsored health benefits in total. This is the employer’s premium cost, and does not include the covered worker’s out-of-pocket spending (e.g., copays, coinsurance and deductibles). It is being furnished on W-2’s “for informational


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%


Aetna and Costco – the broker is ‘us’

Costco and Aetna announced that the Big Box retailer would expand its marketing of Aetna health insurance policies to card-carrying members in California. Costco has already been selling health insurance through stores in Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia. Later in 2013, Aetna plans will be available in Costco stores in other state markets. BTW, Costco operates stores in 42 U.S. states (as well as Canada, the UK, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Australia, and Mexico). All together, the company serves 37 million households. The Costco Personal Health Insurance Program offers five plans, a network of health providers, and


Health reform, costs and the growing role of consumers: PwC’s tea leaves for 2013

PwC has seen the future of health care for the next year, and the crystal ball expects to see the following: Affordable Care Act implementation, with states playing lead roles The role of dual eligibles Employer’s role in health care benefits Consumers’ role in coverage Consumers’ ratings impact on health care Transforming health delivery Population health management Bring your own device Pharma’s changing value proposition The medical device industry & tax impact. In their report, Top health industry issues of 2013: picking up the pace on health reform, PwC summarizes these expectations as a “future [that] includes full implementation of


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


Americans #1 health care priority for the President: reduce costs

Reducing health care costs far outranks improving quality and safety, improving the public’s health, and upping the customer experience as Americans’ top priority for President Obama’s health care agenda, according to a post-election poll conducted by PwC’s Health Research Institute. In Warning signs for health industry, PwC’s analysis of the survey results, found that 7 in 10 Americans point to the high costs of health care as their top concern in President Obama’s second term for addressing health care issues. Where would cost savings come from if U.S. voters wielded the accountant’s scalpel? The voters have spoken, saying, Reduce payments


Obama would get health-issue voters’ votes

Bob Blendon and his can-do team at the Harvard School of Public Health have done the heavy lifting for us by analyzing 36 telephone polls (that’s “polls,” not “poles”) looking at the role of health reform in the 2012 election cycle. I knew Bob Blendon when I was affiliated for a decade with Institute for the Future, and Blendon was affiliated as well as health politics consultant to the health team. He is the guru on this topic, so when I spotted his article, Understanding Health Care in the 2012 Election in this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, I dashed


Consumers blame insurance and pharma for health costs, but love their primary care doctors

The 78% of U.S. adults with primary care physicians (think: medical homes) are very satisfied with their doctors’ visits. The main reasons for this high level of satisfaction include communication (listening, talking), customer service (caring, personable), and clinical (good diagnosis and treatment). More women than men have a primary care physician relationship, more college grads do, and more people with incomes of $75,000 a year or more do, as well. 90% of those 55 and over have a primary care doctor – a stat heavily influenced by the fact that Medicare coverage kicks in for older people. This consumer profile


The rise and rise of retail clinics: a growing site for primary care, everywhere

There were nearly 6 million patient visits to retail health clinics in 2009. Such visits to retail clinics rose four-fold between 2007 and 2009, according to a RAND study published in the September 2012 issue of Health Affairs. Visits for prevention versus acute care in 2009 were roughly evenly split, with 47.5% and 51.4% of people over 18 seeking prevention vs. acute care from retail clinics, respectively. The most common acute care complaints in the retail setting were upper respiratory infections, pharyngitis, otitis externa, conjunctivitis, urinary tract infections, and allergies. What’s underneath the impressive rise is important to parse out


Physicians not doing so well – financially, socially, physically – and what it means for health reform

Physicians’ wellbeing dropped in July: while providers’ mental health stayed sound since June, it’s financial, physical and social health that’s dragging providers’ overall wellness down. QuantiaMD, the social network exclusively for doctors, launched the Physician Wellbeing Index in January 2012. The Index measures four aspects of physician-reported wellbeing: physical, mental, financial, and social health. QuantiaMD says it’s the world’s only measure of “how physicians are doing as people.” Based on the Index, QuantiaMD tailors content to meet the needs of the physicians in the social network. In July, the chart illustrates that doctors’ wellbeing slipped in 3 of the 4


Employees will bear more health costs to 2017 – certainty in an uncertain future

Amidst uncertainties and wild cards about health care’s future in the U.S., there’s one certainty forecasters and marketers should incorporate into their scenarios: consumers will bear more costs and more responsibility for decision making. The 2012 Deloitte Survey of U.S. Employers finds them, mostly, planning to subsidize health benefits for workers over the next few years, while placing greater financial and clinical burdens on the insured and moving more quickly toward high-deductible health plans and consumer-directed plans. In addition, wellness, prevention and targeted population health programs will be adopted by most employers staying in the health care game, shown in


Converging for health care: how collaborating is breaking down silos to achieve the Triple Aim

  On Tuesday, 9 July 2012, health industry stakeholders are convening in Philadelphia for the first CONVERGE conference, seeking to ignite conversation across siloed organizations to solve seemingly intractable problems in health care, together. Why “converge?” Because suppliers, providers, payers, health plans, and consumers have been fragmented for far too long based on arcane incentives that cause the U.S. health system to be stuck in a Rube Goldbergian knot of inefficiency, ineffectiveness and fragmentation of access….not to mention cost increases leading us to devote nearly one-fifth of national GDP on health care at a cost of nearly $3 trillion…and going up.


Why we now need primary care, everywhere

With the stunning Supreme Court 5-4 majority decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), there’s a Roberts’ Rules of (Health Reform) Order that calls for liberating primary care beyond the doctors’ office. That’s because a strategic underpinning of the ACA is akin to President Herbert Hoover’s proverbial “chicken in every pot:” for President Obama, the pronouncement is something like, “a medical home for every American.” But insurance for all doesn’t equate to access: because 32-some million U.S. health citizens buy into health insurance plans doesn’t guarantee every one of them access to a doctor. There’s a


The selling of a health plan, part two

Calling Don Draper, Donny Deutsch, and the spirit of David Ogilvy: the President needs you. The President must sell the Affordable Care Act to the American people now that Justice Roberts wrote the Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 majority opinion supporting the Act, and especially the individual mandate. He argued for the majority that while the mandate is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause which would “command people to buy insurance,” he said that the mandate is a de facto tax, as people who would choose to opt out of insurance would have an alternative of paying an IRS fine. Senator Eric


The gender gap in U.S. health economics

50% more women than men are worried about health care affordability and access in the U.S., revealed in a new Kaiser Opinion Poll, the Health Security Watch, based on interviews from May 2012. Overall, about the same proportion of men and women had problems paying medical bills in the past year — 26% vs. 27%, respectively. However, when it comes to self-rationing health care — delaying or skipping treatment due to cost — gender gap shows, with 52% of men and 64% of women delaying or skipping health care. Underneath these numbers are even greater gaps between men and women.


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


The pharmaceutical landscape for 2012 and beyond: balancing cost with care, and incentives for health behaviors

Transparency, data-based pharmacy decisions, incentivizing patient behavior, and outcomes-based payments will reshape the environment for marketing pharmaceutical drugs in and beyond 2012. Two reports published this week, from Express Scripts–Medco and PwC, explain these forces, which will severely challenge Pharma’s mood of market ennui. Express-Scripts Medco’s report on 9 Leading Trends in Rx Plan Management presents findings from a survey of 318 pharmacy benefit decision makers in public and private sector organizations. About one-half of the respondents represented smaller organizations with fewer than 5,000 employees; about 20% represented jumbo companies with over 25,000 workers. The survey was conducted in the


Patient engagement and medical homes – core drivers of a high-performing health system

It was Dr. Charles Safran who said, “Patients are the most under-utilized resource in the U.S. health system,” which he testified to Congress in 2004. Seven years later, patients are still under-utilized, not just in the U.S. but around the world. Yet, “when patients have an active role in their own health care, the quality of their care, and of their care experience improves,” assert researchers from The Commonwealth Fund in their analysis of 2011 global health consumer survey data published in the April/June 2010 issue of the Journal of Ambulatory Care Management. This analysis is summarized in International Perspectives on


The ACA won’t undermine employer-based health insurance and could help the deficit, says CBO (again)

There’s intriguing fine print in the latest CBO analysis on the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on employer-sponsored health insurance in the U.S. CBO finds there will be 3 to 5 million working Americans without employer-sponsored health insurance due to the implementation of the ACA, according to the report, CBO and JCT’s Estimates of the Effects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the Number of People Obtaining Employment-Based Health Insurance. Originally, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the number of people obtaining health insurance coverage through their employer would be 3 million people lower in 2019 under


Employers shopping for value in health – Towers Watson/NBGH 2012 survey results

Employers expect total health costs to reach $11,664 per active employee this year, over $700 more than in 2011. Employees’ share of that will be nearly $3,000, the highest contribution by workers in history. In 2012, workers are contributing 34% more to health costs than they did 5 years ago. The metric is that for every $1,000 employers will spend on health care in 2012, workers will pay $344 for premium and out-of-pocket costs. Still, health care cost increases are expected to level off to about 6% in 2012, that’s still twice as great as general consumer price inflation. with


Addressing chronic illness can help cure the U.S. budget deficit

Chronic illness represents $3 of every $4 of annual health spending in the U.S. That’s about $1.5 trillion. Living Well With Chronic Illness, a report from The Institute of Medicine (IOM), issues a “call for public health action” to address chronic illness through: – Adopting evidence-based interventions for disease prevention – Developing new public policies to promote better living with chronic disease – Building a comprehensive surveillance system that integrates quality of life measures, and – Enhancing collaboration among health ecosystem stakeholders: health care, health, and community non-healthcare services. The IOM recognizes the social determinants that shape peoples’ health status


The state of health IT in America: thinking about the Bipartisan Policy Center report on health IT

There are few issue areas within the Beltway of Washington, DC, that have enjoyed more support across the political aisle than health care information technology. In 2004, George Bush asserted that every American would/should have an electronic medical record by 2014. Since then, Democrats and Republicans alike have supported the broad concept of wiring the U.S. health information infrastructure. With the injection of ARRA stimulus funds earmarked in the HITECH Act to promote health providers’ adoption of electronic health records, we’re now on the road to Americans getting access to their health information electronically. It won’t be all or even


US doctors less sanguine about the benefits of health IT

To doctors working in eight countries around the globe, the biggest benefit of health IT is better access to quality data for clinical access, followed by reducing medical errors, improving coordination of care across care settings, and improving cross-organizational workflow. However, except for the issue of health IT’s potential to improve cross-organizational working processes, American doctors have lower expectations about these benefits than their peers who work in the 7 other nations polled in a global study from Accenture‘s Eight-Country Survey of Doctors Shows Agreement on Top Healthcare Information Technology Benefits, But a Generational Divide Exists. Accenture polled over 3,700 doctors working in


Health IT in 2012: a dynamic sector in the context of a fiscally-challenged health system

2012 will be a dynamic year for health information technology (health IT) in the U.S., which I outline in my annual health IT forecast in iHealthBeat, the online publication on technology and health care published by the California HealthCare Foundation. The full forecast can be found here. The key headlines for you Reader’s Digest abridged fans are that: The Health IT sector will continue to grow jobs in the ongoing Great Depression, particularly in key competencies in data security, analytics, integration, and EHR implementation. There will be more data breaches, and consumers will be justifiably concerned about data security. Government will more consistently


What’s baked into the Affordable Care Act? Half of Americans still don’t realize there’s no-cost preventive care

The U.S. public’s views on health reform — the Affordable Care Act (ACT) – remain fairly negative, although the percent of people feeling favorably toward it increased from 34% to 37% between October and November. Still, that represents a low from the 50% who favored the law back in July 2010. It’s quite possible that American health citizens’ views on health reform are largely reflective of their more general feelings about the direction of the country and what’s going on in Washington right now, versus what’s specifically embodied in the health care law, according to the November 2011 Kaiser Health


Workplace wellness: the cost of unhealthy behaviors in the American workforce is $623 per worker

The health status of the American workforce is declining. Every year, unhealthy behaviors of the U.S. workforce cost employers $623 per employee annually, according to the Thomson Reuters Workforce Wellness Index. People point to smoking, obesity and stress as the 3 most important factors impacting health costs. Thomson Reuters and NPR polled over 3,000 Americans on their health behaviors, utilization and costs of health care, publishing their results in a summary, Paying for Unhealthy Behaviors in October 2011. 4 in 5 overall — and 9 in 10 of those with over $50,000 annual income — believe that people with healthy behaviors should receive a


Get into the sunshine, church is out – the GAO report on health care price transparency

This morning during my still-dark-at-5:15 am walk, my iPod was motivating me to “get up offa that thing,” as James Brown was motivating me to “release the pressure.” Two minutes into the song, he urges, “Get into the sunshine, church is out.” This brought to mind a publication I’ve taken time to review from the General Accounting Office (GAO) report to the U.S. Congress, Health Care Price Transparency – Meaningful Price Information Is Difficult for Consumers to Obtain Prior to Receiving Care, published in September 2011. While employers and health plans want consumers to become more engaged in their health, a key barrier facing


Health insurance: employers still in the game, but what about patient health engagement?

U.S. employers’ health insurance-response to the nation’s economic downturn has been to shift health costs to employees. This has been especially true in smaller companies that pay lower wages. As employers look to the implementation of health reform in 2014, their responses will be based on local labor market and economic conditions. Thus, it’s important to understand the nuances of the paradigm, “all health care is local,” taking a page from Tip O’Neill’s old saw, “all politics is local.” The Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) visited 12 communities to learn more about their local health systems and economies, publishing their


Walmart’s rollback of health insurance for employees: just another employer facing higher health care costs?

Walmart is increasing premium sharing costs for employees subscribing to health insurance, and cutting the benefit for part-timers. Quoted in the New York Times, a company rep said, “over the last few years, we’ve all seen our health care rates increase and it’s probably not a surprise that this year will be no different. We made the difficult decision to raise rates that will affect our associates’ medical costs.” In so doing, Walmart told the Times that they will, “strike a balance between managing costs and providing quality care and coverage.” MarketWatch wrote that Walmart will increase health care premium costs


Telemedicine is an enabler of health reform

Globally, in developed economies, the challenges of increasing health care costs, access to quality health care, aging citizens and the supply of clinicians are universal. CSC says telemedicine can address these challenges as part of reforming health care delivery and financing throughout the world. In Telemedicine: An Essential Technology for Reformed Healthcare, CSC sees telemedicine as an enabler for health reforms’ goals the world over. In the U.S., telemedicine is explicitly mentioned in the Affordable Care Act. In April 2011, the Federal Register included language about health financing reform that said, “The ACO shall define processes to promote evidence-based medicine and patient engagement, report


The average annual health costs for a U.S. family of four approach $20,000, with employees bearing 40%

Health care costs have doubled in less than nine years for the typical American family of four covered by a preferred provider health plan (PPO). In 2011, that health cost is nearly $20,000; in 2002, it was $9,235, as measured by the 2011 Milliman Medical Index (MMI). To put this in context, The 2011 poverty level for a family of 4 in the 48 contiguous U.S. states is $22,350 The car buyer could purchase a Mini-Cooper with $20,000 The investor could invest $20K to yield $265,353 at a 9% return-on-investment. The MMI increased 7.3% between 2010 and 2011, about the same


Retail health options expand with American Well and Activ Doctors going direct

The traditional venues for retail health are found in pharmacies, grocery chains, and on the ground floor storefronts in hospitals. Joining these bricks-based models are digital, online health ventures that are expanding the definition and space of retail health. This week, two announcements illustrate this phenomenon, from American Well and Active Doctors. American Well, which launched in 2008, is an online physician consultation service in the U.S. that has successfully worked with health plans to channel consults to patients in Hawaii, Minnesota, and New York, among other local programs. Last year, American Well went live with the Rite Aid pharmacy chain in Pennsylvania. This week, American


The online digital health divide persists for African Americans and Hispanics; implications for health reform

Differences in race, ethnicity and income drive online health disparities, according to a poll from The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF)/Harvard University Race and Recession Survey, based on data from early 2011. The underlying issue here is the online digital divide, which still persists for African Americans and Hispanics of lower socioeconomic status. Overall, 84% of U.S. adults use the Internet or email at least occasionally. However, only 69% of African Americans and 64% of Hispanics with less than $40,000 annual income use the Internet or email. However, income flattens Internet/email use: for people who earn over $40K a year, 95% of whites, 94% of African


Even the most wealthy, healthy U.S. citizens worry about future health access and finance

It is no surprise that sicker, poorer people in the U.S. have concerns about how they’ll access and pay for health care in the future. What stands out in the latest Commonwealth Fund Survey of Public Views of the U.S. Health System, published in an April 11, 2011, Issue Brief, is that most U.S. health citizens in the healthiest, wealthiest demographic groups worry about accessing and paying for health care in the future. The chart highlights these findings: overall, 7 in 10 people worry about not getting high-quality care when they will need it, or that they won’t be able to pay