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

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

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Americans and Prescription Drugs: Cost, Misuse, and Self-Rationing

In 2017, Americans’ relationship with prescription drugs can be characterized in three ways: cost-rationing, misuse, and abuse. Three new studies about medicines in America paint this picture, brought to light by the AARP, Truven Analytics, and Quest Diagnostics. First, let’s look at the cost issue covered by AARP. AARP tracks the cost of prescription drugs among its constituents, namely people 50 years of age and over. The data were published in AARP’s Rx Price Watch Report, Trends in Retail Prices of Specialty Prescription Drugs Widely Used by Older Americans, 2006-2015. The average annual cost for one specialty medication used for

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Decline in Pharmacy Reputations Related to Prescription Drug Prices, J.D. Power Finds

Cost is the number one driver among consumers declining satisfaction with pharmacies, J.D. Power found in its 2017 U.S. Pharmacy Study. Historically in J.D. Power’s studies into consumer perceptions of pharmacy, the retail segment has performed very well, However, in 2017, peoples’ concerns about drug prices negatively impact their views of the pharmacy — the front-line at the point-of-purchase for prescription drugs. In the past year, dissatisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies related to the cost of drugs and the in-store experience. For mail-order drugs, consumer dissatisfaction was driven by cost and the prescription ordering process. Among all pharmacy channels, supermarket drugstores

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Transparency in Drug Prices, from OTC to Oncology

While on vacation in Bermuda, I found a box of private label ibuprofen for $2.45 for 20 – 200mg tablets, and one for Advil PM for $10.50 for the same number of pills, same strength. I’ve just returned from a lovely week’s holiday. When I travel, whether for work or vacation, it’s always a sort of Busman’s Holiday for me as I love to seek out health destinations wherever I go. So it was natural for me to spot the Dockyard Pharmacy at the port in Hamilton and wander in. I made my way back to the well-stocked pharmacy counter,

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Employer Health Benefits Stable In the Midst of Uncertain Health Politics

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

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Patients Want Doctors To Know How Much Their Drugs Cost

  Patients want their doctors to know what their personal costs for medicines are; 42% of patients also believe their doctor is aware of how much they spend on prescription drugs. However, 61% of these people have not talked with doctors about drug prices. Nor do most doctors have access to this kind of information at the individual patient level. One important tactic to addressing overall healthcare costs, and managing the prescription drug line item in those costs, is discussed in Doctors and Pharmacists: An Underused Resource to Manage Drug Costs for Older Adults, a report on a survey sponsored

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Pharmacies Morph Into Primary Care Health Destinations

The business and mission of pharmacies are being re-shaped by several major market forces, most impactful being uncertain health reform prospects at the Federal level — especially for Medicaid, which is a major payor for prescription drugs. Medicaid covered 14% of retail prescriptions dispensed in 2016, according to QuintilesIMS; Medicare accounted for 27% of retail prescriptions. “But if affordability, accessibility, quality, innovation, responsiveness and choices are among the standards that will be applied to any future changes, pharmacy has strong legs to stand on,” Steve Anderson, president and CEO of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, said in the PoweRx Top 50

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The Art of Emojis in Constipation-Conversation

“Constipation is hard. Talking about it is even harder,” reads a card I received from the senior director of marketing at Synergy Pharmaceuticals. Emojis-meet-direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical promotion in a new campaign from the drug company, which is embarking on a disease education campaign to bring greater awareness to the condition of chronic idiopathic constipation (CIC). This condition impacts 14% of the global population. The messengers for this effort are a cast of emojis who populate a continuum from constipation-to-diarrhea and every poop step in-between. Meet The Poop Troop: Stressed-Out Stooly Clogged Chris Left-Out Lumpy Plugged-Up Paulie Miss La Poop Mr. Smooth Sausage Sally

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The Pursuit of Health Equity and the State of U.S. Health Care

Between 2014 and 2015, death rates increased for eight of the ten leading causes; only death rates caused by cancer fell, and mortality rates for influenza and pneumonia stayed flat. The first chart paints this sobering portrait of Americans’ health outcomes, presented in the CDC’s data-rich 488-page primer, Health, United States, 2016. Think of this publication as America’s annual report on health. Every year, it is prepared and submitted to the President and Congress by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. This year’s report was delivered by DHHS Secretary Tom Price to President Trump and the

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Shopping Food for Health: the 2017 U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends

Wellness is at the grocery store, the vast majority of U.S. health citizens say. 8 in 10 U.S. shoppers are concerned about the nutritional content in the food they eat. As grocery shoppers look for more fresh and less processed foods, grocery stores are seen as trusted allies for meeting wellness needs. Grocers are coupling the growth of more healthy packaged foods in the middle of the store with more fresh and prepared food options that consumers see as healthier than restaurant meals, according to U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2017 from FMI (the Food Marketing Institute) and Hartman Group. While

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Global Drug Sales Forecasts Fall For Next Five Years

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

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Helping People On A Path to Better Health with CVS @Retail

“Helping people on their path to better health” is the mission-mantra of CVS Health. Re-branded from its previous identity as CVS/pharmacy, the organization convened a Health Innovation Summit with its vendor partners whose products fill the front-of-store shelves to empower, inspire and support consumers to manage health and wellness for themselves and their families. I was grateful for the opportunity to provide the first talk for the day, setting the context for the evolving retail health/care landscape with the consumer at the center. The consumer is, at any point in a 24-hour day: a person wearing many hats (a worker,

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

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

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Amazon’s Health Care Building Blocks

In the past few weeks, two announcements from Amazon point to a strategy, whether intended or my dot-connecting, that the ecommerce leader has the health of its customers in its sights. In late May, CNBC first published the news that Amazon was seeking out a candidate to be a general manager for a pharmacy business. Here’s the video telling the story. Getting into the retail pharmacy channel is in itself a huge message to this health industry segment, which is very competitive between chain pharmacies (led by CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid), grocery pharmacies (the largest of which are Kroger and

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Digital Healthcare At the Inflection Point, Via Mary Meeker

Healthcare is at a digital inflection point, asserts   Internet Trends 2017 – Code Conference, by the iconic Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins. Published May 31, 2017, few tech-focused reports have the gravitas or generate the readership that this report does. I’m one of Meeker’s perennial readers, covering this report through my health/care lens here on Health Populi for several years (links to previous posts below). Of the report’s 355 pages, 22 are devoted to healthcare (pages 288-319), a section curated by Noah Kaufman of KP. This section of the report assembles data from a range of publicly available sources,

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Medicines in America: The Half-Trillion Dollar Line Item

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

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

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

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Diet, Surgery and Pharmacy – The Pillars of Healthcare for 500 Years

Healthcare was based on three pillars in 16th century Florence, Italy: diet, surgery, and pharmacy. Five centuries later, not much has changed in Italy or the U.S. But how healthcare gets funded and delivered in the context of these pillars significantly varies between the two countries, and impacts each nation’s health. To put this in context, visiting the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana (the Medici’s Laurentian Library) today in Florence was a trip through medical-surgical history, starting in the second half of the 16th century. The design of this magnificent library’s foyer and reading room was initially conceived by Michelangelo. The reading room

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The Pharmacy as Herbalist – An Italian Prescription

CNN called it, “the ancient perfume store you never heard of,” but the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella had its literal roots in medicinal herbs. With scents wafting onto a 13th century Florence piazza, the Farmacia now operates as a pharmacy storefront for homeopathic and herbal supplements, along with perfumes and home scents. A visit to the pharmacy today is a journey into medicinal time-travel, back to the year 1221. I spent time in the pharmacy today to learn about the literal roots of the shop in medicinal herbs cultivated in a monastery garden and reformulated by monks into

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Pharma Industry Reputation Declines Second Year In A Row

U.S. consumers love technology, retail, and consumer products; automotive company reputations are improving, even with Volkswagen’s emission scandal potentially tarnishing the industry segment. The only corporate sector whose reputation fell in 2016 was the pharmaceutical industry’s, according to the Harris Poll’s 2017 Reputation Quotient report. The line chart illustrates the decline of pharma’s reputation, which puts it on par with its consumer perceptions in 2010 — just before Medicare Part D was legislated and implemented, which improved pharma’s image among American health citizens (especially older patients who tend to be more frequent consumers of prescription drugs). Pharma’s reputation quotient is back

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The Healthcare Reform Issue Americans Agree On: Lowering Rx Costs

Yesterday, the Tweeter-in-Chief President Donald Trump tweeted, “I am working on a new system where there will be competition in the Drug Industry. Pricing for the American people will come way down!” Those 140 characters sent pharma stocks tumbling, as illustrated by the chart for Mylan shares dated 7 March 2017. This is one issue that Americans across the political spectrum agree on with the POTUS. The latest Zogby poll into this issue, conducted for Prescription Justice, found 3 in 4 Americans agree that pharmaceutical companies are “getting away with murder,” as President Trump said in a TIME magazine interview

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

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

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Marketing Medicines: Going Boldly and Accessibly for Rx

Over the past two weeks, we see two marketing campaigns emerge to market medicines: first, from the branded pharmaceutical association PhRMA, the #GoBoldly initiative with a theme of innovation and personalized medicine. Second, there’s a campaign from the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPhA), rebranding the organization as the Association for Accessible Medicines with the tagline, “keep medicines in reach.” What’s this all about? To put these marketing initiatives in context, let’s start with the publication of Express Scripts 2016 Drug Trend Report. “Drug trend” is short-hand for growth in prescription drug spending, year on year. The first graph illustrates the price index

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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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Pharma’s Branding Problem – Profits Over Patients

Nine in 10 U.S. consumers think pharma and biotech put profits above patient interests, according to the latest Harris Poll studying reputation equity across organizations serving health care. Notice the relatively low position of the green bars in the first chart (with the exception of the impression for “strong financial performance); these are the pharma/biotech consumer impressions. The health industry stakeholders consumers believe would more likely place them above making money are health care providers, like doctors and nurses, hospitals, and pharmacists. Health insurance companies fare somewhat better than pharma and biotech in this Poll, although rank low on social

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

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

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Replacing Opioids with Digital Tech for Pain at CES 2017

Pain management is a growing story at CES 2017. I covered the topic of Sleep and Pain at CES one year ago in the Huffington Post, and this year, the category has grown in both number of innovations and mode of pain management. At CES 2017, there were exhibitors of FDA-approved devices, sleep-and-pain focused tech, wristbands for relaxation and nausea-management, and a $5,999 device for calming meditation that’s being used in addiction programs. What’s driving growth and acceptance of this health tech segment is the opioid crisis which has become a public health epidemic across the U.S. The maps with increasing orange

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

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

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The Shift to Healthcare Value in a Post-Trump America, via PwC

In President Donald Trump’s preliminary thoughts about health care in America, the landscape would feature a mix of tax credits, health savings accounts, high-risk pool, state Medicaid block grants, and regulatory control shifting from the Federal government to the states, according to PwC’s forecast for the new year, Top health industry issues of 2017. PwC frames the 2017 top healthcare issues under the overall strategic imperative of value, with three categories: Adapting for value Innovating for value Building for value. The ten top issues that will shape U.S. healthcare for the next year, PwC expects, will be: An uncertain fate for the

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You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry, Pharma: Donald Trump is Coming to Town

Based on a TIME magazine interview conducted today with President-Elect Donald Trump, the pharmaceutical and life science industries may expect to find coal in their Christmas stocking, and tougher pricing constraints in 2017. “I’m going to bring down drug prices,” Mr. Trump said, quoted on the TIME website naming him Person of the Year. “I don’t like what’s happened with drug prices.” As CNN put it, “Trump put the entire drug industry on notice on Wednesday in an interview with Time.” In fact, Donald Trump’s campaign website talked about drug importation as one potential tactic consumers could potentially use to

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A Growing Medicines Bill for Global Health Consumers to 2021

The global market for spending on medicines will high $1.5 trillion by 2021, according to the latest forecast from QuintilesIMS. Drug spending grew about 9% in the past two years, and is expected to moderate to 4 to 7 percent annually over the next five years. That dramatic 9% growth was heavily driven by new (expensive) specialty drugs to treat Hepatitis C (e.g., Harvoni and Sovaldi) and cancer therapies that hit the market in the past couple of years. There will be a “healthy level” of new innovative meds coming out of the drug pipeline in the next several years

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

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

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Fighting Cancer with Hormel Vital Cuisine – Food as Medicine Update

Think “Hormel,” and you may have visions of SPAM, Chi-Chi’s salsa, Skippy peanut butter, and Dinty Moore corned beef hash. So what’s Hormel doing in the title of a Health Populi post, anyway, you might ask? Like many food companies, Hormel is broadening its product portfolio expanding with health. The company isn’t just moving to healthy eating for wellness’s sake, but boldly going where most food companies haven’t yet gone: developing products for people battling cancer. Vital Choices, a well-titled line of frozen meals, was developed by Hormel in collaboration with the American Cancer Society, Cancer Nutrition Consortium, the Culinary Institute

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Both Healthcare Prices and Use of Services Driving Up Spending

Health care spending grew 4.6% in 2015, higher than the rise in either 2013 or 2014, according to the 2015 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report published by HCCI, the Health Care Cost Institute. The key contributors to health care spending by percentage were, first and foremost, prescription drugs which rose 9% in the year — notably, specialty medicines like anti-infective drugs (such as those for Hepatitis C and HIV) costing on average $83 per “filled day.” This cost doubled from $53 per person in 2012 to $101 per person in 2015. Hospital costs saw the second greatest percentage price increase

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

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

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Self-Care Is the Best Healthcare Reform

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

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

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

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Most Americans Are Trying To Lose Weight: Obesity on the Minds of Americans

60% of Americans are currently trying to lose weight. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that when asked, “what’s the most serious health problem in the United States?” Americans say it’s obesity, tied with cancer, and ahead of heart disease and diabetes. Overweight and obesity are top-of-mind for most Americans, according to research conducted by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and NORC at the University of Chicago. This research has created two reports which can be accessed at the link. The survey, conducted among 1,509 consumers in August and September 2016, found that Americans’ understanding of

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

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

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43% of Americans Worry About How They’ll Pay for Health Care

4 in 10 Americans are worried about how they’ll pay for health care, according to Americans’ Views on Current Trade and Health Policies, a poll conducted jointly between the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Politico. There are no significant party differences between Democrats and Republicans regarding peoples’ worrying about their ability to pay medical costs in the next year. But there are differences in geography, with 53% of people in the South significantly more worried about health care costs compared with other regions of the U.S. Who’s to blame for the high costs of health care that

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How Value and Consumerism Will Reshape the $5 Trillion Healthcare Market

Existing healthcare industry players – the stakeholders of hospitals, physicians, pharma/life sciences, medical device manufacturers, and health plans – are operating in a whirlwind of change. While there are many uncertainties in this period of transition, there’s one operational certainty: learn to do more with less payment. That’s due to the growing pursuit of payors paying for value, not on the basis of volume or what’s “done” to a patient in care delivery. At the same time, another force re-shaping healthcare is interest and focus on wellness and health management. Combined with the growing health economic value proposition, wellness and

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Costs of Care and the ACA Top Voters’ Healthcare Issues

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

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What EpiPen Pricing and Parents Teach Us About Social Media In Health

Mylan, the marketer of the EpiPen, dropped the price by 50% this week. This response was due in large part to pressure that outraged parents’ call-outs on social media put on the company. Tara Parker-Pope in the NY Times Well blog pointed this out in her column, How Parents Harnessed the Power of Social Media to Challenge EpiPen Prices. Online petitions, patient and parent social networks, and patient activists’ ability to leverage social media are the new tools of health and patient engagement. EpiPen is a must-have medicine for people who deal with serious allergy and asthma conditions, many of

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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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Most US Doctors Say They Ration Patients’ Healthcare

Rationing has long been seen as a common practice in national, single-payer health systems like the UK’s National Health Service and Canada’s national health insurance program (known as “Medicare”).  However, over half of U.S. physicians say they ration care to patients. In a peer-reviewed column in the Journal of General Internal Medicine published in July 2016, Dr. Robert Sheeler and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic, University of Iowa, and University of Michigan, found that 53% of physicians surveyed personally “refrained” in the past six months from using specific clinical services that would have provided the “best patient care” due to cost.

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The Drug Epidemic-Testing and Data Arm the Battle

More than 40 Americans die every day from prescribed opiate overdoses, Dr. Tom Frieden of the CDC has recognized. The harms of pain-killing drugs have been substantial: Dr. Frieden observed, “the prevalence of opioid dependence may be as high as 26% among patients in primary care receiving opioids for chronic non-cancer-related pain.” There were more deaths due to drug overdoses in 2014 than in any previous year, 61% of which involved opioid pain relieving medications such as oxycodone and hydrocodine, and heroin which has grown in use over the past few years. The CDC has recommended that healthcare providers do

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US Health Care Prices Would Be Sticker-Shocking For Europeans

The average hospital cost per day in the U.S. is $5,220. In Switzerland it’s $4,781, and in Spain that inpatient day looks like a bargain at $424. An MRI in the U.S. runs, on average, $1,119. In the UK, that MRI is $788, and in Australia, $215, illustrated in the first chart. Drug prices are strikingly greater in the U.S. versus other developed nations, as shown in the first chart for Xarelto. If you live in the U.S. and have a television tuned in during the six o’clock news, chances are you’ve seen an ad for this drug featuring Arnold

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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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More Patients Morph Into Financially Burdened Health Consumers

Health care payment responsibility continues to shift from employers to employee-patients, More of those patients are morphing into financially burdened health consumers, according to TransUnion, the credit agency and financial risk information company, in the TransUnion Healthcare Report published in June 2016. Patients saw a 13% increase in their health insurance deductible and out-of-pocket (OOP) maximum costs between 2014 and 2015. At the same time, the average base salary in the U.S. grew 3% in 2015, SHRM estimated. Thus, deductibles and OOP costs grew for consumers more than 4 times faster than the average base salary from 2014 to 2015.  In

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The State of Health Benefits in 2016: Reallocating the Components

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

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Financial Toxicity: The High Cost of Cancer Drugs in the U.S.

Two news items published in the past week point to the yin/yang of cancer survivorship and the high prices of cancer drugs. The good news: a record number of people in the US are surviving cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. That number is 15.5 million Americans, according to a study in the cancer journal CA. Note the demographics of cancer survivors: One-half are 70 years of age and older 56% were diagnosed in the past ten years, and one-third in the past 5 years Women were more likely to have had breast cancer (3.5 mm), uterine cancer (757,000),

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Costs and Connection At the Core of Consumers’ Health-Value Equations

Cost ranks first among the factors of selecting health insurance for most Americans across the generations. As a result, most consumers are likely to shop around for both health providers and health plans, learned through a 2016 Xerox survey detailed in New Insights on Value-Based Care, Healthcare Attitudes 2016. The younger the consumer, the more important costs are, Xerox’s poll found, shown in the first chart. Thus, “shopping around” is more pronounced among younger health consumers — although a majority people who belong to Boomer and Greatest Generation cohorts do shop around for both health providers and health insurance plans —

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Finding Affordable Care In a Deductible World: The Growing Role of Alternative Therapies

Faced with the increasing financial responsibility for healthcare payments, and a desire to manage pain and disease via “natural” approaches, more U.S. consumers are seeking and paying for non-conventional or naturopathic therapies — complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Health and Healing in America, The Harris Poll conducted among U.S. adults, learned that two in three Americans see alternative therapies as safe and effective. 1 in 2 people see alternative therapies as reliable. And most people believe that some of these treatments, like chiropractic and massage therapy, should be reimbursed by health insurance companies. Seven in 10 Americans have used alternative

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Big and Bigger Pharma – Politics, Pricing and Patients

Pressures on the pharmaceutical industry are coming from every stakeholder touchpoint, driving companies to merge, set prices high for short-term gains, and (finally) put more resources toward providing patients services. Let’s call out just a few of the events from the past couple of weeks which, together, paint the current rocky landscape for pharma and life science companies: Last week on April 28th, termed “healthcare’s $45 billion day,” three big M&A deals hit the financial markets: Abbott sought to acquire St. Jude Medical (worth $30 bn alone), AbbVie looked to buy Stemcentrx for just under $6 bn, and Sanofi tagged

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Expect Double-Digit Rx Cost Growth to 2020 – Implications for Oncology

In the U.S., spending on prescription medicines reached $425 bn in 2015, a 12% increase over 2014. For context, that Rx spending comprised about 14% of the American healthcare spend (based on roughly $3 trillion reported in the National Health Expenditure Accounts in 2014). We can expect double-digit prescription drug cost growth over the next five years, according to forecasts in Medicines Use and Spending in the U.S. – A Review of 2015 and Outlook to 2020 from IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics. The biggest cost growth driver is specialty medicines, which accounted for $151 bn of the total Rx spend

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Digitizing Self-Healthcare with Google, Pfizer, Under Armour, Walgreens and WebMD

How can digital technologies enable self-healthcare in novel ways? This was the theme of a meeting sponsored by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare and hosted by Google, with the title, “Advancing Consumer Health through New Technology and Next Generation OTC Healthcare” held on 12th April 2016 at Google offices in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. Pharmaceutical brand drugs switching to over-the-counter packaged goods, the Cellscope Otoscope used by parents checking their young children’s earaches, connected shoes and earbuds for athletic enhancement, and omni-channel retail shopping….these are a few of the signals we see emerging to enable consumers’ to drive healthy behaviors, wellness and self-healthcare. Speakers

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What Retail Financial Services Can Teach Healthcare

“Banks and insurance companies that cannot keep pace will find their customers, busy pursuing flawless service models and smart solutions, have moved on without them and they are stranded on the wrong side of the digital divide — from which there will be no return,” according to a report on The Future of Retail Financial Services from Cognizant, Marketforce, and Pegasystems. You could substitute “healthcare providers” for “banks and insurance companies,” because traditional health industry stakeholders are equally behind the consumer demand for digital convenience. This report has important insights relevant to health providers, health plans and suppliers (especially for

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The Rise and Rise of (Specialty) Prescription Drug Prices

Prices for the most commonly used branded prescription drugs grew from a base index of $100 in 2008 to to $264 in 2015, based on the Express Scripts 2015 Drug Trend Report. This is illustrated by the upwardly-sloping blue line in the chart. In contrast, the market basket of the most commonly used generic drugs fell from the $100 index in 2008 to $29.73, shown by the declining black line in the graph. The $112.05 is calculated from a market basket of commonly purchased household goods which cost $100 in 2008, a relatively flat line which puts the 264% rise in

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Prescription Drugs Will Exceed 17% of US Healthcare Spending in 2016

Spending on prescription drugs in America in 2015 hit nearly one-half trillion dollars, some 16.7% of national health spending. The latest report on Observations on Trends in Prescription Drug Spending was published this week by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). For over a decade in the U.S., the prescription drug component of national health spending was relatively flat, about 10% of overall health costs. In the past couple of years, the proportion of healthcare costs allocated to Rx medications is fast-increasing, as the line chart shows: while

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Digital Health in the Skies Over Europe

“A full medical team via your mobile,” leads an article on clickdoctors.se, covering a Spanish mHealth start-up. This, in the February 2015 (Febrero 2015) issue of ling, the Vueling airlines magazine. I am flying from Florence, Italy, to London via Vueling airlines, heading from an art-and-Slow Food-filled holiday to a couple days of work in the UK. So imagine my surprise as I head to work on digital health and food projects in London reading this article enroute, in the lovely skies flying above the Alps. The story begins: “In 2050 Spain will be, along with Japan, one of the countries

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Beauty Meets Pharma in Retail Health – At Coin in Florence

All over the world, people define their health and wellness across many dimensions…physical, mental, financial, and appearance. In Florence, Italy, I happened upon a riff on this last component on “look good, feel good” at the Coin Department store located on Via Del Calzaiuoli in central Firenze. Welcome to Coin’s Health&Beauty Store. The two photos tell a story about health, where we live, work, play, and shop, the mantra for public health focused on the social determinants of health beyond healthcare. Here at Coin, adjacent to the holistic brands of Clarins and other luxury labels, is a pharmacy along with

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Health Consumers Grow Clinical and Financial Engagement Chops

About one-half of consumers want to partner with doctors instead of allowing their physicians to make treatment decisions for them, according to a report from the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Health care consumer engagement: No “one-size-fits-all” approach. 1 in 4 people (25%) want to make treatment decisions themselves. Call that clinical health engagement. But even more people, 6 in 10, want to be financially-health engaged: 58% believe doctors should explain treatment costs before decisions are made, shown in the first chart. Most consumers would be comfortable talking about health care costs with doctors, and believe doctors should provide and explain the

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A Growing Market for DIY Digital Health for Sleep and Pain

Sleeplessness and chronic pain are two epidemics that are mutually-enforcing, as the chart shows. The 2015 Sleep in America Poll found that pain is a key factor in Americans’ “sleep debt:” 21% of people have experienced chronic pain and lose 42 minutes of sleep due to it; 36% have experience acute pain, resulting in 14 minutes of lost sleep each night. People dealing with both conditions project-manage their health in numerous ways, multitasking with over-the-counter meds, prescription drugs (from “lite” to narcotic), meditation, yoga, homeopathic remedies, aural relaxation, Mozart, and more. There are a growing number of digital health tools now

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The 2016 THINK-Health Health/Care Forecast

It’s time to get the tea leaves out and mash up trends in my world of health, health care, technology, policy and people for 2016. We’ll start with the central player: people, consumers, patients, caregivers all. Health consumerism on the rise.  People – call us patients, consumers, caregivers – will take on even more financial and clinical decision making risk in 2016. Growing penetration of high-deductible and consumer-driven health plans will push (not just nudge) people into the role of health care consumers, and the emerging businesses and programs serving the transparency market for price and quality will gain traction

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The Magic of Getting Fit Starring Penn Jillette (With Help From Withings)

Health is where we live, work, play, pray and have fun. And if you’re Penn Jillette, the magician who collaborates with Teller, it took more than sleight of hand or a magic trick to lose 100 pounds — one-third of his body weight. He did it, according to this video, with the help of hard work, and using activity tracking tools from Withings. Unlike many people who quantify themselves for wellness and fitness, Penn did so to avoid having a medical procedure (i.e., the implantation of a stomach sleeve for weight loss) and also to reduce the six meds he

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Prescription Drug Costs Will Be In Health Benefits Bullseye in 2016

Prescription drug costs have become a front-and-center health benefits cost issue for U.S. employers in 2015, and in 2016 the challenge will be directly addressed through more aggressive utilization management (such as step therapy and prior authorization), tools to enable prescription intentions like DUR, and targeting fraud, waste and abuse. Consumers, too, will be more financially responsible for cost-sharing prescription drugs, in terms of deductibles and annual out-of-pocket limits, as described in the PBMI 2015-206 Prescription Drug Benefit Cost and Plan Design Report, sponsored by Takeda. The Pharmacy Benefit Management Institute has published this report for 15 years, which provides neutral, detailed survey

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U.S. National Health Spending Up Due to More People Covered and Higher Drug Costs

National health spending in American grew by 5.3% in 2014, hitting the $3 trillion mark. This represented an up-tick nearly twice the growth rate of 2.9% in 2013, the slowest rate of growth in 55 years, according to the latest analysis of the U.S. health economy published by Health Affairs. The first chart illustrates the factors that contribute to that 5.3% growth in health spending. The two largest factors were medical prices and so-called “residual use and intensity.” The medical price increase portion was 1.8% in 2014, up from 1.3% in 2013. The use and intensity component was attributable to

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Americans Like Generic Drugs Over Brands

“What’s in a name?” Juliet asked in Shakespeare’s play. For medicines consumers in the U.S., not much. Most Americans prefer generics products, according to The Harris Poll’s survey. 7 in 10 U.S. adults choose generics over brands when given a choice. 3 in 10 people say they would “always” choose generics, whether a prescription drug or an over-the-counter product (store brand, private label). While most people across all age groups would choose generics over brand ames for meds, parents with children in the households would more likely choose a brand  name (36% with vs. 28% without kids). Still, 66% of

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The U.S. Will Cover the Bulk of Medicines Spending in 2020

U.S. spending on medicines will approach $590 billion in 2020, increasing 34% over 2015, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics projects in its forecast, Global Medicines Use in 2020. Growth in spending will be attributable to innovation (new products), price increases and some patent losses of exclusivity (e.g., branded drugs going generic). The U.S. will cover the bulk of drugs spending in 2020 at 41% of the world medicines market, shown in the first pie in the first chart. U.S. medicines spending dwarfs any other country or region in the world, including China which is expected to account for 11% of

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The Average Price of a New Specialty Drug Exceeds Median U.S. Annual Income; and a Tweet from Pam Anderson

The average price for a specialty drug was $53,384 in 2013; the average household income was $52,250. Thus, even allocating 100% of a family’s annual earnings to pay for a drug wouldn’t stretch far enough to cover it in 2013, nor would it do so today in 2015. This sober health economic artifact comes from the latest Rx Price Watch Report from the AARP, detailing cost trends for prescription drugs across all segments — generics, brands and specialty drugs.  Contrast, as well, the $53K for the average specialty drug with the median 2013 Social Security benefit payout of $15,526 and median Medicare

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Health Care Costs Are #1 Pocketbook Issue, and Drug Prices Top the Line Items

Consumers are most concerned about health care costs among their kitchen table issues, above their ability to afford the utility bill, housing, food, or gas and transportation costs. The October 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll finds 4 in 10 Americans finding it difficult to afford health care, including 16% of people earning $90,000 a year or more. Underneath that worrying healthcare cost umbrella are the price of prescription drugs, which the majority of Democrats, Independents, and Republicans all agree need to be “limited” by government regulation. Ensuring that the public have affordable access to high-cost drugs for chronic conditions

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In 2016 Prescription Drugs Will Be The Fastest-Growing Component of Healthcare Costs

In 2016, prescription drug trend will rise over 11%. In contrast, medical trend growth for high-deductible health plans is expected to be 8%, hospital services 8.2%, and physician services 5.5%,   according to the 2016 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey released in September 2015. By definition, “trend” is the forecast of per capita health insurance claims cost increases that incorporate many factors include price inflation, utilization, government-mandated benefits, and new therapies and technologies. Consider the upper right portion of the infographic which illustrates Segal’s data: the 3 “capsule” diagrams show that specialty drug trend is anticipated to be 18.9% in

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Health consumers’ cost increases far outpace wage growth

American workers are working to pay for health care costs, having traded off wage increases for health premiums, out-of-pocket costs and growing high deductibles. Welcome to the 2015 Employer Health Benefits survey conducted annually by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) and Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET). Premiums are growing seven times faster than wages.  The report calculates that high-deductibles for health insurance have grown 67% from 2010 to 2015. In the same period, wages grew a paltry 10%, while the Consumer Price Index rose 9%. The first chart illustrates that growing gap between relatively flat wages and spirally health

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U.S. Consumers’ View of Pharma Goes Negative in 2015

Americans’ views of the pharmaceutical industry have fallen in the past year, with negative perceptions outweighing positive ones, shown in the line graph from the Gallup Poll. Pharma’s low-lying reputation among consumers sits among others including the legal field, healthcare, oil and gas, and the Federal government which ranked lowest across all 25 sectors Gallup analyzed. Gallup surveyed 1,011 U.S. adults in in the first week of August 2015 via telephone. Since 2003, Gallup notes, the pharma industry has consistently ranked in the bottom third of industries operating in the U.S. Pharma respect is in the eye of the consumer-beholder

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Wegmans tops pharmacy satisfaction – and it’s not even a pharmacy

Think of the word “pharmacy,” and what names come to your mind? CVS Health, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, perhaps. But it’s Wegmans who’s #1 across all pharmacy brands and types, according to the 2015 J.D. Power Pharmacy Study. The big improvement in pharmacy satisfaction in 2015 has been among supermarket drug stores, up to an index score of 851 (of 1,000), the highest consumer score. The satisfaction score for chain pharmacies increased a small 2 points, whereas satisfaction for two other channels for pharmacies — mass merchandisers and mail order — both fell from 2014. It may come as no surprise to Health

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People Like Physicians, Food and Banks. Pharma? Not much.

Most consumers think favorably when they picture doctors, food manufacturers, banks, and airlines. But the pharma industry continues to be lumped with Big Oil and health insurance in the minds of U.S. consumers, industries for which more than 50% of people in America share unfavorable impressions. The August 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll focuses a lot on the pharmaceutical industry. The link to the poll is here: http://kff.org/health-costs/poll-finding/kaiser-health-tracking-poll-august-2015/ Key findings from the survey tell a story about a health citizenry highly suspicious of pharma: 72% of Americans think that drug costs are unreasonable 74% of people think patients in

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How value will impact the business of pharma

The top 25 life science companies grew a paltry 1% in 2014, and 70% of recent brand launches underperformed analysts’ expectations. The introductory page of a new report from KPMG describes, in a single sentence, the very challenging market environment for bio/life sciences: “The pharmaceutical industry is caught between a blockbuster-driven past and a future comprising precision medicine, curative therapies, and payment for outcomes. The years of consistent double-digit growth and unconstrained pricing power are fading into memory.” The assertively titled, “Change in pharma? Not optional,” offers 10 “integrated imperatives” for the pharma industry to follow to best respond to

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Collaboration in health/care drives value – in & beyond bio/pharma

“Tomorrow [drug makers] may not get paid for the molecule, they may only get paid for the outcome,” expects Brian Niznik of Qualcomm Life. He’s quoted in a report from PwC’s Health Research Institute, 21st Century Pharmaceutical Collaboration: The Value Convergence. What Brian’s comment recognizes is the growing value-based environment for healthcare, which couples purchasers driving down drug costs via discounts and stringent formulary (approved drug list) contracts, and growing patient responsibility for paying for prescription drugs — especially financially costly for specialty drugs that are new-new molecules. But as Brian points out, if the high-cost molecule doesn’t perform as

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Digital health mainstreams at CE Week 2015

Digital health is a fast-growing category of consumer electronics, and many new mobile and wearable health devices were featured at the 2015 CE Week held in New York City. The major themes of the “Fresh Gear” unveiled at the meeting included connected cars, connected home devices, 3-D printing, and a growing array of wristbands, apps, and wearable devices focused on the already-crowded health/wellness segment, and the emerging health/care area. The five I’ll focus on are good examples of digital health tech’s aimed at mainstream consumers shopping at retail at the middle of the market: an area that’s ripe to be served.

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Most Americans say drug prices are unreasonable and blame company profits

Three-quarters of U.S. adults say the cost of prescription drugs are unreasonable, and blame high medication prices set by profitable pharmaceutical companies according to the Kaiser Family Foundation Health Tracking Poll for June 2015. Profits made by drug companies are the #1 reason Americans cite among major factors that contribute to the price of prescription drugs (among 77% of people), followed by the cost of medical research (64%), the cost of marketing and advertising (54%), and the cost of lawsuits (49%). Regardless of the cost, 71% of people say that health insurance should “always” pay for high-cost drugs. At the same

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Telehealth goes retail

In the past couple of weeks, a grocery store launched a telemedicine pilot, a pharmacy chain expanded telehealth to patients in 25 states, and several new virtual healthcare entrants received $millions in investments. On a parallel track, the AMA postponed dealing with medical ethics issues regarding telemedicine, the Texas Medical Association got stopped in its tracks in a case versus Teladoc, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule for the Medicare Shared Savings Program that falls short of allowing Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to take full advantage of telehealth services. These events beg the

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All women are health workers

The spiritual and emotional top the physical in women’s definition of “health,” based on a multi-country survey conducted in Brazil, Germany, Japan, the UK and the U.S. The Power of the Purse, a research project sponsored by the Center for Talent Innovation, underscores women’s primary role as Chief Medical Officers in their families and social networks. The research was sponsored by health industry leaders including Aetna, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Cardinal Health, Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson & Johnson, Merck & Co., Merck KGaA, MetLife, Pfizer, PwC, Strategy&, Teva, and WPP. The study’s summary infographic is titled How the Healthcare Industry Fails

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Health care costs for a family of four in the U.S. reach $24,671 in 2015

The cost of a PPO for a family of four in America hits $24,671 in 2015, growing 6.3% over 2014’s cost. The growth in health care costs will be driven by high specialty prescription drug costs. The 6.3% growth rate in health costs is a stark increase compared with the twelve month April 2014-March 2015 decline in the Consumer Price Index of -0.1%. Welcome to the 2015 Milliman Medical Index, subtitled “Will the typical American family of four be driving a ‘Cadillac plan’ by 2018?” The MMI gauges the average cost of an employer-sponsored preferred provider organization (PPO) health plan and includes all

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Supersize Rx: the impact of specialty drug spending and Hep C in 2014

The number of people in the U.S. spending over $100,000 a year on prescription drugs tripled in 2014, according to Super Spending: U.S. Trends in High-Cost Medication Use, from The Express Scripts Lab. Express Scripts is a pharmacy benefits management company that manages over one billion prescriptions a year. The company analyzed prescription drug claims for 31.5 million health plan members for this study, in commercially insured, Medicare, and Medicaid plans. The big-dollar story in 2014 was Hepatitis C, with a relatively small patient population but a super-sized drug spend as the first chart shows: a very tall blue bar (Rx

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Happy 25 million, MinuteClinic and CVS Health!

Call it a Silver Million Anniversary, if you will: The MinuteClinic just saw its 25 millionth patient. This is a milestone in the evolution and growth of retail health in America, a trend-marker in this growing health industry segment that will become increasingly used by consumers, patients, parents, and caregivers. CVS bought the MinuteClinic in 2006, when the organization treated seven illnesses. Today, MinuteClinic offers 65 services and vaccinations in nearly 1,000 clinics located in 31 states and Washington, DC. In addition, MinuteClinic will grow the number of clinic locations in both existing and new markets. The company will open

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It’s a retail health world: consumers at the helm of health/care

Retail health v1.0 encompassed the pharmacy, then embraced urgent care and retail health clinics co-located in brick-and-mortar pharmacy chain stores. In v2.0, retail health encompasses all health/care, really, because people, patients and consumers are essentially self-insured up to the point when their health plan kicks in some cash. The high-deductible health plan era is ushering in the retail health era, broadly writ. Hospitals & Health Networks magazine (HHN) ran a story titled Think Like a Retailer to Engage Patients, covering founder of WEGO Health Jack Barrette‘s and my panel presentation at the 2015 HIMSS conference in Chicago last week. Writer

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Health is where we live, work, and shop…at Walgreens

Alex Gourley, President of The Walgreen Company, addressed the capacity crowd at HIMSS15 in Chicago on 13th April 2015, saying his company’s goal is to “make good health easier.” Remember that HIMSS is the “Health Information and Management Systems Society” — in short, the mammoth health IT conference that this year has attracted over 41,000 health computerfolk from around the world. So what’s a nice pharmacy like you, Walgreens, doing in a Place like McCormick amidst 1,200+ health/tech vendors?  If you believe that health is a product of lifstyle behaviors at least as much as health “care” services (what our

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Consumers trust retailers and techs to manage their health – as much as health provider

40% of U.S. consumers trust Big Retail to manage their health; 39% of U.S. consumers trust healthcare providers to manage their health. What’s wrong with this picture? The first chart shows the neck-and-neck tie in the horse race for consumer trust in personal health management. The Walmart primary care clinic vs. your doctor. The grocery pharmacy vis-a-vis the hospital or chain pharmacy. Costco compared to the chiropractor. Or Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung or UnderArmour, because “digitally-enabled companies” are virtually tied with health providers and large retailers as responsible health care managers. Welcome to The Birth of the Healthcare Consumer according

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Building the health ecosystem: new bedfellows coming together

2015 is already becoming a year where bedfellows of different stripes are joining together to build a health care ecosystem well beyond hospitals, doctors and health plans. Announcements launched last week at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, and coming out this week at the J.P. Morgan Conference in San Francisco, the first two weeks of 2015 reveal that new entrants and legacy health stakeholders are crossing corporate and cultural chasms to (try and) solve challenges that prevent us from getting to that Holy Grail of The Triple Aim: improving health care outcomes, driving down per capita costs,

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Pharma industry update – drug spending, R&D costs, generics, and Botox

The U.S. leads in pharmaceutical drug spending. Global growth in pharmaceuticals will spike in 2014, according to the IMS Institute on Healthcare Informatics report on global pharma spending. The U.S. spends more per capita (per person) than any nation in the study, at about $1400 US dollars expected in pharmaceutical spending in 2018, owing to fewer patent expiries (the end, for now, of the patent cliff) and rising prices (think: specialty drugs like Sovaldi and oncology drugs). The next-biggest spender on Rx will be Japan, at just over $800 per person in pharmaceutical spending in 2018. The “EU5” (UK, Germany, France, Italy

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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

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Health-committed consumers look to food to be healthy, wealthy, and wise

There’s an emerging health-committed consumer, one of over 70% of people who believe they’re less healthy than the generations who came before them. 9 in 10 consumers overall believe that what you eat impacts how you feel. Those who are health-committed spend 70% of their grocery budgets on healthy products, read food labels, spend more and shop more frequently than low health-committed consumers, according to Healthy, Wealthy, & Wise, a survey report from Dunnhumby. The number of health-committed consumers globally grew by 38% since 2009. Most consumers look first to themselves to drive health, then to doctors, and third to food companies

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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

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Health and financial well-being are strongly linked, CIGNA asks and answers

The modern view on wellness is “having it all” in terms of driving physical, emotional, mental and financial health across one’s life, according to CIGNA’s survey report, Health & Financial Well-Being: How Strong Is the Link?  The key elements of whole health, as people define them are: – Absence of sickness, 37% – Feeling of happiness, 32% – Stable mental health, 32% – Management of chronic disease, 15% – Financial health, 14% – Living my dreams, 9%. 1 in 2 people (49%) agree that health and wellness comprise “all of these” elements, listed above. This holistic view of health is

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Specialty pharmaceuticals’ costs in the health economic bulls-eye

This past weekend, 60 Minutes’ Leslie Stahl asked John Castellani, the president of PhRMA, the pharmaceutical industry’s advocacy (lobby) organization, why the cost of Gleevec, from Novartis, dramatically increased over the 13 years it’s been in the market, while other more expensive competitors have been launched in the period. (Here is the FDA’s announcement of the Gleevec approval from 2001). Mr. Castellani said he couldn’t respond to specific drug company’s pricing strategies, but in general, these products are “worth it.” Here is the entire transcript of the 60 Minutes’ piece. Today, Health Affairs, the policy journal, is hosting a discussion

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Dr Eric Topol on the digital democratization of health care

Moore’s Law is coming to medicine. And it will look and feel a lot like Uber: with rich technology underpinning,  consumer-service oriented and friendly, and shaking up the professionals at the front line of the business (from taxi drivers to physicians). Eric Topol, physician and editor-in-chief at Medscape, told a standing-room-only audience at the kickoff of the 8th annual Health 2.0 Conference that the democratization of health care is coming based on consumers’ use of eight drivers: sensors, labs, imaging, physical exams, access to medical records, transparency of costs, and digital pills. Dr. Topol referred to the cover ot TIME

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NephCure – a rare disease community that’s patient-powered

The burden of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is growing, with one in 10 U.S. adults having some level of CKD.  End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is the last phase of CKD, when dialysis or an organ transplant are required. Nephrotic syndrome is one of the most common forms of CKD, and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis — FSGS — is the fastest-growing cause of nephrotic syndrome in children, and the second-leading cause of kidney failure in children. I spoke with Gigi Peterkin, a longtime colleague of mine who has helped guide my own digital footprint in health. Gigi is Global Director of Marketing at

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Over-the-counter drugs – an asset in the collaborative, DIY health economy

Nations throughout the world are challenged by the cost of health care: from Brazil to China, India to the Philippines, and especially in the U.S., people are morphing into health care consumers. Three categories of health spending in the bulls-eye of countries’ Departments of Health are prescription drugs, and the costs of care in hospitals and doctors’ offices. In the U.S., one tactic for cost containment in health is “switching” certain prescription drugs to over-the-counter products – those deemed to be efficacious and safe for patients to take without seeking treatment from a doctor. Over-the-counter drugs (OTCs) are available every

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Consumers’ spending on medicine grows – the retailization of health care

People are spending more out of their own pockets on health care, and particularly for medications. There are two sides to the medicine-spending coin: there’s the low-end which are generic drugs, most of which carry a co-pay of $10 or less. Then there’s the high end of specialty pharmaceuticals, a fast-growing category of very expensive products for which many consumers dearly pay — if and when they choose to take their doctors’ recommendations. In Medicine use and shifting costs of healthcare, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics reports that while (inexpensive) generic drugs comprise 86% of prescriptions in the U.S., it’s high

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