Study Finds Health Care Spending Will Rebound When Economy Picks Up


Responses to the question: "For future pr...

Responses to the question: “For future presidential elections, would you support or oppose changing to a system in which the president is elected by direct popular vote, instead of by the electoral college?” Data from Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation-Harvard University Survey of Political Independents, conducted May-June 2007, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/politics/interactives/independents/post-kaiser-harvard-topline.pdf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The analysis by The Kaiser Family Foundation says the slowdown in
health spending over the past several years was largely driven by the
economic malaise.

Los Angeles Times: Study: Growth In Health Spending, Curbed By Recession, To Rebound

A new study attributes a slowdown in U.S. healthcare spending to the
recent recession and predicts more rapid growth as the economy
strengthens. The report issued Monday by the Kaiser Family Foundation
seeks to shed light on the reasons behind the recent drop-off. The
analysis found that economic factors related to the recession accounted
for 77% of the reduced growth in national healthcare spending, which
totaled an estimated $2.8 trillion in 2012 (Terhune, 4/22).

The Washington Post’s WonkBlog: Here’s Why Health-Care Costs Are Slowing

The answer has huge implications for the federal budget, which now faces
threats of really fast growth in Medicare, Medicaid and other health
programs. If those programs grow like they have for the past few years —
at the same rate as the rest of the economy — then that frees up lots
of funds for whatever other investments the federal government wants to
make (Kliff, 4/22).

The Hill: Study Predicts Rise In Healthcare Cost Growth By 2019

A stronger U.S. economy will contribute to a rise in the growth of
healthcare costs over the next six years, ending the current
record-breaking slowdown, according to a new study. The Kaiser Family
Foundation (KFF) predicted that by 2019, annual healthcare cost growth
will be closer to historic averages — over 7 percent compared to 3.9
percent between 2009 and 2011 (Viebeck,4/22).

CQ HealthBeat: Nation’s Health Spending Problem Remains Unsolved, Kaiser Analysts Say

Speculation that the nation’s health spending problem has somehow been
solved or cut down to size is unrealistic, says a new Kaiser Family
Foundation study that concludes 77 percent of the slowdown stems from
the weak economy. … But the analysts had a bit of good news. They said
the chilling effect on individual health spending due to the weak
economy will continue for a few more years (Reichard, 4/22).

(KHN is an editorially independent project of The Kaiser Family Foundation.)

Meanwhile, a different analysis is released on health issues–

Reuters: S&P Sees Pension Funding Burden Of Nonprofit Healthcare

Pension liabilities, expenses and contributions remain a burden on U.S.
not-for-profit hospitals despite improvements in the investments used to
fund the retirement systems, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services
said on Monday. Large pension funding demands will likely “be a drag on
the sector for several years,” it added (Lambert and Trokie, 4/22).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary
of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The
full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

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GOP Opposition To Health Law Hurts Efforts To Court Hispanics


Obamacare Protest at Supreme Court

Obamacare Protest at Supreme Court (Photo credit: southerntabitha)

Topics: Health Costs, Insurance, Medicaid, Politics, Health Reform, States

Apr 01, 2013

The Los Angeles Times reports that Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest supporters of the health law. Meanwhile, AP examines the hard opposition to the overhaul in the South, led by Republican governors representing some of the poorest and least healthy states.

Los Angeles Times: Healthcare An Obstacle As Republicans Court Latinos
As Republican leaders try to woo Latino voters with a new openness to legal status for the nation’s illegal immigrants, the party remains at odds with America‘s fastest-growing ethnic community on another key issue: healthcare. Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama’s healthcare law (Levey, 3/31).

The Associated Press: The South: A Near-Solid Block Against ‘Obamacare’
As more Republicans give in to President Barack Obama’s health-care overhaul, an opposition bloc remains across the South, including from governors who lead some of the nation’s poorest and unhealthiest states…So why are these states holding out? The short-term calculus seems heavily influenced by politics (Barrow, 3/31).

The Hill: GOP Seeks To Benefit From Sebelius Admission On Healthcare Cost Hikes
Republican campaign officials are claiming new momentum for 2014 after the Obama administration admitted that some consumers could see their health insurance premiums rise under healthcare reform. This week’s surprise concession from federal Health secretary Kathleen Sebelius played into the GOP’s No. 1 message against the Affordable Care Act — that it will raise healthcare costs. The remark triggered a rush of campaign messaging against vulnerable Democrats who supported healthcare reform (Viebeck, 3/31).

Restricting Resident Work Hours May Not Reduce Errors


English: Real photo postcard of rubble of the ...

English: Real photo postcard of rubble of the Los Angeles Times Building after the 1910 bombing Los Angeles Times bombing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Los Angeles Times building in downtow...

English: Los Angeles Times building in downtown Los Angeles, California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Delivery of Care, Hospitals, Marketplace, Quality

Mar 26, 2013

Research suggests that limiting the length of shifts may not cut medical error rates, but restricting hours for doctors in training may offer other reasons for concern.

Los Angeles Times: Limiting Hospital Intern Shifts May Not Cut Errors, Studies Find
It’s been 15 years now, but Dr. Sanjay Desai remembers the brutal hours he worked as a young medical intern and how he struggled with fatigue while treating patients. “There were days we were easily working 36 hours straight and you couldn’t remember how you got home — if you got home,” Desai said. “It wasn’t safe.” Times have changed. Regulations now demand that teaching hospitals limit first-year trainees to 16-hour shifts. By reducing work hours, medical authorities reasoned, interns would get more sleep, suffer less fatigue and commit fewer mistakes (Morin, 3/25).

Reuters: Resident Work House Limits Introduce New Concerns
Restrictions on work hours for doctors-in-training may end up inadvertently limiting their educational opportunities and increasing errors, new research suggests. Long shifts and lack of sleep among medical residents have long been a concern, leading the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to introduce restrictions on work hours in 2003 and again in 2011 (Pittman, 3/25).

Studies Gauge Health Law’s Impact On Consumer Savings, Rx Drug Coverage


Topics: Supreme Court, Insurance, Marketplace, Health Reform, States

Dec 05, 2012

The Commonwealth Fund concluded that consumers saved $1.5 billion in 2011 as a result of a provision that limits how much insurers can spend on expenses not related to medical care. Meanwhile, Avalere Health found that drug coverage plans offered on health exchanges will vary by state.

Los Angeles Times: ‘Obamacare’ Saves Consumers Nearly $1.5 Billion
Consumers saved nearly $1.5 billion in 2011 as a result of rules in President Obama’s healthcare law that limit what insurance companies can spend on expenses unrelated to medical care, including profit, a new analysis shows. Much of those savings — an estimated $1.1 billion — came in rebates to consumers required because insurers had exceeded the required limits. The study by the New York-based Commonwealth Fund also suggests that the Affordable Care Act forced insurers to become more efficient by limiting their administrative expenses, a key goal of the 2010 law (Levey, 12/5).

Modern Healthcare: Reform Law Aiding Insurance Consumers: Report
A new report estimated insurance consumers benefited from $1.5 billion in either rebates or reduced costs last year, due to requirements of the healthcare overhaul. But insurers warned that money could have funded anti-fraud and quality-improvement programs. Research supported by the Commonwealth Fund, which backed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, concluded that the law’s medical loss-ratio requirements implemented in 2011 provided big savings—mainly in the individual insurance market. Individual market policyholders had “substantially reduced premiums” due to the law’s requirement that insurers spend at least 80% of premium dollars on direct healthcare or quality-improvement activities, or else pay a rebate to their customers, according to the report (Daly, 12/5).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Study: Prescription Drug Coverage Under Obama Health Care Law Could Vary Markedly By State
A new study says basic prescription drug coverage could vary dramatically from state to state under President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. That’s because states get to set benefits for private health plans that will be offered starting in 2014 through new insurance exchanges (12/4).

The Hill: Analysis Finds Big State-By-State Swings In Prescription Coverage
President Obama’s signature healthcare law requires insurance plans to cover a range of prescription drugs, but the number of drugs covered will vary widely from state to state, according to a new analysis from Avalere Health. The Affordable Care Act requires plans to cover a set of “essential health benefits,” including prescription drugs. To prevent benefit mandates from driving up premiums, the Health and Human Services Department has said it will let states fill in most of the details about their essential-benefits packages (Baker, 12/4).

In other coverage related to the health overhaul –

MPR: Federal Health Care Law
The federal health care overhaul is here to stay after surviving an epic legal battle at the United States Supreme Court and the contentious 2012 elections. But that does not mean the massive law will remain intact, as enacted. Congress may be tempted to raid some of the Affordable Care Act’s funding as part of a deal to avert the collection of automatic tax hikes and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff.” The court battles are hardly over; legal challenges involving issues the Supreme Court did not address when it upheld the law in June, 2012, are already underway. But for the most part, key provisions, such as the individual mandate requiring most Americans to obtain health insurance, will take effect January 1, 2014 (Stawicki, 12/4).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

English: President Barack Obama's signature on...

English: President Barack Obama’s signature on the health insurance reform bill at the White House, March 23, 2010. The President signed the bill with 22 different pens. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Texas Congressional Candidates Will Face Off In Spanish Debate, Health Policies Among Key Issues


English: Olympia Snowe official portrait

English: Olympia Snowe official portrait (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

, member of the United States Congress.

, member of the United States Congress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Medicare, Politics, Health Reform, States

Sep 26, 2012

News outlets also report on down ballot issues and developments.

Los Angeles Times: Candidates For U.S. Congress Will Debate In Spanish
Texas’ first congressional candidate debate in Spanish could help decide one of the closest races in the country. Incumbent Republican Rep. Francisco “Quico” Canseco, 63, a tea party conservative, will face challenger Pete Gallego, 50, a Democratic state representative, Tuesday night in an hourlong debate aired by Spanish-language network Univision. … “I want the voters to know that during my time in office I have consistently voted for legislation that will lower taxes, create jobs and preserve Medicare for future generations,” Canseco continued.  “One of the many ways I’ve fought to preserve Medicare is by voting to repeal ‘Obamacare'” (Hennessy-Fiske, 9/25).

The Wall Street Journal: GOP Fight For Control Of Senate Hits Snags
Republicans entered this election season expecting to pick up enough Senate seats to overcome the Democrats‘ 53-47 majority. Six years ago, a big Democratic surge had given the party victories in Republican-leaning states such as Montana, Virginia and Missouri. This year, Republicans figured that they could take those seats back. But a string of surprising developments—including Republican Olympia Snowe giving up her Maine seat and Indiana’s Dick Lugar losing in a GOP primary—have made many races unexpectedly competitive (Bendavid, 9/25).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

English: Francisco "Quico" Canseco

English: Francisco “Quico” Canseco (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

American Academy Of Pediatrics Says Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks


Topics: Delivery of Care, Public Health

Aug 27, 2012

Shifting its stance, the pediatricians’ group now says the benefits of circumcising boys to protect against disease outweighs the risk, but that the decision should be up to parents.

The New York Times: Benefits Of Circumcision Are Said To Outweigh Risks
The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its stance on infant male circumcision, announcing on Monday that new research, including studies in Africa suggesting that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against H.I.V., indicated that the health benefits outweighed the risks (Rabin, 8/27).

Los Angeles Times: PediatriciansGroup Shifts In Favor Of Circumcision
The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its official position on the contentious issue of infant circumcision, stating Monday that the medical benefits of the procedure for baby boys outweigh the small risks (Brown, 8/26).

The Associated Press/Washington Post: Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks And Insurers Should Pay; Pediatricians Revise Stance
The nation’s most influential pediatricians group says the health benefits of circumcision in newborn boys outweigh any risks and insurance companies should pay for it. In its latest policy statement on circumcision, a procedure that has been declining nationwide, the American Academy of Pediatrics moves closer to an endorsement but says the decision should be up to parents (8/27).

WBUR: Influential AAP Says Health Benefits Of Circumcision Trumps Risk
The American Academy of Pediatrics new policy statement today asserting that the health benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks will inevitably set off a firestorm of reaction. Even while the pediatrics group continued to reiterate in their paper that circumcision is a personal family decision best left up to “parents in consultation with their child’s doctor” folks who oppose the procedure and equate it with genital mutilation will certainly not be pleased (Zimmerman, 8/27).

This is part of Kaiser Health News‘ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.

American Academy of Pediatrics

American Academy of Pediatrics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anxiety Index: Survey Examines Baby Boomers’ Concerns About Medicare


Topics: Health Costs, Aging, Medicare, Politics

Aug 10, 2012

The AARP found that health expenses ranked fourth on the list of concerns.

Los Angeles Times: High Anxiety: Half Of Baby Boomers Doubt They Will Ever Retire
Worries about health care, inflation, taxes, nest eggs and more have boomers scoring a 70% on AARP’s anxiety index, compared to 59% of younger voters and 46% of people ages 65 or older (Hsu, 8/9).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Survey: Baby Boomers Worry About Medicare’s Future, Want More Detail From Candidates
The organization asked registered voters, including an oversample of people age 50-plus, about their five top financial concerns to measure what they call an ‘Anxiety Index.’ Health expenses ranked fourth on the list of concerns after rising prices, taxes and financial security in retirement (Rao, 8/9).

This is part of Kaiser Health News’ Daily Report – a summary of health policy coverage from more than 300 news organizations. The full summary of the day’s news can be found here and you can sign up for e-mail subscriptions to the Daily Report here. In addition, our staff of reporters and correspondents file original stories each day, which you can find on our home page.