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.

Advertisements

Viewpoints: ‘Big Risks’ Of Buying Private Insurance With Medicaid Dollars; One Month Of Sequestration


US residents with employer-based private healt...

US residents with employer-based private health insurance, with self insurance, with Medicare or Medicaid or military health care and uninsured in Million; U.S. Census bureau: Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Medicaid, Medicare, Health Reform, States, Health Costs, Women’s Health, Uninsured

Apr 01, 2013

The New York Times: Using Medicaid Dollars For Private Insurance
The Obama administration and Republican officials in several states are exploring ways to redirect federal money intended to expand Medicaid, the main public insurance program for the poor, and use it instead to buy private health insurance for Medicaid recipients. The approach could have important benefits for beneficiaries and for the future of health care reform. But the idea also carries big risks. Federal officials will need to enforce strict conditions before agreeing to any redirection of Medicaid dollars that were originally intended to enlarge the Medicaid rolls (3/31).

Forbes: The Arkansas-Obamacare Medicaid Deal: Far Less Than It First Appeared
When Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D.) first announced that he had reached a deal with the Obama administration to use the Affordable Care Act‘s private insurance exchanges to expand coverage to poor Arkansans, it seemed like an important, and potentially transformative, development. … A Good Friday memo from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, however, splashes cold water on that aspiration. It’s now clear that the Beebe-HHS deal applies a kind of private-sector window dressing on the dysfunctional Medicaid program, and it’s not obvious that the Arkansas legislature should go along (Avik Roy, 4/1).

USA Today: ‘Sequester’ Still Looks Stupid, As Planned: Our View
Congress and the White House exempted some programs when they finalized the original deal, and the spending bill they agreed to last month to keep the government open to Sept. 30 spared some vital functions — food inspections, for example. But not enough. Nor does the sequester seriously address the major spending driver: health care costs. The best outcome would be for the sort of anger that forced Congress and the White House to re-open the government in 1996 to push Congress and the White House back to the table on a realistic budget deal this year. The outlines of that deal have been obvious for too long: Trim entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, overhaul the hopelessly inefficient and corrupt tax code to bring in more money, and cut defense and domestic programs with a scalpel instead of an ax (3/31).

USA Today: ‘Sequester’ Needed To Rein In Spending: Another View
Let’s get real on the “sequester.” One month in, not much has changed. Nor is it likely to. Rather than devastating the federal government, the sequester is necessary to rein in the unbridled growth of federal spending. The sequester is certainly flawed. It’s a blunt instrument leaving the biggest spending drivers, entitlements, virtually untouched (Alison Fraser, 3/31).

The Wall Street Journal: The Liberal Medicare Advantage Revolt
A big political story this year is likely to be Democrats turning on their White House minders as the harmful and unpopular parts of the Affordable Care Act ramp up. On the heels of the recent 79-20 Senate uprising against the 2.3% medical device tax, now comes the surge of Democrats pleading on behalf of Medicare Advantage. Liberals have claimed for years to hate this program, but by now Advantage provides private insurance coverage to more than one of four seniors. And those seniors like it (3/29).

The Chicago Tribune: Scrubbing Medicaid
In January, Illinois launched an effort to scrub ineligible people from the state’s Medicaid rolls. … The initial results of this audit are … astonishing: Of the first 20,500 recipients screened by an outside contractor, the auditors recommend that 13,709 be removed from the rolls. Yes, that’s two-thirds of the first group screened, flagged as ineligible to receive their current Medicaid benefits. How so? In some cases, the recipients make too much money to qualify. In other cases, they don’t live in Illinois (3/31).

The New York Times: The Campaign to Outlaw Abortion
Anti-abortion groups have been trying to re-impose restrictions on abortion rights for 40 years, but the Legislature and governor of North Dakota have taken this attack on women’s reproductive health and freedom to a shocking new low … The clear message is the need for a stepped-up effort to hold state officials electorally accountable for policies that harm women in states where right-wing Republicans control the machinery of government (3/29).

The Seattle Times: State Senate Health Care Committee Should Vote On Abortion Measure
After the Senate Health Care Committee hearing on the Reproductive Parity Act Monday, members should vote for it before a key deadline Wednesday. State lawmakers do not need to complicate this issue. House Bill 1044 would maintain insurance coverage for women seeking abortions after federal health reforms take effect (3/31).

Los Angeles Times: The Starbucks Syndrome In Healthcare
Medicare statistics, for example, reveal that Los Angeles leads the nation in the amount of medical services provided during the last six months of a person’s life. Healthy seniors here are also big consumers of healthcare, getting about 65% more MRI studies and utilizing ambulances three times as often as seniors elsewhere. Commercial insurance data point to similar patterns in the healthcare of the younger population in Southern California. What explains such avid use of medical services. … Part of the problem is that Angelenos approach healthcare as they do other kinds of consumption. They expect their CT scans, when they want them, in much the same way they expect their decaf caramel extra hot low-fat macchiatos. (Daniel J. Stone, 3/31).

Los Angeles Times: Bump In The Road For Healthcare Law
One figure in a new report neatly summarizes the potential pitfalls for Obamacare: 30.1%. That’s how much premiums could rise next year, on average, for the roughly 1.3 million moderate- and upper-income Californians who buy individual health insurance policies. Most of that increase is attributable to the insurance reforms in the 2010 law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. The bill’s title is not ironic — its provisions will slow the growth of healthcare costs and lead over time to a more rational and efficient system. But the transition will have some rough patches, and we’re about to hit one (3/29).

Houston Chronicle: The Affordable Care Act Is A Poor Solution
Senator Orrin Hatch has speculated that the Affordable Care Act was designed to fail. A close look at the Act’s contents and history suggests he may be right. The Affordable Care Act is nothing more than a political stopgap, a waypoint on the road to something that might work. Republicans could stand around complaining or we could seize this opportunity to determine what comes next (Chris Ladd, 4/1).

Richmond Times-Dispatch: Moving Forward On Medicaid: More Important Than Ever
As a community physician for more than eight years, I’ve seen how medical care helps keep families strong and secure. When parents and their kids can access health care — and have a way to pay for it — they are much less likely to face unpaid bills or have to put off doctor visits. Instead of worrying about how their family is going to survive, they can focus on how their family is going to thrive. Unfortunately, too many Virginians — more than a million, in fact — find that getting health care is a real challenge because they don’t have insurance (Dr. Christopher Lillis, 4/1).

The Wall Street Journal: The Skinny On Anti-Obesity Soda Laws
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-obesity campaign to ban the sale of certain sugary drinks in large servings, especially sodas, was struck down last month in state court. A proposal for a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sweetened beverages also floundered in Vermont’s House of Representatives in February. … As an economist, I have two big gripes with such paternalistic public-health initiatives: The proposals aren’t grounded in data or compelling economic models, and soda taxes might catalyze a dismal chain reaction, with escalating government intrusions on personal freedom (Michael L. Marlow, 3/31).

Oregonian: Don’t Take Portland’s Sick-Leave Mistake Statewide: Agenda 2013
By voting to mandate paid sick leave last month, Amanda Fritz and her city council colleagues furthered Portland’s reputation as a place where businesses fear to tread. One way to protect city employers burdened by this mandate is to adopt a similar requirement statewide, erasing a competitive advantage a restaurant in, say, Beaverton might have over one in Portland. In other words, bail out Portland by making things tougher all over (3/31).

USA Today: ER Key To Curb Painkiller Abuse
Most opioids are prescribed in the doctor’s office, which has prompted some states to restrict primary care physicians like myself from prescribing them and to encourage referrals to pain specialists. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken these curbs a step further by focusing on emergency departments. In January, he announced a voluntary initiative to limit prescription of opioid painkillers in the emergency rooms of the city’s 11 public hospitals. This approach should be expanded across the nation. From 2004 to 2009, the number of emergency visits in New York City hospitals related to opioid abuse or misuse more than doubled (Dr. Kevin Pho, 3/31).

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.

Years After Law, Kennedy Continues Mental Health Coverage Parity Battle


English: Centre for Mental Health logo

English: Centre for Mental Health logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Politics, Mental Health, Insurance, Delivery of Care, States

Apr 01, 2013

A mental health parity law passed in 2008, yet one of the measure’s key backers — former Congressman Patrick Kennedy — continues the fight for equal coverage of mental illness. He is meeting mixed success.WBUR: CommonHealth: Kennedy Calling For Equal Coverage Of Mental Health — Yes, Still
Mental health “parity” is officially a done deal. Congress passed a law back in 2008 requiring health insurers to treat mental health on a par with physical health, covering care for mental illness and addiction no less than they cover physical care. Many states have also passed their own mental health parity laws. So why has former Congressman Patrick Kennedy of Rhode Island — lead sponsor of the 2008 bill together with his late father, Sen. Ted Kennedy — spent much of the last couple of years criss-crossing the country to advocate for mental health parity? (3/29).

In Texas, mental health funding faces a tough road ahead after budget gaps appear —

The Associated Press: Texas Mental Health Funding Leaves Gaps
Standing in a courtyard by the state Capitol, Sen. Judith Zaffirini reached out to touch the Mental Health Bell, forged in the 1950s from chains once used to shackle asylum patients, brought to Texas this year on display as a 300-pound symbol of hope. … But while advocates for the mentally ill roundly cheer their gains, it is becoming clear the money will go only so far. Lawmakers are scrambling to repair a patchwork system spread among community centers, state agencies and all levels of the criminal justice system (Brick, 3/30).

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.

Louisiana Health Secretary Submits Resignation


, member of the United States House of Represe...

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

Topics: States, Medicaid, Politics

Apr 01, 2013

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s health secretary — Bruce Greenstein — is resigning amid a probe into a Medicaid contract he awarded to a former employer.

The Associated Press: La. Gov. Jindal’s Health Secretary Resigns As Probes Continue Into Medicaid Contract
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s health secretary and close ally, Bruce Greenstein, is resigning amid ongoing state and federal investigations into the awarding of a Medicaid contract to a company where Greenstein once worked, officials said Friday. The Jindal administration canceled the nearly $200 million contract with Maryland-based CNSI last week after details leaked of a federal grand jury subpoena involving the contract award (3/29).

New Orleans Times Picayune: DHH Secretary Bruce Greenstein Resigns In Wake Of Federal Investigation
Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein has resigned, a statement from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s office confirmed Friday. Speculation Greenstein would resign was rampant after news broke he allegedly used his influence as department head to secure a contract for a former employer. … Asked whether the hospitals secretary was forced out, Jindal spokesman Sean Lansing said in an email, “The governor did not ask Bruce to resign.” He later added that no one in the administration or among Jindal’s advisers asked Greenstein to resign (McGaughy, 3/29).

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.

Concerns Raised About Effect Of Medicare’s Readmission Penalty


English: Created by vectorizing Image:Medicare...

English: Created by vectorizing Image:Medicare and Medicaid GDP Chart.png with Inkscape (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English:

English: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing New York Times as depicted ...

Image via CrunchBase

Topics: Delivery of Care, Health Costs, Hospitals, Marketplace, Medicare, States

Apr 01, 2013

The New York Times explores the new policy that penalizes hospitals if they have too many patients return within 30 days. Meanwhile, in Maryland, officials are weighing an ambitious plan to control hospital costs.

The New York Times: Hospitals Question Medicare Rules On Readmissions
While federal statistics show the effort is beginning to reduce costly and unnecessary readmissions, a growing chorus of critics is asking whether the government policy, which penalizes hospitals that have high readmission rates, is unfair. They are also questioning whether hospitals should be responsible for managing the personal lives of patients once they are released — or whether they should focus on other ways to improve care (Abelson, 3/29).

Kaiser Health News: Maryland’s Tough New Hospital Spending Proposal Seen As ‘Nationally Significant’
Maryland officials have proposed what analysts call the most ambitious initiative in the country to control soaring medical spending, a plan that would bring relief to employers and consumers footing the bill while bluntly challenging the state’s powerful hospital industry. The blueprint, which needs the Obama administration’s approval, would use Maryland’s unique rate-setting system to keep hospital spending from growing no faster than the overall economy — roughly half its recent rate of increase (Hancock, 4/1).

In other health industry news, federal officials release more details about hospital problems and a federal watchdog focuses on Medicare spending for equipment.

The Associated Press: Reports Of Hospital Mistakes Now Available Online
At St. Charles Medical Center in Bend, (Oregon) employees failed to notice that a cleaning machine was accidentally reprogrammed to leave out the disinfection cycle. Eighteen patients received colonoscopies with scopes that had been only rinsed with water and alcohol. … Hospitals make mistakes. When they are reported — by patients, employees or family members — state and federal officials investigate. Now, for the first time, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has released those inspection reports for hospitals nationwide from the past two years. The release was in response to requests from the Association of Health Care Journalists, which has compiled them into a searchable database available to the public
(Peterson, 3/31).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: IG Report Slaps Medicare For Not Recouping More Overpayment For Equipment
Medicare has made nearly $70 million in overpayments to suppliers of consumer medical equipment and more than half of that money is unlikely to be recovered, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General (Carey, 4/1).

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.

States Boost Laws, Regulations Governing Abortion


English: Histogram of abortions by gestational...

English: Histogram of abortions by gestational age for the United States in 2004. Horizontal axis is weeks and vertical axis is thousands of abortions. Data is taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss5609a1.htm#tab6 Updated version of Image:US abortion by gestational age 2002 histogram.svg, but data is almost identical. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time series of induced abortions in Norway

Time series of induced abortions in Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Topics: Delivery of Care, Women’s Health, Politics, States

Apr 01, 2013

States have passed a record number of abortion bills since 2011, including curbs on clinics and chemically induced abortions, and in North Dakota, a ban on abortions as early as six weeks. On the other side, New York and Washington are weighing measures to ensure abortion rights.

The Wall Street Journal: States Harden Views Over Laws Governing Abortion
States are becoming increasingly polarized over abortion, as some legislatures pass ever-tighter restrictions on the procedure while others consider stronger legal protections for it, advocates on both sides say. … At the same time, Washington state is weighing a measure that would require all insurers doing business in new health insurance exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act to reimburse women for abortions. And New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is seeking to update his state’s laws to clarify that women can obtain an abortion late in pregnancy if they have a medical reason (Radnofsky, 3/31).

The Associated Press: Abortion Clinics Need License, Check For Coercion
Michigan abortion clinics will need a state license and must check to make sure women are not being bullied or pressured into getting an abortion under a new law that took effect Sunday. Other regulations make clearer the proper disposal of fetal remains, after anti-abortion advocates expressed concern some were not disposed of with dignity (Eggert, 3/31).

In Montana, lawmakers are seeking to cut funding to some organizations that provide women’s health care.

The Associated Press: Women’s Health Funding Faces Cuts: House Budget Excludes $4.5M For Title X Funds
When Jennifer Strickley first learned she had ovarian cancer, it was Planned Parenthood that detected the disease. She had been going to a clinic in Billings (Montana) for about a decade, as the discounts on Pap tests, contraception and regular checkups provided an essential break for the single mom working without health insurance as a waitress to support her two kids … Strickley is one of 26,000 Montanans who rely upon clinics that receive federal family planning and preventive health funds in the form of Title X. … But the Montana House unanimously passed a state budget that excludes these funds — some $4.5 million — accounting for 30 percent of the budgets for 20 community clinics and five Planned Parenthood Clinics in the state (4/1).

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.

Supporters Of Medicaid Expansion Fight To Be Heard In Some Statehouses


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

Apr 01, 2013

Mississippi House Democrats blocked passage of the state’s Medicaid budget Sunday to force a vote on expanding the program, while supporters and critics do battle in Missouri, Montana and Arkansas.

Clarion Ledger: Mississippi House Democrats Block Medicaid Budget
House Democrats on Sunday night blocked passage of the $840 million Medicaid budget, a move to try to force a vote on expanding the program and to block Gov. Phil Bryant from running it by executive order. “The federal government is offering venture capital to expand the largest industry we’ve got in this state, and we can’t even get a vote and debate on it,” said Rep. Steve Holland, D-Plantersville. “So we’re doing what we have to do. We are going to have an up-or-down vote on Medicaid expansion — it may be in a special session — or we are not going to have Medicaid” (Pender, 3/31).

The Associated Press: FACT CHECK: Corbett And The Medicaid Expansion
For now, (Pennsylvania) Gov. Tom Corbett has decided against embracing an expansion of Medicaid that could extend taxpayer-paid health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income adult Pennsylvanians. The 2010 Affordable Care Act pledges to shoulder the lion’s share of the cost of the expansion, but Corbett says he is still concerned about the cost to Pennsylvania taxpayers and cautions that the federal government cannot always be trusted to deliver on its funding promises to states. Here is a look at the validity of some of his claims about the Medicaid expansion (Levy, 3/31).

The Associated Press/Kansas City Star: Medicaid Debate In Missouri Gets Hyperbolic
If Missouri expands Medicaid health coverage for lower-income adults, could it create a crisis for public schools? If Missouri fails to expand Medicaid, could it result in millions of Missourians‘ tax dollars going to health care in other states? In the tense Medicaid debate at the Missouri Capitol, both assertions have been put forth as plain facts by opponents or supporters of a plan that could add as many as 300,000 adults to the Medicaid rolls. But they might best be labeled as hyperbole (Lieb, 3/31).

Helena Independent Record: Democrats Vow To Pass Medicaid Expansion As Republicans Say It Will Blow State Budget
Last week, Republicans on two legislative committees used their majorities to kill Democrat-sponsored bills to expand the program starting in 2014. Gov. Steve Bullock and fellow Democrats vow to keep searching for a way to pass the expansion, although it could be difficult, as long as Republican majorities at the Legislature oppose it (Dennison, 3/31).

The Associated Press: Health Care, Tax Cuts Issues Colliding (AP Analysis)
How do you convince Republicans who took over the Arkansas Legislature by vowing to fight “Obamacare” to support government-subsidized health insurance? The same way you convince a Democratic governor who has said his budget can’t include more tax cuts to agree to a large package of reductions. As Arkansas lawmakers approach what could be the final weeks of this year’s session, it’s becoming clearer that proposals to expand health insurance to low-income workers and to cut $100 million in taxes are colliding (DeMillo, 3/31).

Baltimore Sun: Health Reform’s Changes Stir Worries As They Take Shape In Md.
State lawmakers put finishing touches last week on plans to apply federal health care reforms in Maryland come Jan. 1. But who becomes newly insured — and at what cost —still worries stakeholders as the state speeds toward becoming one of the first to adopt a revamped system. Under legislation passed by the House of Delegates and Senate, more low-income Marylanders would qualify for government-funded health care through Medicaid, and an existing tax on health insurers would sustain a new insurance marketplace once federal support wanes (Dance, 3/31).

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.

Image representing Associated Press as depicte...

Image via CrunchBase