Categories

Tag: David Dranove

The Summer of Sequels

I have seen this film before. Folks get all excited about the potential for vertical integration to save our healthcare system, and then the facts emerge.

The results of the first major ACO demonstration project are in and unless there is some hidden meaning behind all the data, it looks like ACOs may not be the magic bullet that the Obama administration had hoped. The demonstration began under President Bush and the specific payment structure and quality incentive differ somewhat from the ACO rules under the Affordable Care Act, but the main features are the same – give an integrated provider organization a share of the savings if it can hold down Medicare spending while also offering some quality bonuses.

Despite the fact that the participants included ten of the nation’s best known physician-led integrated organizations, less than half were able to lower Medicare costs by the final year of the project and only two demonstrated consistent cost savings. And the methods used to achieve savings – nurse call centers and telephone health checkups – are the sorts of thing that don’t exactly require vertical integration.

There are going to be excuses – the ACOs need to be run by hospitals, they need more time to develop their information technologies, the performance incentives need to be strengthened. But that is the kind of ex post rationalizing one hears any time an experiment fails to support a theory. Maybe the theory (that vertical integration is the panacea for our ailing system) is wrong.Continue reading…

To the Barricades!

Last week, Republican Congressman Paul Ryan unveiled his plan to save Medicare and Medicaid. Supporters hailed the plan as revolutionary; critics decried the plan as revolutionary. For something so revolutionary, it sure is based on some old ideas.

In 1978, Stanford Business School professor (and my soon to be advisor) Alain Enthoven published an article in the New England Journal of Medicine in which he described his “Consumer Choice Health Plan.” Enthoven proposed tax-funded vouchers that all Americans could use to purchase health insurance. The amount of the voucher would be tied to income and individuals could use their own money to purchase a plan that cost more than their voucher. Enthoven even included some rules limiting the ability of insurers to cream skim healthier enrollees; new and improved versions of these rules are written into the insurance exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act.

In 1986 I published a paper that described how states were trying to control Medicaid expenses by regulating the prices they paid to hospitals. I pointed out that states had surprisingly little interest in reining in hospital costs because the federal government paid for half or more of the Medicaid bills. The solution was apparent to any economist – convert the “percent of Medicaid spending” formula to a block grant, so that the states are 100% responsible for the costs of Medicaid expansions.Continue reading…

ACOs and the Looming Antitrust Crisis

Dranove The Federal Trade Commission recently held a day-long workshop focusing on Accountable Care Organizations. ACOs will vertically integrate hospitals and doctors and, in the process, achieve what previous incarnations of vertical integration could not. Let’s forget about whether ACOs will actually fulfill the dream of efficient healthcare delivery and focus on the FTC angle – will the creation of ACOs require the creation of provider market power and should he FTC therefore look the other way?

Many health economists have documented the perils of provider market power. Some of my own research has been instrumental in turning the tide against providers, whose monopolizing tendencies used to get a free pass from the courts. But as policy makers move ACOs to the fore, providers are hoping to sweep antitrust under the rug.

The latest salvo comes from the AHA, which last week released a study challenging two recent studies of hospital market power and then strains to connect their findings to ACOs. The AHA report goes a bit overboard in its criticism of these studies. One study consists of little more than anecdotes and should not be criticized for being anything else. The other study is more complex and the criticism is equally complex, mostly along the lines of “if you had measured things slightly differently, your results would have been slightly different.” The AHA report would have readers believe that these two studies represent the entire body of knowledge about hospital mergers. Having summarily dismissed them, the argument against FTC enforcement would seem complete.

Continue reading…

Hyperventilating about the Harvard/Health Affairs Malpractice Study

A new study from an interdisciplinary team at Harvard University reports that the medical malpractice system costs close to $60 billion annually. The study is published in the policy journal Health Affairs and is receiving lots of attention in the media. The attention is unwarranted. The study is old news, of questionable validity, and prone to misinterpretation. But that hasn’t stopped the medical lobbying complex from hyperventilating about the findings and renewing its call for massive tort reform.

The study provides no surprises to anyone in the health research or health policy arena who pays attention to malpractice. All of the data are in the public domain and most have been reported in previous studies. (For the past decade I have reported essentially the same findings in my health economics class.)

The most important component of malpractice costs is defensive medicine. The Harvard authors put this at $46 billion, or nearly 80 percent of the total, but this is pure guesswork. Researchers cannot agree on the extent of defensive medicine. The Harvard authors base their estimates on seminal studies by Kessler and McClellan. Their work is seminal largely because it was first, not because it was definitive, and later studies often find far less evidence of defensive practice. The Harvard authors try to be conservative by using the low end of the Kessler/McClellan cost estimates. But truth would have been better served if they had stated that the cost of defensive medicine could just as easily be $16 billion or $76 billion.Continue reading…

Registration

Forgotten Password?