Politicians and pundits everywhere call for more disease prevention as a way to reduce healthcare costs. Certainly you cannot argue with the logic that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Or can you? It turns out that you can not only argue against that so-called logic, but – just as with cancer detection, which may have been done to excess in some protocols — you can mathematically prove that, at least for asthma, it takes a pound of prevention to avoid an ounce of cure.
The database of the Disease Management Purchasing Consortium Inc. (www.dismgmt.com) tracks both asthma drugs and visits to the emergency room (ER) and hospital stays associated with asthma. The average cost of an attack requiring an ER visit or inpatient stay is about $2000. The average cost to fill a prescription to prevent or recover from an asthma attack is about $100. It turns out that asthma attacks serious enough to send someone to the ER or hospital are rare indeed. In the commercially insured population, these attacks happen only about 3-4 times a year for every thousand people. (The rate is much greater for children insured by Medicaid; additional resources spent on prevention could very well be cost-effective for them.)
For a million-member health plan, that might be 3000 or 4000 attacks Yet that same million-member health plan is paying for hundreds of thousands of prescriptions designed to prevent or recover from asthma attacks. Depending on the health plan, the ratio of drugs prescribed to asthma events serious enough to generate an ER or hospital claim ranges from 60-to-1 to 133-to-1. Using those statistics of $2000 per event and $100 per prescription, a health plan would pay, on average, anywhere from $6000 to $13,300 to prescribe enough incremental drugs to enough incremental people to prevent a $2000 attack.
Averages lump together people at all risk levels. Surely some of those people really are at high enough risk of an attack that they are already inhaling their drugs regularly to prevent one, and have a “rescue inhaler” nearby. By definition their risk of attack is much greater than for low-risk people. Assume, very conservatively, that low-risk patients have a risk of attack which is half that of the average patient. This means that putting most low-risk patients on drugs costs $12,000 to $26,600 for every $2000 attack prevented.
The Obama administration just released another set of regulations, the “Draft Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters for 2014.”
Among many other things in the 373 pages, they have announced their proposed assessments to cover the cost of running the federal exchange.
In order for the feds to administer the new insurance exchanges, they have proposed a fee of 3.5% of premium on each insurance policy sold in the exchanges (page 224).
This from the Kaiser Foundation 2011 “Primer” on Medicare:
“The costs of administering the Medicare program have remained low over the years––less than 2% of program expenditures.”
Many times over the years I have heard from advocates of a single-payer Canadian-style health plan that Medicare proves the federal government can do it cheaper than the private sector and should therefore take it all over.
So much for the notion that the feds are the model of insurance efficiency.
Under the new health care law’s Minimum Loss Ratio (MLR) provisions, insurance companies are limited to no more than 20% of premiums for expenses in the small group and individual markets.
Digitale Innovationen mit echtem Mehrwert für die Patienten sind europaweit auf dem Vormarsch. In Deutschland gibt es jedoch viele Vorbehalte gegenüber neuen Technologien. Alexander Schachinger, Gründer und Geschäftsführer von healthcare42.com und Moderator auf der Konferenz Health 2.0 Europe, über die Chancen digitaler Gesundheitsdienste in Deutschland.
Herr Schachinger, derzeit bereiten Sie mit healthcare42 und Publicis Healthware / razorfish eine Haushaltsbefragung zur Nutzung von Gesundheitsinformationen im Internet durch chronische Patienten vor. Worauf genau zielt die Studie ab?
Alexander Schachinger: In Deutschland wurde noch nie repräsentativ und basierend auf der internationalen E-Patientforschung untersucht, wie sich die Nutzung von Gesundheitsinformationen durch Chroniker auf deren Wissen, ihre Einstellungen und ihr Verhalten auf dem Gesundheitsmarkt, also vor allem gegenüber Ärzten und Apothekern auswirkt. Hier wollen wir eine Forschungslücke schließen, denn das Thema „E-Patient“ ist in Deutschland bisher sträflich vernachlässigt worden. Unter anderem in Zusammenarbeit mit der KWHC GmbH haben wir bereits eine Online-Befragung mit 3.500 E-Patienten durchgeführt. Wir konnten zeigen, dass das Internet, der Austausch in Foren und ähnliches Auswirkungen auf die Patienten haben, insbesondere auf das Arztgespräch und auf die Entscheidung für oder gegen eine bestimmte Therapie.
Wie definieren Sie den “E-Patienten“?
Mit diesem Begriff meinen wir Patienten, die an chronischen Erkrankungen leiden, aber auch Akutpatienten, die das Internet zur Information über Gesundheitsthemen und zum Austausch nutzen. Wir verwenden einen sehr umfassenden Begriff, der auch die Angehörigen mit einbezieht, die sogenannten „Caregiver“, also Eltern, Kinder oder Ehepartner, die sich im Internet über Krankheiten von ihnen Nahestehenden informieren.
The world may not be ready for a Romney presidency.
Or more specifically: world leaders may not have done enough homework.
An interesting Washington Post story this week suggested that because the foreign polls have been so bullish on President Obama — 82% of Germans in one survey expected Obama to be re-elected — lawmakers around the world may be scrambling to adjust to a new team of U.S. diplomats and set of policies.
Is the health sector better prepared?
Given the close race — as of press time on Wednesday, most polls had the presidential race neck and neck — there’s been growing scrutiny of Republican health proposals. For example, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute on Tuesday released another report on the GOP House Budget Committee’s Medicaid plan.
But there’s been much less examination of the people who would steer Romney’s Department of Health and Human Services and the policies they’d carry out.
Possible, if Unlikely Contenders
A handful of names — all veterans of the George W. Bush administration — have been repeatedly floated as potential HHS secretaries under Romney. National Journal suggested that former HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt could return to the role. Meanwhile, ex-FDA and CMS head Mark McClellan is “the first name that comes to mind for many Republican health policy folks,” Politico’s Jennifer Haberkorn wrote earlier this year.
Employer outlays for workers’ health insurance slowed from a 9 percent jump last year to less than half that — 4 percent — this year, according to a new survey from the Kaiser Foundation. Good news?
Our political class believes it is. The Obama administration attributes the drop to the new Affordable Care Act, which, among other things, gives states funding to review insurance rate increases.
Republicans agree it’s good news but blame Obamacare for the fact that employer health-care costs continue to rise faster than inflation. “The new mandates contained in the health care law are significantly increasing the cost of insurance” says Wyoming senator Mike Enzi, top Republican on the Senate health committee.
But both sides ignore one big reason for the drop: Employers are shifting healthcare costs to their workers. (The survey shows workers contributing an average of $4,316 toward the cost of family health plans this year, up from $4,129 last year. Many are receiving little or no employer-provided coverage at all.)
Score another win for American corporations — whose profits continue to be robust despite the anemic recovery — and another loss for American workers.
Those profits aren’t due to a surge in sales. Exports are down (Europeans, Japanese, and Chinese are all pulling in their belts) and American consumers don’t have the dough to buy more.
Many observers believe that the economic realities of the food supply chain contribute to public health problems from heart disease to diabetes. A look at the disturbing economics of the Cheeseburger economy from the Center for Investigative Reporting.
Via The Center For Investigative Reporting.
See Also: The Economist Big Mac Index
The big health care story in Washington, D.C this week comes down to three letters: CBO. The Congressional Budget Office released its latest projections about the Affordable Care Act’s cost and coverage, concluding that the Supreme Court’s changes to the ACA will lead to some states to opt out of its Medicaid reform. As a result, the ACA’s cost would fall by $84 billion over 11 years but lead to about three million fewer people receiving health insurance.
The CBO numbers are incredibly important in one sense: They reframe the debate over the ACA yet again. As I noted last week, more than two-thirds of states are waffling on whether to participate in the law’s Medicaid expansion, and the new CBO numbers will offer new targets for supporters and opponents of ObamaCare to make their case.
But the CBO score is also more of a political story than policy news. And as both parties continue to haggle over the ACA’s price and impact, keep in mind that the CBO’s projections about health law costs are often wrong.
So rather than focus on estimates of future reforms, we’ll focus on results from a current one: the Alternative Quality Contract. It’s an important payment pilot developed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts — and a key forerunner of the ACA’s accountable care organizations.
AQC Offers Template for ACO
Under the AQC, which Blue Cross launched in January 2009, a hospital or physician group negotiates a budget — or global payment — that covers the cost of care for all patients in their practice. If participating providers stay under budget, they receive bonuses; if they overspend, they pay the difference.
Hours after the SCOTUS verdict and about the same time as a feisty (and not too productive) shouting match on the NY Times site between Maggie Mahar & Michael Cannon with commentary from Bob Reich and “expert” Grace Marie Turner, a real health care expert dissected the future of health care.
Here’s Jeff Goldmsith‘s talk (done for Eliza with Queen Bee/Chairman & Chief Visionary Officer Alexandra Drane refereeing). And it’s excellent. (It also has a tad of rambling from me at the very end….). I suggest you spend a chunk of your Saturday morning listening to Jeff tell you more.
WEBINARVID from Leigh Eck on Vimeo.
Today a majority of the Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare in recognition of its importance as a key initiative of the Obama administration. The big surprise, for many, was the vote by the Chief Justice of the Court, John Roberts, to join with the Court’s four liberals.
Roberts’ decision is not without precedent. Seventy-five years ago, another Justice Roberts – no relation to the current Chief Justice – made a similar switch. Justice Owen Roberts had voted with the Court’s conservative majority in a host of 5-4 decisions invalidating New Deal legislation, but in March of 1937 he suddenly switched sides and began joining with the Court’s four liberals. In popular lore, Roberts’ switch saved the Court – not only from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s threat to pack it with justices more amenable to the New Deal but, more importantly, from the public’s increasing perception of the Court as a partisan, political branch of government.
Chief Justice John Roberts isn’t related to his namesake but the current Roberts’ move today marks a close parallel. By joining with the Court’s four liberals who have been in the minority in many important cases – including the 2010 decision, Citizen’s United vs. Federal Election Commission, which struck down constraints on corporate political spending as being in violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment guaranteeing freedom of speech – the current Justice Roberts may have, like his earlier namesake, saved the Court from a growing reputation for political partisanship.
Any day now the Supreme Court will issue its opinion on the constitutionality of the Accountable Care Act, which even the White House now calls Obamacare.
Most high-court observers think it will strike down the individual mandate in the Act that requires almost everyone to buy health insurance, as violating the Commerce Clause of the Constitution — but will leave the rest of the new healthcare law intact.
But the individual mandate is so essential to spreading the risk and cost of health care over the whole population, including younger and healthier people, that some analysts believe a Court decision that nixes the mandate will effectively spell the end of the Act anyway.
Yet it could have exactly the opposite effect. If the Court strikes down the individual mandate, health insurance company lobbyists and executives will swarm Capitol Hill seeking to have the Act amended to remove the requirement that they insure people with pre-existing medical conditions.They’ll argue that without the mandate they can’t afford to cover pre-existing conditions.
But the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions has proven to be so popular with the public that Congress will be reluctant to scrap it.
This opens the way to a political bargain. Insurers might be let off the hook, for example, only if they support allowing every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, to choose Medicare, or something very much like Medicare. In effect, what was known during the debate over the bill as the “public option.”