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Tag: Federal health care spending

Lessons Learned from China

On Sunday I returned from a week in Shanghai and Hangzhou.   A remarkable trip that included daily meetings with government, academic, and clinical leaders.   What did I learn?

In China, about 5% of the GDP is spent on healthcare per year compared to 16% in the US.    Although there is wide variation in lifespan and other population health measures between rural and urban settings, there are few interesting observations about Chinese healthcare:

*It’s a single payer, publicly funded system that provides universal healthcare via a 14% payroll tax.

*There is a single national set of regulations and policies applied to all hospitals, clinics, and doctors

*There is a single set of national privacy laws

*Immunization is mandatory for the entire population

*There’s a single national healthcare identifier

EHRs are widely used in China, however they are optimized for episodes of care, using templates for capture of selected data elements specific to a disease i.e. hypertension, hepatitis, diabetes.    The volume of patients is overwhelming – in one hospital I visited (Huashan), the  dermatology clinic sees 4000 patients per day.    The Chinese EHR enables clinics to document the basics of a problem specific encounter, facilitating extremely fast throughput.   The downside of this is that there is not a longitudinal problem list, medication reconciliation, or coordination of care to avoid repeat testing.

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There Will Be Blood

The debt deal is finally done. But it really isn’t an agreement on what cuts will be made, just the process that will be used to make them.

The real work is left to the Congressional appropriators for the first $917 billion and for a super-committee of Congress for the second $1.2 trillion to $1.5 trillion in ten-year cuts.

That second tranche is where health care will make its contribution. The super-committee has to make its decisions by November 23rd and, as a practical matter, the Congress can only accept what the super-committee decides or face the consequences of the automatic $1.2 trillion fallback cuts.

When it comes to health care and the super-committee, all federal health care spending is on the table—–Medicare, Medicaid, the new law, benefits, and provider payments.

Since the budget window for the deal is ten years, it is not likely that any changes will be made to entitlement eligibility—such as delaying the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67. It just wouldn’t be fair to tell a 60-year-old their Medicare eligibility age is being raised. But we could see more means testing of Medicare premiums.

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