I loved this perspective piece in JAMA on pricing inefficiencies in US health care. Authors Austin Frakt and Michael Chernew point out several areas in which the US health care system pays different prices for the same care – including 340b drug pricing, and differential Medicare reimbursement between office-based and hospital care – and how these price distortions harm care delivery. Highly recommended, in understanding some of the structural problems in our health care system.
“…Implementing site-neutral payments, and reforming how the physician fee schedule is updated are examples of potentially simple, although admittedly politically difficult, policy changes…Nevertheless, changing fee schedules is difficult because politically powerful stakeholders, such as hospitals, that succeed under the current system (many of whom built business models based on the existing prices) vigorously oppose it. These groups often maintain they need the revenue resulting from overpriced services to accomplish a valued mission.”
Continue reading Health Policy Updates: January 7 2018
Health care spending continues to increase – the rate of increase in 2016 was 4.3%, down from 5.8% in 2015 but still greater than inflation. Health care now takes up 17.9% of the US economy. The out-of-pocket costs borne by patients, though, are up more sharply.
“A shift toward insurance plans that transfer more of the burden of health care costs onto patients helped fuel the rise in out-of-pocket costs. In 2016, 29 percent of people who receive insurance through employers were enrolled in high-deductible plans, up from 20 percent in 2014. The size of the deductibles also increased over this time period, a 12 percent increase in 2016 for individual plans, compared with a 7 percent increase in 2014.”
Continue reading Health Policy Updates: December 10 2017
The USA has a public health problem with gun violence. This is a pretty hot-button issue, with a lot of differing opinions and differing values. One thing that seems very clear from the data, however, is that the notion that privately-owned guns help prevent gun crime is a myth.
Continue reading Health Policy Updates: November 11 2017
There were a couple of great articles in JAMA Internal Medicine this week on cancer drug development and pricing.
The first, discussed in this NYTimes article, did a thorough job of tallying the total R&D cost to bring a new cancer drug to market. The study authors ended up with a significantly lower number than has been reported in the past.
“Following approval, the 10 drugs together brought in $67 billion, the researchers also concluded — a more than sevenfold return on investment. Nine out of 10 companies made money, but revenues varied enormously. One drug had not yet earned back its development costs.”
Continue reading Health Policy Updates: September 16 2017
It hasn’t been a good week for Obamacare. More insurers are pulling out, and the Trump Administration seems to be split on whether it wants the exchanges to die now or hang around a little longer to provide for a smooth transition.
“The administration’s zigzags haven’t placated worried insurers, who see another year of red ink from enrollees that are older and sicker than they had expected. Congress’ paralysis on repeal and replacement translates into precisely the kind of uncertainly that makes risk-averse insurers want to run for cover. And Trump’s executive order, signed just hours after his inauguration, unnerved the health plans with its call for government agencies to abolish as much of the law as possible through administrative action. That fueled fears that his administration won’t enforce the individual mandate requiring most Americans to get coverage.”
Continue reading Health Policy Updates: February 18 2017