The first week of September marks the start of the busy season in health care, insurance, and workers comp. This week certainly maintained that tradition.
here’s what I noticed this week.
Health care costs
The news this week was pretty good – current health care cost trends are significantly lower than earlier projections, although predictions for future increases remain higher than we’d like. That said, recall past predictions weren’t that accurate.
While we don’t KNOW what the impact of ACA, recovering employment, and health care system chances will be, we can look to Medicare – which isn’t affected much by the economy. Jonathan Cohn’s take: “the slowdown in Medicare spending (which has little to do with the economy or changes to private insurance) is a powerful indicator that health care really is becoming a more efficient enterprise.” [emphasis added]
Another perspective is from the Washington Examiner – you can tell their bias as they lead with “President Obama’s health care law” – which PPACA decidedly wasn’t. Disregarding the Examiners’ disregard for accurate reporting, they cite a CMS actuary study which indicates government spending on health care will increase from 41% of the total to 48% in 2023. That is accurate – however recall that CMS’ past projections for Medicare and medicaid growth have been shown to be too high.
Health reform implementation
One of the concerns about PPACA was the employer mandate would encourage smaller employers to move workers to part-time status. Early indications are there isn’t much of a shift – if any – to part-time work due to PPACA. Rather the slow recovery of the economy seems to be the key factor.
A great piece by Incidental Economist Austin Frakt (a long time Health Wonk Review contributor!) in WaPo’s Upshot blog finds that the more competition in local markets, the lower the insurance premiums are. Specifically, Austin notes the absence of United Healthcare from markets led to premiums that were 5.4% higher than they would have been with UHC participating.
Another take is that premiums in less competitive states were higher than in those with more health plans participating in the markets.
Pennsylvania is joining the ranks of the sane states that are expanding Medicaid, and in so doing will avoid:
* $37.8 billion in lost federal spending over the next decade
* $10.6 billion in lost hospital reimbursements over the next decade
* 380,000 low- and moderate- income people would not gain coverage in 2016
The BIG news just came out today – a study by McClatchy found rampant misclassification of workers as independent contractors receiving money from the 2009 stimulus. This is a damning indictment of governmental oversight, and one that demands our attention.
Liberty Mutual produced an excellent study that appears to indicate back pain patients who got MRIs early on had worse outcomes than those who did not have MRIs. Their conclusion:
The impact of non adherent [not consistent with medical treatment guidelines] MRI includes a wide variety of expensive and potentially unnecessary services, and occurs relatively soon post-MRI. Study results provide evidence to promote provider and patient conversations to help patients choose care that is based on evidence, free from harm, less costly, and truly necessary.
Kudos to Liberty for conducting this research.
Remember – no emails, no business after 5 today – unplug!