Cost Slowdown Here To Stay?
THE PRICE IS RIGHT: Even though Obamacare is bringing more people into the health care system and thus increasing total, nationwide health care spending, the underlying cost of health care is still rising at historically low rates, according to new data from the White House. The Bureau of Economic Analysis says that, through March, health care goods :and services were just 0.9 percent more expensive than they were a year ago. Why does this matter? Because some insurers and health policy experts have predicted an end to this low-cost-growth party, and have relied on that assumption to predict double-digit premium increases for Obamacare's second year. If cost growth stays low, premiums may not rise as steeply.
Top Health Care News
ARMY OUSTS COMMANDER OF HOSPITAL AFTER DEATHS: "The Army ousted the commander of one of its busiest hospitals and suspended three top deputies on Tuesday after two patients in their 20s unexpectedly died in the past 10 days, shortly after they sought treatment at the hospital's emergency room…Late Tuesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a broad review to ensure that military patients — many of them active-duty service members and their families — are not facing similar problems." (Sharon LaFraniere, New York Times)
MICHELLE OBAMA SLAMS HOUSE REPUBLICANS FOR TRYING TO ROLL BACK HER HEALTHY SCHOOL LUNCH REQUIREMENTS: "This is unacceptable," [Michelle] Obama said at a White House meeting Tuesday. "The stakes couldn't be higher on this issue," she said, regarding obesity statistics in children and adults. "The last thing we can afford to so right now is play politics with our kids health." (Jay Newton-Small, Time)
MANY EMPLOYEES HIT WITH HIGHER HEALTH CARE PREMIUMS: More than half of companies increased employee contributions to premiums in 2013, a new report says, also finding that many employees don't have the money to cover the cost of unexpected medical expenses. (Nanci Hellmich, USA Today)
- Why the major test for Obamacare premiums might wait until 2017 (Jason Millman, Washington Post)
OBAMACARE AND THE DEATH OF 'ISSUES' IN POLITICS: "It used to be that candidates had a section of their Web sites called 'Issues,' where they articulated their positions on key policy matters. Such certainty seems to have fallen out of vogue, perhaps because the minute-to-minute nature of modern politics doesn't exactly reward it." (Philip Bump, Washington Post)
SOME DEMOCRATS TALKING UP HEALTH LAW ON STUMP: In at least half a dozen races, Democrats are airing advertisements that directly support the Affordable Care Act, and in some cases, talk up how a Democrat worked to guarantee those benefits. (Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal)
- How the GOP's health-law attacks are evolving (Laura Meckler, Wall Street Journal)
STATES CONSIDER USING MEDICAID TO PAY COLLEGE HEALTH PLAN PREMIUMS: Student health plan coverage is generally very good, with a broad doctor network to ensure that students who travel for internships and coursework can get care when necessary. Medicaid might start footing the bill for students who qualify. (Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News, National Public Radio)
THERE'S ANOTHER SCANDAL IN AMERICAN HEALTH CARE: "As appalling as the wait times are for VA care, the people living in states that refused the Medicaid expansion aren't just waiting too long for care. They're not getting it at all." (Ezra Klein, Vox Media)
STATES ARE GETTING LESS MONEY FOR EDUCATION, MORE FOR MEDICAID: A new analysis by Pew's Fiscal Federalism Initiative finds that Medicaid now accounts for nearly $2 of every $3 the federal government sends to states. (Sarah Kliff, Vox Media)
WHEN MEDICAID HAS PREMIUMS, ENROLLEES DROP OUT: A new study in the Journal of Health Economics finds that even charging premiums as low as $10 causes people to disenroll from the program. (Adrianna McIntyre, Vox Media)
MEDICAID ENROLLMENT SURGE RAISES COST CONCERNS FOR STATES: Under Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, the federal government picks up 100 percent of the tab for newly eligible enrollees until 2016, but both expansion and non-expansion states continue to pay their normal, larger share of the cost for individuals who were already eligible under previous law. And the requirement to have insurance is increasing enrollment of these previously eligible individuals as well, raising the cost for states. (Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press)
INSURER ENCOURAGES ONCOLOGISTS TO STICK TO STANDARDIZED GUIDELINES: "The largest effort yet is set to be unveiled by WellPoint Inc., which will begin offering oncologists a $350-per-month payment for each patient who is on one of the insurer's recommended regimens. WellPoint, the No. 2 insurer in the U.S., will roll out its new program July 1 in six states and through its entire network by the middle of next year. Initially, it will focus on breast, lung and colorectal cancer, but it will expand to other forms of the disease. Programs like WellPoint's and others around the country are part of an effort to smooth out wide variations in how doctors treat patients, which health experts say can be wasteful and don't always benefit patients." (Anna Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal)
THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY OF CANCER: Being poor can affect the type of cancer you get. (John Metcalfe, City Lab, National Journal)
STUDY: HEALTH IMPACT OF ACA PROVISION ALLOWING YOUNG ADULTS TO REMAIN ON PARENTS' HEALTH PLAN TO AGE 26: "For the full sample, the dependent coverage provision increased the probabilities of having insurance, a primary care doctor, and excellent self-assessed health, while decreasing unmet medical needs because of cost. However, we find no evidence of improvements in preventive care utilization or health behaviors." (Silvia Barbaresco, Charles J. Courtemanche, Yanling Qi, National Bureau of Economic Research)
FEDS DROP REQUEST THAT RHODE ISLAND EXCHANGE FIND $4.6 MILLION TO FUND OPERATIONS NEXT YEAR: "With this pledge of cooperation and support from CCIIO, I believe that HealthSource RI will be able to continue and build on the progress it has made for Rhode Island with no state general revenue in fiscal year 2015," HealthSource RI executive director Christine Ferguson said in a statement. "HealthSource RI will continue to explore opportunities to form public private partnerships and to generate revenue through providing products and services to other states, as well as to industry partners," she said. (Ted Nesi, WPRI)
IS THE ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN LINKED TO OBESITY? Possibly. A new report found that when the global recession hit in 2008, families cut back on grocery spending, choosing cheaper but unhealthier foods to eat. (Reuters, NBC News)
TRIAL ON WISCONSIN ANTI-ABORTION LEGISLATION BEGINS: Abortion providers presented their arguments Tuesday against a state law that requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital, saying it is unnecessary, causes delays for women seeking the procedure, and creates bureaucratic challenges for clinics. The state's attorneys are expected to present witnesses Wednesday, and the trial is expected to go until at least Friday. The judge is not expected to issue a decision for weeks. (Todd Richmond, Associated Press)
HOUSE VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE HEARING ON PREVENTABLE DEATHS: The pressure continues for the VA in a hearing slated for witness testimony in response to subpoenas at 7:30 p.m.