Category Archives: Healthcare costs & financing

Smoking cessation treatment among newly covered individuals under the ACA

Smoking cessation is not innovative or trendy or even particularly exciting, but as a primary care doctor, in most cases helping a patient quit smoking is the best thing that I can do to help that patient over their lifetime. Without question. And for that reason, I always make it a priority to talk about it… Read More »

Cost-Effectiveness of Antihypertensive Medication

Anytime I see the words “cost saving” in reference to a public health or medical intervention, my first thought is “Yeah, right!” It just doesn’t happen that often. One can spend more money to get better outcomes (or more care provided), or less money for worse outcomes, but rarely less money AND better outcomes. However,… Read More »

The Political Context of Medicaid Expansion

Republican Congressional leaders are currently debating how to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as part of the budget reconciliation process. Much of the debate over the ACA has focused on the individual mandate (and here) and the affordability (here and here) of coverage in the state-based marketplaces. The House version of the legislation, however,… Read More »

How did Part D affect mortality among women with breast cancer?

Ten years ago, Medicare began publicly financing and subsidizing the prescription drug program for seniors known as Part D. Individuals over age 65 with incomes below poverty are dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, and full-benefit dual enrollees are automatically enrolled in a subsidized prescription drug plan with minimal co-payments. Turns out, this policy intervention may have played… Read More »

Do Not Repeal the ACA Without a Comparable Replacement

I once saw a breast cancer so advanced that the tumor had eroded through the woman’s chest wall. This wasn’t in a foreign country with little access to healthcare – it was in the city where I attended medical school: New Haven, Connecticut. The patient worked a full-time job and raised a family, but did… Read More »

Lessons from Analyses of Health Insurance Expansions from the 1980s through 2012

In a recent Medical Care article, Guy and colleagues analyzed health insurance expansions among parents from 1999 through 2012 to assess the impacts of four different types of public and private expansions. They primarily examined changes in parents’ health insurance coverage, but they also analyzed whether expanding coverage for parents could “spill over” and raise coverage… Read More »

Discrimination in Trans Healthcare and the Call for Further Provider Education

Adequacy of healthcare for transgender patients has recently come to light, particularly with the increased discussion of trans persons in the media. Trans individuals identify their gender differently from their assigned sex at birth. Trans healthcare is an emerging field of research, and this increased focus continues to uncover the lack of knowledge amongst providers… Read More »

One Step Ahead: A Composite Measure to Capture Critical Hospice and Palliative Care Processes

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants to empower consumers to make informed healthcare decisions. CMS also wants providers to improve the quality of care they provide. One step towards accomplishing both of these goals is by public reporting of quality measures (QM). However, with multiple quality measures focusing on different care processes–all of which… Read More »

The HOSPITAL Score – A Prediction Tool for Potentially Preventable (and Therefore Costly) Readmissions

In the era of value-based care, caregivers and policymakers alike are intensely interested in strategies to reduce 30-day hospital readmissions. Researchers continue to offer up helpful tools in this effort. Recently published online ahead of print in Medical Care, Burke and colleagues make an important contribution with their article The Hospital Score Predicts Potentially Preventable 30-Day Readmissions… Read More »

Should Women Rush to Get IUDs Post-Election? They Should’ve Been Rushing all Along!

The unintended pregnancy rate (reflecting pregnancies that are unwanted or mistimed) for women in the U.S. has hovered at around 50% for the last 35 years.  Only recently has that rate dropped to 45%, but the burden continues to fall most heavily on poor, undereducated women, women from racial or ethnic minority backgrounds, and young women.  Much talk… Read More »

Hospital interpretation and payment incentives

Access to interpreters improves health care and is generally required by law. Why then, is interpretation access hard to come by in hospitals? From a hospital staff perspective, appropriate policies may be in place, and hospital staff motivated to offer excellent patient care, but all the demands of providing medical care can lead to system breakdown.… Read More »

Healthcare Utilization Rates after Oregon’s 2008 Medicaid Expansion: The Long View

Expanding health insurance coverage may improve health care access [PDF] and reduce financial stress [PDF]. Ideally, having health insurance and the resultant access to care should improve health outcomes and well-being, although the evidence is complicated and mixed. One thing is sure: expanded insurance coverage typically leads to more utilization – a concern for policymakers and administrators because… Read More »

Do financial incentives affect the delivery of mental health care?

Paying for value, rewarding high-value care, pay-for-performance—all are examples of terminology used to describe aligning financial incentives with clinical goals and processes. Essentially, these policies and programs seek to link quality to payment and their influence is growing, extending even to Medicare. While these concepts have been discussed repeatedly by many in healthcare, including the… Read More »

Economic Burden of the Opioid Epidemic

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, in 2014, more than 240 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is more than sufficient for each American adult to have one full bottle of opioids. Prescription drugs are second only to marijuana as the most abused category of drug in the United States. A recent article… Read More »

The ACA vs. the doughnut hole: Medicare part D utilization and costs

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA) included provisions to gradually reduce the Medicare part D “doughnut hole” – a much-maligned gap in coverage that was an economizing feature of President Bush’s legislation. So, how have these changes affected drug use and spending by seniors? A new article in Medical Care provides insights. Under the standard part D benefit… Read More »

Gap in Payment for Medicare Cost Sharing Limits Access to Care for the Poor

Dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid is expected to improve access to care for low-income individuals who qualify for both programs, relative to eligibility for either program alone. Medicaid coverage of Medicare deductibles and co-payments can reduce the financial burdens that these cost sharing requirements may pose for low-income Medicare beneficiaries. These dual eligible beneficiaries… Read More »

Cost-Benefit Analysis of Community Health Workers

According to the 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, hospital inpatient expenses account for a large portion (nearly 30%) of total health care expenses and health care spending is highly concentrated among a relatively small proportion of individuals. The top 1% of spenders accounted for 21.5% of total expenditures while the lower 50% accounted for just… Read More »

Health care services use after Medicaid-to-dual transition for adults with mental illness

In 2013, there were 10.7 million people enrolled [PDF] in both Medicare and Medicaid. Dual eligibility depends on age, income, and disability. Dually enrolled beneficiaries are also responsible for a large share of program costs overall; 31% of Medicare fee-for-services spending for 18% of beneficiaries [PDF] who are dually enrolled. Given the additional health challenges [PDF] faced by dual eligibles, this… Read More »

Tools to improve coordination in primary care

Last month, I left readers with a bit of cliffhanger: How do we actually improve care coordination? Last time, I suggested there were some great ideas, and now it’s time to delve into three promising strategies: 1) individualize and personalize the electronic medical record (EMR); 2. fix the hospital discharge process; and 3) make it a part of normal practice to measure care coordination. Read on for more about each of these tools…

Affordable Care Act reduced cost-sharing for long-acting reversible contraceptive methods

Since January 2013, most private insurance plans have been required to cover contraceptive services without patient cost-sharing. While health insurance plans have covered some methods of contraception with low cost-sharing, not all plans or methods have been covered equally. This is particularly the case of long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) methods, intrauterine devices (IUDs) and implants,… Read More »

All Falls Are Not Equal

All falls are not equal, nor is the financial impact of how Medicare defines fall-related injuries (FRI). In a new Medical Care article published ahead of print, I worked with colleagues at UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health to explore whether Medicare expenditures associated with fall-related injuries (FRI) depend on how FRIs are identified in… Read More »

Which Bias is Which?

Comparative Effectiveness Research (CER) seeks to compare alternative treatments and ways to deliver healthcare to inform healthcare decisions. It can provide evidence of the harms, benefits, and effectiveness of different treatment options. As the number of studies in CER continues to grow, it is vitally important that the types of bias that exist as a function of the study design be explained. In a Medical Care article published in April, Dr. Sebastien Haneuse lays out definitions and examples of selection bias and confounding bias in CER, with a particular emphasis on distinguishing between the two.

Pressure ulcers: risk factors and the power of policy

Medical Care has recently published two papers on the topic of pressure ulcers — costly, painful, largely preventable infections associated with poorer quality care. In the first, from researchers at the University of Manitoba, York University, and the University of British Columbia, lead author Malcolm Doupe, PhD and colleagues focus on the risk of developing stage… Read More »

The Impact of Gasoline Costs on the Healthcare Industry

The higher the cost of gasoline, the higher the healthcare costs for the treatment of injuries caused by motorcycle crashes. In an article published ahead of print in Medical Care this week, He Zhu and colleagues discuss the association between gas prices in the United States, hospital costs, and utilization for both motorcycle and non-motorcycle related injuries. Remember… Read More »

Factors associated with better performance on quality indicators for ACOs

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are groups of health care providers, including doctors, hospitals, and other service providers, who provide coordinated care, reducing the need for patients to manage coordination of their own care. These organizations receive incentives from Medicare when they deliver care to patients efficiently. Providers make more money if they keep their patients healthy. Medicare… Read More »

The Health Plans of the Democratic Presidential Candidates and How They May Affect Primary Care

Nearly halfway through the primaries, the Democratic primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders continues. And perhaps nothing sets these candidates further apart in the progressiveness of their agenda than their approaches to health care. In this post, let’s take a look at the vastly different approaches to health care proposed by candidates Clinton and Sanders, with a particular focus on primary care.

How Primary Care Might Fare Under The Plans of the Two Leading Republican Presidential Contenders

The presidential primaries are in full swing and health care is an issue for both parties. The candidates have left themselves plenty of wiggle room, but there is enough information in the public domain to make some predictions about what the different approaches (and they are different) would mean for the health care system. This… Read More »

Racial and Ethnic Disparities after the ACA: Good News and Bad

The major goal of the Affordable Care Act was to expand health insurance coverage. The Department of Health and Human Services will tell you that the Affordable Care Act is working: more Americans are insured. About 16.4 million people gained insurance in the past five years. What do these numbers mean for racial and ethnic minorities who… Read More »

The Use of Clinical Preventive Services under the Affordable Care Act

Increased use of recommended clinical preventive services among adults, such as colorectal and breast cancer screening and influenza vaccination, may save up to 100,000 lives per year and vastly improve life expectancy among the US population. Despite these benefits, recommended preventive services have been underused. In this post, I focus on colorectal cancer screening among adults… Read More »

Measuring Cost-related Medication Burden

As readers of Medical Care are no doubt aware, prescription drug expenditures for Medicare beneficiaries are high – nearly $90 billion in 2012.  There is some evidence that Medicare Part D has reduced financial burdens, at least among some beneficiaries, but recent surveys suggest that around 4.4% of individuals ages 65 and older (including those not on… Read More »

Breaking the Fee-for-Service Addiction: Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

“Breaking The Fee-For-Service Addiction: Let’s Move To A Comprehensive Primary Care Payment Model,” a recent Health Affairs blog post by Rushika Fernandopulle of Iora Health, argues for replacing FFS payment with risk-adjusted comprehensive payments for primary care. We agree. However, the post portrays sponsors’ continuing to require submission of “dummy claims” as an unproductive addiction… Read More »