Category Archives: Health Care

Are You Really Covered? Why 4 in 10 Americans Can’t Depend on Their Health Insurance

Source: Consumer Reports, Vol. 72 no. 9, September 2007

You might think you don’t have to worry about paying for medical care if you have health insurance. But you would be wrong. From escalating medical debt to postponed retirement, our exclusive national survey of working-age adults shows the depth of jitters even for those lucky enough to have insurance through their jobs or families.

This report, the first in a series, details how the situation has gotten worse over the past 15 years, since the country last engaged in a full-throated debate about health care. Our experts sifted through the complex issues and talked to people in our survey who said they would be willing to share their stories. Future installments will look at how the health-care system perpetuates unneeded treatments and medications, and will examine the trouble awaiting people who have to go out and find insurance on their own.

See Also:
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Spending for Mental Health Care: A Larger Share Comes From Medicaid and Goes for Prescription Drugs

Source: Tami L. Mark, Katharine R. Levit, Jeffrey A. Buck, Rosanna M. Coffey, and Rita Vandivort-Warren, Psychiatric Services, Vol. 58 no. 8, August 2007
(subscription required)

From press release:
Over the past two decades, spending for mental health treatment shifted sharply from inpatient care to prescription medications, and Medicaid picked up a growing share of the cost, according to a study published today in Psychiatric Services.

The study, which analyzed healthcare costs from 1986 to 2003, was conducted by researchers from Thomson Healthcare and the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

See Also: Abstract of Psychiatric Services Article: Mental Health Treatment Expenditure Trends, 1986–2003

More Americans Age 55 and Older Are Working Full Time

Source: Craig Copeland, Employee Benefit Research Institute, Vol. 28 no. 8, August 2007

From press release:

As an increasing percentage of older Americans are in the labor force, the trend toward more full-time, full-year work among older workers occurs across virtually every demographic group, according to an article published today by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

These trends mark a significant change in behavior for individuals age 55 and older, the article says, and are likely driven by their need to obtain affordable employment-based health insurance (as opposed to unaffordable or unavailable coverage in the individual market) and the need to continue to accumulate savings in employment-based defined contribution retirement plans.

Protecting America’s Future: A State-by-State Look at SCHIP & Uninsured Kids

Source: CoverTheUninsured.org (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), August 2007

From press release:
With the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) set to expire Sept. 30, experts say that unless Congress and the White House reauthorize the program and agree on its funding, coverage for vulnerable children nationwide will be in jeopardy. At risk are millions of children who were covered by SCHIP at some point last year and millions more who are SCHIP-eligible, but not yet enrolled.

According to an analysis of government data released today, more than 6.6 million children were covered by SCHIP at some point last year. Nearly 9 million children remain uninsured. Before adjourning for summer recess last week, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate approved separate SCHIP bills that would provide funding to cover more SCHIP-eligible children. Amidst presidential veto threats, lawmakers from both chambers must now negotiate consensus legislation to send to the White House.

IRS Releases Interim Report on Tax-Exempt Hospitals and Community Benefit Project

Source: Internal Revenue Service, IR-2007-132, July 19, 2007

The Internal Revenue Service released an interim report summarizing responses from almost 500 tax-exempt hospitals to a May 2006 questionnaire about how they provide and report benefits to the community. Providing community benefit is required for hospitals seeking and retaining tax-exempt status as charities.

Today’s report on the hospital compliance project contains preliminary information on the way nonprofit hospitals, which comprise one of the largest components of the tax-exempt sector, responded to questions about how they provide community benefit. The IRS is still in the process of analyzing the reported data.

According to the report, nearly all hospitals reported that they provided various types of community benefit that were the subject of the questionnaire. Although 97 percent of responding hospitals said they have a written uncompensated care policy, no uniform definition of what constitutes “uncompensated care” emerged from the responses. Further, there appear to be significant differences in the way other components of community benefit are reported.

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New Brief Analyzes the Composition and Cost of Louisiana’s Uninsured Population After Hurricane Katrina

Source: Stephen Zuckerman and Jack Hadley, Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, July 2007

Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured: “The new brief, Louisiana’s Proposed Section 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Project: Estimating the Numbers of Uninsured and Projected Medicaid Costs, analyzes the composition and medical costs of the uninsured in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. The estimates in the brief are the first available that are based on a detailed analysis of who the uninsured are in Louisiana, their current medical spending, and what their spending might be under Medicaid. The findings show that expanding Medicaid coverage to Louisiana’s uninsured would cost an estimated $2.3 billion in 2006 dollars. It also suggests that many of those who left Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina had coverage, so the number of uninsured in the state remained about the same, but their share of the total population increased. The brief was commissioned by Kaiser and prepared by Stephen Zuckerman of the Urban Institute and Jack Hadley of George Mason University.”

Health Care Costs: A Primer

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, Publication number 7670, 8/8/2007

This primer on health care costs examines the rapid growth in the nation’s health care costs since 1970, when the average growth in health spending exceeded the growth of the economy as a whole by an average of 2.5 percentage points. It also examines the impact of health care costs on families, with insurance premiums rising 87% between 2000 and 2006, more than four times the growth in wages.

The primer describes the types and sources of health care spending and the demographic factors associated with higher or lower levels of spending. It also discusses other factors that influence health care spending growth, including the use of new medical technology, population changes, and changes in disease prevalence.

Future of Medicare: Report on Expert Views

Source: Keith D. Lind and Jackson T. Williams, AARP Policy & Research, #2007-12, May 2007

From press release:
Marking the 42nd anniversary of the Medicare program Monday, July 30th, AARP released new research that examines the future of Medicare through the eyes of 20 national health policy experts. “The Future of Medicare: Report on Expert Views” found no single answer to preserve Medicare for future generations, but those interviewed agreed there are several areas where Medicare can make improvements to help the program.

2006 Data Added to the Medicaid Benefits Online Database

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, August 2007

Kaiser Family Foundation: “The Foundation’s online tool examining Medicaid benefits for all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the Territories has been updated with data as of October 2006. The online database allows comparison of Medicaid benefits by state and service with information about benefits covered, limits, co-payments and reimbursement methodologies. Data for 2003, 2004, and 2006 are available.”

Growing Older in America: The Health & Retirement Study

Source: Freddi Karp, Editor, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, NIH Publication No. 07- 5757, March 2007

There is no question that the aging of America will have a profound impact on individuals, families, and U.S. society. The Health and Retirement Study (HRS), sponsored by the National Institute on Aging under a cooperative agreement with the University of Michigan, follows more than 20,000 men and women over 50, offering insight into the changing lives of the older U.S. population. Launched in 1992, this multidisciplinary, longitudinal study has become known as the Nation’s leading resource for data on the combined health and economic conditions of older Americans.

Growing Older in America: The Health & Retirement Study describes the breadth and depth of the HRS to help familiarize a broad range of researchers; policymakers; media; and organizations concerned with health, economics, and aging with this data resource. Published in 2007, this colorful data book describes the HRS’s development and features and offers a snapshot of research findings based on analyses of the Study’s data. Sections of the report look at older adults’ health, work and retirement, income and wealth, and family characteristics and intergenerational transfers. More than 65 figures and tables illustrate the text.