Category Archives: Health Care

When I’m 64: How Boomers Will Change Health Care

Source: American Hospital Association, May 2007

From press release:

The over-65 population will nearly triple between 1980 and 2030 as a result of the aging Baby Boomers, adding new demands and challenges on an already stressed-out health system, according to a new report released today by First Consulting Group of Long Beach, Calif. With new projections on Boomer health into 2030, the report details how this powerful population will impact health care for decades to come.

The first Boomers will turn 65 in 2011 and, according to today’s report, more than 37 million of them – six out of 10 – will be managing more than one chronic condition by 2030. Also by 2030:
• 14 million Boomers will be living with diabetes – that’s one out of every four Boomers.
• Almost half of the Boomers will live with arthritis and that number peaks to just over 26 million in 2020.
• More than one out of three Boomers – over 21 million – will be considered obese.

Maternity Care and Consumer-Driven Health Plans

Source: Women’s Health Policy Program, Kaiser Family Foundation, June 12, 2007

With maternity care representing one of the most common and costly medical interventions that women experience, Kaiser and the March of Dimes co-hosted a forum to release new studies that analyze the costs of maternity care and assess coverage under consumer-driven health plans (CDHPs). Kaiser released a new study that compares the out-of-pocket costs of maternity care under CDHPs and traditional health insurance plans. The March of Dimes released a new study prepared by Thomson Healthcare that examines the overall costs of having a baby.

+ Executive Summary
+ Full Report
+ Thomson Report: The Healthcare Costs of Having a Baby
+ March of Dimes: Maternity Care Fact Sheet

Health Insurance: Can Californians Afford it?

Source: California Health Care Foundation, June 2007

Summary

The report offers a number of key findings including:
– Monthly premiums in the small group market are, on average, 50% higher than in the individual market.
– Insurance covered 83% of a person’s medical bills in the small group market, and 55% of those costs in the individual market.
– A person buying coverage in the individual market earning the median household income ($30,623) would have spent 16% of income for health care and coverage, compared to less than 4% of income in the small group market, where employers are likely to contribute a share of the premium and benefits are more generous.

Further Evidence of Affordability Problems
A companion piece, available as a Health Affairs Web exclusive, provides additional evidence of growing affordability problems in these two markets, albeit in different ways. Jon Gabel and co-authors find that small group premiums in California increased 53% between 2003 and 2006, while premiums for individual coverage rose only 23% between 2002 and 2006.
However, the average actuarial value of individual coverage declined dramatically. In 2003 individual market policies paid 75% of medical costs on average; that figure had dropped to 55% just three years later. In contrast, small group market policies retained their actuarial value, paying for roughly 83% of medical expenses across a similar period.

Principles for SCHIP Reform

Source: Council for Affordable Health Insurance’s Issues and Answers no. 143, June 2007

From press release:

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is up for reauthorization, and there appears to be bipartisan support for not just reauthorizing the program but greatly expanding it. Indeed, the legislation may become a vehicle for much of what Congress wants to accomplish in health care this year.
However, SCHIP was intended to be a limited program to help uninsured children from modest- income families — not a huge entitlement covering middle- and upper-middle-income children and hundreds of thousands of adults.

Today, the Council for Affordable Health Insurance (CAHI) released its newest Issues & Answers, “Principles for SCHIP Reform.” The paper identifies key principles that should guide lawmakers in their reauthorization efforts, if they want a financially sustainable program that provides access to quality health care for low- income children.

ANA 2007 Study of Injectable Medication Errors

Source: American Nurses Association and Inviro Medical Devices, 2007

The 2007 Study of Injectable Medication Errors gathered opinions of 1,039 U.S. nurses about errors related to injectable medications and syringe labeling. The independent research, sponsored by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and Inviro Medical Devices, reveals 97% of nurses worry about medication errors, and two-thirds (68%) believe medication errors could be reduced with more consistent syringe labeling.

Hospitals, Language, and Culture: A Snapshot of the Nation – Exploring Cultural and Linguistic Services in the Nation’s Hospitals: A Report of Findings

Source: Amy Wilson-Stronks and Erica Galvez, The Joint Commission, 2007

As our nation becomes more diverse, so do the patient populations served by our nation’s hospitals. Few studies have explored the provision of culturally and linguistically appropriate health care in a systematic fashion across a large number of hospitals. With funding from The California Endowment, the Hospitals, Language, and Culture: A Snapshot of the Nation project is working to strengthen this understanding. Hospitals, Language, and Culture is a qualitative cross-sectional study designed to provide a snapshot of how sixty hospitals across the country are providing health care to culturally and linguistically diverse patient populations. This project sought to answer the following questions:

• What challenges do hospitals face when providing care and services to culturally and linguistically diverse populations?

• How are hospitals addressing these challenges?

• Are there promising practices that may be helpful to and can be replicated in other hospitals?

The project findings will be presented in multiple reports. This report highlights findings regarding the first two research questions.

Consumer-Driven Health Care in Its Adolescence

Source: Kevin O’Hara, Employee Benefit Plan Review, March 2007

As the groundswell continues for the implementation of the American health care model’s latest panacea, consumer-driven health care (CDHC), it becomes important to take a moment or two to review the progress to date. The popularity of CDHC plans has grown steadily in recent years with projections for their adoption rate to accelerate as early missteps are corrected. Difficulties encountered in the communication and administration of CDHC benefits short-circuited extremely optimistic early forecasts of their penetration rate as a percentage of all sponsored plan offerings. Recent surveys, such as the Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits 2006 Annual Survey, indicate a continued increase in CDHC enrollment but at a much reduced rate than first anticipated.

AHRQ’S Annual State Snapshots Highlight States’ Gains and Lags in Health Care Quality

Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, June 11, 2007

AHRQ released new State Snapshots that show States have made promising gains in health care quality while identifying needed improvements in areas ranging from cancer screening to treatments of heart attack patients. The 51 State Snapshots—every State plus Washington, D.C.—are based on 129 quality measures, each of which evaluates a different segment of health care performance. While the measures are the products of complex statistical formulas, they are expressed on the Web site as simple, five-color “performance meter” illustrations. AHRQ’s annual State Snapshots is based on data drawn from more than 30 sources, including government surveys, health care facilities, and health care organizations.

A Health Link Hits Home

Source: Healther Kleba, Governing, Vol. 20 no. 6, March 2007

A handful of large and small telehealth programs are finding that remote monitoring can curb the costs of long-term care.

Although there are obstacles to widespread use–mostly in terms of upfront costs and patients’ acceptance–the technology is in place and the benefits are becoming clear. While the Alabama program is one of only a handful of experimental state and local efforts, there is already an impressive track record on remote monitoring. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been practicing telehealth for nearly five years, and the results suggest that the program could lower the cost of treating long-term and chronic-care patients. VA officials report that home-care monitoring has been cutting by about one-third the patient-care costs of those who are remotely monitored.

Intensive Care For Rural Hospitals

Source: Ronald A. Wirtz, Fedgazette, Vol. 19 no. 2, March 2007

Critical access program brings life, hope back to some rural hospitals. But if access is the goal, it may be overmedicating.

For rural hospitals, many of which have been gasping financially for years, the answer has been the federal Critical Access Hospital (CAH) program. This Medicare-based program gives rural hospitals the organizational equivalent of CPR because it purposefully pays rural hospitals more to care for Medicare patients than urban institutions receive. These higher reimbursement rates have improved profit margins and offered the possibility of upgrading long-neglected facilities.