Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Health Spending & Prices to Rise Through 2025

Before the Affordable Care Act passed in March 2010, President Obama repeatedly promised the typical family’s health premiums would go down by $2,500 after implementing the expansion of health insurance we label Obamacare.

Nothing of the sort has happened, of course. Actuaries at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, a government agency, have just updated their estimate of future health spending:

For 2018 and beyond, both Medicare and Medicaid expenditures are projected to grow faster than in the 2016–17 period, and more rapidly than private health insurance spending, for several reasons. First, growth in the use of Medicare services is expected to increase from its recent historical lows (though still remain below longer-term averages). Second, the Medicaid population mix is projected to trend more toward somewhat older, sicker, and therefore costlier beneficiaries. Third, baby boomers will continue to age into Medicare, with some of them dropping private health insurance as a result. And finally, growth in the demand for health care for those with private coverage is projected to slow as the relative price of health care—the difference between medical prices and economywide prices—is expected to begin gradually increasing in 2018 and as income growth slows in the later years of the projection period.

Monday, February 20, 2017

U.S. Patients Have Much Greater Access to New Cancer Drugs Than Others Do

American Patients Have Much Greater Access to New Cancer Drugs Than Others Do
New research by scholars at the University of Pittsburgh shows how much better access American patients have to new cancer medicines than their peers in other developed countries:

Of 45 anticancer drug indications approved in the United States between January 1, 2009, and December 31, 2013, 64% (29) were approved by the European Medicines Agency; 76% (34) were approved in Canada; and 71% (32) were approved in Australia between January 1, 2009, and June 30, 2014. The U.S. Medicare program covered all 45 drug indications; the United Kingdom covered 72% (21) of those approved in Europe— only 47% (21) of the drug indications covered by Medicare. Canada and France covered 33% (15) and 42% (19) of the drug indications covered by Medicare, respectively, and Australia was the most restrictive country, covering only 31% (14).
(Y. Zhang, et al., “Comparing the Approval and Coverage Decisions of New Oncology Drugs in the United States and Other Selected Countries,” Journal of Managed Care and Specialty Pharmacy, 2017 Feb;23(2):247-254.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Repealing Obamacare Will Help California Jobs

(A version of this column was published by the Orange County Register.)

Obamacare was a cash cow for providers, which now argue it was a program for jobs and economic growth. They now say that repealing Obamacare will kill California jobs. That grabs any politician’s attention, but it is not true.

According to a study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, which is promoted by the California Hospital Association:

“The majority (135,000) of these lost jobs would be in the health care industry, including at hospitals, doctor offices, labs, outpatient and ambulatory care centers, nursing homes, dentist offices, other health care settings and insurers. But jobs would also be lost in other industries. Suppliers of the health care industry, such as food service, janitorial and accounting firms, would experience reduced demand, leading to job loss. The lost jobs also include those lost due to the ‘induced effect’ of health care workers spending less at restaurants, retail stores and other local businesses.”

Such research relies on the so-called “multiplier effect,” a politically seductive but misleading type of voodoo economics.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Health Prices Rose Two Thirds Less Than CPI

The Consumer Price Index rose 0.6 percent in December, while medical prices rose only 0.2 percent. This is the fifth month in a row we have enjoyed medical price relief in the CPI. Even prices of prescription drugs rose by only 0.3 percent. Prices of three components – medical equipment and supplies, dental services, and care of invalids and elderly at home even dropped. No category rose more than 0.1 percentage point more than all item CPI. Medical price inflation contributed only three percent of CPI for all items.

Over the last 12 months, however, medical prices have increased much more than non-medical prices: 3.9 percent versus 2.4 percent. Price changes for medical care contributed 13 percent of the overall increase in CPI.

See Figure I and Table I below the fold:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PPI: Mixed News on Health Prices

January’s Producer Price Index rose 0.6 percent. However, prices for many health goods and services grew slowly, if at all. Nine of the 16 price indices for health goods and services grew slower than their benchmarks.* Prices for six of the categories of health goods and services deflated in absolute terms.

The outlier was pharmaceutical preparations for final demand, which increased by 1.1 percent (0.7 percentage points more than final demand services (less trade, transportation, and warehousing.) The largest decline (relative to its benchmark) was for prices of health and medical insurance for intermediate demand, which declined by 0.8 percentage points versus services for intermediate demand (less trade, transportation, and warehousing).

With respect to diagnosing whether health prices are under control, the January PPI is more mixed than December’s was. Nevertheless, although pharmaceutical prices stand out, most excess inflation is in health services, not goods.

See Table I below the fold:

Friday, February 10, 2017

Celebrity Apprentice And Medical Innovation Have Something Important in Common

(A version of this column was published by Forbes.)

A new report should help President Trump find his way out of the confusion suggested by his very mixed signals on the role of medical innovation to American prosperity and patients. Last month, he said research-based drug-makers’ practices were “disastrous,” the industry was “getting away with murder,” and suggested the federal government should dictate prices of medicines.

A couple of weeks later, he told pharmaceutical executives: “You folks have done a terrific job over the years … The U.S. drug companies have produced extraordinary results...” To cap it off, he promised to end “global freeloading.” “Foreign price controls reduce the resources of American drug companies to finance drug R&D and innovation.”

One difficulty with the President’s recent statement is that policies which allow American research-based drug-makers to succeed apply equally to foreign drug-makers which operate here. Any innovative drug-maker which wants to supply its therapies to American patients can apply for patents which assure its intellectual property will not be taken by copy-cats. While patents are issued by national governments, international agreements are necessary to ensure global benefits.
President Trump traduces international trade agreements, which have included protections for intellectual property since the United States and other countries signed the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) in 1994.

However, President Trump should be in a good position to understand how important global protection of intellectual property is. After all, he is a beneficiary.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Republican Medicaid Reform Would Save $110 Billion to $150 Billion in 5 Years

Arguably more important than repealing and replacing Obamacare, a longstanding Republican proposal to change how Congress finances Medicaid would reduce the burden on taxpayers by $110 billion to $150 billion over five years, according to a new analysis by consultants at Avalere.

Currently, state spending on Medicaid is out of control because Medicaid’s traditional funding formula incentivizes the political class to overspend. For every dollar a state politician spends on Medicaid, the federal government pitches in at least one dollar via the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). This actually rewards states for making more residents dependent on Medicaid.