Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Prostate Screening: Can the Government Get it Right?

Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) tests are back in the news, as they are one entry point for the government to start micromanaging how it pays doctors in Medicare. To set the stage:

  • Currently, Medicare pays for an annual PSA test for men 50 and older as “preventive care.”
  • However, Obamacare does not consider an annual PSA test for men 50 and over as “preventive care.”
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s current guidelines (updated in 2012), recommend against PSA tests.
  • PSA testing has declined significantly since the 2012 guidelines were updated.
  • The American Cancer Society favors PSA tests for men over 50, and as early as 40 for men with more than one first-degree relative diagnosed with prostate cancer.

You can be forgiven for being confused.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

GDP: Health Services Accounts for 30 Percent of Health Spending Growth

Today’s second estimate of Gross Domestic Product for the third quarter indicates growth in health services spending is maintaining a disproportionate share of still slow GDP growth.

Spending on health services grew faster (5.0 percent, annualized, in current dollars) than spending on non-health services (3.9 percent) or non-health personal consumption expenditure (3.0 percent) from the second quarter. The growth in health services spending ($25.1 billion, annualized) accounted for 17 percent of all GDP growth ($151.0 billion), one fifth of personal consumption expenditure ($130.2 billion), and 30 percent of all services spending ($85.5 billion).

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Broad Coalition Calls for Congress not to Hand Health Insurers' Losses to Taxpayers

UnitedHealth Group’s proposal (threat? promise?) to withdraw from Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges, and the failure of Obamacare’s COOPs are both events which NCPA has been predicting for a long time (see here and here).

Two years ago, we identified Obamacare’s “risk corridors” as a vehicle through which the Administration would expose taxpayers to unlimited liability for insurers’ losses in Obamacare. Due to our research and testimony, Congress prevented this exposure last December.

What with the exchanges unravelling so quickly, we are not surprised to learn that lobbyists are pressuring Congress to restore unlimited liability. We joined a broad-based coalition to write a letter to Congress urging the current policy be maintained.

Obamacare must be completely renegotiated from root to branch. Just handing taxpayers’ money to insurers for losses they incur will not solve the problem.

Read the entire letter at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Obamacare's Slacker Mandate: Sleep & Socializing Up, Work Down

What with Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges unraveling pretty quickly, Americans might be excused for having forgotten one of Obamacare’s first intrusions: The “slacker mandate.” This was the provision that requires employer-based health plans to cover “children” on their parents’ plans until they are 26.

It took effect in 2010. The results are in, according to a new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The young adults are sleeping and socializing more, but working less.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Health Technology Forum: DC December 17 - First Speaker Announced

ur next Meetup will address financing health IT ventures. According to Rock Health, $2.1 billion in funding was committed to digital health ventures in Q2 alone. Hear from and speak with experts in financing new health technology ventures.

Our first speaker will be Pratik Patel:

Raising Capital for Health Startups in our Nation's Capital

Venture financing for health innovation is maturing in our nation's capital. Pratik Patel is a business builder, angel investor, advisor, and marketer who will show us how to navigate the fundraising landscape in the Washington DC, Maryland, and Virginia area.  Pratik's presentation will help you avoid rookie mistakes and employ all-star methods to fund your venture.  For more details on Pratik's bio please click his  LinkedIn profile here.

More speakers will be announced in the next few days. Please join us and invite your colleagues, too.

Learn more and RSVP at this link.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Hospital Ownership of Physicians Drives Up Costs

New research published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal supports, with rigorous data analysis, that hospital ownership of medical practices drives up costs.

Read the entire article at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Connected Care: Moving (And Keeping) Patients Out of Hospitals and Nursing Homes

One of the greatest frustrations in health care is that technology tends to drive up costs. In pretty much every other area of our lives, technology reduces costs. Increased health spending is associated with better health outcomes (as recently summarized by Cynthia Cox of the Kaiser Family Foundation). Nevertheless, we would like to get these benefits at less cost.

The opportunity to achieve this is at hand. A host of technologies promises to significantly reduce costs by eliminating friction in the flow of clinical data between providers and patients, making sense of data from different sources, and allowing patients and providers to interact in new, cost-effective ways. This will allow patients to get more care where they want it, and not where the system demands they show up.

Read the entire column at

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

CPI: Medical Prices Rose Three Times Faster Than Others; Hospitals Stand Out

October’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) confirms medical prices continue to spring ahead of prices for other goods and services. Overall CPI increased 0.2 percent on the month and also 0.2 percent, year on year. Medical prices, on the other hand, increased 0.7 percent on the month and 3.0 percent, year on year.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, November 13, 2015

PPI: Health Prices Continue to Rise Faster Than Others

October’s Producer Price Index declined 0.4 percent, month on month, and dropped 1.6 percent, year on year. Mild deflation continues to take hold in the general economy. However, it is not so in health care. Of the 14 sub-indices for health-related goods and services, only three declined month on month. Only six declined year on year.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Why Does Obamacare Over Invest in Spanish Customer Service?

The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has started to publish its weekly reports on Obamacare enrollment via the federally facilitated exchanges.

A little over half a million people have selected a plan for the third open season. What is interesting is the exchanges’ overinvestment in Spanish capabilities. We first noted this last January.

The Snapshot reports that the average wait on the phone for a Spanish-speaking customer-service representative is 11 seconds, versus four minutes and 38 seconds for an English speaker. That’s 25 times longer.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Jeb Bush's Positive Plan to Reform Medicare

Jeb Bush's Medicare reform contains two proposals — premium support and Health Savings Accounts — that will have a significant, positive effect on seniors' access to care and Medicare's finances. In particular, the proposals will address four flaws in Medicare Advantage, an alternative to traditional Medicare in which seniors choose a plan from a private insurer.

Although Obamacare tried to cut seniors' access to private plans, the use of these plans continues to grow. Before Obama took office, one-quarter of beneficiaries chose Medicare Advantage plans. Today, about one-third do. But despite their popularity, private Medicare plans do not live up to their potential for cost-effectiveness.

Read the entire op-ed at RealClearPolicy.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Health Jobs Dominate Great Jobs Report

Observers cheered the October Employment Situation Summary, which reported 271,000 civilian nonfarm jobs added. This is a big turnaround from the September report, which was very disappointing. Nevertheless, the two months have one thing in common: Jobs in health services dominated the growth in jobs. Whether job growth overall is strong or weak, health care keeps increasing its share.

Health care accounted for 45,000 of the 217,000 jobs added overall in October. That’s a rate of growth of 0.29 percent, much higher than 0.18 percent growth in non-health jobs.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Hillary Clinton Profits from Big Pharma, Insurance

Chris Jacobs of the Conservative Review has an interesting review of Hillary Clinton’s business income from health insurers and pharmaceutical manufacturers.

My own conclusion is that the health insurers will get what they paid for, if Mrs. Clinton is elected President, whereas the drug-makers will be reminded of the old adage that “you cannot buy politicians; but only rent them.”

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Rock Star Physician Rebels Against Medicare Bureaucracy

Rebekah Bernard, MD, who wrote a book titled How to Be a Rock Star Doctor:  The Complete Guide to Taking Back Control of Your Life and Your Profession, has written an open letter to her Medicare patients.

As a policy analyst, not a physician, I have to report a mixed response to this letter. I have great sympathy for the message: It hits two policy issues that I have addressed forcefully: So-called Meaningful Use of Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and the fundamental reforms to physician payment in this yeare’s “doc fix” legislation, MACRA.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Health Construction Lags

After an uptick in August, health construction starts declined significantly in September: A 0.1 percent decline versus a 0.6 percent increase for other construction starts (see Table I). On a twelve-month basis health facilities construction is positive, but running slower than the booming non-health construction market: 9 percent versus 14.3 percent.

Read the entire entry at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.