Friday, January 29, 2016

GDP: Health Services Account for 39 Percent of GDP Growth

Today’s advance release of Q4 GDP showed the production of goods actually shrank in the fourth quarter. As a result, the (annualized) $26.3 billion growth in health services spending accounted for 39 percent of GDP growth of $68.0 billion. It comprised 32 percent of services spending growth and 38 percent of growth in personal consumption expenditure. This means that health services spending continues to devour more of our budgets. The evidence continues to indicate Obamacare is not bending the cost curve.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Obamacare's Cost Per Beneficiary Explodes With Shrinking Enrollment

The Congressional Budget Office’s latest budget estimate shows Obamacare’s costs per beneficiary have exploded, as enrollment in Obamacare’s broken exchanges collapses. January’s update estimates 2016 exchange enrollment at 13 million people.  Although the Administration had previously downgraded its estimate of Obamacare enrollment, this is the first significant change by the non-partisan CBO.

What is really shocking is the January update still estimates tax credits, which subsidize insurers participating in exchanges, will cost taxpayers $56 billion this year. That amounts to about $4,308 per enrollee (although not all are subsidized). Back in March 2010, CBO estimated that 21 million people would be covered in exchanges in 2016, for a total cost of $59 billion in tax credits. That would amount to about $2,810 per enrollee.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Private Sector Vigilance, Not Government Regulation, Protects Patients

Last April, I cheered Arizona for passing a law allowing patients to order blood tests without a doctor’s prescription. The company that lobbied for the change, Theranos, was also interesting because it posted its prices at venues where patients could get blood drawn. It had a widely promoted partnership with Walgreens, which has a strategy of using new technologies to deliver more value-added services in the retail environment.

Since then, Theranos has gotten into trouble for being opaque about how it actually conducts its tests when the samples get back to its labs. This has led to turmoil in the business media and among investors which are interested in backing entrepreneurs with new approaches to lab testing.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, January 22, 2016

CPI: Prescription Prices Finally Drop Amid General Deflation

Medical prices grew 0.1 percent, versus a decrease of 0.1 percent for all other items, in December’s Consumer Price Index. Prices for prescription drugs actually decreased 0.3 percent, even better than the small price increase in the Producer Price Index (PPI).

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Obamacare Joins Pile of Unfunded Liabilities

The congressional vote last month to fund the government through September, while extending some special-interest tax breaks and introducing some new ones, was the first time a majority of Republicans voted in favor of Obamacare. It looks like Congress’ alternative to Obamacare is deficit-financed Obamacare.

While failing to cut one penny of Obamacare spending, the so-called “taxibus” (tax extenders plus omnibus spending) cut almost $40 billion in Obamacare tax revenue by “temporarily” delaying three taxes for a year or two: the medical device excise tax, the health insurance fee and the excise tax on high-cost employer benefit plans.

Make no mistake: all three taxes are harmful and should be eliminated. However, just kicking them down the road without making any effort to cut Obamacare spending does nothing to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Read the entire op-ed at the Orange County Register.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Trouble Paying Medical Bills: Obamacare Insured Worse Off Than Uninsured

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics conducts thorough research on health insurance coverage. Recently published early results of the latest National Health Interview Survey have been misrepresented in the media to show that Obamacare is reducing the number of uninsured Americans, and that the number of people having trouble paying for health care has dropped as a result.

Actually, this is not the case. The data show some factor other than Obamacare has caused the survey’s respondents to state that they are having less trouble paying medical bills than in previous years. We know this because those who remained uninsured improved their ability to pay medical bills more than those who got coverage through Obamacare.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

Reciprocal Regulatory Approval To Reduce Drug Prices

Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) recently introduced the RESULT Act, which would allow drugs and medical devices approved in certain other countries to be allowed in the U.S. as well. The countries included are European Union members, Israel, Canada, Japan, and Australia.

The benefits of this act would be significant. Professor Daniel Klein of the Mercatus Institute at George Mason University and Professor William L. Davis of the University of Tennessee at Martin have surveyed economists on this policy, and a majority agree it would improve patients’ access to safe and effective drugs.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Producer Price Index: Physician Prices Jump

The stock market took a hit this morning, as the Producer Price Index turned back to deflation, dropping 0.2 percent in December and 0.1 percent in 201. Health prices are still growing faster than other prices. This is especially true for pharmaceuticals, for which prices increased 8.2 percent last year, versus a 3.7 percent decline in prices for final demand goods. Although political attacks on pharmaceutical prices are misguided, it is likely they will continue as long as this situation persists.

With respect to services, health price inflation is not as extreme. However, the jump of 1.3 percent for physician prices in December is remarkable.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Who Pays Obamacare's Slacker Mandate? Workers With No Kids!

he “slacker mandate” is the provision in Obamacare requiring employer-based health plans to offer benefits to adult dependents of their workers, up to age 26. I previously discussed research showing the mandate reduced work among adults, aged 19 to 26, and increased the time they spend socializing, sleeping, and exercising.

What about the financial costs of the mandate? A remarkable study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research concludes this happened. The slacker mandate reduced wages among workers without children by $211 a month, but did not reduce wages among workers with children (either minor or adult) by a statistically significant amount.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Administrative Fixes Won't Rescue Obamacare's Broken Exchanges

The healthcare sector is digesting an important speech by the man tasked with rescuing Obamacare’s exchanges. Andy Slavitt, formerly of UnitedHealth Group, joined the Administration in June 2014. Last February, he took over the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Yesterday, Mr. Slavitt spoke at the J.P. Morgan health conference in San Francisco, using the opportunity to announce some important new initiatives, including responding to the failure of Obamacare’s exchanges.

Although sugar-coating his diagnosis, Mr. Slavitt clearly knows exchanges are in trouble. Too many old and sick people are signing up; and healthier and higher-earning and people (who do not benefit from tax credits which discount premiums) are staying away or dropping out, despite penalties for doing so.

Mr. Slavitt's suggested reforms are necessary, but far from sufficient, to rescue the exchanges.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trouble Paying Medical Bills: 2015 vs. 2005

After having read my colleague Devon Herrick’s Health Alert discussing the New York Times’ survey (conducted with the Kaiser Family Foundation) of adults having trouble paying medical bills, I had a look back and compared the 2015 results to those a similar survey from 2005.

The results are almost exactly the same! Despite a large decrease in the proportion of working-age people categorized as “uninsured” (even though many have actually become dependent on Medicaid, a joint state-federal welfare program, instead of actual insurance) one quarter of us still have trouble paying medical bills.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Health Jobs Pick Up In Booming Jobs Report

Today’s Employment Situation Summary, which came in above strong expectations, also saw faster growth in health services jobs than other nonfarm civilian jobs. In December, health services jobs grew at 0.26 percent, versus only 0.20 percent for other jobs. Health services jobs comprised 13 percent of the 292,000 jobs added in December.

However, over the twelve-month period, health services jobs have grown much faster than other jobs: 3.19 percent versus 1.73 percent.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Health Insurers' Collapsing Obamacare Consensus

The health insurance industry is undergoing a crisis of consensus on how to respond to the failure of Obamacare. That is the only way to interpret the departure of another large, national carrier, Aetna, from America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP). This follows UnitedHealth Group’s departure from the industry’s trade group last June.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Unpopular Individual Mandate Fails to Make People Buy Obamacare Coverage

Just before Christmas, Congress voted to deficit fund Obamacare by imposing moratoria on a number of Obamacare taxes that are unpopular with interest groups. Left in place was the unpopular individual mandate to buy health insurance, which has no organized interest to lobby against it. Nevertheless, it is the most unpopular part of Obamacare.

The New York Times reports that a number of relatively high-income earners are choosing to remain uninsured, or even drop Obamacare coverage, and pay the fine instead.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

The Obamacare Reconciliation Distraction

Just three weeks after voting $40 billion of deficit financing for Obamacare, which was cheerfully signed by President Obama, Republican Congressional leaders are returning to the reconciliation distraction.

Instead of actually proposing an alternative to Obamacare, Republican Congressional leaders believe they can continue to convince us they are committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare by executing various parliamentary gymnastics that give the illusion of action.

Read more at the Independent Institute's Beacon blog.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Private Health Construction Leads Slow Building Market

New construction starts turned negative last November, slowing -0.4 percent from September. Health facilities construction shrank only -0.1 percent.

In a turnaround from September, private health construction grew strongly, (0.6 percent) while public health construction starts collapsed -2.5 percent. September’s big jump in public construction looks to have been idiosyncratic.

Read more at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

To Control Drug Costs, Pursue Fraud, Not Manufacturers

A Los Angeles-based nonprofit has gathered enough signatures to get two initiatives on the November ballot. The one of greater interest to ordinary Californians would legislate that any prescription drug paid for with state money cost no more than the amount paid by the Veterans Administration. The California Drug Price Relief Act would have little, if any, short-term effect. There is a better way to control Medi-Cal’s escalating costs.

Read the entire op-ed in the Orange County Register.