About healthreformtrends.com

Health Reform Trends, Research and Analysis Website

This website provides analyses into assorted health care issues in the United States. With the aging U.S. population, there will be a significant increase in demand for health care services.  Under the status quo, these demands will place an extremely heavy burden not only on Federal and state governments but on citizens as health care costs continue to rise faster than inflation, wages, salaries, and benefits.

In 2011 there was an increased interest in 2011 on funding issues. In response, the site adds analyses dealing with wealth and income that may provide potential funding sources, not just for health care but to reduce deficits that have grown sharply during the “great” recession. Analyses focusing on income and wealth issues are now noted separately on the “Research-Analysis” tab on this website.

The analyses on this site rely primarily on data provided by non-partisan government agencies, long-established research institutions, and enterprises whose business is to analyze aspects of health care, be it health insurance or hospitals or health care providers.

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Surgical “Check Lists” Improve Quality, Lower Costs

Read Full Analysis at >>> New England Journal of Medicine – Check Lists

As most anyone who has ever looked into an airplane cockpit while boarding, the pilot and crew were going through a check list to insure nothing in preparation for the flight was overlooked, assuring safety to the crew and all the passengers.

This check list method, it was found, can similarly provide favorable impacts on surgical outcomes. A January 29. 2009 article by the New England Journal of Medicine noted some of the benefits from using this process.  To quote from the background of the article:

“Data suggest that at least half of all surgical complications are avoidable. Previous efforts to implement practices designed to reduce surgical-site infections or anesthesia-related mishaps have been shown to reduce complications significantly. A growing body of evidence also links teamwork in surgery to improved outcomes, with high-functioning teams achieving significantly reduced rates of adverse events.

In 2008, the World Health Organization (WHO) published guidelines identifying multiple recommended practices to ensure the safety of surgical patients worldwide.  On the basis of these guidelines, we designed a 19-item checklist intended to be globally applicable and to reduce the rate of major surgical complications.”

Read Full Analysis at >>> New England Journal of Medicine – Check Lists

Insurers’ Efforts to Shift Admin Costs to Medical Costs

Download PDF Report >>> Insurers’ Efforts to Shift Admin Costs

Senator Rockefeller recently came out with a report cautioning about health insurers efforts to shift Selling, General and Administrative (SGA) expenses to medical costs.  A shift would increase medical loss ratios (MLR) allowing insurers to keep more earnings. Two uncertainties affect predictions.  First is how plans are grouped and second is how one computes “medical costs” and “premiums”.  Below are reasonable interpretations of the new law that favor consumers, not insurers.

HOW ENROLLEES ARE GROUPED

The first order is to define “group.”  The more groups are combined, the greater the opportunity for balancing out gains and losses, which is the whole idea of insurance.  Continue reading

Affordable Care Act – Table of Contents

Download PDF Report >>> Senate bill TOC

The Affordable Healthcare Act for All Americans is without a doubt, a large and complex piece of legislation at just over 2,400 pages.  But how big is 2,400 pages when wide margins, lines numbered, text double spaced, large font,  multiple levels of indent, and more than a few references to other documents?  The sample page below (standard 8.5 inch wide paper) is indicative of the 2,400 page document. The actual content is but a small fraction of a page. AHA legal text sample

Aside from the claims of too lengthly and complex, Republicans argued that this was a Democratic bill rammed through congress.  Interestingly, AHA includes more than 160 Republican amendments accepted during the month-long mark-up through just one committee (HELP), one of the longest in Congressional history.

Critics have claimed it’s a government takeover of our health system.  It may be news to those critics but half of the health system is already government-run.  And the great bulk of the reform bill deals with steps to improve existing government systems that has hardly drawn any attention.  The following provides a quick breakdown of the law sections.  The PDF report that can be viewed/downloaded shows the entire table of contents.

There are 10 “Titles” or major topics in the bill.  Only the first, at 374 pages, less than one sixth of the entire bill deals with changes to how the private sector handles health care. Yet, this is the section that has garnered nearly all the criticism. The bulk of Title I deals with prohibiting abuses by the insurance industry, which, if you ask on an issue by issue basis, most people will agree with the new provisions. Nothing in the bill involves a “takeover” of private insurers.

The next three Titles [II,III,IV] deal with improving Medicare and Medicaid programs and comprise 852 pages, one-third of the bill.  These Titles address reduction of waste, fraud and abuse, and pilot new payment methods towards a “results” oriented method common in most other industrialized countries.  There are few objections to this section.

Title V, at 256 pages, addresses anticipated shortages of primary physicians and other healthcare workers due to services that will be required by aging baby boomers.  This is totally opposite the “death panels” that ration healthcare that unfortunately got too much press for a falsehood.

Title VI uses 323 pages to improve transparency and integrity, yet more efforts to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in both the public and private health sectors. Who objects to efforts like this?

Title VII  improves Access To Innovative Medical Therapies, with focus on lowering the cost of drugs

Title VIII addresses ‘‘Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act’’ or CLASS Act. This title The purpose of this title is to establish a national voluntary insurance program for purchasing community living assistance services and supports.  Moving people from higher cost hospitals and nursing homes to assisted living lowers costs, a laudable goal.

Title IX includes the revenue provisions that include provisions to raise revenue to pay for the expanded coverage.

The final Title X addresses 1) Medicaid and CHIP, 2) Support for pregnant and parenting women, and the major section 3) Indian health care improvements.  None are controversial issues.

Title I——-Quality, Affordable Health Care For All Americans [374 pages – 14%]

Title II——Role Of Public Programs [221 pages – 8%]

Title III–—Improving The Quality And Efficiency Of Health Care [501 pages – 19%]

Title IV–—Prevention Of Chronic Disease And Improving Public Health [130 pages – 5%]

Title V——Health Care Workforce [256 pages – 9%]

Title VI–—Transparency And Program Integrity [323 pages – 12%]

Title VII-—Improving Access To Innovative Medical Therapies [65 pages – 2%]

Title VIII—Class Act [53 pages – 2%]

Title IX—–Revenue Provisions [93 pages – 3%]

Title X——Strengthening Quality, Affordable Health Care For All Americans [373 pages – 14%]

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Download PDF Report >>> Senate bill TOC

 

World Quality Compare

Download PDF Report >>> World Quality Compare

Summary

A summary glance at the graphs below should serve notice to all that the U.S. healthcare is in crisis. The left graphs show 2006 health spending both as a percent of GDP and on a per capita basis to be far above all other nations in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development).

And if that wasn’t bad enough, the graphs on the right show that the trend is so bad compared to these OECD countries that without a major policy change, the U.S. will be paying far more into health care and far less in productive activities compared to its competitor nations.  That all were similar years ago suggests that a U.S. solution is possible.

Yet, for all these higher costs, is the U.S. really getting better health care than other OECD countries?  Graphs show only selected countries, but data include all 30 nations.  The U.S. more often than not compares unfavorably in key areas.

All data in this report are derived from OECD Health Data 2009 – Version: June 09 .  Below each graph are all nations’ computed average, the percent the U.S. is over or under that average, and the min and max for those criteria.

Of the areas selected, the U.S. is significantly above average in % of GDP spend, health care and prescription drug costs per capita, MRI units, CT scanners, and infant mortality.

The U.S. is significantly below average in acute care beds, doctor’s consultations and hospital discharge rates per capita, in average length of stay in acute care hospitals, and in population over 15 years old who smoke.

The U.S. is about average in life expectancy at birth but lags key European countries.  It is average in cancer death rate. There are other factors that are not part of the OECD report, but the issue is whether the U.S. is getting its money’s worth.

Average: 8.9%    U.S. vs. Average: 78%    Minimum: 5.8%    Maximum: 15.8%.

The U.S. clearly pays the highest percent of its GDP for health care.

Average: 8.9%    U.S. vs. Average: 78%    Minimum: 5.8%    Maximum: 15.8%.

The trend of OECD countries is clearly lower than for the U.S.

Average: $3,073    U.S. vs. Average: 126%    Minimum: $1,322    Maximum: $6,933.

The U.S. clearly pays the highest per capita cost for health care.

Average: $3,073    U.S. vs. Average: 126%    Minimum: $1,322    Maximum: $6,933.

The trend of OECD countries is clearly lower than for the U.S.

Average: 72.9%    U.S. vs. Average: -38%   Minimum: 44.2%   Maximum: 90.9%

There is still a large percent of private health participation in OECD nations.

Average: $451    U.S. vs Average: 87%   Minimum: $178    Maximum: $844

The U.S. pays almost double per capita for its drugs versus the OECD.

Average: 3.9    U.S. vs. Average: -31%    Minimum: 1    Maximum: 8.2

While the U.S. is comparable to some nations, it lags behind some key nations.

Average: 9.7    U.S. vs. Average: 173%    Minimum: 1.4    Maximum: 40.1.

Except for Japan, the U.S. has more than twice as many MRI’s as other nations.

Average: 21.7    U.S. vs. Average: +57%    Minimum: 3.4    Maximum: 92.6.

Not quite as extreme as MRI units, but the US is still out front of EU countries.

Average: 6.7    U.S. vs. Average: -43%   Minimum: 2.8   Maximum: 13.6.

Access to care in other countries?  They are far ahead of the U.S. in this category.

Average: 16,256    U.S. vs. Average: -22%   Minimum: 5,486   Maximum: 28,440.

If you do not admit, there is no discharge.  U.S. is moving to outpatient.

Average: 6.9    U.S. vs. Average: -19%    Minimum: 3.9    Maximum: 19.2.

But for those needing acute care, the U.S. is about average for other than Japan.

Average: 79    U.S. vs. Average: -1%    Minimum: 71.6    Maximum: 82.4.

Considered a health quality factor, the U.S. lags behind key countries.

Average: 5.1    U.S. vs. Average: +31%    Minimum: 1.4    Maximum: 22.3.

The U.S. clearly lags in this health quality measure.

Average: 164.5    U.S. vs. Average: -4%    Minimum: 96.5    Maximum: 219.8

With cancer the leading cause of death, the U.S. is still only average.

Average: 24.4%    U.S. vs. Average: -34%    Minimum: 14.5%    Maximum: 40%.

Despite more smokers in Europe, they still have longer life expectancies.

APPENDIX

The following tables offer a complete list of data available.  Those highlighted are included above.

OECD Health Data 2009 – Frequently Requested Data

Health expenditure

–         Total expenditure on health, % of gross domestic product

–         Total health expenditure per capita, US$ PPP

–         Public expenditure on health, % total expenditure on health

–         Pharmaceutical expenditure, % total expenditure on health

–         Pharmaceutical expenditure per capita, US$ PPP

Health care resources

–         Practising physicians, density per 1 000 population

–         Practising nurses, density per 1 000 population

–         Medical graduates, density per 1 000 practising physicians

–         Nursing graduates, density per 1 000 practising nurses

–         Hospital beds, density per 1 000 population

–         Acute care beds, density per 1 000 population

–         Psychiatric care beds, per 1 000 population

–         MRI units per million population

–         CT Scanners per million population

–         Mammographs per million population

–         Radiation therapy equipment per million population

Health care activities

–         Doctor consultations per capita

–         Hospital discharge rates, all causes, per 100 000 population

–         Average length of stay for acute care, all conditions, days

–         Coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG), per 100 000 population

–         Coronary angioplasties, per 100 000 population

–         Caesarean sections, per 100 live births

Health status (Mortality)

–         Life expectancy at birth, females, males and total population

–         Life expectancy at 65 years old, females and males

–         Infant mortality rate, deaths per 1 000 live births

–         Potential years of life lost (PYLL), all causes females and males

Suicides, deaths per 100 000 population

Download PDF Report >>> World Quality Compare