Journal: Health affairs (Project Hope)
Legalization of medical marijuana has been one of the most controversial areas of state policy change over the past twenty years. However, little is known about whether medical marijuana is being used clinically to any significant degree. Using data on all prescriptions filled by Medicare Part D enrollees from 2010 to 2013, we found that the use of prescription drugs for which marijuana could serve as a clinical alternative fell significantly, once a medical marijuana law was implemented. National overall reductions in Medicare program and enrollee spending when states implemented medical marijuana laws were estimated to be $165.2 million per year in 2013. The availability of medical marijuana has a significant effect on prescribing patterns and spending in Medicare Part D.
Much has been written about the relationship between high medical expenses and the likelihood of filing for bankruptcy, but the relationship between receiving a cancer diagnosis and filing for bankruptcy is less well understood. We estimated the incidence and relative risk of bankruptcy for people age twenty-one or older diagnosed with cancer compared to people the same age without cancer by conducting a retrospective cohort analysis that used a variety of medical, personal, legal, and bankruptcy sources covering the Western District of Washington State in US Bankruptcy Court for the period 1995-2009. We found that cancer patients were 2.65 times more likely to go bankrupt than people without cancer. Younger cancer patients had 2-5 times higher rates of bankruptcy than cancer patients age sixty-five or older, which indicates that Medicare and Social Security may mitigate bankruptcy risk for the older group. The findings suggest that employers and governments may have a policy role to play in creating programs and incentives that could help people cover expenses in the first year following a cancer diagnosis.
Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. Yet limited data exist on contemporary epidemiological trends and risk factors for firearm-related injuries. Using data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, we report epidemiological trends and quantify the clinical and financial burden associated with emergency department (ED) visits for firearm-related injuries. We identified 150,930 patients-representing a weighted total of 704,916 patients nationally-who presented alive to the ED in the period 2006-14 with firearm-related injuries. Such injuries were approximately nine times more common among male than female patients and highest among males ages 20-24. Of the patients who presented alive to the ED, 37.2 percent were admitted to inpatient care, while 8.3 percent died during their ED visit or inpatient admission. The mean per person ED and inpatient charges were $5,254 and $95,887, respectively, resulting in an annual financial burden of approximately $2.8 billion in ED and inpatient charges. Although future research is warranted to better understand firearm-related injuries, policy makers might consider implementing universal background checks for firearm purchases and limiting access to firearms for people with a history of violence or previous convictions to reduce the clinical and financial burden associated with these injuries.
Many immigrants in the United States are working-age taxpayers; few are elderly beneficiaries of Medicare. This demographic profile suggests that immigrants may be disproportionately subsidizing the Medicare Trust Fund, which supports payments to hospitals and institutions under Medicare Part A. For immigrants and others, we tabulated Trust Fund contributions and withdrawals (that is, Trust Fund expenditures on their behalf) using multiple years of data from the Current Population Survey and the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey. In 2009 immigrants made 14.7 percent of Trust Fund contributions but accounted for only 7.9 percent of its expenditures-a net surplus of $13.8 billion. In contrast, US-born people generated a $30.9 billion deficit. Immigrants generated surpluses of $11.1-$17.2 billion per year between 2002 and 2009, resulting in a cumulative surplus of $115.2 billion. Most of the surplus from immigrants was contributed by noncitizens and was a result of the high proportion of working-age taxpayers in this group. Policies that restrict immigration may deplete Medicare’s financial resources.
Each year US physician practices in four common specialties spend, on average, 785 hours per physician and more than $15.4 billion dealing with the reporting of quality measures. While much is to be gained from quality measurement, the current system is unnecessarily costly, and greater effort is needed to standardize measures and make them easier to report.
Health spending growth in the United States for 2015-25 is projected to average 5.8 percent-1.3 percentage points faster than growth in the gross domestic product-and to represent 20.1 percent of the total economy by 2025. As the initial impacts associated with the Affordable Care Act’s coverage expansions fade, growth in health spending is expected to be influenced by changes in economic growth, faster growth in medical prices, and population aging. Projected national health spending growth, though faster than observed in the recent history, is slower than in the two decades before the recent Great Recession, in part because of trends such as increasing cost sharing in private health insurance plans and various Medicare payment update provisions. In addition, the share of total health expenditures paid for by federal, state, and local governments is projected to increase to 47 percent by 2025.
The growing awareness of the wide variation in health care prices, increased availability of price data, and increased patient cost sharing are expected to drive patients to shop for lower-cost medical services. We conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,996 nonelderly US adults who had received medical care in the previous twelve months to assess how frequently patients are price shopping for care and the barriers they face in doing so. Only 13 percent of respondents who had some out-of-pocket spending in their last health care encounter had sought information about their expected spending before receiving care, and just 3 percent had compared costs across providers before receiving care. The low rates of price shopping do not appear to be driven by opposition to the idea: The majority of respondents believed that price shopping for care is important and did not believe that higher-cost providers were of higher quality. Common barriers to shopping included difficulty obtaining price information and a desire not to disrupt existing provider relationships.
In 2013 US health care spending increased 3.6 percent to $2.9 trillion, or $9,255 per person. The share of gross domestic product devoted to health care spending has remained at 17.4 percent since 2009. Health care spending decelerated 0.5 percentage point in 2013, compared to 2012, as a result of slower growth in private health insurance and Medicare spending. Slower growth in spending for hospital care, investments in medical structures and equipment, and spending for physician and clinical care also contributed to the low overall increase.
Major policy uncertainty continues to surround the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at both the state and federal levels. We assessed changes in health care use and self-reported health after three years of the ACA’s coverage expansion, using survey data collected from low-income adults through the end of 2016 in three states: Kentucky, which expanded Medicaid; Arkansas, which expanded private insurance to low-income adults using the federal Marketplace; and Texas, which did not expand coverage. We used a difference-in-differences model with a control group and an instrumental variables model to provide individual-level estimates of the effects of gaining insurance. By the end of 2016 the uninsurance rate in the two expansion states had dropped by more than 20 percentage points relative to the nonexpansion state. For uninsured people gaining coverage, this change was associated with a 41-percentage-point increase in having a usual source of care, a $337 reduction in annual out-of-pocket spending, significant increases in preventive health visits and glucose testing, and a 23-percentage-point increase in “excellent” self-reported health. Among adults with chronic conditions, we found improvements in affordability of care, regular care for those conditions, medication adherence, and self-reported health.
To follow up on a previous study that examined how the mandated displaying of calorie information on menu boards in fast-food restaurants in New York City influenced consumers' behavior, we analyzed itemized cash register receipts and survey responses from 7,699 consumers at four fast-food chains. Using a difference-in-differences study design, we found that consumers exposed to menu labeling immediately after the mandate took effect in 2008 and at three points in 2013-14 reported seeing and using the information more often than their counterparts at fast-food restaurants without menu labeling. In each successive period of data collection, the percentage of respondents noticing and using the information declined, while remaining above the prelabeling baseline. There were no statistically significant changes over time in levels of calories or other nutrients purchased or in the frequency of visits to fast-food restaurants. Menu labeling at fast-food chain restaurants, which the Affordable Care Act requires to be implemented nationwide in 2016, remains an unproven strategy for improving the nutritional quality of consumer food choices at the population level. Additional policy efforts that go beyond labeling and possibly alter labeling to increase its impact must be considered.