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.
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.
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.
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.
An analysis of return on investment can help policy makers support, optimize, and advocate for the expansion of immunization programs in the world’s poorest countries. We assessed the return on investment associated with achieving projected coverage levels for vaccinations to prevent diseases related to ten antigens in ninety-four low- and middle-income countries during 2011-20, the Decade of Vaccines. We derived these estimates by using costs of vaccines, supply chains, and service delivery and their associated economic benefits. Based on the costs of illnesses averted, we estimated that projected immunizations will yield a net return about 16 times greater than costs over the decade (uncertainty range: 10-25). Using a full-income approach, which quantifies the value that people place on living longer and healthier lives, we found that net returns amounted to 44 times the costs (uncertainty range: 27-67). Across all antigens, net returns were greater than costs. But to realize the substantial positive return on investment from immunization programs, it is essential that governments and donors provide the requisite investments.
Total nominal US health care spending increased 5.8 percent and reached $3.2 trillion in 2015. On a per person basis, spending on health care increased 5.0 percent, reaching $9,990. The share of gross domestic product devoted to health care spending was 17.8 percent in 2015, up from 17.4 percent in 2014. Coverage expansions that began in 2014 as a result of the Affordable Care Act continued to affect health spending growth in 2015. In that year, the faster growth in total health care spending was primarily due to accelerated growth in spending for private health insurance (growth of 7.2 percent), hospital care (5.6 percent), and physician and clinical services (6.3 percent). Continued strong growth in Medicaid (9.7 percent) and retail prescription drug spending (9.0 percent), albeit at a slower rate than in 2014, contributed to overall health care spending growth in 2015.
A woman with cancer dies after receiving poor care for an infection. Her physician-son calls on the health system to involve patients and families in improving safety.