The industrialization of medical care delivery, compelled by fifteen years of reimbursement reform, has given rise to a commercial health information technology (HIT) industry. Well financed by Wall Street, the HIT industry offers a variety of ready-made solutions designed to transform a health care organization's raw data resources into useful clinical information. Many of the resulting clinical decision-support products are encumbered by numerous insurmountable intellectual and technical problems and, as a consequence, meet with cultural resistance from physicians. The long-awaited but costly implementation of electronic medical records (EMRs) will make these pioneering but flawed efforts obsolete, if EMR development successfully exploits recent technological breakthroughs and the ongoing consolidation of health care organizations.
Patent expiration of brand-name pharmaceuticals creates opportunities for large savings for state Medicaid programs because generic versions of medications frequently represent a lower-cost alternative. State Medicaid programs that quickly recognize the availability of generics and adjust their drug payments in response to falling market prices can obtain the greatest benefit. We examined one such case: the movement to generic fluoxetine following patent expiration for Prozac, a widely prescribed antidepressant and an expensive drug for Medicaid. We found large differences in states' responses to generic availability. States took between two and ten calendar quarters to reach 90 percent use of generic rather than brand-name fluoxetine and four to eight quarters to achieve a 50 percent decrease in reimbursement per pill. We estimated that states failed to realize $220 million in uncaptured savings during 2001-05. By coordinating their efforts, perhaps with federal help, states could gain access in a more timely way to market prices for generic drugs and, hence, take greater advantage of the savings that those drugs offer.
Complementary and alternative medicine services in the United States are an approximately $9 billion market each year, equal to 3 percent of national ambulatory health care expenditures. Unlike conventional allopathic health care, complementary and alternative medicine is primarily paid for out of pocket, although some services are covered by most health insurance. Examining trends in demand for complementary and alternative medicine services in the United States reported in the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey during 2002-08, we found that use of and spending on these services, previously on the rise, have largely plateaued. The higher proportion of out-of-pocket responsibility for payment for services may explain the lack of growth. Our findings suggest that any attempt to reduce national health care spending by eliminating coverage for complementary and alternative medicine would have little impact at best. Should some forms of complementary and alternative medicine-for example, chiropractic care for back pain-be proven more efficient than allopathic and specialty medicine, the inclusion of complementary and alternative medicine providers in new delivery systems such as accountable care organizations could help slow growth in national health care spending.
Under the Affordable Care Act, individual health insurance will probably become more generous and more like employment-related insurance. Currently, individual insurance typically has less generous benefits than employment-related insurance. This study compared out-of-pocket spending on health care between individual and employment-related insurance, controlling for numerous characteristics such as health status. Then it simulated the impact of full implementation of provisions of the Affordable Care Act on adults who currently have individual insurance, including important subgroups-adults with chronic conditions, the near-elderly (ages 55-64), and low-income populations. If adults who had individual insurance during 2001-08 had instead had benefits similar to those under the Affordable Care Act, their average annual out-of-pocket spending on medical care and drugs might have been $280 less. The near-elderly and people with low incomes might have saved $589 and $535, respectively. An important improvement would have been the reduced probability of incurring very high out-of-pocket spending. The likelihood of having out-of-pocket expenditures on care exceeding $6,000 would have been reduced for all adults with individual insurance, and the likelihood of having expenditures exceeding $4,000 would have been reduced for many.
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.
Enrollment in Medicare Advantage, the managed care program for Medicare beneficiaries, has grown rapidly, from 4.6 million enrollees in 2003 to 12.8 million by 2012, or 27 percent of all current Medicare beneficiaries. We analyzed utilization patterns of enrollees in Medicare Advantage health maintenance organization (HMO) plans compared to matched samples of people in traditional Medicare during 2003-09, to ascertain whether the HMO enrollees demonstrated different levels of use of services, which can be a hallmark of more integrated care. We found that utilization rates in some major categories, including emergency departments and ambulatory surgery or procedures, generally were 20-30 percent lower in Medicare Advantage HMOs in all years. Medicare Advantage HMO enrollees initially had lower rates of ambulatory visits and hospitalizations, although these rates converged by 2008; they also received about 10 percent fewer hip or knee replacements. In contrast, HMO enrollees underwent more coronary bypass surgery than patients in traditional Medicare. These findings suggest that overall, Medicare Advantage HMO enrollees might use fewer services and be experiencing more appropriate use of services than enrollees in traditional Medicare.
Since 2005 Massachusetts has publicly reported results from biennial surveys of satisfaction with nursing homes, completed by responsible parties for residents, to promote consumer-centered care. Our analysis of the results from 2005, 2007, and 2009 revealed generally high satisfaction with care, which remained stable over time. On a scale of 1 to 5 (from very dissatisfied to very satisfied), average satisfaction with overall care was 4.22-4.31, and satisfaction that overall residents' needs were met was 4.09-4.16. Around 90 percent of respondents would recommend the facility. Satisfaction ratings varied considerably across facilities, with higher scores associated with higher nursing staffing levels, fewer deficiency citations, and nonprofit or government ownership. Scores for six domains of care were, in general, closely associated with satisfaction scores. However, family members seemed less satisfied with the physical and social activities available to residents and with the food and meals served than with such attributes as the physical environment. Our findings suggest that including the consumer's perspective would improve the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' current nursing home reporting efforts. However, refinements may be necessary to detect the impact of consumer reporting on the quality of patient-centered care.
Loss of employment and declining incomes meant that five million Americans lost employment-based health insurance during the recent economic recession (2007-09). All groups of Americans were affected, but the growth in the number of uninsured people was particularly noticeable for whites, native-born citizens, and residents of the Midwest and South. Adults did not benefit nearly as much as children from public programs designed to offset the decline in employer-sponsored insurance and thus bore all of the burden of rising uninsurance. Throughout the past decade, even in good economic times, the number of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance has fallen, and the number of uninsured Americans has increased. This finding underscores the importance of planned coverage expansions under the Affordable Care Act.
Increasing use of the emergency department (ED) is well documented, but little is known about the type and severity of ED visits or their distribution across safety-net and non-safety-net hospitals. We examined the rates of high-intensity ED visits-characterized by their use of advanced imaging, consultations with specialists, the evaluation of multiple systems, and highly complex medical decision making-by patients with a severe, potentially life-threatening illness in California from 2002 through 2009. Total annual ED visits increased by 25 percent, from 9.0 million to 11.3 million, but high-intensity ED visits nearly doubled, increasing 87 percent from 778,000 to 1.5 million per year. The percentage of ED visits with high-intensity care increased from 9 percent to 13 percent (a relative increase of 44 percent). Annual ED admissions increased by 39 percent overall; most of this increase was attributable to high-intensity ED admissions, which increased by 88 percent. Safety-net EDs experienced an increase in high-intensity visits of 157 percent, compared to an increase of 61 percent at non-safety-net EDs. These findings suggest a trend toward intensification of ED care, particularly at safety-net hospitals, whose patients may have limited access to care outside the ED.
A decade ago the Institute of Medicine estimated that 44,000-98,000 preventable deaths occur each year in US hospitals. The leaders of Ascension Health-one of the nation's largest health care delivery networks, with sixty-nine hospitals in twenty states and the District of Columbia-dedicated themselves to preventing equivalent numbers of deaths in their system. In 2003 they set a goal of reducing preventable deaths by 900 each year by 2008. By fiscal year 2010 Ascension Health had reduced preventable deaths by more than 1,500 people annually and, by some calculations, by more than 5,000 people annually, compared to 2004. Ascension Health had also achieved important improvements in preventing birth trauma and reducing rates of pressure ulcers and hospital-acquired infections. The health care system could achieve even greater results by adopting the safety principles used in high-reliability entities such as the nuclear power industry. The adoption of such principles can lead to impressive improvements in health care quality.
The 100,000 Lives Campaign has the attention of U.S. hospitals, professional groups, and the media. Its aim has been endorsed, and its planks are being implemented, by more than 2,300 diverse hospitals in every state. We posit that the six planks of the campaign have become national standards of care and propose four theories of liability for hospitals that ignore the campaign or fail to implement its planks. As a result of the campaign, hospitals and their boards now face a legal incentive to reduce needless deaths through six specific interventions.
The need for better value in US health care is widely recognized. Existing evidence suggests that improvement in the productivity of American hospitals-that is, the output that hospitals produce from inputs such as labor and capital-has lagged behind that of other industries. However, previous studies have not adequately addressed quality of care or severity of patient illness. Our study, by contrast, adjusts for trends in the severity of patients' conditions and health outcomes. We studied productivity growth among US hospitals in treating Medicare patients with heart attack, heart failure, and pneumonia during 2002-11. We found that the rates of annual productivity growth were 0.78 percent for heart attack, 0.62 percent for heart failure, and 1.90 percent for pneumonia. However, unadjusted productivity growth appears to have been negative. These findings suggest that productivity growth in US health care could be better than is sometimes believed, and may help alleviate concerns about Medicare payment policy under the Affordable Care Act.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.
Specialty pharmaceuticals include most injectable and biologic agents used to treat complex conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. We analyzed trends in specialty drug spending among Medicare beneficiaries ages sixty-five and older using 2007-11 pharmacy claims data from a 20 percent sample of Medicare beneficiaries. Annual specialty drug spending per beneficiary who used specialty drugs increased considerably during the study period, from $2,641 to $8,976. However, specialty drugs accounted for only 6.7 percent of total drug spending per beneficiary in 2007 and 9.1 percent in 2011. Moreover, in 2011 cost-sharing reductions under the Affordable Care Act significantly reduced specialty drug users' out-of-pocket burden, which decreased 26 percent from 2010. Oral cancer agents accounted for a significant proportion of the increase in specialty drug spending among the study population. This suggests that the migration of specialty drug coverage from Medicare's Part B medical benefit to the Part D pharmacy benefit because of new treatment options may play an important role in specialty pharmacy trends. This shift is likely to continue as pharmaceutical innovations enable more specialty therapeutics to be self-administered and to be covered under the pharmacy instead of the medical benefit.
During and immediately after the recent recession, national health expenditures grew exceptionally slowly. During 2009-11 per capita national health spending grew about 3 percent annually, compared to an average of 5.9 percent annually during the previous ten years. Policy experts disagree about whether the slower health spending growth was temporary or represented a long-term shift. This study examined two factors that might account for the slowdown: job loss and benefit changes that shifted more costs to insured people. Based on an examination of data covering more than ten million enrollees with health care coverage from large firms in 2007-11, we found that these enrollees' out-of-pocket costs increased as the benefit design of their employer-provided coverage became less generous in this period. We conclude that such benefit design changes accounted for about one-fifth of the observed decrease in the rate of growth. However, we also observed a slowdown in spending growth even when we held benefit generosity constant, which suggests that other factors, such as a reduction in the rate of introduction of new technology, were also at work. Our findings suggest cautious optimism that the slowdown in the growth of health spending may persist-a change that, if borne out, could have a major impact on US health spending projections and fiscal challenges facing the country.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) set in motion payment changes that could put pressure on hospital finances and lead some hospitals to close. Understanding the impact of closures on patient care and outcomes is critically important. We identified 195 hospital closures in the United States between 2003 and 2011. We found no significant difference between the change in annual mortality rates for patients living in hospital service areas (HSAs) that experienced one or more closures and the change in rates in matched HSAs without a closure (5.5 percent to 5.2 percent versus 5.4 percent to 5.4 percent, respectively). Nor was there a significant difference in the change in all-cause mortality rates following hospitalization (9.1 percent to 8.2 percent in HSAs with a closure versus 9.0 percent to 8.4 percent in those without a closure). HSAs with a closure had a drop in readmission rates compared to controls (19.4 percent to 18.2 percent versus 18.8 percent to 18.3 percent). Overall, we found no evidence that hospital closures were associated with worse outcomes for patients living in those communities. These findings may offer reassurance to policy makers and clinical leaders concerned about the potential acceleration of hospital closures as a result of health care reform.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.
Payers and advocates for improved health care quality are raising expectations for greater care coordination and accountability for care delivery, and physician groups may be responding by becoming larger. We used Medicare claims from the period 2009-11, merged with information from the Medicare provider enrollment database, to measure whether physician group sizes have been increasing over time and in association with physician characteristics. All US physicians serving Medicare fee-for-service patients in any practice setting were included. The percentage of physicians in groups of more than fifty increased from 30.9 percent in 2009 to 35.6 percent in 2011. This shift occurred across all specialty categories, both sexes, and all age groups, although it was more prominent among physicians under age forty than those age sixty or older. The movement of physicians into groups is not a new phenomenon, but our data suggest that the groups are larger than surveys have previously indicated. Questions for future studies include whether there are significant cost savings or quality improvements associated with increased practice size.
The US malpractice system is widely regarded as inefficient, in part because of the time required to resolve malpractice cases. Analyzing data from 40,916 physicians covered by a nationwide insurer, we found that the average physician spends 50.7 months-or almost 11 percent-of an assumed forty-year career with an unresolved, open malpractice claim. Although damages are a factor in how doctors perceive medical malpractice, even more distressing for the doctor and the patient may be the amount of time these claims take to be adjudicated. We conclude that this fact makes it important to assess malpractice reforms by how well they are able to reduce the time of malpractice litigation without undermining the needs of the affected patient.
The emergency department (ED) is the source of most hospital admissions; provides care for patients with no other point of access to the health care system; receives advanced care referrals from primary care physicians; and provides surveillance data on injuries, infectious diseases, violence, and adverse drug events. Understanding the changes in the profile of disease in the ED can inform emergency services administration and planning and can provide insight into the public's health. We analyzed the trends in the diagnoses seen in California EDs from 2005 to 2011, finding that while the ED visit rate for injuries decreased by 0.7 percent, the rate of ED visits for noninjury diagnoses rose 13.4 percent. We also found a rise in symptom-related diagnoses, such as abdominal pain, along with nervous system disorders, gastrointestinal disease, and mental illness. These trends point out the increasing importance of EDs in providing care for complex medical cases, as well as the changing nature of illness in the population needing immediate medical attention.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.
With ongoing interest in rising Medicare Advantage enrollment, we examined whether the growth in enrollment between 2006 and 2011 was mainly due to new beneficiaries choosing Medicare Advantage when they first become eligible for Medicare. We also examined the extent to which beneficiaries in traditional Medicare switched to Medicare Advantage, and vice versa. We found that 22 percent of new Medicare beneficiaries elected Medicare Advantage over traditional Medicare in 2011; they accounted for 48 percent of new Medicare Advantage enrollees that year. People ages 65-69 switched from traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage at higher-than-average rates. Dual eligibles (people eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid) and beneficiaries younger than age sixty-five with disabilities disenrolled from Medicare Advantage at higher-than-average rates. On average, in each year of the study period we found that fewer than 5 percent of traditional Medicare beneficiaries switched to Medicare Advantage, and a similar percentage of Medicare Advantage enrollees switched to traditional Medicare. These results suggest that initial coverage decisions have long-lasting effects.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.
With the demise of health care reform at the national level, much of the attention has shifted to state-level efforts. Recently, several states have begun looking to the Medicaid program as a way to solve their health care problems. A principal way in which states are implementing health care reform is through the Section 1115 research and demonstration Medicaid waiver program. The 1115 waiver authority provides states considerable flexibility to restructure their Medicaid programs to offer health care to new populations and thus has great potential for covering large segments of the uninsured population. While it shows great promise, however, there are many obstacles states must overcome both in implementing and in maintaining an 1115 program.
As health care systems worldwide struggle with rising costs, a consensus is emerging to refocus reform efforts on value, as determined by the evaluation of patient outcomes relative to costs. One method of using outcome data to improve health care value is the disease registry. An international study of thirteen registries in five countries (Australia, Denmark, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States) suggests that by making outcome data transparent to both practitioners and the public, well-managed registries enable medical professionals to engage in continuous learning and to identify and share best clinical practices. The apparent result: improved health outcomes, often at lower cost. For example, we calculate that if the United States had a registry for hip replacement surgery comparable to one in Sweden that enabled reductions in the rates at which these surgeries are performed a second time to replace or repair hip prostheses, the United States would avoid $2 billion of an expected $24 billion in total costs for these surgeries in 2015.
In recent years, guidelines for HIV treatment have recommended initiation of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) earlier in the course of the disease than was previously the case. These recommendations stem in part from growing evidence that treatment reduces the risk of sexual transmission. We used an epidemiological model of disease transmission and progression to assess HIV prevention through early treatment-that is, initiation of cART when CD4 white blood cell counts are in excess of 350 cells per cubic millimeter. (CD4 cells are involved in the immune system's defense against tumors and infection; the number of CD4 cells in a cubic millimeter of blood is a standard measure of immune response to antiretroviral therapy.) We estimated that the actual timing of treatment initiation in the United States prevented 188,000 HIV cases in the period 1996-2009. "Very early" treatment (at CD4 counts greater than 500) accounted for four-fifths of the prevented cases. For all of the prevented cases, the losses in life expectancy that were avoided were worth $128 billion, assuming that a life-year has a value of $150,000. These findings underscore the cost-effectiveness of early HIV treatment.
The future health costs associated with predicted climate change-related events such as hurricanes, heat waves, and floods are projected to be enormous. This article estimates the health costs associated with six climate change-related events that struck the United States between 2000 and 2009. The six case studies came from categories of climate change-related events projected to worsen with continued global warming-ozone pollution, heat waves, hurricanes, infectious disease outbreaks, river flooding, and wildfires. We estimate that the health costs exceeded $14 billion, with 95 percent due to the value of lives lost prematurely. Actual health care costs were an estimated $740 million. This reflects more than 760,000 encounters with the health care system. Our analysis provides scientists and policy makers with a methodology to use in estimating future health costs related to climate change and highlights the growing need for public health preparedness.
In spring 2015 Congress passed legislation to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through the end of fiscal year 2017. This two-year extension pushes to 2017 the question of whether CHIP funding will end, allowing states to end their separate state CHIP programs. Also, when the Affordable Care Act's maintenance-of-effort requirements expire after 2019, states will be allowed to roll back Medicaid- and CHIP-eligibility thresholds to minimum levels allowed by federal law. This study investigated the potential health insurance options available to low-income children if these events happen. If all states roll back coverage to federal statutory minimums, then, among children in families with incomes up to 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines, the share ineligible for public coverage or subsidized Marketplace coverage would increase from 22 percent in 2014 (12.5 million children) to 46 percent after 2019 (26.5 million children). While not all states are likely to reduce eligibility to federal statutory minimums, these estimates highlight the fact that many children who do lose public eligibility will not become eligible for subsidized Marketplace coverage.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.
Prior research has suggested that gender differences in physicians' salaries can be accounted for by the tendency of women to enter primary care fields and work fewer hours. However, in examining starting salaries by gender of physicians leaving residency programs in New York State during 1999-2008, we found a significant gender gap that cannot be explained by specialty choice, practice setting, work hours, or other characteristics. The unexplained trend toward diverging salaries appears to be a recent development that is growing over time. In 2008, male physicians newly trained in New York State made on average $16,819 more than newly trained female physicians, compared to a $3,600 difference in 1999.
Provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allow millions more Americans to obtain health insurance. However, a sizable number of people remain uninsured because they live in states that have not expanded Medicaid coverage or because they feel that Marketplace coverage is not affordable. Using data from a ten-state telephone survey in which callers posed as patients, we examined prices for primary care visits offered by physician offices to new uninsured patients in 2012-13, prior to ACA insurance expansions. Patients were quoted a mean price of $160. Significantly lower prices for the uninsured were offered by family practice offices compared to general internists, in offices participating in Medicaid managed care plans, and in federally qualified health centers. Prices were also lower for offices in ZIP codes with higher poverty rates. Only 18 percent of uninsured callers were told that they could bring less than the full amount to the visit and arrange to pay the rest later. ACA insurance expansions could greatly decrease out-of-pocket spending for low-income adults seeking primary care. However, benefits of health reform are likely to be greater in states expanding Medicaid eligibility.
Project HOPE—The People-to-People Health Foundation, Inc.
The journey of national health reform legislation from concept to President Barack Obama's desk was long and winding, but not without important guideposts. Core elements of Massachusetts' 2006 health reform--near-universal, affordable coverage; changes in the small-group and individual insurance markets; and an individual mandate to obtain insurance--provided a road map for policy makers charting national health reform. Our experience with the Massachusetts reform informed our work on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in 2008 and 2009. We compare national and Massachusetts health reforms and analyze their implications for the future.
No comprehensive federal law now protects the privacy of people's medical records. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 mandates that if Congress fails to enact such legislation by August 1999, the secretary of health and human services must promulgate regulations. This paper argues that health privacy legislation is necessary both to improve patient care and to enhance the reliability of the health information used for research and public health initiatives. Within this framework I review pending federal health privacy legislation and make recommendations for moving forward.
The continuing deinstitutionalization of patients in public mental hospitals and the growth of managed care are fundamentally altering mental health practice. Managed care provides opportunities for achieving parity of insurance coverage between mental and physical illness, but serious problems persist in integrating mental health, substance abuse, and general medical care and assuring an appropriate range of services and programs for persons with serious mental illness residing in community settings. Hospital and community care are poorly coordinated, and hospital care needs to be integrated into a more balanced system of services. Important new roles are emerging for purchasers, patient advocates, and mental health authorities.
Recent efforts to measure performance have established its feasibility and value. However, its full potential is currently limited by several problems. They include the probabilistic nature, rarity, and confounding of many health outcomes; the inadequacies of information systems; the multiplicity of measures and measures; the complexity of health plans; and the availability of funding. Solutions are to rely more on process measures; to justify every measure with a formal, evidence-based rationale; to improve information systems; to supplement population-based measures with case-based measures; to develop a single, nationally standardized set of measures; and to provide nonpolitical, public funding for the design and administration of measures.
At a minimum, high-quality health care is care that does not harm patients, particularly through medical errors. The first step in reducing the large number of harmful medical errors that occur today is to analyze them. We used an actuarial approach to measure the frequency and costs of measurable US medical errors, identified through medical claims data. This method focuses on the analysis of comparative rates of illness, using mathematical models to assess the risk of occurrence and to project costs to the total population. We estimate that the annual cost of measurable medical errors that harm patients was $17.1 billion in 2008. Pressure ulcers were the most common measurable medical error, followed by postoperative infections and by postlaminectomy syndrome, a condition characterized by persistent pain following back surgery. A total of ten types of errors account for more than two-thirds of the total cost of errors, and these errors should be the first targets of prevention efforts.
In this DataWatch we examine whether the passage of California's Proposition 187 affected the use of mental health services in San Francisco County. Using time-series analyses, we identified a 26 percent decrease in the initiation of outpatient mental health services by younger Hispanics at selected service sites after the passage of Proposition 187 in November 1994. Further analyses suggest that decreased use of outpatient mental health services by young Hispanics was associated with their subsequent increased use of crisis services. Other studies of Proposition 187's effect on mental health service use in California are needed to corroborate the findings of this case study.
Hospitals are the standard acute care venues in the United States, but hospital care is expensive and can pose health threats for older people. Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Presbyterian Healthcare Services adapted the Hospital at Home® model developed by the Johns Hopkins University Schools of Medicine and Public Health to provide acute hospital-level care within patients' homes. Patients show comparable or better clinical outcomes compared with similar inpatients, and they show higher satisfaction levels. Available to Medicare Advantage and Medicaid patients with common acute care diagnoses, this program achieved savings of 19 percent over costs for similar inpatients. These savings were predominantly derived from lower average length-of-stay and use of fewer lab and diagnostic tests compared with similar patients in hospital acute care. Hospital at Home advances the Triple Aim of clinical quality, affordability, and exceptional patient experience.
When the novel strain of A/H1N1 influenza first appeared in spring 2009, closing schools was initially a common and often challenging strategy implemented in many communities. Arguments for and against closing schools are likely to arise anew if influenza spikes in the fall of 2009. Policymakers and community officials considering this and other nonpharmaceutical responses can learn from the experiences of ninety-one years ago, during the 1918-19 influenza pandemic that killed thousands of Americans. Analysis of the school closure policies of forty-three U.S. cities during that pandemic shows that smooth implementation was associated with clear lines of authority among agencies and with transparent communication between health officials and the public.
Prologue: The cost of medical care has become an overriding in- terest of the health sphere, government, and private payers because medicine has demonstrated a capacity to consume an increasing portion of the gross national product at the expense of other goods and services. Based on the estimates of the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) that health care will be a $1.4 trillion annual enterprise by the year 2000, there is every indication the in- terest in costs and their moderation will only increase. One dimen- sion of the cost picture that has received less attention is how Amer- ica spends its medical care dollar. In this essay, authors Marc Berk, Alun Monheit, and Michael Hagan focus on that subject by look- ing at spending trends over a fifty-year period ending in 1980. Berk joined Project HOPE's Center for Health Affairs in early 1988 as a senior policy analyst after spending nine years at the National
About half the growth in real per capita medical spending from 1960 to 1993 and two-thirds of its growth from 1983 to 1993 resulted from either the level or the growth of insurance coverage, chiefly the former. Dividing all factors determining the 1960-1993 growth in real per capita medical spending into two major categories, we find that 70 percent of this growth resulted from cost-increasing advances in medical services induced by insurance coverage levels and spending for noncommercial medical research. Only 30 percent was attributable to standard factors: growth in insurance coverage, changes in age/sex mix, and growth in real per capita disposable income.
In 1993 the nation spent $884.2 billion on health care, a 7.8 percent increase from 1992. Although this spending growth was among the lowest rates of growth recorded since 1960, it is too soon to tell whether slower growth in health spending is a new trend or merely a temporary perturbation in the long-term trend. The portion of the economy devoted to health care increased from 13.6 percent in 1992 to 13.9 percent in 1993--a 0.3 percentage point increase that equaled the average rate of increase recorded since 1960. The federal government's share of the total health care bill rose between 1991 and 1993, the first significant change in the share of the nation's health care bill funded by the federal government since the early 1970s.
The United States has made progress in decreasing the black-white gap in civil rights, housing, education, and income since 1960, but health inequalities persist. We examined trends in black-white standardized mortality ratios (SMRs) for each age-sex group from 1960 to 2000. The black-white gap measured by SMR changed very little between 1960 and 2000 and actually worsened for infants and for African American men age thirty-five and older. In contrast, SMR improved in African American women. Using 2002 data, an estimated 83,570 excess deaths each year could be prevented in the United States if this black-white mortality gap could be eliminated.