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Tax refund? Schedule that surgery!
Cash flow dynamics and family health care spending—Health Affairs, December 2018
An analysis of JPMorgan Chase Institute data reveals how short-term changes in household cash flow influence consumer decisions about whether and when to seek medical care. The findings suggest that health care spending is sensitive to a wide range of cash flow events, from tax refunds to natural disasters. Unlike decisions about sports cars and handbags, it seems decisions about health care are largely driven by cash on hand.
Greek to me
As hospitals post sticker prices online, most patients will remain befuddled—Kaiser Health News, January 2019
As of Jan. 1, CMS required that all hospitals post their list prices online, but what is actually being posted—an alphabet soup of medical abbreviations and dollar signs—may leave consumers more confused than illuminated. That's because a majority of price lists posted were hospital chargemasters—massive compendiums of the prices set by each hospital for every service or drug a patient might encounter. To figure out what a visit might cost, a patient would have to piece together every component of his or her care. So far, the jury is out on the question of the day: Will price transparency lead to clarity?
See you in court
38 hospitals sue HHS over site-neutral payment rule—Healthcare Finance, January 2019
A group of 38 hospitals has sued HHS over a new rule that cuts Medicare payments for some services provided at off-campus hospital sites. The lawsuit claims that HHS Secretary Alex Azar acted beyond his statutory authority when he enacted a site-neutral payment policy that went into effect Jan 1. The policy translates to total payment reductions of $380 million in 2019, leaving many hospitals with ailing balance sheets.
Peaks & valleys
U.S. uninsured rate rises to 4-year high—Gallup, January 2019
The U.S. uninsured rate has risen steadily since 2016, with the greatest increases among women, young adults, and the lower-income. In the fourth quarter of 2018 it stood at 13.8%. While this is well below the high point of 18% in 2014, it is notably higher than the low point of 10.9% reached in 2016 under the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate. The 2.8% jump translates to another 7 million Americans lacking coverage.
We can work it out
Commentary: Hospital-insurer collaborations can reduce readmissions, cut costs—Modern Healthcare, January 2019
In a departure from the often-adversarial relationship between hospitals and health insurers, the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Independence Blue Cross joined forces to reduce hospital readmissions. The partners leveraged their collective EHR data to hone in on the most critical time period for readmissions, as well as the highest risk patients. Spoiler alert: It worked.