Checking Up On Health


Benita M. Dodd
Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Health Policy Briefs: September 25, 2012
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd

Season opens for health plans: It’s the fall health insurance open enrollment season, and among the things you can expect to see are that premiums will rise 5.3 percent in 2013, a slightly smaller increase than 2012. Also costing more will be dependent coverage. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, ObamaCare, allows adult children to stay on their parents’ plans until they reach age 26.

Tracy Watts of human resources consultant Mercer told Kaiser Health News, “Companies are not really wanting to be a dependent magnet. They want to be competitive, but not so generous that everybody comes onto their plan.” In 2013, 38 percent of employers said they plan to significantly reduce their subsidization of coverage for dependents and spouses, and 29 percent planned to discourage spouses with coverage available elsewhere from signing on with the employee’s plan through surcharges and other means.

One bright spot: Expect more consumer-driven health plans, which promote accountability among health-care consumers. Nearly 60 percent of employers who responded to an Aon Hewitt survey said they offered their employees a consumer-driven health plan last year, a health savings account (HSA) or a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA). Consumer-driven health plans are now the second most common type of plan offered by employers, after preferred provider organizations (PPOs).

Waste not, want not: John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis tackles a study by The Institute of Medicine that says we are wasting 30 cents of every dollar spent on medical care. “Originally I was going to pan the study, but I can’t resist a good read. Like this:

  • If banking were like health care ATM transactions would take not seconds but perhaps days or longer as a result of unavailable or misplaced records.
  • If home building were like health care, carpenters, electricians and plumbers each would work with different blueprints, with very little coordination.
  • If shopping were like health care, product prices would not be posted, and the price charged would vary widely within the same store, depending on the source of payment.
  • If automobile manufacturing were like health care, warranties for cars that require manufacturers to pay for defects would not exist. As a result, few factories would seek to monitor and improve production line performance and product quality.
  • If airline travel were like health care, each pilot would be free to design his or her own preflight safety check, or not to perform one at all.”

Goodman then goes on to pan the Institute’s recommended solutions, pointing out: “If Steve Jobs sent out memos like this one, there never would have been an iPhone.”

And the winner is … Companies specializing in driving down spending on health care, whether through electronic records, preventive care or consolidating services, are turning out to be the biggest winners from the 2010 health care law, USA Today reports. Investors, analysts and policy-makers say any business that can help health care providers cut costs or keep patients from being readmitted to the hospital soon after an in-patient visit is attracting more customers and seeing more investment. 

Putting their heads together: Ten leading drug companies have decided to collaborate in a nonprofit project to overcome inefficiency in drug development, GENNewsHighlights  reports. The TransCelerate Biopharma collaboration’s initial focus is on streamlining and standardizing clinical trials, which, “has the promise to lead to new paradigms and cost savings in drug development,” said Dr. Janet Woodcock, director of the FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

TransCelerate’s CEO, Dr. Garry Neil, explained the collaboration: “There is widespread alignment among the heads of R&D at major pharmaceutical companies that there is a critical need to substantially increase the number of innovative new medicines, while eliminating inefficiencies that drive up R&D costs.” The companies that will contribute staff and funding are Abbott Laboratories, AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly and Co., GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Roche Holding unit Genentech and Sanofi.

Cancer drugs treating Alzheimer’s? Scientists have made the unexpected discovery that two marketed anticancer drugs can dramatically restore memory in animal models of Alzheimer’s disease. The discovery could lead to the drugs helping hold back or even reversing memory loss in human Alzheimer’s patients. Just 18 days of one type of therapy called gefitinib therapy (the shortest period of treatment evaluated), researchers found, “was enough to rescue memory loss in eight-month old AD animals, which typically exhibit profound memory loss but have yet to develop morphological changes in the brain.” Source: Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News

Quote of Note: “Bad laws are the worst form of tyranny.” – Edmund Burke

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