Checking Up On Health

Is the federal government’s Medicare payment penalty reducing hospital-acquired infections in patients?

Benita Dodd, Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

Health Policy Briefs
Compiled By Benita M. Dodd

ObamaCare burden: The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has cost states and private companies $27.6 billion to date in new regulations, according to an analysis by the American Action Forum. The AAF stresses that this is the cost FLOOR, not the cost CEILING!  At least $20.4 billion is in lifetime costs on private entities and $7.2 billion in increased burdens on state budgets. AAF said its analysis only considered the published regulatory costs, not any fiscal impacts of the law or any of the ACA’s tax provisions. 

Five states will endure at least $1 billion in ACA regulatory costs, according to the analysis. California’s compliance cost is the highest, at $3.4 billion and requiring 2,917 full-time employees diverted to compliance. The cost to Georgia is $722 million and 556 full-time employees. AAF says that the law has produced 85 new rulemakings to date. The top 10 regulations account for 88 percent of the total regulatory costs: $24.4 billion.

Drop your insurance, drop the ball: Given the opportunity, many people who currently have private coverage will drop their insurance to take advantage of free insurance from Medicaid, says John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis in his Health Alert blog. In fact, estimates are that 50 percent or more of people who become newly eligible for Medicaid will drop their private insurance to take advantage of free government coverage. Why is that so important? His blog includes a chart from a study showing how little difference there is between cancer survival rates of the uninsured and Medicaid patients. This implies, according to Goodman, “that for millions of people we are about to spend billions of dollars and may — after all is said and done — leave them worse off than if we had done nothing at all!” 

Healthy employee, healthy bottom line: A new report from Buck Consultants, a Xerox Co., delves into some of the most successful multinational workplace health promotion programs, profiling 13 large multinational employers that collectively represent more than 1 million employees. It found eight strategies that help these programs succeed, the first being to focus on the program’s value: And here’s a good point: “A successful global health strategy recognizes that employee health and wellbeing is a desirable corporate asset – one that impacts everything from recruitment and retention to engagement and employee productivity.” Read the other seven here:

The hits keep coming: Darden Restaurants, the company that operates Olive Garden, Red Lobster and LongHorn Steakhouse restaurants in Atlanta and nationwide, is experimenting with limiting hours of some employees to avoid coverage requirements introduced in ObamaCare. Under a provision of the law that will take effect in 2014, all large companies must offer health care to employees who work 30 hours or more per week. Orlando, Fla.-based Darden is the world’s largest casual dining company and has about 185,000 employees. Source: 

Fast-tracking drugs: The Food and Drug Administration is considering fast-tracking approval of treatments whose public health benefits outweigh their risks, including drugs for drug-resistant bacteria, infectious diseases and obesity. FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg said such drugs could be labeled for “special medical use” after faster, smaller clinical trials to get them to the people who need them most. Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

Best practices: According to a report prepared annually by Physicians Practice, an online media and resource tool for doctors, Idaho, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas rank highest on the this year’s list of best places to practice. The rankings are based on metrics like malpractice frequency, reimbursement and overhead costs. The idea is that the more stress-factors – like disciplinary actions and tax burdens –  that exist per capita, the less desirable the locale would be, Kaiser Health News reports. Click here to find out how your state ranks:

Penalties not paying off: A Medicare payment policy designed to push hospitals to cut their infection rates has had no effect in reducing two types of preventable infections among patients in intensive care units, researchers say in a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. In 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began denying additional payments to hospitals whose patients became sicker as a result of bloodstream infections and urinary tract infections associated with the use of central lines or catheters. It is estimated that about one in 20 hospitalized patients get an infection, resulting in up to $33 billion in additional costs each year. Efforts to reduce the rate of infections include public reporting requirements and the payment policy in Medicare, which is now being expanded into state Medicaid programs. Source: Kaiser Health News

Quote of Note: “Poisons and medicine are oftentimes the same substance given with different intents.” – Peter Mere Latham

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