Category Archives: Health

Choosing Wisely Campaign: Valuable For Providers Who Knew About It, But Awareness Remained Constant, 2014-17 [Web First]

Together with physician specialty societies, the Choosing Wisely® campaign has codified recommendations of which health care services’ use should be questioned and discussed with patients. The ABIM Foundation administered surveys in 2014 and 2017 to examine physicians’ attitudes toward and awareness of the use of low-value care. The surveys included questions on the factors driving that use, physicians’ comfort in having conversations with patients about that use, and physicians’ exposure to the Choosing Wisely campaign. Despite continued publicity and physician outreach efforts, there were no significant changes between 2014 and 2017 in awareness of the campaign among physicians (awareness increased from 21 percent to 25 percent) or physician-reported difficulty in talking to patients about avoiding a low-value service (42 percent reported that such conversations had gotten harder in 2014, and 46 percent did so in 2017). Barriers to the adoption of recommendations included malpractice concerns, patient demand and satisfaction, and physicians’ desire for more information to reduce uncertainty. Multifaceted interventions that reinforce guidelines through personalized education, follow-up, and feedback, as well as aligned financial incentives, should be pursued to reduce the use of low-value services.

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Much Activity, Uncertainty Remains [Web First]

Bipartisan market stabilization negotiations gave way to a last-gasp attempt at repeal and replace; the ACA emerged intact but buffeted by uncertainty.

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Despite Increased Insurance Coverage, Nonwhite Sexual Minorities Still Experience Disparities In Access To Care [Original Article]

Previous studies suggest that members of sexual minority groups have poorer access to health services than heterosexuals. However, few studies have examined how sexual orientation interacts with gender and race to affect health care experience. Moreover, little is known about the role in health care disparities played by economic strains such as unemployment and poverty, which may result from prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Using data for 2013–15 from the National Health Interview Survey, we found that most members of sexual minority groups no longer have higher uninsurance rates than heterosexuals, but many continue to experience poorer access to high-quality care. Gay nonwhite men, bisexual white women, and bisexual and lesbian nonwhite women are disadvantaged in multiple aspects of access, compared to straight white men. Only some of these disparities are attributable to economic factors, which implies that noneconomic barriers to care are substantial. Our results suggest that the intersection of multiple social identities can reveal important gaps in health care experience. Making culturally sensitive services available may be key to closing the gaps.

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Health Benefits In 2017: Stable Coverage, Workers Faced Considerable Variation In Costs [Web First]

The annual Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Educational Trust Employer Health Benefits Survey found that in 2017, average annual premiums (employer and worker contributions combined) rose 4 percent for single coverage, to $6,690, and 3 percent for family coverage, to $18,764. Covered workers contributed 18 percent of the premium for single coverage and 31 percent for family coverage, on average, although there was considerable variation around these averages. For covered workers in small firms, 10 percent did not make a premium contribution for family coverage, while 36 percent made a contribution of more than half of their premium. The average worker contribution for family coverage has increased from $4,316 in 2012 to $5,714 in 2017. The share of firms that offered health benefits (53 percent) and of workers in those firms covered by their employers’ plans (62 percent) remain statistically unchanged from 2016.

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Substantial Churn In Health Insurance Offerings By Small Employers, 2014-15 [Private Health Insurance]

New data for 2014–15 from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey–Insurance Component longitudinal survey show substantial churn in insurance offers by small employers (those with fifty or fewer workers), with 14.6 percent of employers that offered insurance in 2014 having dropped it in 2015 and 5.5 percent of those that did not offer it adding coverage.

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A Midsummer Nights Strange Reality [Web First]

After GOP efforts to repeal and replace the ACA collapsed in the Senate, attention is focused on whether cost-sharing reduction payments will continue.

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Consumerism, Competition, Drug Approval, And More [From The Editor-in-Chief]

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The Affordable Care Act Reduced Socioeconomic Disparities In Health Care Access [Web First]

The United States has the largest socioeconomic disparities in health care access of any wealthy country. We assessed changes in these disparities in the United States under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). We used survey data for the period 2011–15 from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System to assess trends in insurance coverage, having a personal doctor, and avoiding medical care due to cost. All analyses were stratified by household income, education level, employment status, and home ownership status. Health care access for people in lower socioeconomic strata improved in both states that did expand eligibility for Medicaid under the ACA and states that did not. However, gains were larger in expansion states. The absolute gap in insurance coverage between people in households with annual incomes below $25,000 and those in households with incomes above $75,000 fell from 31 percent to 17 percent (a relative reduction of 46 percent) in expansion states and from 36 percent to 28 percent in nonexpansion states (a 23 percent reduction). This serves as evidence that socioeconomic disparities in health care access narrowed significantly under the ACA.

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The Population Health Benefits Of A Healthy Lifestyle: Life Expectancy Increased And Onset Of Disability Delayed [Web First]

A key determinant of population health is the behavioral profile of a population. Nearly 80 percent of Americans reach their fifties having smoked cigarettes, been obese, or both. It is unknown to what extent risky behaviors (for example, smoking, having a poor diet, being physically inactive, and consuming an excessive amount of alcohol) collectively are reducing the health and life expectancy of the US population, or what improvements might be achievable in their absence. Using data from the Health and Retirement Study, we studied people ages fifty and older who had never smoked, who were not obese, and who consumed alcohol moderately. Compared to the whole US population, those with such a favorable behavioral profile had a life expectancy at age fifty that was seven years longer, and they experienced a delay in the onset of disability of up to six years. These results provide a benchmark for evaluating the massively damaging effects that behavioral risks have on health at older ages and the importance of prioritizing policies to implement behavioral-based interventions.

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Health Care Reform In The Senates Hands [Web First]

Senate GOP hopes to act on health reform before July 4th were dashed. Meanwhile, a leaked rule would offer broad protections for employers objecting to contraceptive coverage.

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