Senate Finance Committee examines health care costs, transparency   06/18/2013
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Finance today, representatives from Catalyst for Payment Reform, the Center for Studying Health System Change and Castlight Health Inc. urged the government to take steps to improve the availability of price and quality information, among other actions, to help lower health care costs. In a statement to the committee, AHA voiced its support for the Health Care Price Transparency Promotion Act of 2013 (H.R. 1326), which would require states to have or establish laws requiring hospitals to disclose information on charges for certain inpatient and outpatient services; and require health insurers to provide to enrollees upon request a statement of estimated out-of-pocket costs for particular health care items and services.
Draft 'best practices' for patient financial interactions released   06/18/2013
The Healthcare Financial Management Association this week announced the release for public comment through July of proposed “best practices” to promote consistency, clarity and transparency in financial interactions between health care providers and patients. Developed with input from the AHA and others, the best practices provide guidance on when and how communication should take place about patient insurance coverage, financial counseling, patient financial responsibility for service and any existing balance. The best practices emphasize open and early communication, sharing of clear information, and identifying a path for financial resolution that is fair for patients and health care organizations. Former Health and Human Services Secretary and Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt chaired the project’s advisory panel, which includes former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Bill Frist (R-TN). The best practices are expected to be finalized this fall.
Study: Structural reforms driving historic slowdown in health care spending   06/18/2013
Numerous structural reforms are driving the health care spending slowdown, which could reduce Medicare spending by $1.1 trillion more than the Medicare Trustees projected last month, according to a study released today by the Federation of American Hospitals. “The past 10 years have seen an unprecedented series of developments directed at improving quality as well as delivery efficiency in health care,” the study by independent research firm Dobson DaVanzo & Associates concludes. “…As the U.S. prepares for the cost pressures that will build from serving the Baby Boomer population, it is important that policymakers take careful measure of the forces currently in play before attempting massive system change with unknown consequences.”
Institute expects slower health care cost growth to continue in 2014   06/18/2013
The recent slowdown in health care costs and spending will continue in 2014, thanks to structural changes in the health care field that are helping to contain costs and deliver care more efficiently, according to a report released today by PwC’s Health Research Institute. Based on an analysis of medical costs for large employers, HRI expects a net increase of 4.5% in health care costs and spending after accounting for benefit design changes such as higher deductibles and incentives for consumers to be more cost conscious. “The decline in spending growth is a signal of progress in the quest to bend the cost curve,” HRI said. “At the same time, the slowdown presents financial challenges for the industry as it attempts to navigate in a rapidly changing environment.”
Altarum: Health care prices, employment slow; spending remains low   06/18/2013
Health care prices in April were 1.1% higher than a year ago, the lowest reading since November 1997, according to the latest economic indicators from Altarum Institute's Center for Sustainable Health Spending. The year-over-year increase in hospital prices fell to 1.8% from 2.7% in March. National health care spending grew at an annual rate of 4.2%, close to the record low levels seen since 2009, the center reports. Health care added 11,000 jobs in May, down from a five-month average of 18,000 and 24-month average of 23,000. Hospitals lost 5,900 jobs in May, compared with a 24-month average gain of 4,700. Charles Roehrig, the center’s director, said “evidence is accumulating that 2013 will be a year of slower health sector job growth.”