Majority of Americans Still Paying High Medical Costs Despite Recession

Monday, October 29th, 2012
This post was written by Cheryl Miller

The recession hasn’t impacted high medical cost burdens for a majority of Americans, according to a recent study from the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC). Nearly one in five families spent at least 10 percent of their pre-tax family income on out-of-pocket health insurance premiums and medical care in 2009, roughly the same as 2006 despite widespread job losses, more uninsured, and declining incomes during the recession. Researchers attributed decreasing family income among the reasons for the lack of change.

CMS financial penalties haven’t impacted the rate of hospital-acquired infections (HAIs), according to a report from the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute. The study included data on 398 hospitals from 41 states and found no evidence that 2008 CMS policies reducing Medicare payments to hospitals for HAIs had a positive impact. Instead, the study found that infection rates declined steadily throughout this period independent of penalties. Among the reasons cited in the report was the size of the financial incentives – they were very small and failed to spark reform.

Population health management strategies could have an impact on patient care, and healthcare costs, but physician practices need to put readiness plans together. Chief among the challenges to implementation are increased administrative burdens, cost, and time, but researchers stress that the short-term disruptions to patient care are worth the longer term benefits.

What might have an impact on our offices here on the Jersey coast is Hurricane Sandy, set to land right around the time this newsletter goes to press. So we’re in readiness mode, hoping that a boardwalk clogged with sand will be the only short-term disruption from the storm, but well worth the ocean viewing afterward.

Read all of these stories in their entirety in this week’s Healthcare Business Weekly Update.

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