The Rundown | Week of 12.10.2018

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Healthcare Spending Slows, But Still Increasing  

Nationwide spending on healthcare grew at a slower rate in 2017 than in recent years according to an analysis from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Office of the Actuary. The annual “National Health Expenditures 2017 Highlights” showed that healthcare spending “increased 3.9 percent to reach $3.5 trillion, or $10,739 per person” last year. Fewer patients seeking care was a driver for the slowdown. This rate of growth is comparable to 2008 through 2013, before a spike in 2014 and 2015 due to “insurance coverage expansion and high rates of growth in retail prescription drug spending.” Healthcare accounted for 17.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The analysis indicated federal spending “slowed in 2017, increasing 3.2 percent after 4.9 percent growth in 2016. The deceleration was largely associated with slower federal Medicaid spending.” Employer-sponsored premiums were the largest category of private business healthcare, increasing by 4.6 percent, and are correlated with fewer visits to primary care providers.
>> Read More: National Health Expenditures 2017 Highlights

Why Patients Don’t Tell the Full Truth

In a study that appeared in JAMA Network Open, researchers concluded the majority of patients withhold one of seven categories of medically-relevant information. The self-reported survey collected data from 4,510 respondents using two distinct surveys — Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and Survey Sampling International. Approximately 80 percent of participants intentionally withheld information from their provider for the following reasons: not wanting to be judged or lectured (81.8 percent), not wanting to hear how harmful a behavior is (75.7 percent), embarrassment (60.9 percent), not wanting the clinician to think they are a difficult patient (50.8 percent), not wanting to take up more of the clinician’s time (45.2 percent). Nondisclosure was especially pronounced among participants who were female, younger, and with worse self-rated health.
>> Read More: Prevalence of and Factors Associated With Patient Nondisclosure of Medically Relevant Information to Clinicians

VA and Walmart Partner for Telehealth

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Walmart announced a partnership to deliver telehealth services to veterans. The initiative will be beta-tested in several of the mega-retailer’s locations. Currently, the VA is the nation’s largest consumer of telehealth services with approximately 900,000 visits in 2017. “These types of events will help accelerate our shared journey to fully integrated, seamless access to healthcare no matter where a Veteran resides,” said VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. This announcement follows Congress’s approval of the VA MISSION Act in June, a $51 billion bill that expanded the VA’s telehealth services by allowing provider’s to administer care across state lines.
>> Read More: U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs and Walmart Announce Telehealth Collaboration to Reach Underserved Veterans

Flu Shot Linked to Reduced Mortality

A study published in Circulation concluded that patients who received influenza vaccinations saw an 18 percent “reduced risk of both all-cause and cardiovascular death after extensive adjustment for confounders.” The Danish cohort study included 134,048 adult participants with heart failure and adjusted for inclusion date, comorbidities, medications, household income, and education level. Furthermore, patients who received more frequent vaccinations and earlier in flu season were “associated with larger reductions in the risk of death compared with intermittent and late vaccination.”
>> Read More: Influenza Vaccine in Heart Failure: Cumulative Number of Vaccinations, Frequency, Timing, and Survival: A Danish Nationwide Cohort Study

Survey: Millions of Americans Missing Out on No-Premium Insurance

As the federal open enrollment period nears the December 15 deadline, a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation proposes that 4.2 million uninsured Americans are eligible for a no-cost, bronze-level plan. Bronze plans often have high deductibles, but cover the 10 benefits mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which include emergency services, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, and other critical services. Approximately 27 percent of consumers — 4,235,841 individuals, researchers project — without insurance are eligible for the premium tax credit, a subsidy that would account for the entire premium. This study follows the findings that ACA enrollment is down 6 percent from last year.
>> Read More: How Many of the Uninsured Can Purchase a Marketplace Plan for Free?

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