The Rundown | Week of 2.11.2019

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Prices Drive Healthcare Costs More Than Utilization

Average annual spending by individuals with employer-sponsored healthcare spending grew by 4.2 percent in 2017, reaching a new high of $5,641. The findings from the Health Care Cost Institute’s (HCCI) report suggests prices — rather than utilization, which has decreased — are responsible for increasing costs. Outpatient services experienced the highest increase with a growth of 5.1 percent. “Health care spending growth exceeded 4 percent for the second consecutive year, outpacing per capita GDP growth,” said Niall Brennan, president and CEO of HCCI. “And for the most part, Americans aren’t using more health care services, which means we’re essentially paying more and more for the same amount of health care.”
>> Read More: HCCI Releases 2017 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report

Teen Nicotine Use Sees Staggering Surge

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that tobacco use among high-school students skyrocketed by nearly 40 percent from 2017 to 2018. The unfortunate news follows years of declining tobacco use among minors. The increase is driven by the popularity of e-cigarettes, which effectively doubled among high school students in a single year. “If cigarette smoking continues at the current rate among youth in this country,” the CDC wrote, “5.6 million of today’s Americans younger than 18 will die early from a smoking-related illness.” The diminishing popularity of cigarettes has also stalled after two decades of progress. To combat the surge, the CDC proposed legislative solutions that included raising the minimum age of sale to 21 and increasing the “sin tax” on tobacco products as well as social and environmental factors.
>> Read More: Tobacco Use by Youth is Rising

Ultraprocessed Foods Linked to Higher Mortality

A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that a 10 percent increase in “the proportion of ultrapocessed food consumption was statistically significantly associated with a 14 percent higher risk of all-cause mortality.” Ultraprocessed foods were “characterized as ready-to-eat or -heat formulations made mostly from ingredients combined with additives.” Examples from the NOVA food classification used in the study include “packaged snacks, soft drinks, and instant noodles.” Researchers conducted a cohort study of nearly 45,000 French adults who were 45 years and older. Participants’ self-reported dietary intakes across a two-year period were then analyzed against CépiDC, France’s registry of mortality causes. The authors ruled “further prospective research is needed to confirm” the findings.
>> Read More: Association Between Ultraprocessed Food Consumption and Risk of Mortality Among Middle-aged Adults in France

Report: Medicare & Medicaid Contain Costs Better Than Private Sector

A study from researchers with Urban Institute concluded Medicare and Medicaid programs control spending better than private payers. The report offers perspective amid lawmakers’ — primarily Republicans — call for reduced funding to the entitlement programs to reel in federal spending and shrink the federal deficit. Researchers found that Medicare and Medicaid spending per enrollee has grown at approximately half the rate as private insurance. “This can be attributed to much faster enrollment growth in public programs,” the report read. Furthermore, spending in these programs did not exceed the growth of gross domestic product. “Overall, Medicare and Medicaid are doing a good job of keeping per capita costs under control, and the continuation of recent policies is critical to sustain this control.”
>> Read More: Slow Growth in Medicare and Medicaid Spending Per Enrollee Has Implications for Policy Debates

Primary Care Could Save $8.3 Billion in ED Visits

Potentially unnecessary emergency department (ED) visits for six chronic conditions account for up to $8.3 billion in additional costs, according to a new report. Researchers at Premier discovered approximately 4.3 million out of 24 million ED visits by chronically ill patients were avoidable and could be better managed in a primary care setting. Joe Damore, senior vice president of population health consulting at Premier, noted the results were unsurprising due to the overwhelming popularity of fee-for-service — as opposed to value-based — payment models. Low-quality care coordination is one of the main problems that lead to wasteful ED visits.
>> Read More: Premier Inc. Identifies $8.3B Savings Opportunity in the ED with More Preventative and Coordinated Ambulatory Care

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