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Health Costs to Remain Constant
Researchers from PwC’s Health Research Institute forecast stable health insurance costs for workers in 2019. The reasoning behind their prediction is employers are safeguarding themselves by investing in employee satisfaction in order to dissuade them from leaving in the current “tight” job market. The employer insurance market can expect to see a 6 percent increase in health costs, which is consistent with the past five years’ standard range of 5.5–7 percent. The drivers of inflation are recent megamergers such as CVS and Aetna, physician consolidation, and growing array of care delivery methods (e.g. telehealth). High-performance networks are the primary counterbalance to skyrocketing costs, though increased care advocacy and an especially bad flu also lowered costs.
>>Read More: The cost of your health insurance may hold steady next year. Thank the tight labor market
High Deductibles = Fewer Patients
A study published in Translational Behavioral Medicine found that patients with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and no health savings account (HSA) were more likely to skip out on primary care visits, preventive care, and subspecialty services when compared to those with lower deductibles. Individuals with these plans were 7 percent less likely to receive a breast cancer screening and 8 percent less likely to get a flu shot. Researchers hypothesized that the correlation indicated that HDHP “enrollees are unaware that the [Affordable Care Act] covers preventive care office visits, screening tests, immunizations, and counseling with no out-of-pocket charges, and thus do not benefit from preventive care services and recommendations.” Researchers warned that this disparity could have dire consequences, such as a failure to detect early-stage chronic disease, increased absenteeism, and reduced productivity.”
>>Read More: Study: High-deductible plans may impede preventive care
Experts Warn Against EKGs in Certain Cases
The U.S. Preventive Task Force recently advised doctors to refrain from performing electrocardiogram (EKG) tests on patients who are at a low risk for heart disease. While the test is safe and inexpensive, ambiguous results often lead to redundant tests, such as angiograms, that are both costly and risky for patients. This conclusion reaffirms the federal task force’s 2012 position. While cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, tests for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes are recommended for low-risk patients. Dr. Robert J. Myerburg of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine proposed that doctors should instead focus on “the more powerful treatable risk factors” like diabetes, smoking cessation, and hypertension.
>>Read More: Doctors told not to order electrocardiograms for low-risk patients
The New Airborne Pharmacy
The ongoing decline of rural hospitals has resulted in “medical deserts,” areas where in-person care or pharmacies is not readily available. To combat this, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved 10 three-year pilot programs to use drones to deliver medications. The program is modeled after Zipline, a California-based company that operates a Rwanda health clinic. The service has logged more than 300,000 air miles, delivering both emergency blood plasma and prescriptions. “When we launched in Rwanda we served just one hospital for three months and that was so powerful–doctors loved the service, it was obviously saving lives–we then expanded to two more hospitals and then two more and two more,” Zipline CEO Keller Rinaudo said. Projections estimate that a single distribution center is capable of overseeing 500 flights per day. Furthermore, the use of drones reduces medical waste and spillage by 95 percent.
>>Read More: Drones hold promise to save lives and improve rural healthcare
AMA Votes on Stricter Firearm Policy
The American Medical Association (AMA) voted this week to amend their policy on “assault-type” firearms, which the group deemed a public health emergency. The AMA’s House of Delegates voted 446-99 in favor of the amendment, though debate was reportedly contentious. The multifaceted resolution calls for a ban on the sale of bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, and armor-piercing bullets; an age limit of 21 to purchase a firearm; support for registration, licensing, and safety courses; and laws preventing convicted domestic abusers from purchasing firearms.
>>Read More: AMA supports assault weapons ban