Health Care Blog
- Posted byon September 16, 2014 at 10:19 AM EST
New data out this morning from the National Center for Health Statistics show that health insurance coverage increased sharply in the first quarter of 2014, reflecting the significant progress made in expanding access to affordable insurance coverage during the first part of the Affordable Care Act’s inaugural open enrollment period.
These first official data on insurance coverage in 2014 do not capture the full scope of the gains in insurance coverage that have occurred so far in 2014 because most of the underlying interviews occurred well before the “March surge” in plan selections on the Health Insurance Marketplace. But when taken together with private survey data showing that coverage continued to expand in the second quarter of 2014, other recent data showing continued slow growth in health care costs, and ongoing improvements in health care quality, the overall picture is clear: the Affordable Care Act is working and well on its way to ensuring that all Americans have access to high-quality, affordable health care.
Today’s results from NCHS show large coverage gains, with larger gains ahead.
In detail, today’s results from the NCHS’ National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) show that the share of Americans without health insurance averaged 13.1 percent over the first quarter of 2014, down from an average of 14.4 percent during 2013, a reduction corresponding to approximately 4 million people. The 13.1 percent uninsurance rate recorded for the first quarter of 2014 is lower than any annual uninsurance rate recorded by the NHIS since it began using its current design in 1997.
As striking as this reduction is, it dramatically understates the actual gains in insurance coverage so far in 2014. The interviews reflected in today’s results were spread evenly over January, February, and March 2014. As a result, the vast majority of the survey interviews occurred before the surge in Marketplace plan selections that occurred in March; 3.8 million people selected a Marketplace plan after March 1,with many in the last week before the end of open enrollment on March 31. Similarly, these results only partially capture the steady increase in Medicaid enrollment during the first quarter.
- Posted byon September 5, 2014 at 12:02 PM EST
A new report this week from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had a lot to say about the state of health care costs and what it means for our economy. New estimates show that national health expenditures rose at historically slow rates in 2013 and American businesses and consumers will continue to see slow cost growth over the next few years, even as millions gain health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
This week’s Chart of the Week uses the most up-to-date data to break down what’s going on with health care costs for employers and the Medicare program. Right now, employers’ inflation-adjusted health benefit costs are up just 1 percent on a year-over-year basis, among the lowest rates recorded historically. This slow growth in employer health costs helps businesses create jobs and pay a good wage. At the same time, Medicare spending per beneficiary is actually falling in inflation-adjusted terms, which is helping keep premiums low for beneficiaries and bringing down our deficit.
Take a look at the numbers to see how health care costs for employers and the Medicare program are at near-historic lows:
Get the full story behind these health care numbers from Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers -- then check out what people are saying about why it’s so important to #GetCovered.
New Report Shows that Slow Health Care Spending Growth Continued in 2013, While Near-Term Trends Remain EncouragingPosted byon September 3, 2014 at 4:23 PM EST
New estimates out today from the Office of the Actuary at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services show that national health expenditures rose at historically slow rates in 2013, continuing the exceptionally slow growth in health costs seen in recent years. This slow growth, which is thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act, is already generating major benefits for both the Federal budget and our economy.
The near-term outlook in today’s report is also encouraging. Consistent with recent surveys reporting that millions of Americans gained health insurance coverage over the Affordable Care Act’s initial open enrollment period, the Actuaries project a sharp reduction in the number of uninsured Americans over the next few years due to the new coverage options made available under the Affordable Care Act. Unsurprisingly, the Actuaries predict that this dramatic expansion in coverage and access to care will temporarily increase growth in aggregate health care spending. But, consistent with a variety of incoming data, their projections imply that underlying growth in health care prices and per-enrollee spending – the factors that determine the premiums and cost-sharing that families face – will remain subdued over the next few years.
Over the long term, health expenditure projections are always more uncertain. While the Actuaries project that the recent slowdown will largely dissipate as economic recovery continues, the balance of the evidence implies that much of the recent health care spending slowdown has been driven by structural changes, which suggests that a significant portion may persist. Because of the large size of the nation’s health care sector, if even a modest portion of the recent slowdown continues in the long run, it would have a transformative effect on the Federal budget, families’ budgets, and the economy as a whole. For example, even if as little as one-third continues, then, by 2023, national health expenditures would be $1,200 per person lower than if costs returned to their prior trend. In the years ahead, the Administration will continue its efforts to create a health care delivery system that consistently provides efficient, high-quality care, with the goal of making that transformation a reality.
- Posted byon July 30, 2014 at 10:37 AM EST
On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed both Medicare and Medicaid into law. Over the past 49 years, Medicare has provided comprehensive coverage to millions of seniors and people with disabilities, while Medicaid has provided coverage for millions of the most vulnerable Americans: low-income parents, children, and those with disabilities.
Because of the Affordable Care Act, states are expanding their Medicaid programs to cover more Americans, and today, Medicaid covers over 66 million Americans.
Bill Sheshko, a 55-year-old self-employed man from Fair Lawn, New Jersey, experienced the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion first hand. He’d been without health insurance for years, but with the Affordable Care Act, and because his state decided to expand Medicaid, he finally became eligible for Medicaid.
A few months ago, Bill began having difficulty breathing and noticed his legs and feet starting to swell. Because of his new coverage, Bill was able to make an appointment with his doctor and was subsequently diagnosed with congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar. After a few scary days in the hospital, he is now home and working with his doctors to control his conditions with medication and diet. In a letter to the President, Bill wrote about the true meaning of his health coverage: “At least now I have a chance, all because of you.”
- Posted byon July 28, 2014 at 12:35 PM EST
Today’s annual report from the Medicare program’s Boards of Trustees brings good news about the program’s financial future: Its Trust Fund will last four more years, to 2030, and projected Part B premiums for 2015 will not increase for the second year in a row.
As we celebrate Medicare’s 49th birthday this week, we will recommit to ensuring that the program continues providing health and economic security for the nation’s elderly and people with disabilities through the 21st century and beyond. Today’s news shows that we are on the right track, and we are optimistic that the promising results we’ve seen in recent years can continue into the future.
In 2009, the Trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017 – just three years from now. Today’s new date is 2030, 13 years later than that projection – an improvement that is thanks in part to reforms in the Affordable Care Act (Chart 1). The law implemented changes to promote value-based payments, reduce waste and fraud, and strengthen the program’s benefits. These changes, for example, have reduced hospital spending on preventable readmissions, helping to lower hospital costs, which constitute a significant portion of trust fund spending.
- Posted byon July 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM EST
Chances are you’ve heard of the Affordable Care Act – President Obama’s landmark health reform law that’s holding insurance companies accountable, lowering health care costs, giving Americans more freedom and control in their health care choices, and improving the quality of care.
One part of the act that you may not be as familiar with, however, is the “80/20 rule” – also known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule – which went into effect in 2011.
The rule generally requires health insurance companies in the individual and small group markets to spend at least 80% of the premium dollars they collect on medical care or activities to improve health care quality. And that increases to 85% for insurance companies in the large group market.
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released some new numbers showing just how much this rule has saved consumers over the last few years.