American patients can’t shop their way to a low cost healthcare system

American patients can’t shop their way to a low cost healthcare system

Hospital price transparency is a distraction from policies that could reduce costs without burdening patients, say Jamie Daw and Adam Sacarny.

 

The prices that hospitals charge privately insured patients in the US have long been shrouded in secrecy. These prices—which are negotiated between hospitals and private insurers—vary widely: the price for the same blood test could vary 39-fold within Tampa, Florida and the cost of a cesarean delivery varies by up to $24 000 in San Francisco, California.

A recent federal court decision stands to shine a light on opaque hospital pricing in the US. In a lawsuit brought forward by the American Hospital Association, a federal judge upheld a regulation issued by the Trump administration that will soon require hospitals to post a wealth of information on payment rates online.

This policy seems intuitive: in other sectors of the economy, consumers usually know the price of a service or product before they purchase it. By comparing prices, consumers can shop around and save money. In turn, sellers anticipate that behavior and are incentivized to keep prices low. Who wouldn’t want a virtuous circle like that in healthcare? 

The Trump administration argues that hospital price transparency will encourage value in healthcare by helping patients and employers find lower prices, while pressuring hospitals to cut them further. However, the potential effects—and who stands to benefit—are not so straightforward.

 

Firstly, giving consumers information on prices doesn’t necessarily mean that they will respond by seeking lower cost services. Studies have consistently found that patients tend not to use price transparency tools, and their effects on healthcare spending are small or nonexistent. Why? Shopping for healthcare services is often complicated or impossible. 

 

Many of the most expensive services are for emergencies where there is little scope for patients to shop.

Even when a patient has time to compare prices for non-urgent procedures or tests, the complexity of healthcare payment systems and insurance products makes it next to impossible for a patient to preemptively calculate what they would personally pay for an encounter. Establishing that amount requires patients to know the cost-sharing parameters of their insurance plan, the set of services they will use during the encounter, and how aggressively the hospital will bill for those services.

Insurance also obscures patients’ incentives to shop by insulating them from healthcare prices.

While patients can be given strong incentives to shop—and an increasing number of American workers are enrolled in high deductible health plans with this aim—these incentives are created by hoisting financial risk on patients. This financially burdens American families and can result in patients forgoing appropriate care.

 

Beyond the challenges posed by patient shopping, the empirical evidence supporting price transparency is weak.

It could even backfire. Economists have pointed out that in sectors with low competition, price transparency can facilitate collusion and lead to higher prices. This fear was borne out in Denmark when authorities began publishing the prices of ready-mixed cement. Prices proceeded to converge and rise, and the authorities eventually abandoned the idea. The most hopeful evidence in the US healthcare system comes from New Hampshire, where prices for medical imaging fell by 3% after the state established a price transparency website. But even effects of this magnitude, while beneficial, would only make a tiny dent in lowering US healthcare costs. 

 

Price transparency efforts reflect a broad trend for American policy makers to turn to consumer-driven strategies to reduce healthcare costs.

These strategies are built on the assumption that patients ought to be responsible for navigating their way to high quality, low cost healthcare. However, the challenges faced by patients in assessing the complex cost-quality tradeoffs in healthcare limit the potential for price transparency to have the impact that the administration advertises.

Perhaps more troubling is that these efforts could distract policy makers from addressing the main drivers of US healthcare prices, such as rapid and ongoing consolidation. Concentrated hospital markets are becoming the norm in the US and are strongly associated with higher prices. Antitrust actions, such as preventing hospital mergers, could reduce and reverse consolidation, likely leading to lower prices.

Another option for policy makers is to assume a greater regulatory role over healthcare prices, including introducing price caps and an all-payer rate setting. A Supreme Court decision made it much more difficult for state governments to collect the data that would undergird these efforts. As a result, the information released under the transparency rule may end up being more useful for states considering new price regulations than for patients shopping for healthcare services.

 

If we want to reduce prices without burdening patients with financial risk, then policy makers need to address the emerging causes of rising healthcare costs directly. Efforts to control costs are most likely to succeed when policy makers tackle the structural drivers behind the most expensive health system in the world.

 

 

 

 

Canada’s “national shame”: Covid-19 in nursing homes

https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2020/7/7/21300521/canada-covid-19-nursing-homes-long-term-care

Why Canada's coronavirus cases are concentrated in nursing homes - Vox

Nursing homes account for 81 percent of Covid-19 deaths in the country. How did this happen?

Canada’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has generally been viewed as a success, with experts pointing to its political leadership and universal health care system as factors.

But there has been one glaring failure in Canada’s fight against the pandemic: its inability to protect the health of its senior citizens in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

The situation for these seniors is so dire that the police — and even the military — have been called in to investigate why so many are dying.

In Quebec, some residents have been left for days in soiled diapers, going hungry and thirsty, and 31 residents were found dead at one home in less than a month, leading to accusations of gross negligence. In Ontario, the military found shocking conditions in five homes: cockroaches and rotten food, blatant disregard for infection control measures, and treatment of residents that was deemed “borderline abusive, if not abusive.”

“It’s a national shame,” said Nathan Stall, a geriatrician at Toronto’s Sinai Health System. “I don’t think we’ve done a good job at all in Canada.”

A whopping 81 percent of the country’s coronavirus deaths are linked to nursing homes and long-term care facilities. That means roughly 7,050 out of 8,700 deaths to date have been among residents and workers in these facilities.

In terms of raw numbers, that may not seem like very much. (For comparison, more than 40,000 US coronavirus deaths have been linked to nursing homes.) And, to be clear, Canada is hardly alone in watching tragedy unfold in these facilities. The US and Europe have seen startling numbers of fatalities among nursing home staffers and residents.

But 81 percent is a staggering statistic, especially for Canada, a country that prides itself on its progressive health policies. And it’s higher than the rate in any other country for which we have good data. In European countries, roughly 50 percent of coronavirus deaths are linked to these facilities. In the US, it’s 40 percent.

Experts say a number of factors are probably involved in Canada’s collapse on the nursing home front, like the fact that Canada has done well at controlling community spread outside these facilities (making nursing home deaths account for a greater share of overall deaths) and that residents in Canadian homes tend to be older and frailer than those in US homes (and thus more vulnerable to severe cases of Covid-19). But they say the high death rate in the homes is due, in large part, to egregious problems with the homes themselves.

“I think we have serious issues with long-term care,” said Vivian Stamatopoulos, a professor at Ontario Tech University who specializes in family caregiving. Experts have been warning political leaders about this for years, but, she said, “they’ve all been playing the game of pass the long-term care hot potato.”

Furious over how their elders are being treated, some Canadians have started petitions, protests, lawsuits, and even hunger strikes outside the homes. They say the government’s failure to respond reveals a deeper failure to care about seniors and people with disabilities, and to make that care concrete by sending facilities what they urgently need: more tests, more personal protective equipment (PPE), and more funding to pay staff members so they don’t have to work multiple jobs at different facilities.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has acknowledged that the situation in the facilities is “deeply disturbing.” He’s sent hundreds of military troops to help feed and care for the seniors in certain homes, where burnout and fear have prompted some staff members to flee their charges. But to some extent, Trudeau’s hands are tied because the facilities fall under provincial jurisdiction.

That leaves families terrified for their loved ones. They’re asking: Why have things gone so terribly wrong? How could this happen in Canada?

 

Canada’s crisis was a long time in the making

The first thing to understand is that Canada’s universal health care system does not cover nursing homes and long-term care facilities. That means these institutions are not insured by the federal system. Different provinces offer different levels of cost coverage, and even within a given province, you’ll find that some homes are publicly run, others are run by nonprofits, and still others are run by for-profit entities.

“This is the main problem — they don’t fall under the Canada Health Act,” said Stamatopoulos, adding that the same is not true of hospitals. “That’s why you see that the hospitals did so well. They had the resources.”

From the standpoint of someone in the US, where more than 132,000 people have died of Covid-19, Canada may seem to be doing well overall: The death toll there is around 8,700. Per capita, Canada’s coronavirus death rate is roughly half that of America’s. It’s clear that the northern neighbor has been doing better at keeping case numbers down, partly because it’s giving safer advice on easing social distancing.

Which makes the dire situation in nursing homes stand out even more. Longstanding problems with Canada’s nursing homes have clearly fueled the tragic situation unfolding there.

These homes are chronically understaffed. They tend to hire part-time workers, underpay them, and not offer them sick leave benefits. That means the workers have to take multiple jobs at different facilities, potentially spreading the virus between them. Many are immigrants or asylum seekers, and they fear putting their precarious employment at risk by, say, taking a sick day when they need it. (These problems aren’t unique to Canada, but as in other countries, they’ve been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic.)

A lot of Canadian homes also have poor infrastructure, built to the outdated design standards of the 1970s. Residents often live four to a room, share a bathroom, and congregate in crowded common spaces. That makes it very difficult to isolate those who get sick.

These problems are even worse in Canada’s for-profit nursing homes. Research shows that these private facilities provide inferior care for seniors compared to the public facilities, in large part because they hire fewer staff members and put fewer resources into upgrading or redesigning their buildings. The for-profit model incentivizes cost-cutting. (Similarly problematic profit motives and poor living conditions persist in US nursing homes, too.)

Canadian experts have been raising the alarm about these issues for more than a decade. So why haven’t they been addressed?

“Frankly, overall, it really reflects ageism in society. We choose not to invest in frail older adults,” Stall said. He added that early on in the pandemic, the public imagination latched onto stories of relatively young people on ventilators in hospitals. The hospitals and their staff got resources, free food, nightly applause. Homes for older people didn’t get the same attention.

“Nursing homes are not something we’re proud of societally. There’s a lot of shame around even having someone in a nursing home,” Stall said.

Stamatopoulos noted there are other forces at play, too. “I’d say it’s a trifecta of ageism, racism, and sexism,” she said. “When you look at this industry, it’s majority female older residents being cared for by majority racialized women.”

Ronnie Cahana, a 66-year-old rabbi who lives with paralysis at the Maimonides Geriatric Centre in Montreal, recently wrote a letter to Quebec’s premier. “I am not a statistic. I am a fully sentient, confident human being, who needs to have my humanity honored,” he wrote, adding that the premier should help the workers who take care of people like him. “Many of them are immigrants, newly beginning their lives in Quebec. … Please give them all the resources they require. Listen to their voices.”

 

How to make nursing homes safer — in Canada and beyond

If you want to keep nursing homes from becoming coronavirus hot spots, look to the strategies that have proven effective elsewhere. For months now, Canadian public health experts and advocates have been begging leaders to do just that.

All residents and workers in nursing homes should be tested regularly, whether they show symptoms or not. Anyone who gets sick should be isolated in a separate part of the building or taken to the hospital. Workers should be given adequate PPE, and universal masking among them should be mandatory. Working at multiple homes during the pandemic should be disallowed.

“Look at South Korea. They’ve had no deaths in long-term care because they treated it like SARS right from the get-go,” Stamatopoulos said. “They did aggressive testing. They were strict in terms of quarantining any infected residents and were quick to move them to hospitals. We’ve done the opposite.” Earlier in the pandemic, some Canadian hospitals sent recovering Covid-19 patients back to their nursing homes too soon; they inadvertently infected others.

“And look at New York state,” Stamatopoulos continued. “Gov. Cuomo signed an executive order on May 10 requiring all staff and residents to be tested twice a week. That aggressive testing helped halt the outbreaks in the homes.” Quebec and Ontario have yet to do this.

British Columbia, a Canadian standout at preventing deaths in nursing homes, adopted several wise measures early on. Way back on March 27, the western province made it illegal to work in more than one home — and topped up workers’ wages so they wouldn’t have to. It gave them full-time jobs and sick leave benefits.

It’s clear that so long as long-term care falls under provincial jurisdiction, nursing home residents will be better off in some provinces than in others. So some Canadian experts, including Stamatopoulos, are arguing that these facilities should be nationalized under the Canada Health Act. Others are not sure that’s the answer; Stall thinks it may make sense to target only for-profit homes, compelling them to improve their poor infrastructure. In the long term, any homes that do not meet modern standards should be redesigned.

Another lesson for the long term comes from Hong Kong, which has managed to totally avoid deaths in its nursing homes. Even before the coronavirus came along, all homes had a trained infection controller who put precautions in place to prevent the spread of infections. (US homes saw a similar system enacted under President Obama, but President Trump has proposed that it be rolled back.) Four times a year, Hong Kong’s homes underwent pandemic preparedness drills so that if an outbreak occurred, they’d be ready with best practices. It did, and they were.

Preparedness clearly saves lives. Hopefully, Canada and other countries will learn that lesson going forward so that no more lives are needlessly lost.

As Cahana, the resident in the Montreal home, said, “Each of us is crying to be heard. We say: More life! Please! We are not afraid of the future. We are afraid that society is forgetting us.”

 

 

 

 

 

June’s cautious economic recovery is based in part-time work and vulnerable industries

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2020/07/02/junes-cautious-economic-recovery-is-based-part-time-work-vulnerable-industries/?fbclid=IwAR290sM5RZgwuxNMBDi1chv_i1ulzy4zY2KF4f1cDUMCsiTTpME2wkGVM6s&utm_campaign=wp_main&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook

 

The June unemployment rate of 11.1 percent, down from a peak of 14.7 percent in April, reflects a continuing, cautious economic recovery. What those numbers don’t show is an increase in employment driven disproportionately by part-time work and industries that are vulnerable to another shutdown.

The unemployment rate is a blunt tool. It takes into account anyone who works, even if they work for only one hour a week. And part-time employment has recovered much more quickly from April’s catastrophic losses than full-time employment. While full-time employment is still 12 percent lower than it was in February, part-time employment is back to pre-pandemic levels.

According to the Labor Department’s survey of American households, many of those workers would work full-time if they could and are working part-time only because of poor economic conditions. The number of people pushed into part-time work has more than doubled since February. Meanwhile, the number of people who work part-time by choice is still down by 23 percent.

 

 

The unemployment rate isn’t wrong: Part-time work is still work. However, those jobs have already proved to be vulnerable to a slowing economy. Anyone pushed into part-time work by the coronavirus’s initial shock to the economy may be even more vulnerable in the case of future shutdowns. And part-time workers may not have access to benefits such as health insurance that are available to full-time workers.

The industries that bounced back in May and June are also at the mercy of future shutdowns as coronavirus cases surge across the Sun Belt. For instance, unemployment in leisure and hospitality is still very high but dropped by 10 percentage points from April’s staggering 40 percent. Retail and wholesale unemployment dropped by a third. In contrast, finance, government and professional services have had a slow start to recovery. Unemployment in the information industry actually increased from May to June.

 

 

If the greatest gains in employment are in industries that suffered most in the early stages of the pandemic, those gains are vulnerable to future waves of shutdowns. Meanwhile, less-volatile industries may continue to be slow to bounce back. A Congressional Budget Office report predicted that the unemployment rate is expected to stay above its pre-pandemic levels through the end of 2030.

 

 

Pre And Post Coronavirus Unemployment Rates By State, Industry, Age Group, And Race

https://www.forbes.com/sites/mikepatton/2020/06/28/pre-and-post-coronavirus-unemployment-rates-by-state-industry-age-group-and-race/#65c42c6555eb

Unemployment by State-May 2019 to May 2020

The coronavirus has decimated the U.S. economy and benched nearly 40 million American workers. In the past several days, the U.S. has logged its highest number of new Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. These combined with other factors, which we will discuss, is jeopardizing the future employment of millions of workers and the viability of thousands of businesses. Here’s how unemployment has increased for every state, industry, age group, and race, and why.

Unemployment by State

The coronavirus and subsequent stay at home orders hit the labor force especially hard. As states attempted to reopen, a resurgence in the virus is causing many businesses to close again, some by choice, others by government mandate.

Nevada has been hit the hardest as the unemployment rate in the Silver State rose from 4.0% in May 2019 to a whopping 25.3% in May 2020. Nevada’s economy is heavily reliant on leisure and hospitality, which had the brunt of the job losses. Hawaii, the second hardest hit state saw unemployment rise from 2.7% in May 2019 to 22.6% in May 2020. Which is the only other state with unemployment above 20% in May 2020? Michigan, where unemployment rose from 4.2% to 21.2% year over year. What state has fared best? Nebraska, which also has one of the most diverse economies of all states. Deriving nearly 50% of its total GDP from five different industries, unemployment in the Cornhusker State rose from 3.1% to a modest 5.2% from May 2019 to May 2020. Unemployment numbers for all states are shown in the following chart.

Unemployment by Industry

As mentioned in the previous section, the states that have fared best either have a more diverse economy or do not rely heavily on industries that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus. The most negatively affected is the leisure and hospitality industry where unemployment rose 618% from a low of 5.0% in May 2019 to a staggering 35.9% in May 2020. At a distant second, but still reeling, is the wholesale and retail trade industry, which saw unemployment rise from 4.2% to 15.1% during the same period. The rest of the industries are listed in the following chart.

Unemployment by Industry-May 2019 to May 2020

Unemployment by Age Group

Businesses need two things to exist: workers and customers. Without customers, there is no need for workers or the business for that matter. Some businesses require highly skilled workers while others operate well using unskilled labor. It is this unskilled labor group that has been hardest hit.

The greatest rise in unemployment is among workers under age 25. This is likely due to three factors. Younger workers typically have fewer marketable skills, less work experience, and less seniority. Many of these workers are in industries that have felt the greatest pain. Unemployment rates by age group are contained in the following chart.

Unemployment by Age Group-May 2019 to May 2020

Unemployment by Race/Ethnicity

Question: Prior to Covid-19, was unemployment among blacks / African Americans at a record low as President Trump has claimed? Using the available data, which extends back to January 1972, the answer is yes. This new record low was achieved in October and November of 2019 when unemployment among black or African American workers fell to 5.1%. The previous record low was 5.2% in December 1973. The current rate is 16.8%, which is less than the highest rate of 20.7% logged in December 1982. The most recent high in unemployment for this group was 19.3% in March 2010. It has been steadily declining since then. Numbers for White, Asian, and Hispanic or Latino and black or African American workers are listed in the following chart.

Unemployment by Race or Ethnicity-May 2019 to May 2020

Businesses need workers, workers need businesses, and both depend on customers. Since the pandemic began, consumer demand has fallen sharply. With the probability that a vaccine will not be available until early 2021 at the soonest, plus a disregard for recommended safety protocols by many individuals, namely wearing masks and social distancing, it is highly unlikely that the economy will return to normal for several years.

Will the president continue to hold rallies? Will he set an example by wearing a mask? Will the protests and violence continue? Will other large gatherings continue? Unless Americans make a collective and conscious choice to mask up and social distance, we will be forced to live in a depressed economy for longer than necessary. The choice is up to us.

 

 

 

 

 

Short-term ‘junk’ plans widely discriminate against those with pre-existing conditions, House probe finds

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/short-term-junk-plans-widely-discriminate-against-those-with-pre-existing/580556/

U.S. Rep. Castor's Statement Following a Federal Judge's Ruling on ...

Dive Brief:

  • A yearlong probe by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce into bare-bones insurance plans encouraged by the Trump administration found widespread discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, even as a growing number are enrolled.
  • Top congressional Democrats investigated eight insurers selling short-term, limited duration plans, finding they all denied medical care claims if they found a consumer had a pre-existing condition. Some refused to pay for medical claims for no discernable reason, processing them only after consumers sued or complained to state regulators. Most rescinded coverage if they determined a member had a pre-existing condition or developed one later.
  • An HHS spokesperson defended the coverage as an affordable option to pricier Affordable Care Act plans, telling Healthcare Dive, “We’ve been abundantly clear that these plans aren’t for everyone.” America’s Health Insurance Plans made similar points, with spokesperson David Allen noting: “For Americans with pre-existing conditions, they may not be protected at all.”

 

Dive Insight:

The investigation looked at 14 companies that sell or market the plans, including eight insurers such as market giants Anthem and UnitedHealth Group, and six brokers.

It found insurers frequently turned down consumers with pre-existing conditions and discriminated against women, turning down applicants who were pregnant or planning to become pregnant and charging women more than men for the same coverage.

The plans had significant coverage limitations. Some excluded routine care like basic preventive visits and pelvic exams. Some plans had hard coverage cutoffs that left consumers with massive medical bills.

In one case, a consumer was billed a whopping $280,000 and lost coverage after being treated for an infection. The insurer said the patient previously had gotten an ultrasound that was “suspicious for deep venous thrombosis.”

AHIP spokesman Allen said it is not surprising given the plans are not intended to replace comprehensive coverage.

“They often do not cover the care and treatments that patients need throughout the year — preventive care, prescription drugs, mental health care or treatments for chronic health conditions — or if they do, they may limit or cap the benefits,” he acknowledged.

On average, short-term plans spend less than half of premium dollars collected from consumers on medical care: only 48%, the investigation found. That’s in stark contrast to plans in the ACA’s individual market, which are required to shell out at least 80% of all premium dollars on claims and benefits.

Short-term insurance represents a significant and growing share of the individual healthcare market. Roughly 3 million consumers bought the plans in 2019, a 27% growth from 2018, the investigation launched in March last year found.

The growth came after the Trump administration, in a controversial move, extended the maximum duration of the plans. The skimpy coverage, which isn’t required to cover the 10 essential benefits under the ACA, was originally designed as cheap safety net coverage for three months.

But in August 2018, HHS expanded the plans to 12 months, with a three year renewal period, and opened them up to all consumers, not just for those who can’t afford other coverage.

ACA supporters and patient advocates blasted the move, which sparked an ongoing legal challenge from safety net providers. Reports of consumers purchasing the coverage, believing it was comprehensive, then being shocked by balance bills prompted the House investigation.

The report also found brokers are paid up to 10 times more compensation for peddling short-term plans than ACA-compliant coverage. The average commission rate for short-term plans compared to ACA plans was 23% versus 2%, respectively.

Currently, 24 states ban or restrict the sale of short-term plans. Some states, including California, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York, prohibit their sale entirely, while others like Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico and Rhode Island have such strict regulations that no plans are sold.

Democratic leaders unveiled a bill on Wednesday to bolster the ACA and rescind the administration’s expansion of the plans and expand subsidies, allowing more people to qualify for coverage.

The effort has zero chance of moving this year with Republicans in control of the Senate, but both it and the probe are likely to play into the looming 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

“The heavy-handed tactics uncovered in this investigation demonstrate why Congress must reverse the Trump Administration’s expansion of these junk plans,” E&C Chairman Frank Pallone, D-N.J., Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette, D-Colo., wrote in a joint statement. “It also shows how dangerous a post-ACA world would be if Republican Attorneys General and the Trump Administration are successful in striking down the law and its protections.”

That lawsuit, led by 18 red states, argues the ACA, which expanded insurance to some 20 million people, is unconstitutional because a tax bill passed in 2017 zeroed out the penalty for its individual mandate. It’s currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

President Donald Trump and his health officials have repeatedly promised people with pre-existing conditions will be protected if the ACA is struck down, but neither the administration nor Republicans in Congress have said specifically how.

 

 

 

 

 

As Americans lose job-based coverage, ACA marketplace sets record with near 500K signups

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/as-americans-lose-job-based-coverage-aca-marketplace-sets-record-with-near/580623/

Dive Brief:

  • Millions of individuals have lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic, allowing them to enroll in Affordable Care Act marketplace coverage via Healthcare.gov due to their special circumstances. CMS said this week that this special enrollment coverage due to job loss specifically has reached a record, with about 487,000 consumers gaining coverage, a 46% increase compared with the same time last year.
  • April saw the biggest jump in enrollment following job loss, an increase of 139% compared to April of last year.
  • Due to a number of factors, CMS said it “remains unclear how many people will eventually look to Exchanges using HealthCare.gov to replace job-based coverage.”

Dive Insight:

The pandemic has battered the economy, causing historic levels of unemployment. For many Americans, healthcare coverage is tethered to their jobs. As such, the pandemic is not only a threat to Americans’ health but their ability to pay for the care they need, sick with COVID-19 or not.

As many as 27 million Americans may have lost job-based coverage between March and May of this year, according to a recent analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Of the newly uninsured, about half (12.7 million) would be eligible for Medicaid coverage, according to Kaiser’s estimates. There are a few options for workers out of a job and insurance. They can opt to extend their coverage through COBRA, enroll in coverage through the exchanges, or check to see if they qualify for Medicaid.

This week, CMS attempted to quantify just how many out-of-work Americans were turning to the exchanges.

About 500,000 out-of-work consumers enrolled in coverage so far this year. However, there are other life events that qualify a consumer to shop for coverage during a special enrollment period. Overall, special enrollment period sign-ups garnered more than 890,000 enrollees, dwarfing other periods. 

If the trend continues, it may fuel a significant shift in health insurance. For years, a majority have received commercial coverage through work. Even health insurers recognize disruption is on the horizon.

Many of the nation’s largest insurers are bracing for a shift from their commercial book of business to covering more Medicaid enrollees through their contracts with states. Earlier this year, Molina, Centene and Anthem all said they expect upticks in their Medicaid membership and exchange products.

Molina executives said in April they already saw 30,000 more Medicaid members from the prior-year period.

 

 

 

 

Trinity Health expects $2B revenue plunge as it cuts, furloughs more staff

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/trinity-health-cutting-cost-cutting-2-billion-revenue-shortfall/580738/

The Dumbest Things You Can Do With Your Money | Work + Money

Dive Brief:

  • Trinity Health, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit health systems, said Monday it will take more measures to cut costs due to the downturn spurred by the novel coronavirus. The restructuring plan includes eliminating positions, extending furloughs, severances and reductions in schedules. The decisions are being “customized” across the system based on factors that include volume projections and the cost and revenue challenges in each market.
  • The Livonia, Michigan-based hospital operator said it continues to treat COVID-19 patients, however, it has “for now seen declining numbers of very sick patients with COVID-19.”
  • The system said it expects revenue to be depressed or “below historical levels” for the remainder of this fiscal year and much of the next. It projects revenue to drop by $2 billion to $17.3 billion for fiscal year 2021, which starts after its June 30 year end.

Dive Insight:

In May, Trinity said it planned to furlough nearly 12% of its workforce — or 15,000 employees out of the 125,000 nationally.  

Trinity, one of the nation’s largest hospital operators with 92 facilities and operations across 22 states, is now broadening that restructuring, extending and adding new furloughs.

In a Monday bond filing, Trinity said its operations were “significantly” impacted by the effects of the pandemic as many operators saw depressed volumes due to shelter-in-place orders, which started in most of Trinity’s markets during the last two weeks of March.

“The effect of COVID-19 on the operating margins and financial results of Trinity Health is adverse and significant and, at this point, the duration of the pandemic and the length of time until Trinity Health returns to normal operations is unknown,” according to Monday’s bond filing.

The system said relief funds provided by the federal government have not been enough to cover its operating losses. Trinity has received $600 million in relief funds that do not have to be repaid and more in loans through the advanced Medicare payment program, according to a previous analysis by Healthcare Dive.

Still, the system said it has drawn on credit facilities totaling $1 billion to provide adequate liquidity during the pandemic. Trinity reported having 178 days cash on hand as of March 30.

Some nonprofits are faring better than Trinity and pulling back on earlier staffing cuts.

Mayo Clinic said last week it will call back its furloughed workers by the end of August and restore pay that had been cut due to the pandemic.

Mayo has some of the most cash on hand in terms of days when comparing other major nonprofit systems. Mayo had 252 days of cash on hand as of March 30, more than the other 20 largest nonprofits except Cleveland Clinic and New York-Presbyterian.

 

 

U.S. Healthcare System vs. Socialized Medicine during the Pandemic

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/06/25/why-socialized-system-medicare-all-beats-profit-healthcare-one-chart-covid-19?fbclid=IwAR1qT_AI5KFreoEKOqQfvdWUHPyW80fa2Iefxb5Ul5wJQtf8rSvZXkL8RHM

 

“All countries successfully combatting this virus have robust public health systems, which provide for coordination of effort.”

A recent rise in cases of Covid-19 and the overt failure of the for-profit healthcare system throughout the pandemic in the U.S. are making the case for Medicare for All, advocacy groups and activists say, as countries with socialized systems see their infection rates decline.

“All countries successfully combatting this virus have robust public health systems, which provide for coordination of effort,” remarked a popular healthcare advocate who uses the @AllOnMedicare handle on Twitter.

Calls for the U.S. to adopt a single-payer heathcare system have increased as the pandemic has raged around the country. Cases and deaths in the U.S are now the highest in the world, a result critics blame on both the private healthcare system and the mismanagement of the crisis by President Donald Trump.

Public Citizen’s health care policy advocate Eagan Kemp told Common Dreams that the current for-profit healthcare system that has driven millions of Americans in to bankruptcy and leaves millions more without care will only continue to exacerbate the pain of the outbreak. 

“While no health care system can completely protect a country from Covid-19, the U.S. has failed to respond for a number of reasons, not least of which is a for-profit health care system where Americans are too afraid to go to the doctors for fear of the cost,” said Kemp. “Far too many Americans will face medical debt and even bankruptcy if they are lucky enough to survive getting Covid-19, something unheard of in all other comparably wealth countries.”

As University of Massachusetts professor Dean E. Robinson wrote in a piece that appeared at Common Dreams earlier this month, the coronavirus is impacting people of color at a disproportionate rate in cities and communities nationwide—a dynamic that bolsters the call for a universal Medicare for All program to help close those gaps.

“The obvious and immediate need of Black and other working class populations caught in the teeth of the pandemic is the right to health care treatment without the burden of cost,” wrote Robinson. “Even before the pandemic, lower-income, Latino, and younger workers were more likely to be uninsured. Undocumented workers had the highest rates of uninsurance.”

On June 18, Ralph Nader in an opinion piece for Common Dreams expressed his hope that the ongoing pandemic would make essential workers in the health field “the force that can overcome decades of commercial obstruction to full Medicare for All.”

 

 

 

 

Jobless claims: Another 1.48 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/coronavirus-covid-weekly-initial-jobless-claims-june-20-195644738.html

More than three months into the COVID-19 crisis in the U.S., countless Americans are still unemployed. According to the U.S. Labor Department, weekly initial jobless claims data showed yet another week of claims exceeding 1 million.

Another 1.48 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending June 20, exceeding economists’ expectations for 1.32 million. The prior week’s figure was revised higher to 1.54 million from the previously reported 1.51 million claims. While this week’s report marked 12 consecutive weeks of deceleration, more than 47 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance over the past 14 weeks.

“Jobless claims are not falling fast enough,” Renaissance Macro’s Neil Dutta said in an email Thursday. “Everything we have seen in the last week or two between rising case counts/hospitalizations, stalling economic progress in some important states, government job cuts, means one thing: the Phase 4 of fiscal stimulus must be bigger. Things should be better in 3-4 weeks, but the news will get worse before it gets better. Take some chips off the table and reload the chamber for August.”

Continuing claims, which lags initial jobless claims data by one week, totaled 19.52 million in the week ending June 13, down from 20.29 million in the week ending June 6. Consensus expectations were for 20 million continuing claims.

“Initial jobless claims continue to moderate only gradually,” Nomura economist Lewis Alexander wrote in a note Wednesday. “While the labor market remains exceptionally weak, signs of gradual improvement suggest another month of NFP gains during June.”

In the week ending June 20, California reported the highest number of jobless claims at an estimated 287,000 on an unadjusted basis, up from 241,000 in the previous week. Georgia had 124,000, down from 132,000, Florida reported 93,000, New York had roughly 90,000 and Texas reported 89,000 jobless claims.

Additionally, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program claims, which include those who were previously ineligible for unemployment insurance such as self-employed and contracted workers, was also closely monitored in Thursday’s report.

PUA claims totaled 728,120 on an unadjusted basis in the week ending June 20, down from the prior week’s 770,920.

As states reopen their economies, cases and hospitalization figures are back on the rise. As of Thursday morning, there were more than 9.4 million cases and 483,000 COVID-19 deaths around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. had 2.3 million cases and 121,000 deaths.

 

 

ACA enrollment up 46%

https://www.axios.com/newsletters/axios-vitals-59e9ac1a-ab86-4f8a-917a-8c9d52f5835f.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

Obamacare Coverage Spikes After Covid-Related Job Losses

The number of people who lost jobs and related health coverage and then signed up for Affordable Care Act health plans on the federal website was up 46% this year compared with 2019, representing an increase of 154,000 people, the federal government said in a new report.

The bottom line: The government said the rush of people going to HealthCare.gov was tied to “job losses due to COVID-19,” Bob writes.

Yes, but: Medicaid enrollment due to coronavirus-related job losses appears to be growing even faster than enrollment in ACA plans, according to the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.

Go deeper: Medicaid will be a coronavirus lifeline