The annual Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research and Educational Trust Employer Health Benefits Survey found that in 2017, average annual premiums (employer and worker contributions combined) rose 4 percent for single coverage, to $6,690, and 3 percent for family coverage, to $18,764. Covered workers contributed 18 percent of the premium for single coverage and 31 percent for family coverage, on average, although there was considerable variation around these averages. For covered workers in small firms, 10 percent did not make a premium contribution for family coverage, while 36 percent made a contribution of more than half of their premium. The average worker contribution for family coverage has increased from $4,316 in 2012 to $5,714 in 2017. The share of firms that offered health benefits (53 percent) and of workers in those firms covered by their employers’ plans (62 percent) remain statistically unchanged from 2016.
The effects of health insurance on poverty have been difficult to ascertain because US poverty measures have not taken into account the need for health care and the value of health benefits. We developed the first US poverty measure to include the need for health insurance and to count health insurance benefits as resources available to meet that need—in other words, a health-inclusive poverty measure. We estimated the direct effects of health insurance benefits on health-inclusive poverty for people younger than age sixty-five, comparing the impacts of different health insurance programs and of nonhealth means-tested cash and in-kind benefits, refundable tax credits, and nonhealth social insurance programs. Private health insurance benefits reduced poverty by 3.7 percentage points. Public health insurance benefits (from Medicare, Medicaid, and Affordable Care Act premium subsidies) accounted for nearly one-third of the overall poverty reduction from public benefits. Poor adults with neither children nor a disability experienced little poverty relief from public programs, and what relief they did receive came mostly from premium subsidies and other public health insurance benefits. Medicaid had a larger effect on child poverty than all nonhealth means-tested benefits combined.
Achieving an interoperable health care system remains a top US policy priority. Despite substantial efforts to encourage interoperability, the first set of national data in 2014 suggested that hospitals’ engagement levels were low. With 2015 data now available, we examined the first national trends in engagement in four domains of interoperability: finding, sending, receiving, and integrating electronic patient information from outside providers. We found small gains, with 29.7 percent of hospitals engaging in all four domains in 2015 compared to 24.5 percent in 2014. The two domains with the most progress were sending (with an increase of 8.1 percentage points) and receiving (an increase of 8.4 percentage points) information, while there was no change in integrating systems. Hospitals’ use for patient care of data from outside providers was low, with only 18.7 percent of hospitals reporting that they "often" used these data. Our results reveal that hospitals’ progress toward interoperability is slow and that progress is focused on moving information between hospitals, not on ensuring usability of information in clinical decisions.
To better understand how clinicians’ job satisfaction relates to work conditions and outcomes for clinicians and patients, we examined data from the Healthy Work Place trial. Data were collected from physicians and advanced practice providers at baseline and approximately one year later. At baseline, 74 percent of respondents indicated job satisfaction. Satisfaction was associated with less chaos, more cohesion, better communication, and closer values alignment at work, but not with higher-quality care or fewer medical errors. At follow-up, the respondents with satisfaction data then and at baseline who indicated increased satisfaction (16 percent of these respondents) were almost three times more likely to report improved burnout scores and over eight times as likely to indicate reduced intention to leave their practices, compared to the clinicians whose satisfaction did not increase. These findings confirm that clinicians’ job satisfaction is related to remediable work conditions and suggest that it may be an important metric for clinical practices and practice organizations.
Through communication-and-resolution programs, hospitals and liability insurers communicate with patients when adverse events occur; investigate and explain what happened; and, where appropriate, apologize and proactively offer compensation. Using data recorded by program staff members and from surveys of involved clinicians, we examined case outcomes of a program used by two academic medical centers and two of their community hospitals in Massachusetts in the period 2013–15. The hospitals demonstrated good adherence to the program protocol. Ninety-one percent of the program events did not meet compensation eligibility criteria, and those events that did were not costly to resolve (the median payment was $75,000). Only 5 percent of events led to malpractice claims or lawsuits. Clinicians were supportive of the program but desired better communication about it from staff members. Our findings suggest that communication-and-resolution programs will not lead to higher liability costs when hospitals adhere to their commitment to offer compensation proactively.
Previous studies suggest that members of sexual minority groups have poorer access to health services than heterosexuals. However, few studies have examined how sexual orientation interacts with gender and race to affect health care experience. Moreover, little is known about the role in health care disparities played by economic strains such as unemployment and poverty, which may result from prejudice and discrimination based on sexual orientation. Using data for 2013–15 from the National Health Interview Survey, we found that most members of sexual minority groups no longer have higher uninsurance rates than heterosexuals, but many continue to experience poorer access to high-quality care. Gay nonwhite men, bisexual white women, and bisexual and lesbian nonwhite women are disadvantaged in multiple aspects of access, compared to straight white men. Only some of these disparities are attributable to economic factors, which implies that noneconomic barriers to care are substantial. Our results suggest that the intersection of multiple social identities can reveal important gaps in health care experience. Making culturally sensitive services available may be key to closing the gaps.
There are 16.9 million Americans living in poverty in the suburbs—more than in cities or rural communities. Despite recent increases in suburban poverty, the perception of the suburbs as areas of uniform affluence remains, and there has been little research into health care barriers experienced by people living in these areas. The objectives of this study were to compare patterns of insurance coverage and health care access in suburban, urban, and rural areas using national survey data from 2005 to 2015 and to compare outcomes by geography before and after the Affordable Care Act took effect. We found that nearly 40 percent of the uninsured population lived in suburban areas. Though unadjusted rates of health care access were better in suburban areas, compared to urban and rural communities, this advantage was greatly reduced after income and other demographics are accounted for. Overall, a substantial portion of the US population residing in the suburbs lacked health insurance and experienced difficulties accessing care. Increased policy attention is needed to address these challenges for vulnerable populations living in the suburbs.
We examined the impact of California’s early Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act on the use of payday loans, a form of high-interest borrowing used by low- and middle-income Americans. Using a data set for the period 2009–13 (roughly twenty-four months before and twenty-four months after the 2011–12 Medicaid expansion) that covered the universe of payday loans from five large payday lenders with locations around the United States, we used a difference-in-differences research design to assess the effect of the expansion on payday borrowing, comparing trends in early-expansion counties in California to those in counties nationwide that did not expand early. The early Medicaid expansion was associated with an 11 percent reduction in the number of loans taken out each month. It also reduced the number of unique borrowers each month and the amount of payday loan debt. We were unable to determine precisely how and for whom the expansion reduced payday borrowing, since to our knowledge, no data exist that directly link payday lending to insurance status. Nonetheless, our results suggest that Medicaid reduced the demand for high-interest loans and improved the financial health of American families.
Enrollment in high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) has greatly increased in recent years. Policy makers and other stakeholders need the best available evidence about how these plans may affect health care cost and utilization, but the literature has not been comprehensively synthesized. We performed a systematic review of methodologically rigorous studies that examined the impact of HDHPs on health care utilization and costs. The plans were associated with a significant reduction in preventive care in seven of twelve studies and a significant reduction in office visits in six of eleven studies—which in turn led to a reduction in both appropriate and inappropriate care. Furthermore, bivariate analyses of data extracted from the included studies suggested that the plans may be associated with a reduction in appropriate preventive care and medication adherence. Current evidence suggests that HDHPs are associated with lower health care costs as a result of a reduction in the use of health services, including appropriate services.
Forty-six states and the District of Columbia have enacted insurance mandates that require commercial insurers to cover treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study examined whether implementing autism mandates altered service use or spending among commercially insured children with ASD. We compared children age twenty-one or younger who were eligible for mandates to children not subject to mandates using 2008–12 claims data from three national insurers. Increases in service use and spending attributable to state mandates were detected for all outcomes. Mandates were associated with a 3.4-percentage-point increase in monthly use and a $77 increase in monthly spending on ASD-specific services. Effects were larger for younger children and increased with the number of years since mandate implementation. These increases suggest that state mandates are an effective tool for broadening access to autism treatment under commercial insurance.
We examined prevalence, treatment patterns, trends, and correlates of mental health and substance use treatments among adults with co-occurring disorders. Our data were from the 325,800 adults who participated in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in the period 2008–14. Approximately 3.3 percent of the US adult population, or 7.7 million adults, had co-occurring disorders during the twelve months before the survey interview. Among them, 52.5 percent received neither mental health care nor substance use treatment in the prior year. The 9.1 percent who received both types of care tended to have more serious psychiatric problems and physical comorbidities and to be involved with the criminal justice system. Rates of receiving care only for mental health, receiving treatment only for substance use, and receiving both types of care among adults with co-occurring disorders remained unchanged during the study period. Low perceived need and barriers to care access for both disorders likely contribute to low treatment rates of co-occurring disorders. Future studies are needed to improve treatment rates among this population.
Firearm-related deaths are the third leading cause of injury-related deaths in the United States. Yet limited data exist on contemporary epidemiological trends and risk factors for firearm-related injuries. Using data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, we report epidemiological trends and quantify the clinical and financial burden associated with emergency department (ED) visits for firearm-related injuries. We identified 150,930 patients—representing a weighted total of 704,916 patients nationally—who presented alive to the ED in the period 2006–14 with firearm-related injuries. Such injuries were approximately nine times more common among male than female patients and highest among males ages 20–24. Of the patients who presented alive to the ED, 37.2 percent were admitted to inpatient care, while 8.3 percent died during their ED visit or inpatient admission. The mean per person ED and inpatient charges were $5,254 and $95,887, respectively, resulting in an annual financial burden of approximately $2.8 billion in ED and inpatient charges. Although future research is warranted to better understand firearm-related injuries, policy makers might consider implementing universal background checks for firearm purchases and limiting access to firearms for people with a history of violence or previous convictions to reduce the clinical and financial burden associated with these injuries.
Many frequent emergency department (ED) users do not sustain high use over time, which makes it difficult to create targeted interventions to address their health needs. We performed a retrospective analysis of nonelderly adult frequent ED users in California to measure the persistence of frequent ED use in the period 2005–15, describe characteristics of persistent and nonpersistent frequent users, and identify predictors of persistent frequent use. Of the frequent ED users in 2005, 30.5 percent remained frequent users in 2006. A small but nontrivial population (16.5 percent, 5.7 percent, and 1.9 percent) exhibited persistent frequent use for three, six, and eleven consecutive years, respectively. The strongest predictor of persistent frequent ED use was the intensity of ED use in the baseline study year. The rate at which frequent users stopped using the ED frequently decreased over time, leaving a core group of chronic persistent users. These persistent frequent users differ from nonpersistent frequent users, who engaged in temporary intense use of the ED. Identifying and differentiating persistent frequent users is important, as they may be candidates for distinct interventions.
Freestanding emergency departments (EDs) are a relatively novel phenomenon, and the epicenter of this movement is in Texas. Limited evidence exists about the communities in which freestanding EDs locate or the possible reasons behind location choice. We estimated logistic regressions to determine whether freestanding EDs in 2016 were more likely to be in areas of high demand or in those that could yield high profits. When we compared Public Use Microdata Areas that contained freestanding EDs and those that did not, we found that areas with such EDs had significantly higher household incomes. This finding was driven by the location choices of independent freestanding emergency centers and not by those of hospital-affiliated satellite emergency centers.
Many high utilizers of the emergency department (ED) have public insurance, especially through Medicaid. We evaluated how participation in Bridges to Care (B2C)—an ED-initiated, multidisciplinary, community-based program—affected subsequent ED use, hospital admissions, and primary care use among publicly insured or Medicaid-eligible high ED utilizers. During the six months after the B2C intervention was completed, participants had significantly fewer ED visits (a reduction of 27.9 percent) and significantly more primary care visits (an increase of 114.0 percent), compared to patients in the control group. In a subanalysis of patients with mental health comorbidities, we found that recipients of B2C services had significantly fewer ED visits (a reduction of 29.7 percent) and hospitalizations (30.0 percent), and significantly more primary care visits (an increase of 123.2 percent), again compared to patients in the control group. The B2C program reduced acute care use and increased the number of primary care visits among high ED utilizers, including those with mental health comorbidities.
Using delivery system innovations to advance health care reform continues to be of widespread interest. However, it is difficult to generalize about the success of specific types of innovations, since they have been examined in only a few studies. To gain a broader perspective, we analyzed the results of forty-three ambulatory care programs funded by the first round of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation’s Health Care Innovations Awards. The innovations’ impacts on total cost of care were estimated by independent evaluators using multivariable difference-in-differences models. Through the first two years, most of the innovations did not show a significant effect on total cost of care. Using meta-regression, we assessed the effects on costs of five common components of these innovations. Innovations that used health information technology or community health workers achieved the greatest cost savings. Savings were also relatively large in programs that targeted clinically fragile patients—clinically complex populations at risk for disease progression. While the magnitude of these effects was often substantial, none achieved conventional levels of significance in our analyses. Meta-analyses of a larger number of delivery system innovations are needed to more clearly establish their potential for patient care cost savings.
The patient-centered medical home (PCMH) model emphasizes comprehensive, coordinated, patient-centered care, with the goals of reducing spending and improving quality. To evaluate the impact of PCMH initiatives on utilization, cost, and quality, we conducted a meta-analysis of methodologically standardized findings from evaluations of eleven major PCMH initiatives. There was significant heterogeneity across individual evaluations in many outcomes. Across evaluations, PCMH initiatives were not associated with changes in the majority of outcomes studied, including primary care, emergency department, and inpatient visits and four quality measures. The initiatives were associated with a 1.5 percent reduction in the use of specialty visits and a 1.2 percent increase in cervical cancer screening among all patients, and a 4.2 percent reduction in total spending (excluding pharmacy spending) and a 1.4 percent increase in breast cancer screening among higher-morbidity patients. These associations were significant. Identification of the components of PCMHs likely to improve outcomes is critical to decisions about investing resources in primary care.
As the US elderly population continues to expand rapidly, Alzheimer’s disease poses a major and increasing public health challenge, and older African Americans may be disproportionately burdened by the disease. Although African Americans were generally underincluded in previous research studies, new and growing evidence suggests that they may be at increased risk of the disease and that they differ from the non-Hispanic white population in risk factors and disease manifestation. This article offers an overview of the challenges of Alzheimer’s disease in African Americans, including diagnosis issues, disparities in risk factors and clinical presentation of disease, and community-based recommendations to enhance research with this population.
The 2012 National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease set an ambitious goal: to both prevent and effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease by 2025. To reach this goal, tens of thousands of volunteers will be needed to participate in clinical trials to test promising new interventions and therapies. To mobilize these volunteers and their health care providers to participate in future clinical trials, it will be necessary to achieve a better understanding of the barriers keeping people from participating in Alzheimer’s research; form innovative partnerships among researchers, health care and social service providers, and the public; and develop more-effective outreach strategies. In this article we explore recruitment issues, including those unique to Alzheimer’s studies, and we suggest concrete steps such as establishing a structured consortium linking all of the registries of Alzheimer’s trials and establishing new partnerships with community and local organizations that can build trust and understanding among patients, caregivers, and providers.