Stopping Surprise Medical Bills: Federal Action Is Needed

February 1, 2017

Two recent nationwide studies, published in Health Affairs and The New England Journal of Medicine, both found that 20 percent of emergency department visits and resulting admissions at in-network facilities involved an out-of-network physician. The Health Affairs study conducted by researchers at the Federal Trade Commission, corroborated by other recent surveys, also highlights the problem of balance billing beyond only emergency physicians. Specifically, the Health Affairs authors found that 9 percent of elective inpatient care at an in-network facility with an in-network lead physician involved an out-of-network ancillary provider, and thus could have led to a surprise medical bill. Additionally, 51 percent of all ambulance rides in their data (primarily from large employer plans) were out of network.

Source: Stopping Surprise Medical Bills: Federal Action Is Needed


The Effect of State Medicaid Expansions on Prescription Drug Use: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act by Ausmita Ghosh, Kosali Ilayperuma Simon, Benjamin Sommers :: SSRN

February 1, 2017

This study provides a national analysis of how the 2014 Affordable Care Act (ACA) Medicaid expansions have affected aggregate prescription drug utilization. Given the prominent role of prescription medications in the management of chronic conditions, as well as the high prevalence of unmet health care needs in the population newly eligible for Medicaid, the use of prescription drugs represents an important measure of the ACA’s policy impact. Prescription drug utilization also provides insights into whether insurance expansions have increased access to physicians, since obtaining these medications requires interaction with a health care provider.

We use 2013-2015 data from a large, nationally representative, all-payer pharmacy transactions database to examine effects on overall prescription medication utilization as well as effects within specific drug classes.

Using a differences-in-differences (DD) regression framework, we find that within the first 15 months of expansion, Medicaid-paid prescription utilization increased by 19 percent in expansion states relative to states that did not expand; this works out to approximately seven additional prescriptions per year per newly enrolled beneficiary. The greatest increases in Medicaid prescriptions occurred among diabetes medications, which increased by 24 percent. Other classes of medication that experienced relatively large increases include contraceptives (22 percent) and cardiovascular drugs (21 percent), while several classes more consistent with acute conditions such as allergies and infections experienced significantly smaller increases. As a placebo test, we examine Medicare-paid prescriptions and find no evidence of a post-ACA effect. Both expansion and non-expansion states followed statistically similar trends in Medicaid prescription utilization in the pre-policy era, offering support for our DD approach.

We did not observe reductions in uninsured or privately insured prescriptions, suggesting that increased utilization under Medicaid did not substitute for other forms of payment. Within expansion states, increases in prescription drug utilization were larger in geographical areas with higher uninsured rates prior to the ACA. Finally, we find some suggestive evidence that increases in prescription drug utilization were greater in areas with larger Hispanic and black populations.

Source: The Effect of State Medicaid Expansions on Prescription Drug Use: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act by Ausmita Ghosh, Kosali Ilayperuma Simon, Benjamin Sommers :: SSRN

How Molina Healthcare views Obamacare now – Axios

January 25, 2017

Molina Healthcare CEO J. Mario Molina isn’t fazed by President Trump’s Obamacare executive order. But he’s also not entirely confident about what will happen with the law and its insurance marketplaces — and he won’t commit to staying in the marketplaces in 2018.In an interview, Molina said the executive order is “symbolic” and doesn’t change the plans for his company, an insurer that mostly covers Medicaid members but also has more than a half million Obamacare customers. Yet when asked if Molina Healthcare would keep offering Obamacare plans in 2018, he said: “There are just too many unknowns at this point to give a definitive answer.”

Source: How Molina Healthcare views Obamacare now – Axios

Narrow Provider Networks for Employer Plans by Mark A. Hall, Paul Fronstin :: SSRN

January 5, 2017

The authors conducted in-depth qualitative research to examine questions around provider networks in employer health plans, particularly the development of so-called “narrow networks,” which have grown in the individual market exchanges under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (ACA). These narrow networks are characterized by offering considerably fewer health providers than is typical in the group market, and they are formed primarily based on price discounting. The research includes the review of peer-reviewed journals, news sources, and public policy reports; structured interviews with a convenience sample of human resource benefit directors at 11 large employers; and field research by health-policy experts in a dozen states. This paper describes the research in more detail and analyzes the reported facts and viewpoints.

Major findings include the following: Narrow provider networks are receiving renewed attention, following their increasing prominence in the ACA’s individual (nongroup) marketplace exchanges, which are highly price-competitive. So far, this renewed interest in narrow networks has not translated strongly to employers. For example, in 2016, only 7 percent of employers with health plans offered a narrow network. Also, in 2014, employers ranked narrow networks the least effective among several strategies to manage health insurance costs. Reasons employers give for their subdued interest include absence of a track record showing sustained (year-over-year) savings; concern about antagonizing workers; spotty availability of narrow networks, especially in rural areas; greater interest currently in other cost-savings strategies; and reluctance to adopt substantial changes in benefit structures until the future of the ACA’s so-called “Cadillac tax” is resolved. There are signs that employers’ interest in narrow networks may grow in the near future. More than one-third of employers with health plans that have 5,000 or more workers now offer some type of alternative network, including tiered or “high-performance” networks. Field reports indicate increasing adoption of narrow networks by both large and small employers, particularly in urban markets around the country. Where narrow networks are offered, their adoption could be increased by giving workers stronger financial incentives to consider them. Offering workers a fixed (“defined”) contribution that does not vary by choice of plan is one way to confer such incentives, and private exchanges are a way to offer workers a broader range of choice. Currently, however, neither defined contributions nor private exchanges are widely used by employers.

Source: Narrow Provider Networks for Employer Plans by Mark A. Hall, Paul Fronstin :: SSRN

Did Obamacare Really Insure 20 Million?

December 13, 2016

A recent analysis by The Heritage Foundation’s Edmund Haislmaier and Drew Gonshorowski uses the more accurate method, taking actual enrollment data from Medicaid and private insurance companies to assess the impact Obamacare has had on coverage.

The researchers found that just over 14 million people gained coverage from the end of 2013 to the end of 2015. Of those 14 million, 11.8 million gained their insurance through Medicaid and 2.2 million through private coverage.

Source: Did Obamacare Really Insure 20 Million?

Geographical Distribution of Emergency Department Closures and Consequences on Heart Attack Patients by Yu-Chu Shen, Renee Hsia :: SSRN

December 10, 2016

We develop a conceptual framework and empirically investigate how a permanent emergency department (ED) closure affects patients with acute myocardial infarction (AMI). We first document that large increases in driving time to closest ED are more likely to happen in low-income communities and communities that had fewer medical resources at baseline. Then using a difference-in-differences design, we estimate the effect of an ED closure on access to cardiac care technology, treatment, and health outcomes among Medicare patients with AMI who lived in 24,567 ZIP codes that experienced no change, an increase of <10 minutes, 10 to <30 minutes, and ≥30 minutes in driving time to their closest ED. Overall, access to cardiac care declined in all communities experiencing a closure, with access to a coronary care unit decreasing by 18.64 percentage points (95% CI -30.15, -7.12) for those experiencing ≥30-minute increase in driving time. Even after controlling for access to technology and treatment, patients with the longest delays experienced a 6.58 (95% CI 2.49, 10.68) and 6.52 (95% CI 1.69, 11.35) percentage point increase in 90-day and 1-year mortality, respectively, compared with those not experiencing changes in distance. Our results also suggest that the predominant mechanism behind the mortality increase appeared to be time delay as opposed to availability of specialized cardiac treatment.

Source: Geographical Distribution of Emergency Department Closures and Consequences on Heart Attack Patients by Yu-Chu Shen, Renee Hsia :: SSRN

Health Reform and Health Insurance Coverage of Early Retirees by Helen Levy, Tom Buchmueller, Sayeh Nikpay :: SSRN

December 6, 2016

This paper presents evidence of the dynamics of health insurance coverage between 2008 and 2014 among early retirees, defined as individuals ages 55 to 64 who are not in the labor force. We focus on three questions. First, how did insurance coverage change among early retirees in 2014, when the new ACA options became available, compared with trends in coverage from 2008 to 2013? Second, are there differences between states that did and did not implement the ACA’s Medicaid expansion in January 2014? Third, how did the income gradient in insurance coverage for early retirees change in 2014, both overall and in states with or without Medicaid expansion? We find that between 2013 and 2014, the fraction of early retirees without health insurance declined significantly from 14.7 percent to 11.2 percent, reversing a trend toward increasing uninsurance in recent years. This change was driven by increases in both Medicaid and private non-group coverage. Gains in coverage were larger in states that implemented the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion in January 2014 than in states that did not. The gains in coverage disproportionately benefited low-income early retirees, and therefore reduced the gradient in coverage with respect to income. There is no evidence of an acceleration of the decline in employer-sponsored coverage for early retirees, either overall or in states that expanded Medicaid. These results suggest that the major coverage provisions of the ACA have increased coverage among early retirees, with particularly large gains among those with very low income in states that expanded Medicaid.

Source: Health Reform and Health Insurance Coverage of Early Retirees by Helen Levy, Tom Buchmueller, Sayeh Nikpay :: SSRN