‘ObamaCare’ is bending the cost curve on healthcare costs

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

More good news on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (aka "ObamaCare") — it is bending the cost curve on healthcare costs, just as it was designed to do, which also bends the curve on federal deficits.

The latest good news come from the Federation of American Hospitals, which represents for-profit hospitals, and PwC’s Health Research Institute.
Both argue in new studies out today that a big chunk of the slowdown is
structural — and won’t disappear as the economy improves
. Why
are health care costs rising more slowly?
:

Dobson DaVanzo & Associates, in a report for the hospital group,
concludes that if present trends continue Medicare savings will be $1
trillion more in the next 10 years than the savings projected by the
Congressional Budget Office in May. The changes, Al Dobson said in an
interview, are the result of marketplace pressures and the Affordable
Care Act
, which set new penalties for hospital readmissions, and
included bundled payments and other incentives for hospitals and doctors
to find ways to cut costs without hurting patients.

* * *

PwC  uses a medical cost trend–or growth rate–that measures the
changes in the cost to treat patients and is influenced by the cost of
products and services and utilization. The projection is based on
interviews with health plans, a survey of employers and other
data. They conclude that
health-care spending growth will dip to 6.5 percent next year, adding
that the slowing of health-care spending “defies historical
post-recession patterns and is likely to be sustained” even as millions
of uninsured Americans enter the health system next year
.

“The long-term trends suggest that as the economy improves, the cycle
of runaway cost increases will be broken,” said Michael Thompson,
principal with PwC’s human resource services practice.

* * *

But the new reports fly in the face of research from other smart policy
types, including Drew Altman and Larry Levitt of the Kaiser Family
Foundation . . . An analysis Kaiser conducted with
the Altarum Institute found that health spending grew by 4.2 percent
per year from 2008 to 2012, down from a peak of 8.8 percent from 2001 to
2003 – and that most of the slowdown – 77 percent — was due to years of
a weak economy “which causes people to put off health services when
they can and prompts employers and states to reduce health spending. The
other 23 percent is explained by changes in the health system,
including increased consumer cost-sharing, tighter managed care and
modifications in payments and delivery.”

Contacted Monday, Levitt reiterated his view: “Over the last five
decades, there has been a remarkably close relationship between the ups
and downs in the economy and the ups and downs in health spending growth
rates. The historic slowdown in health spending that we’re seeing now
is consistent with that historical pattern, though there also appear to
be significant structural factors at play as well.”

Recent success with bending the cost curve in healthcare costs is being complimented by an aggressive push to educate the public about the healthcare insurance exchanges being set up under "ObamaCare" to premiere on October 1. Push
is on to promote health law
:

The race is on to sign up uninsured Americans for health-care
coverage this fall, with a number of large national advocacy groups
launching aggressive, multimillion-dollar campaigns this summer aimed at
promoting President Obama’s health-care law.

The groups are buying television ads, tapping social networks,
training hundreds of new workers and volunteers and developing online
and on-the-ground efforts akin to an enormous, months-long
get-out-the-vote campaign. They aim to raise awareness in preparation
for a big push leading up to open enrollment Oct. 1, when people can
begin signing up for insurance plans and government subsidies available
under the law
.

“We’ll be engaging Americans in their homes and communities, getting
mothers talking to children, neighbors talking to neighbors, friends
talking to friends about the changes and what the new law means to
them,” said Anne Filipic, president of Enroll America, a group that on Tuesday launched a campaign called “Get Covered America.”

The
nonprofit coalition of advocacy organizations, health insurers,
hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and others sprang up in conjunction
with the law.

* * *

Planned Parenthood, the National Council of La Raza, the Service
Employees International Union and Organizing for Action — the Democratic
political-action group that grew out of Obama’s campaign apparatus —
are also mobilizing this summer, along with many smaller groups. Their
aim will be to spread awareness of the law’s benefits and persuade
generally healthy people who lack coverage to sign up.

The groups’
work will be critical to the success of Obama’s signature domestic
accomplishment, the 2010 Affordable Care Act, which is aimed at
dramatically reducing the ranks of the uninsured over the next decade —
by providing subsidies to low-income people to buy private plans and by expanding Medicaid, the state-federal health insurance program for the poor.

* * *

In a call with reporters Tuesday, Filipic — a former Obama campaign
organizer and White House staffer — said the group’s research shows that
78 percent of uninsured people do not know about the changes coming in
January
.

That is when the law’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion —
as well as the mandate that virtually every American carry health
insurance or face a tax penalty of $95 in the first year — kick in.

The
Obama administration is gearing up for its own awareness effort. It has
secured an $8 million contract with the public relations firm Weber
Shandwick and will launch a Web site this summer for people to register
for online accounts and shop for health plans. The administration is
also setting up a call center that will be open around the clock and be
able to assist callers in 150 languages.

* * *

The coalition includes major players in the health world, including Aetna, the American Heart Association, Catholic Charities and CVS Caremark,
as well as many nonprofits mounting their own independent efforts. The
group has a presence in 18 states and will be holding strategy sessions
and handing out information at farmers markets and churches this
weekend.

* * *

Outreach efforts will be crucial because officials do not expect the
tax penalty to be a motivator for people to sign up for coverage. The
White House is banking on 2.7 million young, healthy people signing up
for insurance in the first year to offset the cost to insurers of all
the sick people expected to rush to enroll.

Many advocates say this goal is attainable, especially with the help of the nonprofit and advocacy groups.

* * *

Organizing for Action on Monday announced that it has purchased a
seven-figure cable television ad buy aimed at raising awareness about
enrollment options. The group has enlisted the help of about 800 unpaid
fellows who will be serving as on-the-ground organizers, and it also has
a vast e-mail network estimated at about 13 million people.

Young
Invincibles, a youth-oriented organization that formed to help pass the
health-care law, expects to train 1,000 community groups on how to help
people find insurance. It is developing a mobile phone app that, among
other things, will send reminders when it is time to sign up for
insurance.

Arizona's  healthcare insurance exchange will be set up by the federal government after Governor Jan Brewer and our Tea-Publican controlled legislature declined to set up an insurance exchange under state control.

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