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The Health-Cost Problem Is Coming Back

Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses how the conversation will soon shift back to health-care costs from health coverage, because they are rising more sharply again. And as the discussion turns back, he says that because there is no national agreement on a strategy to address increasing costs, current efforts in the public and private sector, however fragmented and uncoordinated, will need to step up their game.

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What People Don’t Realize About the Affordable Care Act

Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses what people don’t realize about the ACA: it is engineered for variation and it is up to Congress and the states to learn from that variation.

Column/Op-Ed Read Post

Those Long Lines To Enroll In The ACA

In this Policy Insight, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman discusses the need for community based outreach to enroll the long term uninsured.

Policy Insights Read Post

A Tale of Two Siblings, the ACA, and the Supreme Court

In a column published on The Huffington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman shows how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make the ACA Medicaid expansion a state option has upended the health insurance system for low and moderate income people in many states and discusses how the states and federal government can address the problem.

Column/Op-Ed Read Post

Obamacare: The Metrics In The News Are Mostly Wrong

In this Policy Insights, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman explains how the measures of success for year one of Obamacare used in media coverage and national discussion is the equivalent of judging the local weather from national averages.

Policy Insights Read Post

Health Cost Growth Is Down, Or Not. It Depends Who You Ask.

In this Policy Insight, Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman explores the disconnect between experts, national studies and the public about whether health care costs are slowing or accelerating—it’s a matter of perspective.

Policy Insights Read Post
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Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses how the conversation will soon shift back to health-care costs from health coverage, because they are rising more sharply again. And as the discussion turns back, he says that because there is no national agreement on a strategy to address increasing costs, current efforts in the public and private sector, however fragmented and uncoordinated, will need to step up their game.
[post_title] => The Health-Cost Problem Is Coming Back [post_excerpt] => Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses how the conversation will soon shift back to health-care costs from health coverage, because they are rising more sharply again. And as the discussion turns back, he says that because there is no national agreement on a strategy to address increasing costs, current efforts in the public and private sector, however fragmented and uncoordinated, will need to step up their game. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-health-cost-problem-is-coming-back [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-05-08 12:27:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-05-08 16:27:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://kff.org/?post_type=perspective&p=111072 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => perspective [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 110638 [post_author] => 36621681 [post_date] => 2014-05-02 18:50:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-05-02 22:50:54 [post_content] =>
As everyone examines the final numbers from the Affordable Care Act’s initial open enrollment period, Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses what people don’t realize about the ACA: it is engineered for variation and it is up to Congress and the states to learn from that variation.
[post_title] => What People Don’t Realize About the Affordable Care Act [post_excerpt] => Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses what people don’t realize about the ACA: it is engineered for variation and it is up to Congress and the states to learn from that variation. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => what-people-dont-realize-about-the-affordable-care-act [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-05-02 18:51:54 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-05-02 22:51:54 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://kff.org/?post_type=perspective&p=110638 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => perspective [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 108179 [post_author] => 36621681 [post_date] => 2014-04-08 08:00:54 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-04-08 12:00:54 [post_content] => On the last day of open enrollment for private insurance plans under Obamacare Twitter was full of powerful photographs of people waiting in long lines to sign up for coverage. The photos were a signal that the Administration was going to reach its goal of seven million exchange enrollees in year one; a remarkable comeback from the rollout woes of October and November. They also showed that people procrastinate, especially when it comes to insurance, just as they do when they file their taxes; about a quarter of all tax filings are made in the last two weeks before the deadline. And the lines show that the mandate and the deadline have an effect, even if it took until the last minute for many people to act on it. But the pictures showed something else as well. Those people weren’t online, they were lining up at community centers and local government agencies. When they finally decided to enroll they wanted to go somewhere and talk to a real person. And they felt they needed help navigating the enrollment process. A survey of the uninsured we did in California recently showed that almost seven in ten have been uninsured for two years or more and about three in ten have never had insurance. More than three in ten do not have internet access at home and roughly one in five say they don’t have any access to the internet.  Studies show that health insurance literacy – the percentage of uninsured people who know what a premium is or what a deductible is – is low. For the long term, harder to reach uninsured, enrolling will never be as simple as shopping on Travelocity or Amazon.com. Reaching them will take hands on community based outreach. Experience so far shows that outreach can be reinforced by targeted media campaigns emphasizing how the tax credits offered under the law can make insurance more affordable. It is also important to emphasize the deadline and the penalty if the uninsured don’t buy insurance. The tax credits – and Medicaid, especially in the half of states that have decided to expand eligibility under the ACA – are important to outreach messages because the uninsured have always found insurance unaffordable in the past and need a reason to believe it might now be something they can finally afford. Through a quirk in the law, states operating their own health insurance exchanges had access to substantial federal grant dollars to conduct outreach and consumer assistance. Resources in states using the federally-operated health insurance marketplace were much more limited since an appropriation to support Obamacare was never going to get through the current Congress. California, which operates its own exchange, had more money for outreach from public and private sources than all of the federal exchange states have combined. It’s hard to see where more money for outreach will come from in the short term. Foundations can help at the margin at the state and local level. State governments that have embraced the idea of expanding coverage might be able to do more. It starts with the recognition that while a working website is critical to the ACA, and to enrolling people with health insurance experience who are likely to be healthier to ensure a sound risk pool, enrolling the long term uninsured will take hands on outreach at the community level. That’s one thing the pictures of the long lines showed clearly. If the ACA is to reach the uninsured who need its coverage expansions most, it is  – and ultimately needs to be – much “more than a website”. [post_title] => Those Long Lines To Enroll In The ACA [post_excerpt] => In this Policy Insight, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman discusses the need for community based outreach to enroll the long term uninsured. 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In a column published on The Huffington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman shows how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make the ACA Medicaid expansion a state option has upended the health insurance system for low and moderate income people in many states and discusses how the states and federal government can address the problem.

[post_title] => A Tale of Two Siblings, the ACA, and the Supreme Court [post_excerpt] => In a column published on The Huffington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman shows how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to make the ACA Medicaid expansion a state option has upended the health insurance system for low and moderate income people in many states and discusses how the states and federal government can address the problem. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => a-tale-of-two-siblings-the-aca-and-the-supreme-court [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-04-02 13:21:33 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-04-02 17:21:33 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://kff.org/?post_type=perspective&p=107537 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => perspective [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 106161 [post_author] => 36621681 [post_date] => 2014-03-24 09:50:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-03-24 13:50:10 [post_content] =>
A few weeks ago the Obama Administration reported that enrollment in the new insurance marketplaces topped four million through the end of February, then five million by mid- March, showing steady progress since the website woes of October. News organizations jumped on the numbers. Would they get to six million enrollees this year, a target many use for the law? If they do, do they have enough young adults to balance the risk pool? If they don’t, won’t premiums skyrocket? The scorecards were out. Story after story followed essentially this pattern, which has now become the familiar metric for judging year one success for Obamacare.  Here’s how it goes.  If the law gets about six million enrollees nationwide and a decent percentage of them are young people, the risk pool will be stable and premiums next year will be reasonable. Year one will be a success.  If it doesn’t the law will be in trouble and year one will be a failure.  The problem is that just about everything about this narrative is wrong.  It’s the equivalent of judging the local weather from national averages. The six million number is an estimate made by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for year one enrollment in the new insurance marketplaces. They downgraded their estimate from seven million after the website woes slowed early enrollment. CBO estimates are made to gauge impact on the federal budget. Their purpose is not to judge the success or failure of the program.  While it is true that the greater the number of enrollees the higher the likelihood of a balanced risk pool, six million is not a magic number. How about the percentage of young people? Everyone seems focused on that.  Young people benefit the risk pool because they are healthier, but it’s really the percentage of healthy people that make or break the risk pool. Even if enrollment of young adults stays where it is – at about one-quarter instead of 40%, which our analysis shows they make up among potential enrollees – premiums would only increase by two to three percent. Though even that isn’t quite right, since many insurers expected this and already built it into their premiums.  Nevertheless, news organizations continue to hammer enrollment by young adults as if it were the sole make-it or break-it factor to the health of the risk pools and, in some news reports, the law.  There are no data yet on the overall health of enrollees because the law no longer allows insurers to collect that data in order to exclude people with pre-existing conditions from coverage. Also, there is no national risk pool, so the percentage of the six million who are young or anything else doesn’t matter all that much. Under the law risk is pooled at the state level, so what matters is the risk profile in each state and there will be variation across the country with more and less balanced risk pools in different states.  Premiums themselves are set on a smaller geographic basis, so they will vary even more depending on market competition and other factors in local markets. Of course getting to six million has become a political milestone and that won’t change. But the real questions are: Are the premiums (net of the tax credits the government is providing) affordable to people? Will they be stable or begin to spike in year two in some parts of the country if the risk pool is worse than insurers expected? Do people who get coverage under the law think it’s a good deal or not? Does enrollment ramp up as expected over time, decreasing the number of Americans uninsured? The current focus on national enrollment numbers and signups by young adults doesn’t tell us a great deal about the answers to these questions, and they are not a good metric by which to judge year one success. The problem is that it will take time to learn if the mix of enrollees is healthier or sicker, and how premium increases vary around the country, and how people feel about their coverage. Meanwhile Republican politicians will lambast the law and Democratic ones will offer lukewarm support and overall popularity of the ACA probably won’t change very much.  Anybody willing to wait for a judgment based on the right metrics?
[post_title] => Obamacare: The Metrics In The News Are Mostly Wrong [post_excerpt] => In this Policy Insights, Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman explains how the measures of success for year one of Obamacare used in media coverage and national discussion is the equivalent of judging the local weather from national averages. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => obamacare-the-metrics-in-the-news-are-mostly-wrong [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-03-24 09:49:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-03-24 13:49:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://kff.org/?post_type=perspective&p=106161 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => perspective [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 103817 [post_author] => 36621681 [post_date] => 2014-03-05 13:00:19 [post_date_gmt] => 2014-03-05 18:00:19 [post_content] => Studies show that health care costs have been rising more slowly than at any time in the last fifty years, but the American people think they are rising faster than ever. Who’s right, the experts or the public? They both are, they just look at the problem from different perspectives. The most recent government study of national health spending was published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and found that health spending grew by a very modest 3.7 percent in 2012, the fourth straight year of historically low increases in spending.  Our annual survey of premiums for employer based health insurance in 2013 told a similar story. Premiums rose just 4 percent.  There is debate among experts about how much of the slowdown is due to the weak economy and how much is due to changes in the health care system but everyone agrees both factors have played a role.  The government report says the slowdown is mainly due to the economy.  Our own analysis also found that the economy explains most of the diminishing rate of growth but changes in health insurance and health care have also played a significant role.  There is uncertainty about when and how rapidly costs will accelerate when the economy improves, but no one disputes that the slowdown is real. No one that is except the American people, who see health costs from a different perspective.  In our monthly tracking poll, almost sixty percent of the American people said “the cost of health care for the nation has been going up faster than usual in recent years”.  Less than a third say costs have been going up “about the same as usual” with just 4 percent saying they were growing “slower than usual”.  No one (correctly) said they were going down. One reason people see health costs differently than experts do is that what they pay for health care has been steadily going up.  They pay less attention to the fact that they are going up more slowly than before.  For example, the average deductible five years ago in employer plans was $735 per person and by 2013 it had grown to $1,135.  Premiums have been growing at historically low rates, but the average family premium in an employer plan in 2008 was $12,680 and in 2013 it was $16,351.  Over that time the share of the premium paid by workers rose from $3,360 to $4,560. What people pay for health care has also been going up when their wages have been flat or even falling in real dollars.  The result is that when people look at their family budgets and try to make ends meet, the pain level from paying their health care bills does not necessarily feel smaller to them and may feel larger. An estimated 1 in 3 Americans report having difficulty paying their medical bills.  They have had problems affording medical bills within the past year, or they are gradually paying past bills over time, or they have bills they can’t afford to pay at all.  People also hear and read a lot about health care costs in the media; in stories about the Affordable Care Act, or the federal budget, or about waste fraud and abuse in the health care system. That gives them a sense that costs are rising even if studies show they are rising more slowly. And, as the Wall Street Journal reported recently, people can be shocked by confusing medical bills and high health care prices. It’s a simple equation: price times volume of services equals spending. The studies reporting the slowdown focus on the change in total national health spending, but people focus on the eye-popping prices. For its part, the Affordable Care Act attacks both the health spending problem experts worry about and the affordability concerns people have, chiefly by reducing future increases in Medicare payments and by providing coverage to a projected thirty million Americans with tax credit subsidies for many of them, lowering their out-of-pocket expenses.  Other provisions of the law dealing with costs appear to be working well, such as its review of outsized premium increases in the non-group market and requirement that insurance companies devote most of their premium dollars to patient services.  The Affordable Care Act’s ultimate impact on costs is hard to gauge but it puts downward pressure on costs for the system and consumers. The Congressional Budget Office projects that Medicare will cost significantly less in the future than previously thought, both because of the ACA’s changes to Medicare’s payments, as well as the general slowdown in health spending growth. There are huge vested interests in the health care industry with a stake in declaring that health costs are under control, because the more the nation believes the health cost problem is solved, the less likely we are to keep the pressure on to try new, more innovative, and perhaps more painful cost control strategies.  We have not seen this many years in a row of slow growth in spending like this before and we can be hopeful that cost growth will remain modest, but we should also be careful not to declare victory too soon, and we should remember how the consumer sees it in a rough economy when the next  study of national health spending comes out. [post_title] => Health Cost Growth Is Down, Or Not. It Depends Who You Ask. [post_excerpt] => In this Policy Insight, Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman explores the disconnect between experts, national studies and the public about whether health care costs are slowing or accelerating—it’s a matter of perspective. 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Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses how the conversation will soon shift back to health-care costs from health coverage, because they are rising more sharply again. And as the discussion turns back, he says that because there is no national agreement on a strategy to address increasing costs, current efforts in the public and private sector, however fragmented and uncoordinated, will need to step up their game.
[post_title] => The Health-Cost Problem Is Coming Back [post_excerpt] => Drew Altman, in The Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank, discusses how the conversation will soon shift back to health-care costs from health coverage, because they are rising more sharply again. And as the discussion turns back, he says that because there is no national agreement on a strategy to address increasing costs, current efforts in the public and private sector, however fragmented and uncoordinated, will need to step up their game. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-health-cost-problem-is-coming-back [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2014-05-08 12:27:51 [post_modified_gmt] => 2014-05-08 16:27:51 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://kff.org/?post_type=perspective&p=111072 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => perspective [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 51 [max_num_pages] => 9 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => 1 [is_404] => [is_comments_popup] => [is_paged] => 1 [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 285c346fec15a8dd577825a54cce9924 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => )