Studies find health care costs rose while providers profited

Research published in the journal Health Affairs details the impact of increasing health care costs and what factors are driving them. Also in the news, the Government Accountability Office released a report on states' oversight of health insurers' premium costs.   

Los Angeles Times: Health Care Costs Rose While Insurance Coverage Fell, Studies Show
U.S. workers whose wages stagnated over the last decade also saw their health insurance degrade, even as medical costs gobbled up a growing share of their income, two new studies show. An estimated 29 million adults who had health insurance lacked adequate coverage in 2010, leaving them exposed to medical expenses such as high deductibles that they couldn't afford, according to a survey by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund (Levey, 9/8).

The Connecticut Mirror: Health Care Costs Eating Into Families' Disposable Income
In their analysis, Auerbach and Kellermann took into account both the cost of a typical family's health care -; insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs -; and state and federal taxes that paid for health care. They also factored in the amount employers paid toward the family's health insurance, saying economists generally agree that employees bear the costs of employer contributions through reduced wages (Levin Becker, 9/8).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Doctors, Hospitals Profit As Health Costs Rise 
The median-income family of four with health insurance from their employer saw their real annual earnings rise from $76,000 in 1999 to $99,000. But nearly all that gain was eaten up by rising health care costs, a new study finds. After taking into account the price increases for other goods and services, the typical family had just $95 a month more in 2009 than in 1999 to devote to non-health spending, according to the paper by David Auerbach and Arthur Kellermann of RAND (Rau, 9/8).

Bloomberg: U.S. Doctors Paid More Than Overseas Peers On Higher Charges
U.S. doctors earn more than their European, Canadian and Australian counterparts, with American orthopedic surgeons outpacing their peers by a wider margin than primary-care doctors, a study found. Primary-care doctors in the U.S. made an average of $187,000 in 2008, according to the study in the journal Health Affairs. Orthopedic surgeons made $442,000. That rate was more than double what the surgeons in Australia, Canada, France and Germany made. U.K. orthopedists made on average about 73 percent as much as their U.S. counterparts. The disparities are partly due to the inability of private insurers and U.S. health programs' to extract concessions from orthopedists, wrote co-authors Miriam Laugesen and Sherry Glied (Armstrong, 9/8).

The New York Times: Doctor Fees Major Factor In Health Costs, Study Says
Doctors are paid higher fees in the United States than in several other countries, and this is a major factor in the nation's higher overall cost of health care, says a new study by two Columbia University professors, one of whom is now a top health official in the Obama administration (Pear, 9/7).

MSNBC: Sky-High Salaries, Spendy Hips Boots U.S. Health Costs
High doctors' salaries and climbing fees may be the major reasons that health care costs are so much steeper in the United States than in other developed countries, a new study concludes. In part that's because procedures like hip replacements cost so much more in the US, said the study's lead author Miriam J. Laugesen, an assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University.  In part it's because physicians are just paid better here, she added. On average, primary care physicians in the United States received $186,582 in pretax income a year, compared with $95,585 in France and $92,844 in Australia. When it came to orthopedic surgeons, there was a similar disparity, with US surgeons taking in an average of $442,450 a year, compared with $154,380 in France, $208,634 in Canada and $324,138 in the UK (Carroll, 9/8).

Fox News: Does Your State Even Care What You Pay For Health Insurance?
After watching health insurance rates balloon in the last several years, you might wonder who has the consumer's back. States are largely responsible for overseeing how much health insurance companies charge for coverage, but they're all over the map in terms of how hard they scrutinize proposed premiums. Some states did comprehensive rate reviews last year, while others took only a cursory look at rate filings, according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO). Some states rejected many of the proposed hikes. Others, lacking the authority to even disapprove rates, let all premium increases go through. More than three-quarters of U.S. consumers who purchased their own insurance faced premium hikes last year, with the average increase hitting 20 percent, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Premiums for employer-sponsored coverage have more than doubled in the last 10 years, another Kaiser survey says (Marquand, 9/7).

CNN Money: Fight Your Insurer' Claim Deal
When a health insurance claim denial lands in the mailbox, do you figure the hassle of going to battle isn't worth it? Think again. Patients who appeal denials directly to the insurer win 39 percent to 59 percent of the time, depending on the state (only four states collect relevant data), according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. What's more, last year's health reform law requires most insurance plans to let you make an external appeal, in which a third party rules on the case if a direct appeal fails. (Many insured people previously had no such recourse.) That's great news for patients, says Victoria Veltri, the state of Connecticut's health care advocate, a government official charged with looking out for the public. According to the GAO report, 23 percent to 54 percent of people who file such appeals win a reversal or revision (Gengler, 9/7).


http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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