With Aging Comes Increasing Cost of Life-Extending Medications

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jonathan H. Watanabe, PharmD, PhD, BCGP Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy National Academy of Medicine Anniversary Fellow in Pharmacy Division of Clinical Pharmacy | Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences | University of California San Diego La Jolla, CA 

Jonathan H. Watanabe, PharmD, PhD, BCGP
Associate Professor of Clinical Pharmacy
National Academy of Medicine Anniversary Fellow in Pharmacy
Division of Clinical Pharmacy | Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences | University of California San Diego
La Jolla, CA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: As a clinician in older adult care and as a health economist, I’ve been following the news and research studies on older patients unable to pay for their medications and consequently not getting the treatment they require. Our goal was to measure how spending on the medications Part D spends the most on, has been increasing over time and to figure out what prices patients are facing out-of-pocket to get these medications.

In 2015 US dollars, Medicare Part D spent on the ten highest spend medications increased from $21.5 billion in 2011 to $28.4 billion in 2015.  The number of patients that received one of the ten highest spend medications dropped from 12,913,003 in 2011 to 8,818,471— a 32% drop in that period.

A trend of spending more tax dollars on fewer patients already presents societal challenges, but more troubling is that older adults are spending much more of their own money out-of-pocket on these medications.  For patients without a federal low income subsidy, the average out-of-pocket cost share for one of the ten highest spend medications increased from $375 in 2011 to $1,366 in 2015.  This represented a 264% increase and an average 66% increase per year.  For patients receiving the low income subsidy, the average out-of-pocket cost share grew from $29 in 2011 to $44 in 2015 an increase of 51% and an average increase of 12.7% per year.  This may not sound like much, but for those living close to the federal poverty level this can be the difference between foregoing necessities to afford your medications or choosing not to take your medications.   Continue reading

Voluntary Bundled Payment Program For Care After Acute Hospitalization Unable to Achieve Broad Participation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

A Jay Holmgren Doctoral Student, Health Policy and Management Harvard Business School

A Jay Holmgren

A Jay Holmgren
Doctoral Student, Health Policy and Management
Harvard Business School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Post-acute care, care that is delivered following an acute care hospitalization, is one of the largest drivers of variation in US health care spending.

To address this, Medicare has created several payment reform systems targeting post-acute care, including a voluntary bundled payment program known as the Model 3 of the Bundled Payment for Care Improvement (BPCI) Initiative for post-acute care providers such as skilled nursing facilities, long-term care hospitals, or inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Participants are given a target price for an episode of care which is then reconciled against actual spending; providers who spend under the target price retain some of the savings, while those who spend more must reimburse Medicare for some of the difference.

Our study sought to evaluate the level of participation in this program and identify what providers were more likely to participate. We found that fewer than 4% of eligible post-acute care providers ever participated in the program, and over 40% of those who did participate dropped out. The providers more likely to remain in the program were skilled nursing facilities that were higher quality, for-profit, and were part of a multi-facility organization.

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Study Compares Hospitals Enrolled in Medicare’s Voluntary vs Mandatory Bundled Payment Programs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Amol Navathe, MD, PhD Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Medicine Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania

Dr. Navathe

Amol Navathe, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor, Health Policy and Medicine
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Bundled payment is a key Medicare Alternative Payment Model (APM) developed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to increase health care value by holding health care organizations accountable for spending across an episode of care. The model provides financial incentives to maintain quality and contain spending below a predefined benchmark.

In 2013, CMS launched the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative to expand bundled payment nationwide. BPCI’s bundled payment design formed the basis for CMS’s Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) Model beginning in 2016. While the programs are similar in design, BPCI is voluntary while CJR is mandatory for hospitals in selected markets. Moreover, CJR is narrower in scope, focusing only on lower extremity joint replacement (LEJR) and limiting participation to hospitals.

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Rate of End-of-Life Medicare Spending Falls

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

William B Weeks, MD, PhD, MBA The Dartmouth Institute

Dr. Weeks

William B Weeks, MD, PhD, MBA
The Dartmouth Institute

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: The background for the study is that a common narrative is that end-of-life healthcare costs are driving overall healthcare cost growth.  Growth in end-of-life care has been shown, in research studies through the mid 2000’s, to be attributable to increasing intensity of care at the end-of-life (i.e., more hospitalizations and more use of ICUs).

The main findings of our study are that indeed there have been substantial increases in per-capita end-of-life care costs within the Medicare fee-for-service population between 2004-2009, but those per-capita costs dropped pretty substantially between 2009-2014.  Further, the drop in per-capita costs attributable to Medicare patients who died (and were, therefore, at the end-of-life) accounts for much of the mitigation in cost growth that has been found since 2009 in the overall Medicare fee-for-service population.

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Palliative Care of Sickest Patients Improves Quality of Life, But Does it Save Money?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

R. Sean Morrison, MD Ellen and Howard C. Katz Professor and Chair Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai New York, NY 10029

Dr. Morrison

R. Sean Morrison, MD
Ellen and Howard C. Katz Professor and Chair
Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, NY 10029

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Palliative care is team based care that is focused on improving quality of life and reducing suffering for persons with serious illness and their families.  It can be provided at any age and in concert with all other appropriate medical treatments.  Palliative care has been shown to improve patient quality of life, patient and family satisfaction, and in diseases like cancer and heart failure, improve survival.  A number of individual studies have shown that palliative care can reduce costs by providing the right care to the right people at the right time.

This study pooled data from six existing studies to quantify the magnitude of savings that high quality palliative care provides.
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Increased Hospital Spending After Heart Attack Linked To Modestly Lower Mortality

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Rishi K. Wadhera MD
Clinical Fellow in Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?  

Response: The Hospital Value Based Purchasing program, in which over 3,000 hospitals participate, is a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pay-for-performance program that links hospital fee per service reimbursement to performance, through measures like 30-day mortality rates after an acute myocardial infarction (a heart attack), and other measures such as average spending for an episode of care for Medicare beneficiaries. Hospitals that perform poorly on these measures are financially penalized by CMS.

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Labor Costs Account For Largest Percentage of Operating Room Expenses

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Chris Childers, M.D.  Division of General Surgery David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA Los Angeles, CA 90095

Dr. Childers

Dr. Chris Childers, M.D.
Division of General Surgery
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA
Los Angeles, CA 90095

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Over 20 million Americans undergo a surgical procedure each year with a price tag over $1 trillion.  The operating room (OR) is a particularly resource dense environment, yet little is known about the actual costs of running an OR.  Most previous efforts focusing on OR costs have come from single-site studies with little detail about the drivers of OR costs.

Using financial statements from all California hospitals we estimated that the average cost to the hospital for one minute of OR time was between $36 and $37. Perhaps more notable was the composition of these costs.  Almost two-thirds ($20-21) was attributable to “direct costs” – those generated by the OR itself – including $14 for the wages and benefits of staff, $2.50-3.50 for surgical supplies, and $3 for “other” costs such as equipment repair and depreciation. Interestingly, the remainder ($14-16) was dedicated to “indirect costs” such as the costs associated with hospital security and parking.  While these indirect costs are necessary for a hospital to run, they are not under the purview of the operating room.

Finally, we also learned that OR costs have increased quickly over the past 10 years – faster than other sectors of healthcare as well as the rest of the economy. Continue reading

Standardization and Collaboration Reduced Use of Costly CRRT Treatment for Critically Ill Patients

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rodrigo F. Alban, MD FACS Associate Director Performance Improvement Associate Residency Program Director NSQIP Surgeon Champion Department of Surgery Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

Dr. Alban

Rodrigo F. Alban, MD FACS
Associate Director Performance Improvement
Associate Residency Program Director
NSQIP Surgeon Champion
Department of Surgery
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT) is a modality of hemodialysis commonly used to manage renal failure in critically ill patients who have significant hemodynamic compromise.  However, it is also resource-intensive and costly and its usage is highly variable and lacks standardization.

Our institution organized a multidisciplinary task force to target high value care in critically ill patients requiring CRRT by standardizing its process flow, promoting cross-disciplinary discussions with patients and family members, and increasing visibility/awareness of CRRT use.  After our interventions, the mean duration of CRRT decreased by 11.3% from 7.43 to 6.59 days per patient.  We also saw a 9.8% decrease in the mean direct cost of CRRT from $11642 to $10506 per patient.  Finally, we also saw a decrease in the proportion of patients expiring on CRRT, and an increase in the proportion of patients transitioning to comfort care.

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Patients With Multiple Chronic Diseases Incur High Out-of-Pocket Expenses

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Grace Sum Chi-En National University of Singapore

Dr Grace Sum    Chi-En

Dr Grace Sum Chi-En
National University of Singapore

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Chronic diseases are conditions that are not infectious and are usually long-term, such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, chronic lung disease, asthma, arthritis, stroke, obesity, and depression. They are also known as non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Multimorbidity, is a term we use in our field, to mean the presence of two or more NCDs. Multimorbidity is a costly and complex challenge for health systems globally. With the ageing population, more people in the world will suffer from multiple chronic diseases.

Patients with multimorbidity tend to need many medicines, and this incurs high levels of out-of-pocket expenditures, simply known as cost not covered by insurance. Even the United Nations and World Health organisation are recognising NCDs as being an important issue.

Governments will meet in New York for the United Nations 3rd high-level meeting on chronic diseases in 2018. Global leaders need to work towards reducing the burden of having multiple chronic conditions and providing financial protection to those suffering multimorbidity.

Our research aimed to conduct a high-quality systematic review on multimorbidity and out-of-pocket expenditure on medicines.  Continue reading

ACA Pay-For-Performance Programs Not Living Up To Expectations

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Igna Bonfrer PhD Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health 

Dr. Bonfrer

Dr. Igna Bonfrer PhD
Post-Doctoral Research Fellow
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health  

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: One of the two main elements of the Affordable Care Act, generally known as Obama Care, is the implementation of value based payments through so called “pay-for-performance” initiatives. The aim of pay-for-performance (P4P) is to reward health care providers for high-quality care and to penalize them for low-quality care.

We studied the effects of the P4P program in US hospitals and found that the impact of the program as currently implemented has been limited.

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Medicaid Work Requirements May Have Unintended Consequences on Costs and Enrollees

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Renuka Tipirneni, MD, MSc Clinical Lecturer in Internal Medicine University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine, Division of General Medicine, and Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation Ann Arbor, MI

Dr. Tipirneni

Renuka Tipirneni, MD, MSc
Clinical Lecturer in Internal Medicine
University of Michigan Department of Internal Medicine, Division of General Medicine, and
Institute for Healthcare Policy & Innovation
Ann Arbor, MI

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Several states have submitted proposals to require Medicaid expansion enrollees to work, actively seek work or volunteer, or risk losing Medicaid coverage. The current federal administration has signaled a willingness to approve the waivers states need to enact such requirements.

In our survey of over 4000 Medicaid expansion enrollees in Michigan, we found that nearly half of enrollees have jobs, another 11 percent can’t work, likely due to serious physical or mental health conditions, and another 27% are out of work but also are much more likely to be in poor health.

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LA’s Housing Program Reduced Overall Costs For Homeless Services

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Homeless” by Sonny Abesamis is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Sarah Hunter, PhD
Senior Behavioral Scientist, RAND Corporation
Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Santa Monica, CA 90401-3028

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In 2014, RAND was contracted by Brilliant Corners in collaboration with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and Los Angeles County Department of Health Services to conduct an evaluation of the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services’ Housing for Health (HFH) program.  The HFH program began in 2012 with the goal of providing permanent supportive housing for frequent utilizers of county health services who were experiencing homelessness.  Continue reading

Price Transparency Not Keeping Up With High-Deductible Health Care Plans

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Health Insurance” by Pictures of Money is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Allison Kratka
MD Candidate 2018
Duke University School of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: As there are increasing numbers of high-deductible plans and those with high rates of co-insurance, patients are increasingly expected to help contain the cost of their health care by being savvy health care consumers. We set out to determine how easy or hard it is to find healthcare prices online.

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How Much Non-Invasive Testing Is Necessary In ER To Rule Out Heart Attack?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

David L. Brown, MD, FACC Professor of Medicine Cardiovascular Division Washington University School of Medicine St. Louis, MO 63110

Dr. Brown

David L. Brown, MD, FACC
Professor of Medicine
Cardiovascular Division
Washington University School of Medicine
St. Louis, MO 63110

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Approximately 10 million patients present to emergency rooms in the US annually for evaluation of acute chest pain.

The goal of that evaluation is to rule out the diagnosis of an acute heart attack. Imaging with coronary CT angiography and stress testing are not part of the diagnostic algorithm for acute heart attack.  Nevertheless many chest pain patients undergo some form of noninvasive cardiac testing in the ER. We found that CCTA or stress testing adding nothing to the care of chest pain patients beyond what is achieved by a history, physical examination, ECG and troponin test.

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HIV PreExposure Prophylaxis -PrEP- For MSM Found To Be Effective and Cost Saving

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Valentina Cambiano PhD Institute for Global Health University College London London UK

Dr. Cambiano

Dr Valentina Cambiano PhD
Institute for Global Health
University College London
London UK

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) which involves the use of drugs, which are used to treat HIV, in people without HIV to prevent them from getting is a critical new advance in HIV prevention. It has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 86% and the benefits heavily out-weigh any concerns. However, introducing this intervention has a cost.

When we started working on this study the National Health Services was discussing whether to introduce PrEP and if so for which populations. Unfortunately, at the moment NHS England is not providing Pre-exposure prophylaxis. However, a large study, the PrEP impact trial, funded by the NHS, has just started and this will provide PrEP to 10,000 people.

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Maryland All-Payer Model Produced Outpatient and ER Medicare Savings

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Susan G. Haber, Sc.D.

Director, Health Coverage for Low-Income and Uninsured Populations
RTI International
Waltham, MA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: In 2014, the state of Maryland and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began testing an alternative payment structure for inpatient and outpatient hospital services. Known as the All-Payer Model, the new system limits hospitals’ revenues from Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers to a global budget for the year. This builds on Maryland’s hospital rate-setting system that had operated since the 1970s, where all payers pay the same rates. CMS wanted to test whether global budgets could help Maryland limit cost growth and reduce avoidable hospital use. The goal of the model is to limit per capita total hospital cost growth for both Medicare and all payers and to generate $330 million in Medicare savings over 5 years.

RTI researchers studied the impact of hospital global budgets on Medicare beneficiary expenditures and utilization, using Medicare claims data to compare changes in Maryland before and after adoption of global budgets with changes in matched comparison areas outside of the state. Our report found Maryland has reduced total Medicare expenditures by approximately $293 million and total hospital expenditures by about $200 million in its first two years of operation. The reduction in overall expenditures indicates that “squeezing the balloon” on hospital expenditures did not simply produce a cost-shift to other health care sectors. Hospital expenditure savings for Medicare were achieved by reducing expenditures for outpatient emergency department and other hospital outpatient department services. Although inpatient admissions declined, there were no savings in Medicare expenditures for inpatient hospital services because the payment per admission increased. Maryland hospitals reduced avoidable utilization, including admissions for ambulatory care sensitive conditions, and readmissions and emergency department visits following hospital discharge. Despite the success in reducing expenditures, interviews with senior leaders at Maryland hospitals and focus group discussions with physicians and nurses suggest that many hospitals had not yet made fundamental changes in how they operate or developed partnerships with community physicians to divert care from the hospital, although there was variation in how hospitals responded.

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Low-Cost, High-Volume Services Add Billions To US Health Care Tab

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

John N. Mafi MPH Assistant Professor of Medicine David Geffen School of Medicine University of California, Los Angeles Natural scientist in Health Policy RAND Corporation Santa Monica, California

Dr. Mafi

John N. Mafi MD MPH
Assistant Professor of Medicine
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles
Natural scientist in Health Policy
RAND Corporation
Santa Monica, California

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Of the 3 trillion dollars the U.S. spends annually on health care, an estimated 10-30% consists of “low-value care”, or patient care that provides no net benefit in specific clinical scenarios (think antibiotics given for the common cold virus). Determining where and why this waste occurs is critical to efforts to safely reducing healthcare spending. Little is known, however, about the distribution of costs among such “low-value” services. In this context, we used the Virginia All Payer Claims Database in order to assess the quantity and total costs of 44 low-value services in 2014 among 5.5 million beneficiaries.

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Financial Incentives to Physicians Did Not Increase Hospital Discharge Follow-Up Visits

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, MD Physician at University Health Network Department of Medicine University of Toronto 

Dr. Lapointe-Shaw

Dr. Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, MD
Physician at University Health Network
Department of Medicine
University of Toronto 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Readmissions after hospital discharge are common and costly. We would like to reduce these as much as possible. Early physician follow-up post hospital discharge is one possible strategy to reduce readmissions. To this end, incentives to outpatient physicians for early follow-up have been introduced in the U.S. and Canada. We studied the effect of such an incentive, introduced to Ontario, Canada, in 2006.

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Participation in SNAP Food Assistance Linked To Lower Health Care Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Seth A. Berkowitz, MD, MPH Division of General Internal Medicine Diabetes Population Health Unit Harvard Medical School Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

Dr. Berkowitz

Seth A. Berkowitz, MD, MPH
Division of General Internal Medicine
Diabetes Population Health Unit
Harvard Medical School
Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: There is ever growing pressure to contain healthcare costs in the US. Increasingly, attention is turning to programs that address social determinants of health–that is, those factors which affect health but lie outside the realm of clinical medicine.

Prior research has highlighted food insecurity as having a clear association with poor health and higher healthcare costs. SNAP is the nation’s largest program to combat food insecurity. However, we did not know whether SNAP participation would be associated with any difference in healthcare costs, compared with eligible non-participants.

This study found that participating in SNAP was associated with approximately $1400 lower healthcare expenditures per year in low-income adults.

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Global Budget in Maryland Saved Medicare Money By Limiting Hospital Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
RTI
Susan G. Haber, Sc.D. 
Director, Health Coverage for Low-Income and Uninsured Populations
RTI International
Waltham, MA 02452-8413

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: In 2014, the state of Maryland and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began testing an alternative payment structure for inpatient and outpatient hospital services. Known as the All-Payer Model, the new system limits hospitals’ revenues from Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers to a global budget for the year. This builds on Maryland’s hospital rate-setting system that had operated since the 1970s, where all payers pay the same rates. CMS wanted to test whether global budgets could help Maryland limit cost growth and reduce avoidable hospital use. The goal of the model is to limit per capita total hospital cost growth for both Medicare and all payers and to generate $330 million in Medicare savings over 5 years.

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