LDI Briefs

What Do We Know About Health Insurance Choice?

Issue Brief
Jun. 30, 2020

From choosing a doctor to selecting an insurance plan, choices pervade nearly all aspects of our health care system. However, there is little agreement among policymakers and the public about what constitutes “choice,” which choices are important, and how and whether patients should be asked to make various health care choices. Although Americans claim to value having health insurance choices, research shows that when presented with options, people do not actually like to choose. Other studies suggest that people frequently make health insurance decisions that leave them worse off, or not much better than before. At Penn LDI’s Medicare for All and Beyond conference, a panel of researchers and policy experts discussed the current evidence around health insurance choice and implications for future health care reform efforts. This brief summarizes the panel’s key takeaways.

Payment and Pricing Decisions in Health Care Reform

Issue Brief
Jun. 23, 2020

Any effort to reform health insurance in the United States must tackle the prices we pay for health care. There are many complex challenges to addressing prices. Some proposals build on the existing Medicare fee schedule, while others suggest promoting alternative payment mechanisms—or even starting from scratch. The stakes are substantial, as many reform proposals rely on reining in prices to achieve the savings necessary to expand health insurance to the uninsured. At Penn’s LDI Medicare for All and Beyond conference, a panel of researchers, hospital administrators, and policy experts considered issues related to health care payment and pricing that any health care reform proposal must address, including the implications of rate setting for providers and patients. At what level should these rates be set to assure access and quality of care, while incentivizing innovation and rewarding excellence?

Setting Standards for Affordable Health Care

Issue Brief
Jun. 16, 2020

In the run-up to the presidential election, the affordability of health care remains a top concern of the American voting public. But how do we know when health care is affordable? On a policy level, how do we set a standard for affordability that can be implemented in a reformed system? Sometimes policy debates about affordability focus only on whether insurance premiums are affordable, although consumers tend to be concerned about both premiums and out-of-pocket costs. At Penn LDI’s Medicare for All and Beyond conference, a panel of researchers, policy experts, and consumer advocates discussed and debated affordability in theory and practice. This issue brief summarizes the panel’s insights.

Transforming Mental Health Care Through Implementation of Evidence-Based Practices

Issue Brief
May. 21, 2020

Changing clinical practice is hard, and changing practices within larger organizations is even harder. Increasingly, policymakers are looking to implementation science—the study of why some changes prove more durable than others—to understand the dynamics of successful transformation. In this brief, we summarize the results of an ongoing community-academic partnership to increase the uptake of evidence-based practices in Philadelphia’s public behavioral health care system. Over five years, researchers found that widescale initiatives did successfully change the way care was delivered, albeit modestly and slowly. The evidence suggests that organizational factors, such as a proficient work culture, are more important than individual therapist factors, like openness in change, in influencing successful practice change. While practice transformation is possible, it requires focusing on underlying problems within organizations as well as championing new policies. 

Health Care Cost Drivers and Options for Control

Issue Brief
Apr. 28, 2020

The growth of health care costs remains a serious concern in the United States. Slowing this growth involves understanding what drives health care costs and how to target those drivers effectively. In this brief, we review the relative importance of different health care cost drivers, including insurance benefits design, price inflation, provider incentives, technological growth, and inefficient system performance. We analyze the impact of these factors on the growth of health care spending in the last decade, which has been concentrated in hospitals and felt most acutely in the private market.

Policy Options for Financing Long-Term Care in the U.S.

Issue Brief
Apr. 15, 2020

Unlike many other developed nations, the U.S. has no system that protects its residents against the high costs of long-term care, which many people will need as they age. Medicaid coverage kicks in only after families have exhausted their resources. Until then, families bear the financial and caregiving burden of LTC themselves. In the absence of a national system, several states have considered or passed programs that offer some support for LTC. Many peer nations have more comprehensive systems to spread the risk for LTC costs across their population, through social insurance or other mechanisms. This Issue Brief reviews international models of financing LTC, as well as recent state efforts, to help U.S. policymakers design a program that can meet the LTC challenges of an aging population.

Did the Affordable Care Act Contain Costs?

Issue Brief
Feb. 20, 2020

The Affordable Care Act was designed to curb the growth of health care costs as it broadly expanded coverage. Through provider payment reductions, alternative payment models, and a commission to enforce growth targets, the ACA sought to rein in Medicare spending. Through a tax on high-cost employer plans and competition in individual marketplaces, it sought to influence spending in the private market as well. But a number of provisions were never implemented, limiting the ACA’s impact on costs. While statutory reductions in Medicare provider rates have slowed cost growth in Medicare, they are not likely to be sustainable in the long term. Changing the trajectory of cost growth remains a challenge for future reform efforts.

Revisiting CHIP Buy-In Programs for Children

Issue Brief
Feb. 14, 2020

States have a long history of providing families with the option to purchase Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage for their children, but these programs have dwindled in recent years. In a February 2020 Health Affairs blog post, we review states’ experiences with buy-in programs for children, present updated information on the four remaining CHIP buy-in programs, and compare them to child-only coverage on the individual market. This document provides an overview of our findings.

Health Inequity in the United States: A Primer

Issue Brief
Jan. 6, 2020

By any measure, the United States has a level of health inequity rarely seen among developed nations. The roots of this inequity are deep and complex, and are a function of differences in income, education, race and segregation, and place. In this primer, we provide an overview of these distinctly American problems, and discuss programs and policies that might promote greater health equity in the population. 

 

Could a Public Health Insurance Option Lead to More Competitive Markets?

Issue Brief
Dec. 10, 2019

Calls for the establishment of a “public option,” which emerged during the debate on the Affordable Care Act, have reemerged in this election season. Some proposals base the public option on Medicare, while others on Medicaid. In this article, Wharton professor and LDI Senior Fellow Mark Pauly discusses the likely effects of a public option on private markets, using experience in Medicare Advantage as a guide. Will the public option become the preferred one, sweeping away the private market? Or can the public and private options peacefully coexist?  

Physician Consolidation and the Spread of Accountable Care Organizations

Research Brief
Nov. 4, 2019

Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) are groups of physicians and hospitals that jointly contract to care for a patient population. ACO contracts incentivize coordination of care across providers. This can lead to greater consolidation of physician practices, which can in turn generate higher costs and lower quality. Given this, the study asks, as ACOs enter health care markets, do physician practices grow larger?

A National Comparison of Operative Outcomes of New and Experienced Surgeons

Research Brief
Oct. 25, 2019

In this national study, Medicare beneficiaries treated by new surgeons had poorer outcomes than those treated by experienced ones in the same hospitals. However, the type of operation and the patient’s emergency status – rather than physician inexperience – explains nearly all poorer outcomes. Higher-risk cases are disproportionately treated by new surgeons.

Long-Term Care Financing in the United States

Issue Brief
Oct. 11, 2019

In the United States, people who need long-term care (LTC) face a system with large gaps in care, which they must rely on friends and family to fill. Medicaid finances the majority of paid LTC, but people must exhaust their resources to qualify. Medicare and private health insurance do not cover LTC, and the private market for long-term care insurance is failing. Unpaid family and friends provide most long-term services, but the value of their services is rarely reflected in debates about LTC financing and delivery. Beyond the value of the services, this system has costs to the economy, as spouses and adult children reduce paid work to care for their loved ones. As the population ages and families are less able to shoulder the burden of LTC, the current system may be unable to meet the growing need without an alternative, sustainable financing mechanism.

Health Care Safety-Net Programs After The Affordable Care Act

Issue Brief
Oct. 1, 2019

Prior to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), health care safety-net programs were the primary source of care for over 44 million uninsured people. While the ACA cut the number of uninsured substantially, about 30 million people remain uninsured, and many millions more are vulnerable to out-of-pocket costs beyond their resources. The need for the safety net remains, even as the distribution and types of need have shifted. This brief reviews the effects of the ACA on the funding and operation of safety-net institutions. It highlights the challenges and opportunities that health care reform presents to safety-net programs, and how they have adapted and evolved to continue to serve our most vulnerable residents.

Impact of Sweetened Beverage Tax on Chain Retailers in Philadelphia

Research Brief
Jul. 2, 2019

On January 1, 2017, Philadelphia became the second U.S. city to tax the distribution of sweetened beverages. The 1.5 cent per ounce tax applies to the distribution of sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages. Similar taxes have been passed in several other cities and are being considered at the state level. The authors examined the effect of the tax on beverage prices and sales at chain retail stores in Philadelphia.

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