Issue Briefs

Detecting BS in Health Care

Issue Brief
Nov. 26, 2018

In the past several months, we have observed several notable signs of deceptive, misleading, unsubstantiated, and foolish statements — what we will call “BS” — in the health care industry. Here we present our Top 10 BS candidates, in both pictures and words. First we present each picture, untitled and without text, thereby inviting readers to discern what the BS message is and engage them in the BS detection process. Then we offer an explanation of what the picture conveys. This will help the reader become a more skilled “BS Hunter.” We reserve the option to expound further as we step in more BS in the future.

What Is "Affordable" Health Care?

Issue Brief
Nov. 1, 2018

Although the “affordability” of health care is a common concern, the term is rarely defined.This joint Penn LDI and United States of Care issue brief considers affordability as an economic concept, as a kitchen-table budget issue for individuals and families, and as a threshold in current policy. It reviews a range of measures that capture the cost burden for individuals and families with different forms of coverage, in different financial circumstances, and with different health concerns.

Supply of Primary Care Providers and Appointment Availability for Philadelphia's Medicaid Population

Issue Brief
Oct. 23, 2018

This brief analyzes the supply of primary care providers serving the Medicaid population in Philadelphia, and the geographic variability of this measure across the city. It also examines important measures of access – appointment availability and wait time for an initial appointment – that highlight challenges faced by Medicaid patients.

The Current State of Evidence on Bundled Payments

Issue Brief
Oct. 8, 2018

A review of the evidence shows that bundled payments for surgical procedures can generate savings without adversely affecting patient outcomes. Less is known about the effect of bundled payments for chronic medical conditions, but early evidence suggests that cost and quality improvements may be small or non-existent. There is little evidence that bundles reduce access and equity, but continued monitoring is required.

Cost-effective Screening and Treatment of Hepatitis C

Issue Brief
Sep. 17, 2018

In just five years, hepatitis C has changed from a difficult-to-treat chronic condition to one that is readily cured by a short course of medication. Medical breakthroughs have now created the possibility of eliminating the transmission of HCV, but also bring a new challenge for the health system—how to identify individuals carrying the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and how to pay for life-saving treatments. This Issue Brief reviews recent evidence on the cost-effectiveness of screening and treatment strategies, and makes the case for universal, one-time HCV screening for all US adults.

State-Based Marketplaces Outperform Federally-Facilitated Marketplaces

Issue Brief
Mar. 21, 2018

In response to regulatory changes at the federal level, states that run their own marketplaces have taken steps to stabilize their individual markets. In this comparison of state-based and federally-facilitated marketplaces from 2016-2018, we find that SBMs had slower premium increases (43% vs. 75%), and fewer carrier exits, than FFMs. The total population participating in FFMs declined by 10%, while the enrolled population in SBMs remained largely stable, increasing by 2%. We find that the performance of the ACA marketplaces varies by state and appears to cluster around marketplace types.

Exploring the Decline of Narrow Networks on the ACA Marketplaces in 2017

Issue Brief
Nov. 6, 2017

The prevalence of narrow provider networks on the ACA Marketplace is trending down. In 2017, 21% of plans had narrow networks, down from 25% in 2016. The largest single factor was that 70% of plans from National carriers exited the market and these plans had narrower networks than returning plans. Exits account for more than half of the decline in the prevalence of narrow networks, with the rest attributed to broadening networks among stable plans, particularly among Blues carriers. The narrow network strategy is expanding among traditional Medicaid carriers and remains steady among provider-based carriers and regional/local carriers.

Narrow Networks on the Individual Marketplace in 2017

Issue Brief
Sep. 14, 2017

This Issue Brief describes the breadth of physician networks on the ACA marketplaces in 2017. We find that the overall rate of narrow networks is 21%, which is a decline since 2014 (31%) and 2016 (25%). Narrow networks are concentrated in plans sold on state-based marketplaces, at 42%, compared to 10% of plans on federally-facilitated marketplaces. Issuers that have traditionally offered Medicaid coverage have the highest prevalence of narrow network plans at 36%, with regional/local plans and provider-based plans close behind at 27% and 30%. We also find large differences in narrow networks by state and by plan type. 

Stabilizing Individual Health Insurance Markets With Subsidized Reinsurance

Issue Brief
Sep. 11, 2017

Subsidized reinsurance represents a potentially important tool to help stabilize individual health insurance markets. This brief describes alternative forms of subsidized reinsurance and the mechanisms by which they spread risk and reduce premiums. It summarizes specific state initiatives and Congressional proposals that include subsidized reinsurance. It compares approaches to each other and to more direct subsidies of individual market enrollment. For a given amount of funding, a particular program’s efficacy will depend on how it affects insurers’ risk and the risk margins built into premiums, incentives for selecting or avoiding risks, incentives for coordinating and managing care, and the costs and complexity of administration. These effects warrant careful consideration by policymakers as they consider measures to achieve stability in the individual market in the long term.

Substance Use Disorder in America: Research to Practice, and Back Again

Issue Brief
Aug. 3, 2017

These proceedings summarize the insights shared by nationally renowned panels of experts and overall themes discussed throughout the conference. The conference included experts from academia and public and private sectors, who came together to discuss the gaps in evidence-based substance use policy and practice, with particular emphasis on the opioid epidemic. The conference concluded with an interactive session focused on the exchange of ideas and solutions to curb the opioid epidemic​. Those ideas are included here.  

Issues at the Heart of Advancing the De-Adoption of Low-Value Care

Issue Brief
Apr. 18, 2017

A diverse set of national leaders and stakeholders representing industry, think-tanks, provider and patient groups, and academic experts discussed how health systems, payers, and providers can spur the ‘de-adoption’ of medical practices and technologies no longer considered valuable.

Effects of the ACA on Health Care Cost Containment

Issue Brief
Mar. 2, 2017

This brief reviews the evidence on how key ACA provisions have affected the growth of health care costs. Coverage expansions produced a predictable jump in health care spending, amidst a slowdown that began a decade ago. Although we have not returned to the double-digit increases of the past, the authors find little evidence that ACA cost containment provisions produced changes necessary to “bend the cost curve.” Cost control will likely play a prominent role in the next round of health reform and will be critical to sustaining coverage gains in the long term.

Primary Care Appointment Availability and the ACA Insurance Expansions

Issue Brief
Mar. 1, 2017

In the current debate in Congress over the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the issue of provider access is a major concern.Our 10-state audit study published in JAMA Internal Medicine finds that primary care appointment availability for new patients with Medicaid increased 5.4 percentage points between 2012 and 2016 and remained stable for patients with private coverage. Over the same period, both Medicaid patients and the privately insured experienced a one-day increase in median wait times. Higher appointment availability for Medicaid patients is a surprising result given the increase in demand for care from millions of new Medicaid enrollees. In this Issue Brief, we summarize our study’s findings, expand on possible explanations, and extend the analysis by examining the relationship between appointment availability and state-level Medicaid expansions. We find that access to primary care increased for Medicaid patients only in states that extended Medicaid eligibility to low-income, nonelderly adults. Combined, these results suggest coverage provisions in the ACA have not overwhelmed primary care capacity.

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