Mifepristone, a drug used to manage early miscarriage or end an early pregnancy, carries unique restrictions imposed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Patients are required to pick up the drug in person
from a doctor or a clinic, even though they can take the drug at home. In July, a federal court ruled that the FDA must suspend these restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, for patients seeking an early abortion,
although the ruling did not apply to women with an early pregnancy loss. But the challenges to FDA restrictions on mifepristone predate the pandemic. This Issue Brief provides the context for this ongoing controversy, and
reviews recent evidence on the clinical and cost effectiveness of mifepristone for the medical management of first trimester miscarriage.
A study of hospitals in New York and Illinois at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic found that most did not meet benchmark patient-to-nurse staffing ratios for medical-surgical or intensive care units. New York City hospitals had especially low staffing ratios. Understaffed hospitals were associated with less job satisfaction among nurses, unfavorable grades for patient safety and quality of care, and hesitance by nurses and patients to recommend their hospitals.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on U.S. nursing homes, resulting in a large and disproportionate share of COVID-19 deaths. Starting in April 2020, nursing homes were required to report COVID-19 cases to their state health department. Linking these reports to Medicare quality data, the authors examined the characteristics of 8,943 nursing homes in 23 states and Washington, D.C. Using data collected between April 22 and 29, they described the differences between facilities that reported COVID-19 cases (34%) and those that did not report cases.
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.
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?
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.
One in five U.S. children has a mental health condition, but little is known about their health care use and spending. The authors looked at 2016 Medicaid claims for approximately 775,000 children (ages 3-17) with a mental health diagnosis and at least 11 months of continuous Medicaid coverage. They compared utilization and spending of "top spenders" (patients who spent the most overall on health care, or the top 1%) and "typical spenders" (patients with more usual spending, the remaining 99%).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Opioid overdose deaths have been called “deaths of despair” because of their possible connection to individual and community distress. This study looks at how proximity to auto plant closures — which represent large, traumatic, and culturally significant shocks to economic opportunity — affected opioid deaths among working age adults between 1999 and 2016.
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?