What’s New in Health Care Reform: Nov. 22

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

White House: Economic Cost of Opioid Crisis about $504B

The economic cost of the opioid epidemic was about $504 billion in 2015, which is more than six times higher than other studies from previous years, according to a newly released analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisers (CEA). This figure accounts for roughly 2.8% of gross domestic product. The opioid crisis has garnered the national spotlight, as it has led to a significant uptick in overdose deaths since 1999 and, most recently, was declared a national public health emergency by President Trump. Via The Hill.

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Higher Premiums for Outpatient Coverage for Many on Medicare

Higher monthly premiums for outpatient coverage await many Medicare beneficiaries next year, the government says. The additional expense will eat away at an increase in their Social Security checks. The news about “Part B” premiums was buried in the fine print of a notice issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Via AP.

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Obamacare Mandate Repeal May Not Deliver Predicted Blow

Repealing Obamacare's individual mandate might not be the devastating blow to health insurance markets that supporters of the law fear. Because the tax penalty for not having insurance is far less costly than what many Americans would have to pay for coverage, many have chosen to take the fine. Eliminating it, therefore, might not radically change behavior—or fulfill the dire predictions of spiking premiums and vast increases in uninsured people that economists, health providers, and politicians once predicted. Via Politico.

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Improper Medicare Payments Drop by Nearly $5 Billion

The CMS reported that the rate of improper payments doled out by Medicare is the lowest it's been since 2013, accounting for less than 10% of overall Medicare payments. All in all, the CMS estimated that improper payments dropped $4.9 billion from 2016 to 2017, marking a rate decrease from 11% in 2016 to 9.5% in 2017. Via Modern Healthcare.

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About a Third of Americans Unaware of Obamacare Open Enrollment

While the Affordable Care Act’s fifth open enrollment season is off to a surprisingly good start, many uninsured people said they weren’t even aware of it, according to a survey released. Nearly a third of people overall—including a third of people without health insurance—said they had not heard anything about the sign-up period for individuals who buy health plans on their own, according to the survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). Via Kaiser Health News.

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Middle-Class Families Confront Soaring Health Insurance Costs

Congress’s repeated efforts to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health law have rattled insurance markets. Actions by President Trump and his administration have added still more uncertainty. Now, Senate Republicans have attached a provision to their $1.5 trillion tax cut that would repeal the health law’s mandate that most Americans have health insurance or pay a penalty. All of those actions—along with flaws in the law itself—are having real-world impact. Via NY Times.

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ACA Federal Enrollment Surges by at Least 47% This Year, CMS Says

Enrollment under the Affordable Care Act in 39 states has surged at least 47% compared to the same period last year, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Nearly 1.5 million Americans signed up for coverage during the first 11 days of enrollment, CMS said, including 876,788 during the second week. That compares to just over 1 million Americans who signed up though HealthCare.gov during the first 12 days of open enrollment in 2016. Via Washington Post.

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IRS Starts to Enforce Health Law’s Rule That Employers Offer Insurance

As Republicans and the Trump administration continue trying to chip away at the Affordable Care Act, the Internal Revenue Service has begun, for the first time, to enforce one of the law’s most polarizing provisions: the employer mandate. Thousands of businesses—many of them small or midsize—will soon receive a letter saying that they owe the government money because they failed to offer their workers qualifying health insurance. The first round of notices, which the IRS began sending late last month, are being mailed to companies that have at least 100 full-time employees and ran afoul of the law in 2015, the year that the mandate took effect. Via NY Times.

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Counting the Costs: U.S. Hospitals Feeling the Pain of Physician Burnout

Hospitals such as St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor have been investing in programs ranging from yoga classes to personal coaches designed to help doctors become more resilient. But national burnout rates keep rising, with up to 54% of doctors affected. Some leading healthcare executives now say the way medicine is practiced in the United States is to blame, fueled in part by growing clerical demands that have doctors spending two hours on the computer for every one hour they spend seeing patients. Via Reuters.

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Reimbursement Cuts on Lab Tests Pressure U.S. Lab Firm Shares

A federal agency rolled out deep cuts to reimbursement rates for some lab tests under Medicare, a move that could save the government as much as $3 billion over five years but hurt margins of U.S. laboratory companies. The cuts, which are expected to save about $670 million in Medicare payments in 2018, were roughly in line with a preliminary proposal published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in September. Via Reuters.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

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