December 7, 2017
Health care spending growth has slowed but patients’ costs grow at the fastest rate in a decade
Health care costs continued to increase in 2016, but at a slower rate than in years before according to a study published in Health Affairs. The study found overall health care spending rose 4.3 percent—reaching a record-high $3.3 trillion—in 2016, a 1.5 percent drop in spending growth from 2015. Prescription drug spending, a driver of health care cost increases in the past, only rose 1.3 percent, dropping from 9 percent growth the year before. The report attributes the lower growth rate to falling prices and the introduction of fewer new drugs. While overall health care spending growth has slowed, patients’ costs are growing at the fastest rate in a decade. Out-of-pocket expenses jumped 3.9 percent in 2016, the large cost increase since 2007. Overall, health care spending remains high, accounting for 17.9 percent of the GDP in the US.
ACA enrollment picks up in week five of the 2018 open enrollment period
Sign-ups for ACA plans have occurred at a record pace this year, but experts believe enrollment will fall far short of previous years due to a shorter open enrollment period. Overall, more than 3.6 million Americans have signed up for an exchange plan during 2018 open enrollment, including more than 823,000 people last week. However, only two weeks remain in the period, and more than 5 million Americans would need to enroll to match previous years’ numbers. Open enrollment ends December 15.
Freedom Caucus changes tone on ACA stabilization bill
Yesterday, the House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows announced he would be open to including the ACA stabilization bill by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-LA) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in a stopgap spending bill, in order to get Senate votes to fund the government. Many other House Republicans are not supportive of the measure. President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN) already agreed to consider the bipartisan health bill to secure Sen. Susan Collins’ (R-ME) support for tax legislation.
Speaker Ryan says Republicans will target Medicare spending in 2018
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-WI) said Wednesday that congressional Republicans hope to pass legislation reducing federal spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs next year, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit. Ryan claims President Trump is open to considering spending cuts for the programs. As a candidate, Trump vowed not to cut spending on Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.
VA cuts program for homeless vets
The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) will end a major housing program designed to curb homelessness among veterans. The VA will reroute $460 million allocated for the program to local VA hospitals for them to use as they like, as long as they show evidence of reducing with homelessness. The decision has prompted strong outcry from homeless advocates, state officials and even some officials at HUD, who believe ending the program will lead to a spike in homelessness. VA Secretary David Shulkin insists overall spending on veteran homelessness is not being cut, and that he will reexamine the decision and consult with local VA chapters on how to best proceed.
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