Mid-week Miscellany

  • CMS actuaries released health care cost projections for the U.S. on Tuesday. Here are some tidbits:

    Through 2017, growth in health spending is expected to outpace that of GDP by an annual average of 1.9 percentage points. This projected differential in growth rates is smaller than the 2.7 percentage-point average difference experienced over the past 30 years, but wider than the average differential (0.3 percentage point) observed for 2004 through 2006.Hospital spending growth is expected to accelerate from 7.0 percent in 2006 to 7.5 percent in 2007, partly attributable to higher Medicaid payment rates.

    Hospital spending growth is then projected to decrease slightly though the rest of the projection period as the growth in demand for hospital services is expected to slow.

    Prescription drug spending growth is expected to slow to 6.7 percent in 2007 (from 8.5 percent in 2006), driven largely by slower drug price growth.For 2008 through 2017, prescription drug spending is projected to accelerate due in part to the projected leveling off of growth in the generic dispensing rate and evolving treatment guidelines that call for earlier introductions of pharmacotherapy.

  • Kaiser Health Policy reports that Congress may take action in March on extending the Medicare Part B physician reimbursement fix, which currently expires on June 30.
  • The New York Times reports on Aetna’s decision to continue reimbursing a “powerful anesthetic” when used on patients undergoing a colonoscopy. According to the article,

    Insurers have been split on whether to cover propofol for colonoscopies. Humana and WellPoint are among the large players that, like Aetna, have sought to curtail coverage while UnitedHealthcare, which has 26 million members, has advertised its intent to support propofol in all screenings. Medicare leaves the decision up to its local carriers, most of which have restrictive policies. Some doctors maintain that propofol helps them by keeping patients calmer during screenings than the traditional cocktails they administered of sedatives like Versed and tranquilizers like Valium. And, because it wears off sooner, patients can go home more quickly. (As a man over 50 that sounds good to me.)

  • In health information technology news, Government HIT News is reporting that the federal government is building its own “mini” national health information network in order to jump start that critical process. The NHIN is the backbone that knits together the regional health information organizations or RHIOs.