Tuesday’s Tidbits — Studies and Rules

The FEHBlog noticed studies on

Using a health-insurance claims database that includes about two million exchange enrollees, Inovalon found that rural residents racked up significantly higher medical costs than urban enrollees in 2015.  “Individuals in less populated areas tend to be sicker” according to the data, said April Todd, an executive at a consulting unit of Inovalon. But the cost gap was also driven by higher expenses at rural health-care providers, she said.

Per capita spending on health care for children covered by employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) grew an annual average of 5.1 percent per year between 2010 and 2014, reaching $2,660 in 2014. At the same time, there was a general decline in the use of health care services between 2012 and 2014. Out-of-pocket spending on children increased an average annual 5.5 percent, to $472 in 2014. This growth was due in part to higher out-of-pocket spending on ER visits, which increased an average annual 11.7 percent or $21 per capita.

Researchers posing as patients with skin problems sought help from 16 online telemedicine companies—with unsettling results.  *  * * “The services failed to ask simple, relevant questions of patients about their symptoms, leading them to repeatedly miss important diagnoses,” said Jack Resneck, a dermatologist with the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of the study, published online in JAMA Dermatology on Sunday. Ateev Mehrotra, an associate professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School who wasn’t involved with the current study, said it “identifies a number of egregious quality issues that raise significant concern.” 

And of course there are more rules. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released a final rule yesterday on employer sponsored wellness programs which will take effect next year.  USA Today indicates that reaction to the rule is mixed.  Professor Timothy Jost in his Health Affairs blog provides more details on the Public Health Service Act Section 1557 rule released last Friday.  He also discusses an HHS rule released a couple weeks ago that loosened the regulatory leash on health care co-ops.