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(1/169) Out-of-pocket health spending by poor and near-poor elderly Medicare beneficiaries.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate out-of-pocket health care spending by lower-income Medicare beneficiaries, and to examine spending variations between those who receive Medicaid assistance and those who do not receive such aid. DATA SOURCES AND COLLECTION: 1993 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey (MCBS) Cost and Use files, supplemented with data from the Bureau of the Census (Current Population Survey); the Congressional Budget Office; the Health Care Financing Administration, Office of the Actuary (National Health Accounts); and the Social Security Administration. STUDY DESIGN: We analyzed out-of-pocket spending through a Medicare Benefits Simulation model, which projects out-of-pocket health care spending from the 1993 MCBS to 1997. Out-of-pocket health care spending is defined to include Medicare deductibles and coinsurance; premiums for private insurance, Medicare Part B, and Medicare HMOs; payments for non-covered goods and services; and balance billing by physicians. It excludes the costs of home care and nursing facility services, as well as indirect tax payments toward health care financing. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Almost 60 percent of beneficiaries with incomes below the poverty level did not receive Medicaid assistance in 1997. We estimate that these beneficiaries spent, on average, about half their income out-of-pocket for health care, whether they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO or in the traditional fee-for-service program. The 75 percent of beneficiaries with incomes between 100 and 125 percent of the poverty level who were not enrolled in Medicaid spent an estimated 30 percent of their income out-of-pocket on health care if they were in the traditional program and about 23 percent of their income if they were enrolled in a Medicare HMO. Average out-of-pocket spending among fee-for-service beneficiaries varied depending on whether beneficiaries had Medigap policies, employer-provided supplemental insurance, or no supplemental coverage. Those without supplemental coverage spent more on health care goods and services, but spent less than the other groups on prescription drugs and dental care-services not covered by Medicare. CONCLUSIONS: While Medicaid provides substantial protection for some lower-income Medicare beneficiaries, out-of-pocket health care spending continues to be a substantial burden for most of this population. Medicare reform discussions that focus on shifting more costs to beneficiaries should take into account the dramatic costs of health care already faced by this vulnerable population.  (+info)

(2/169) The quality of care and influence of double health care coverage in Catalonia (Spain).

AIMS: To analyse inequalities by social class in children's access to and utilisation of health services in Catalonia (Spain), private health insurance coverage, and certain aspects of the quality of care received. DESIGN: Cross sectional study using data from the 1994 Catalan Health Interview Survey. SETTING: Child population of Catalonia. PARTICIPANTS: A representative sample of non-institutionalised children younger than 15 years (n = 2433). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Health services utilisation, perceived health, type of health insurance (only National Health System (NHS) or both NHS and private health insurance), and social class. RESULTS: No inequalities by social class were found for the utilisation of health care services provided by the NHS among children in most need. Double health care coverage does not influence the social pattern of visits. Nevertheless, social inequalities still remain in the use of those health services provided only partially by the NHS (dentist) and when characteristics of the last consultation are taken into account. That is, subjects who paid for a private service waited an average of 14.8 minutes less than those whose visit was paid for by the NHS only. CONCLUSION: Equitable access and use of medical care services in relation to need, regardless of the type of insurance and social class of their children and families, has been achieved in this region of Spain; differences by social class remain for those services incompletely covered by national health insurance and aspects of the quality of care provided.  (+info)

(3/169) Embraceable you: how employers influence health plan enrollment.

Based on data from a 1999 national survey of 1,939 randomly selected employers, this paper examines the policies that affect the percentage of workers eligible for and enrolled in a firm's health plan. In 1994, 14 percent of employees worked for a firm offering cash-back payments, but fewer than 1 percent worked for a firm with income-related premiums or deductibles. The strongest determinants of eligibility rates are the waiting time for new employees before they are deemed eligible, and eligibility standards for part-time workers. The primary determinants of the take-up rate are lowest monthly employee contribution for single coverage, and the percentage of the workforce earning less than $20,000 per year.  (+info)

(4/169) Toward full mental health parity and beyond.

The 1996 Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA), which became effective in January 1998, is scheduled to expire in September 2001. This paper examines what the MHPA accomplished and steps toward more comprehensive parity. We explain the strategic and self-reinforcing link of parity with managed behavioral health care and conclude that the current path will be difficult to reverse. The paper ends with a discussion of what might be behind the claims that full parity in mental health benefits is insufficient to achieve true equity and whether additional steps beyond full parity appear realistic or even desirable.  (+info)

(5/169) Income-based drug benefit policy: impact on receipt of inhaled corticosteroid prescriptions by Manitoba children with asthma.

BACKGROUND: Drug benefit policies are an important determinant of a population's use of prescription drugs. This study was undertaken to determine whether a change in a provincial drug benefit policy, from a fixed deductible and copayment system to an income-based deductible system, resulted in changes in receipt of prescriptions for inhaled corticosteroids by Manitoba children with asthma. METHODS: Using Manitoba's health care administrative databases, we identified a population-based cohort of 10,703 school-aged children who met our case definition for asthma treatment before and after the province's drug benefit policy was changed in April 1996. The effects of the program change on the probability of receiving a prescription for an inhaled corticosteroid and on the mean number of inhaled corticosteroid doses dispensed were compared between a group of children insured under other drug programs (the comparison group) and 2 groups of children insured under the deductible program: those living in low-income neighbourhoods and those living in higher-income neighbourhoods. All analyses were adjusted for a measure of asthma severity. RESULTS: For higher-income children with severe asthma who were covered by the deductible program, the probability of receiving an inhaled corticosteroid prescription and the mean annual number of inhaled corticosteroid doses declined after the change to the drug policy. A trend toward a decrease in receipt of prescriptions was also observed for low-income children, but receipt of prescriptions was unaltered in the comparison group. Before the policy change, among children with severe asthma, the mean annual number of inhaled corticosteroid doses was lowest for low-income children, and this pattern persisted after the change. Among children with mild to moderate asthma, those covered by the deductible program (both low income and higher income) were less likely to receive prescriptions for inhaled corticosteroids than those in the comparison group, and this difference was statistically significant for the higher-income children. INTERPRETATION: The change to an income-based drug benefit policy was associated with a decrease in the use of inhaled corticosteroids by higher-income children with severe asthma and did not improve use of these drugs by low-income children.  (+info)

(6/169) Employer-sponsored health insurance: pressing problems, incremental changes.

Despite large premium increases, employers made only modest changes to health benefits in the past two years. By increasing copayments and deductibles and changing their pharmacy benefits, employers shifted costs to those who use services. Employers recognize these changes as short-term fixes, but most have not developed strategies for the future. Although interested in "defined-contribution" benefits, employers do not agree about what this entails and have no plans for moving to defined contributions in the near future. While dramatic changes in health benefits are unlikely in the short term, policymakers may want to watch for future erosions in health coverage.  (+info)

(7/169) Defined contribution: threat ... or fad?

Sensing an invasion of their territory, MCOs are jumping into a market forged by a group of upstarts. The development renews a fundamental debate about the juxtaposition of consumer involvement, cost containment, cost shifting, and quality of care.  (+info)

(8/169) Medical Savings Accounts in publicly funded health care systems: enthusiasm versus evidence.

Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs) have been suggested as a possible solution to Canada's health care funding woes. This approach is intended to reduce demand for health services by making individuals financially responsible for their pattern of consumption. MSAs may have appeal in the private insurance industry. A review of the scant literature on the experience in the public systems of Singapore and China, where such plans have been implemented, and on a simulation using United States Medicare data, suggests that the approach alone has not controlled costs and may increase inequalities in publicly funded systems. The conclusion is that current knowledge of MSAs is too limited to recommend their incorporation into the Canadian health care system.  (+info)