Should insurance pay for preventive services suggested by genetics? (1/314)

Physicians, plans and patients are discovering that the promise of genetic testing will be hard to fulfill. Even when a test can show predisposition toward a disease, performing it can't necessarily improve medical outcomes. Unfortunately, doing these tests can have some unintended negative effects.  (+info)

Changes in benefit payments and health insurance premiums among firms switching health insurance carriers. (2/314)

Employer-purchased group health insurance is a major source of funding in the US healthcare system, accounting for approximately one third of each healthcare dollar spent. Surprisingly, little is known about employers' behavior in purchasing health insurance or the circumstances leading employers to switch health insurance carriers. We descriptively analyzed data for a cohort of 95 insured groups between 1985 and 1991 to determine the frequency with which employers switch health insurance carriers and the growth pattern in premiums and benefit payments before the switch was made. Thirty-seven percent of groups switched carriers during the study period, with at least five groups switching each year from 1987 through 1991. The groups that switched insurance carriers experienced higher average annual rates of growth in benefit payments than those that did not switch (18% versus 11%). Groups that switched did not have significantly higher observed premium growth rates than those that did not switch, suggesting that employers decided to switch insurers before absorbing an increase in premiums. However, some firms that switched experienced below average increases in both benefit payments and premiums, indicating that premiums and anticipated premium increases are not solely responsible for the decision to switch health insurance carriers.  (+info)

Out-of-pocket health spending by poor and near-poor elderly Medicare beneficiaries. (3/314)

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)

Shaping the future of Medicare. (4/314)

This article suggests that further major changes in Medicare at this time are unwarranted. The enactment of the Balanced Budget Act (BBA) has eliminated the need for quick action to assure solvency of the Part A Trust Fund, which is projected to be in balance for at least ten years. It will take time to implement and assess the effects of the BBA. The uncertainties of future trends in the health sector and Medicare suggest a go-slow approach. Future reforms to finance health care as the baby boom generation retires should be guided by the goals of continuing to assure health and economic security to elderly and disabled beneficiaries, with particular attention to the financial burdens on lower-income beneficiaries and those with serious illnesses or chronic conditions. Employers are cutting back on retiree health coverage, and the appropriate contribution of employers will need to be addressed. The BBA included major provisions to expand Medicare managed care choices. Special attention will need to be given to how well these innovations work, their cost impact on Medicare, the extent to which beneficiaries are able to make informed choices, and whether risk selection among plans and between traditional Medicare and plans can be adequately addressed. Most of the savings of BBA came from tighter payment rates to managed care plans and fee-for-service providers; it is unclear whether these will lead to rates well below the private sector or whether further savings can be achieved by extending these changes beyond 2002.  (+info)

Who should determine the medical necessity of dental sedation and general anesthesia? A clinical commentary supported by Illinois patient and practitioner surveys. (5/314)

Many third-party payers try to deny benefits for dental sedation and general anesthesia. The term "not medically necessary" is often applied to these services by third-party payers. The label is poorly defined and varies from payer to payer. This paper uses original practitioner and patient opinion surveys to support the position that the definition of medical necessity is solely the joint responsibility of the patient and his/her physician. These surveys also support the argument that both patients and practitioners view dental sedation and general anesthesia as a medically necessary procedure if it allows a patient to complete a medically necessary surgical procedure that he/she might otherwise avoid.  (+info)

Should Medicare HMO benefits be standardized? (6/314)

Legislation enacted in 1990 standardized Medigap benefits but not the benefits of health maintenance organizations (HMOs) that serve Medicare beneficiaries. An examination of marketing materials in two large counties reveals the potential for enormous confusion among beneficiaries because of differences in wording to describe the same benefit, health plans' failure to list Medicare-covered services, and the differences in the benefits themselves. To date, the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) has not been able to overcome this confusion through the comparative material distributed on its Web site; indeed, significant errors were found, reflecting to some extent the underlying difficulties in characterizing benefits. Ways of ameliorating the situation are discussed.  (+info)

Response to health insurance by previously uninsured rural children. (7/314)

OBJECTIVE: To examine the healthcare utilization and costs of previously uninsured rural children. DATA SOURCES/STUDY SETTING: Four years of claims data from a school-based health insurance program located in the Mississippi Delta. All children who were not Medicaid-eligible or were uninsured, were eligible for limited benefits under the program. The 1987 National Medical Expenditure Survey (NMES) was used to compare utilization of services. STUDY DESIGN: The study represents a natural experiment in the provision of insurance benefits to a previously uninsured population. Premiums for the claims cost were set with little or no information on expected use of services. Claims from the insurer were used to form a panel data set. Mixed model logistic and linear regressions were estimated to determine the response to insurance for several categories of health services. PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The use of services increased over time and approached the level of utilization in the NMES. Conditional medical expenditures also increased over time. Actuarial estimates of claims cost greatly exceeded actual claims cost. The provision of a limited medical, dental, and optical benefit package cost approximately $20-$24 per member per month in claims paid. CONCLUSIONS: An important uncertainty in providing health insurance to previously uninsured populations is whether a pent-up demand exists for health services. Evidence of a pent-up demand for medical services was not supported in this study of rural school-age children. States considering partnerships with private insurers to implement the State Children's Health Insurance Program could lower premium costs by assembling basic data on previously uninsured children.  (+info)

Diabetes and disenrollment in a health maintenance organization setting: a 4-year longitudinal study with a matched cohort. (8/314)

OBJECTIVE: The increasing enrollment of Medicare beneficiaries in health maintenance organizations (HMOs) in recent years has caused concern about whether HMOs and their providers have created an unfavorable environment for members who are chronically ill. This study was designed to examine whether there are any differences in disenrollment rates among enrollees with diabetes and enrollees without diabetes. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: This was a 4-year longitudinal follow-up study with a matched cohort. Medicare beneficiaries (aged > or =65 years) with diabetes identified through pharmacy records in 1994 were matched with a comparison group according to age, sex, comorbidities, and type of provider groups in an HMO in California. RESULTS: The overall distribution of the characteristics of members in the diabetic and matched nondiabetic group is almost identical. The matched-pair chi2 tests indicated that there were no statistical differences in disenrollment rates between diabetic and nondiabetic members during all three follow-up periods (P = 0.16-0.85). CONCLUSIONS: We found that the HMO members with diabetes did not disenroll from the HMO at a higher rate than those without diabetes. The findings should alleviate some of the concern that HMOs and their contracted providers have created an unattractive environment for members who have chronic diseases such as diabetes.  (+info)