As insurers attempt to set health plan prices, they understandably try to pull in as much info as they can get their hands on. But patient advocates say they could be going too far by collecting ‘lifestyle data.’ That’s the subject of an NPR/ProPublica story on how providers are amassing a trove of data on consumers’ “race, education level, TV habits, marital status, net worth … what you post on social media, whether you’re behind on your bills, what you order online.” Insurers say they’re just using the data to improve patient outcomes, while companies that sell this data to insurers say it shouldn’t be used for pricing. But there’s not technically anything that would stop them from doing so, which is encouraging. Makes you want to live in Europe (kinda.)
Nearly one-third of US workers don’t get paid sick leave, and it might not surprise you that those workers are more likely to have incomes below the poverty line. But it’s a little more surprising when that correlation holds up when controlling for education, race, sex, marital status and—most importantly—employment. In fact, those workers are three times more likely to have poverty incomes than peers who do get paid sick leave, according to new research by Florida Atlantic University and Cleveland State University. The study authors attribute the income gap to lack of preventative care, missed wages, and everyone’s favorite social ill—the rise of healthcare costs. If you’re sick and still have to show up to work, hopefully these sick memes can help you out.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, set out to answer the question: “Why is health care spending in the US so much greater than in other high-income countries?” To do this, his team compared healthcare data from the US with those of 10 of the highest-income countries. Some background: In 2016, the US spent 17.8% of its GDP on health care, and spending in the other countries ranged from 9.6% (Australia) to 12.4% (Switzerland). The net-net: “utilization rates in the US were largely similar to those in other nations. Prices of labor and goods, including pharmaceuticals, and administrative costs appeared to be the major drivers of the difference.” Admin costs seem like a bad place to spend money, so in the immortal words of Leslie Chow, “give me my 80-grand back.” [WARNING: Language]
Antibiotic resistance is one of the most urgent issues affecting healthcare, costing thousands of lives and billions in medical costs each year (click here for the CDC’s list of the scariest strains.) It’s an annoying problem. R&D produces a new antibiotic and within some years the little buggers have already figured out how to not get killed by it (very sick video of that process here.) Well at least we have a new weapon that they might have some trouble fighting against. Malacidin is a distant relative of a newer antibiotic called daptomycin which up until now has evaded bacterial resistance. While discovering a new antibiotic is immediately cool and helpful, discovering a class that can avoid being useless after its introduction would be huge.
There have been rumblings for a while now that Amazon would somehow be entering the healthcare space to shake things up. Well last week Amazon officially made its move, bringing heavy hitters Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase along too. What do two of the world’s richest people and the leader of the US’s largest bank plan on doing exactly? That’s a great question, and we’d love to tell you if there were any kind of concrete details to explain the venture. We do know the goal is to “improve US employee satisfaction while reducing overall costs,” and that they plan to use technology to do it. Sounds vague, but the news was scary enough for investors sent insurer and drug store stocks tumbling after the announcement.
Societal cost savings from weight loss:
Source: Johns Hopkins University
The formula for rising healthcare costs in the US is filled with a bunch of pointed fingers lately. One finger is being pointed at drug maker Kaléo (no, not that Kaleo) by pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts. They’re suing Kaléo over its price hikes on a heroin/painkiller overdose treatment. According to Express Scripts, these hikes triggered price protection rebates owed to Express Scripts, which total around $14 million—most of the lawsuit. The PBM has successfully sued larger drug companies like Horizon, so Kaléo may be at a bit of a disadvantage here. Especially since Express Scripts could use the extra cash to deal with the fingers pointed at it, including one $15B lawsuit by its (soon-to-be former) largest customer, the insurance provider Anthem.