|Healthcare Business News
Unhealthiest counties lead in preventable hospital stays
By Paul Barr
Posted: March 20, 2013 – 12:01 am ET
The unhealthiest counties in the nation have the highest rates of preventable hospital stays, smoking and adult obesity, according to the 2013 County Health Rankings, a joint effort of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute. The healthiest counties, meanwhile, had higher numbers of primary-care doctors.
The least-healthy counties experienced 82.8 preventable hospital stays per 1,000 Medicare enrollees, while in the healthiest counties the rate was 57.2 per 1,000. The rest of the nation’s counties experienced 74 preventable hospital stays per 1,000 Medicare enrollees.
The report’s authors also found that 24% of adults smoke in the least-healthy counties, compared with 16% in the healthiest and 21% in the other counties.
The differences in the rates of obesity were less pronounced, with 30% of adults in the unhealthiest counties being obese, while the rate was 23% in the healthiest counties. The rest of the nation’s counties had an obesity rate of 28%.
There was one primary-care physician for every 2,129 residents in the least healthy counties, and 1,491 residents for every primary-care doctor in the healthiest counties. The rest of the counties in the study had 1,978 people per primary-care physician.
The data yielded some unexpected results. The healthiest counties had a higher rate of excessive drinking at 17% when compared with the unhealthiest at 15% and the rest of the country at 14%.
This is the fourth year of the rankings, which were calculated using 25 factors, including those listed above, to rate counties in the equally weighted categories of length of life and quality of life. The healthiest and least healthy county data were calculated using the results of the states’ five most and least healthy counties, excluding 90 counties in which data were unavailable and 20 counties in four states that didn’t have at least 10 counties: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii and Rhode Island.
Written by: Stephen Vagus | Live Insurance News
Written on: March 19, 2013
Small businesses have a problem with DC health insurance exchange
Plans for a health insurance exchange in Washington D.C. has been facing some challenges in recent months, many of which are coming from small businesses. This week, the D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority reiterated that it was committed to establishing a working health insurance exchange for Washington D.C., noting that small businesses would be forced to purchase coverage from the exchange program. The committee did, however, announce that it would be working to delay the mandate requiring these small businesses to purchase their coverage.
Exchange board considering delaying requirements on small businesses
Under current law, all small businesses in Washington D.C. must purchase coverage through the region’s health insurance exchange when open enrollment begins in October of this year. Small businesses have been somewhat opposed to this mandate due to concerns regarding the costs associated with the exchange system. While Washington D.C. is a special legislative district, it must still cover the costs of its health insurance exchange without relying entirely on federal assistance. This typically means that a surcharge must be levied on all policies sold through the exchange.
Some small businesses may not be required to participate in exchange until 2016
The D.C. Health Benefit Exchange Authority has taken note of the concerns that small businesses have and is currently considering delaying their mandatory inclusion into the health insurance exchange. If the committee decides to delay the mandate, a number of small businesses will not be forced to purchase coverage through the health insurance exchange until 2015. Some may not be forced to purchase coverage through the exchange until 2016.
Health insurance continues to cause strife throughout the US
Health insurance continues to be a problematic subject throughout much of the U.S. While lawmakers in Washington D.C. are eager to comply with the Affordable Care Act, they are also working to address the issues that small businesses have with the concept of an exchange. Many small businesses in Washington D.C. do not currently offer health insurance coverage to their employees, so being forced to do so by law is linked to major financial concerns for these companies.
By: Secretary Kathleen Sebelius | The White House Blog
March 19, 2013
04:15 PM EDT
Enacted three years ago, the health care law is making the insurance market work better for you by prohibiting some of the worst insurance industry practices that have kept affordable health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans.
As a former state insurance commissioner, I know that for too long, too many hard-working Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to health insurance companies. For more than a decade before the Affordable Care Act, premiums rose rapidly, straining the budgets of American families and businesses. And insurers often raised premiums without any explanation.
It wasn’t fair and it was costing you your hard-earned dollars, security, and peace of mind.
The Affordable Care Act is working to bring affordability and fairness to the marketplace by barring insurers from dropping your coverage when you get sick or placing a lifetime dollar limit on coverage. In 2014, it will prohibit discriminating against you or anyone with a pre-existing condition, such as high blood pressure, asthma, or cancer.
In an effort to slow health care spending and give all Americans more value for their health care dollars, the Affordable Care Act has brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny and transparency to health insurance rate increases by requiring an insurance company to justify a rate increase before it shows up on your bill, thereby preventing arbitrary or unnecessary costs. Insurers must provide clear information so you can understand their reasons for significant rate increases.
We know this is making a difference, and that the law is driving down health insurance premium costs in the private market by holding insurers accountable.
A report last month shows that since the rule on rate increases was implemented, the number of requests for insurance premium increases of 10% or more plummeted from 75% to an estimated 14% since the passage of the health care law. The average premium increase for all rates in 2012 was 30% below what it was in 2010. And available data suggests that this slowdown in rate increases is continuing into 2013.
Even when an insurer decides to increase rates, consumers are seeing lower rate increases than what the insurers initially requested. More than half of the rate requests for 10% or more ultimately resulted in customers receiving either a lower rate increase than requested or no hike at all.
In 2014, insurers will be required to report all proposed rate increases, not just those 10% or more, in the individual and small-group markets.
Furthermore, the rate review program works in conjunction with the 80/20 rule, which requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% (85% in the large group market) of premiums on health care, rather than administrative costs (such as executive salaries and marketing) and profits, or provide rebates to their customers. Insurers that did not meet the 80/20 rule have provided $1.1 billion in rebates that benefited about 13 million Americans, at an average of $151 per family.
Insurance benefits and costs also will become clearer to millions of Americans and small businesses starting on October 1, 2013, when they will have the opportunity to shop in a Health Insurance Marketplace in their state. You will be able to find information to make apples-to-apples comparisons of health plans by quality and price and buy the one that best fits your needs and budget.
Delivering smarter health care includes holding insurers accountable, and that is helping to hold down costs. In the past three years, we’ve seen the slowest growth in overall health care spending since the government started keeping records more than 50 years ago.
We still have challenges to face. But for the first time in recent history, we’re making real progress in driving down the rate of growth and driving up the quality of care.
Find out more about the Effective Rate Review Program:
- Health Insurance Rate Review: Lowering Costs for American Consumers and Business
- The 80/20 Rule: How Insurers Spend Your Health Insurance Premiums
- Key Features of the Affordable Care Act
Follow Secretary Sebelius on Twitter at @Sebelius.