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New studies reveal childhood vaccine costs are variable in private sector

BY Antoinette Alexander

ANN ARBOR, Mich. The high cost of some childhood vaccines is putting a significant financial strain on some physicians, according to research from the University of Michigan Health System. However, that burden could equate to an increase in business for retail-based clinics as some physicians may eventually opt to no longer provide all vaccines or may delay the purchase of some vaccines for financial reasons.

A pair of new studies from the University of Michigan Health System found that many physicians appear to be paying too much and receiving too little reimbursement for childhood vaccines.

The survey is of 1,280 U.S. pediatricians and family physicians engaged in direct patient care. Of the pediatricians, 70 percent responded, along with 60 percent of family physicians. They study of costs and reimbursements included data from 76 practices.

With vaccines for children enrolled in Medicaid funded by the public sector through the federal Vaccines for Children Program, prices are negotiated annually with vaccine manufacturers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the data from the new studies support the belief that costs and reimbursements are widely variable in private practices.

“Until now, nobody knew what anyone was paying,” stated lead author Gary L. Freed, M.D., MPH, chief of the division of general pediatrics and director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the U-M Health System’s Mott Children’s Hospital. “This information will change the way in which physicians negotiate prices.” The studies appear in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The studies found that the price-per-dose of one brand of hepatitis B vaccine, for example, ranged from $4.26 to $13.06 at different medical practices. Reimbursements of the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine ranged from $16.77 to $59.02. Many physicians in the survey expressed dissatisfaction with the price and reimbursement levels of vaccines.

While few physicians in the survey indicated that they had considered no longer providing all vaccines to privately insured children (11 percent overall; 5 percent of pediatricians and 21 percent of family physicians), about half of them reported that they had delayed the purchase of some vaccines for financial reasons and experienced a decline in profit margins from immunizations.

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Take Care Health Systems opens new clinics

BY Antoinette Alexander

CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. Take Care Health Systems, which is owned by Walgreens, has opened two new clinics.

A new clinic in the Rockford, Ill. area brings to four the number of total clinics in the market. A new clinic in the Kansas City area brings to 14 the total number of clinics in that market.

The company currently operates 298 clinics in 33 markets throughout 15 states.

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Most consumers believe economy is in a downturn, survey says

BY Michael Johnsen

PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. Even as President-elect Barack Obama’s economy package begins to take form, consumers are still not ready to open their purse strings. Not yet. According to a NPD Group survey released Wednesday, 91 percent of consumers believe the economy is still in a downturn, up from 84 percent who felt that way in April.

“Off-hand, that 7 percent increase may not sound like a lot,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group, “but when you turn the spending faucet of 14 million people off, that 7 percent from April to November represents trillions of dollars.”

And the number of consumers who say they will take advantage of sales or coupons has remained relatively steady since July. “So those huge sales that were designed to lure the customer in really don’t seem to have had much of an impact. They aren’t bringing the consumer’s back in to shop,” Cohen said.

Most consumers—57 percent—are cutting back on their spending by cutting down on their number of trips to restaurants, a factor that ought to bode well for grocery outlets. That is followed by cuts in spending on apparel. In the November Consumer Spending Indicator, 52 percent of respondents said they would cut back on apparel spending.

The same categories that were the least vulnerable in last month’s study remain so in the current month’s study with one slight change. Video games and toys remain steady while beauty is being edged out of the No. 3 spot.

Video games take the top spot as the least likely to see cut backs in consumer spending with 32 percent, followed by toys at 36 percent. This month, however, movies took the number three spot at 39 percent. Beauty slipped to forth this month at 41 percent. “But beauty is still showing that women remain loyal to their regimen even in tough times,” Cohen said.

As previously noted, an important measure of how consumers are fairing is how secure they feel about their jobs. In July, 25 percent of respondents said they were not concerned about their jobs, but in November only 19 percent reported they were not concerned.

“This is a number I watch very closely,” Cohen said. “I think it is the best indication of consumer behavior and now, what with the stock market, the political market, the media market and now, the job market, we are seeing an all time low here.”

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