White House: Health reform will save Medicare $3,500 per patient
WASHINGTON — Proclaiming the potential cost-saving benefits of its signature legislative accomplishment, the massive health-reform bill enacted earlier this year, the White House is projecting that the Affordable Care Act will reduce average costs per patient enrolled in Medicare by thousands of dollars over the next decade.
The projections were released in November by the Department of Health and Human Services. Citing the results of a new study of the reform law’s impact, HHS estimated that its application will save Medicare an average of more than $3,500 in health costs per patient over the next 10 years by shifting toward more preventive health services, reducing waste and fraud and improving the oversight and efficiency of health spending.
Savings will be even higher — as much as $12,300 over the next 10 years — for seniors and people with disabilities who have high prescription drug costs, HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius asserted. She said the law — signed by President Obama on March 23 as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and amended and renamed on March 30 as the Affordable Care Act — will save both patients and taxpayers money.
“The Affordable Care Act makes Medicare stronger and reduces the burden of healthcare costs on some of our most vulnerable citizens,” Sebelius said. “The law improves benefits for seniors and people with beneficiaries who rely on Medicare, and ensures that Medicare will be there for current and future generations by extending the life of the Medicare Trust Fund.”
HHS is basing its cost-saving projections on a federal analysis showing that the Affordable Care Act helps lower costs for those on Medicare “by slowing the growth of cost-sharing in Medicare,” according to the agency.
“Closing the Part D coverage gap known as the ‘doughnut hole’ will produce the greatest cost savings,” HHS noted. “Already, more than 1.8 million seniors and people with disabilities who have reached the doughnut hole in 2010 received a one-time $250 rebate check, and checks will continue to be distributed to those who enter the doughnut hole this year.”
The agency added, “Next year, people in the doughnut hole will receive 50% discounts on covered brand-name Part D prescription drugs. Also starting next year, seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare will have access to a number of recommended preventive services and annual wellness visits at no additional cost.”
Savings will be greatest, Sebelius said, for those with costly medical conditions or high prescription drug costs. HHS projected that total savings per beneficiary enrolled in traditional Medicare will come to about $86 in 2011, rising to $649 in 2020. For a beneficiary with spending in the doughnut hole, estimated savings will increase from $553 in 2011 to $2,217 in 2020, according to the study.
“The savings that seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare are seeing are due to critical improvements the Affordable Care Act makes to Medicare,” said Sherry Glied, assistant secretary for planning and evaluation for HHS. “Reducing waste, fraud and abuse; improving the quality of care beneficiaries receive; and making the program more efficient all contribute to lower cost increases across the system.”
Adults want control of their private health data
AUSTIN, Texas — An overwhelming majority of respondents to a recent poll want to choose which companies and government agencies can view and use their health information.
An online survey of more than 2,000 adults conducted in November by the advocacy group Patient Privacy Rights and Zogby International — with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2% — found that nearly all respondents favored personal control over health information, including information stored electronically. “No matter how you look at it, Americans want to control their own private health information,” Patient Privacy Rights founder Deborah Peel said. “We asked the question, ‘If you have health records in electronic systems, do you want to decide which companies and government agencies can see and use your sensitive data?’ Ninety-three percent said ‘Yes.’”
Nearly all respondents shared these sentiments; 97% said they thought doctors, hospitals, labs and health technology systems should not be allowed to share or sell health information without their consent, while 98% said insurance companies should not. Ninety-one percent of respondents said they wanted the ability to decide which individuals could see and use their information. “Americans overwhelmingly believe that they are the only people in the right position to make decisions about how their information can be used,” Peel said. “Researchers do not get a free pass.”
The results are significant considering the country’s move toward electronic health records and electronic prescribing, provisions for which were a prominent component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. While supporters said the move to EHRs could save billions of dollars by reducing the risk of errors and eliminating waste, concerns about fraud and misuse of patients’ personal information have arisen as well.
Another poll, conducted online in February by Harris Interactive on behalf of Xerox — which provides a number of healthcare IT and documentation products and services — found that nearly half of the 2,180 adults surveyed were ready to give up paper medical records in favor of electronic ones and thought EHRs would lead to more efficient health care, despite many not knowing what to expect when the transition took place. A majority of respondents to the Harris poll still expressed concerns, including 79% who feared theft of records, 69% who were concerned about misuse of information and 68% who were afraid of lost or damaged records.
“Providers can ease this fear by discussing the security precautions taken to safeguard against data breaches,” Xerox VP healthcare providers John Jones said. “By arming Americans with information on EHR basics, we can prevent some of the influence of the media hype cycle around potential security risks.”
Sun seeks to acquire Caraco
DETROIT — An India-based drug maker is looking to acquire all outstanding shares of another generic drug manufacturer based in the United States.
Caraco said it received and will discuss the proposal from Sun Pharma, by which Sun would acquire all outstanding shares of common stock it doesn’t already own.
The $4.75-per-share cash transaction represents a 5% premium over the closing price of Caraco common stock on Dec. 2, Caraco said.