News | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Pandemic could lead to deceleration of U.S. annual health spending

News | Coronavirus

Healthcare News of Note: Pandemic could lead to deceleration of U.S. annual health spending

  • The growing shift from reactive to preventive healthcare could rapidly decelerate health spending over the next two decades, according to a new report from Deloitte.
  • Most consumers incurred the majority of their care costs in just two months of the year, according to a recent analysis of office, inpatient and pharmacist reports.
  • Many healthcare workers are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, according to a recent report by the Joint Commission.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve found these industry news stories that should be of interest to healthcare finance professionals.

1. Deloitte report: Health spending could decelerate over the next two decades 

A Feb. 8 Healthcare Dive article by Rebecca Pifer says, “Some experts believe COVID-19 could be good for the healthcare system in the long run by showing the necessity of proactive care and driving the adoption of health tech, among other changes.

“The growing shift from reactive to preventive healthcare could rapidly decelerate health spending over the next two decades, according to a new report from Deloitte, running counter to much more dire predictions made before COVID-19.”

CMS previously estimated health spending could grow by 5.3% per year through 2028, which — if extrapolated out — meant health spend would comprise about a quarter of the gross domestic product by 2040, according to Pifer.

To model potential shifts in the health landscape, Deloitte researchers analyzed National Healthcare Expenditure Accounts data along with other spending and current trends, Pifer wrote.

“But Deloitte's predictive modeling based on the rise of digital health products and more consumer engagement in their health post-pandemic instead predicts health spending will reach $8.3 trillion by 2040, making up a much-lower 18.4% of the GDP,” wrote Pifer.

2. 83% of consumers studied incurred the majority of their healthcare costs in just two months of the year

According to a recent Modern Healthcare article: “Healthcare costs exceeded $400 during at least one month for more than a quarter of Americans in 2017, ballooning far above the amount Federal Reserve estimates that most U.S. consumers have saved for surprise expenses, according to a new study in Health Affairs.

“By analyzing office, inpatient and pharmacist reports, study authors found that most consumers incurred the majority of their care costs in just two months of the year,” wrote Modern Healthcare reporter Nona Tepper. “Of the 18 million people studied using the 2017 IBM MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database, researchers found that 83% of enrollees paid an average of $954 in out-of-pocket healthcare costs, while 17% reported no out-of-pocket healthcare costs.

“Michal Horny, an assistant professor at Emory University and co-author of the study, said that most discussion around healthcare affordability in the U.S. centers on what patients spend per year, rather than the frequency with which they are billed. While patients averaged about 12 healthcare encounters per year, Horny said most bills for out-of-pocket costs were incurred within just one week.”

The authors of the Health Affairs study, “Annual Out-Of-Pocket Spending Clusters Within Short Time Intervals: Implications for Health Care Affordability,” published in February, wrote: “We found that although most commercially insured people had several health care encounters throughout the year, their out-of-pocket spending was mostly concentrated within short time intervals. Nearly one-third of people with above-the-median total annual health care spending (plan plus out-of-pocket spending) incurred half of their annual out-of-pocket spending in just one day.”

The abstract states, “Policy makers working to improve the affordability of care should focus on innovative approaches to cost sharing that prevent dramatic financial shocks to household budgets due to medical bills.”

Resource for communicating with patients

For insight on how to improve the patient experience, see HFMA’s “Patient Financial Communications Best Practices.” HFMA worked with leading organizations from all sectors of the industry to develop these best practices.

3. Joint Commission report: COVID-19’s toll on healthcare workers

A Feb. 3 Healthcare Dive article says that many healthcare workers are physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted, according to a recent report by the Joint Commission.

“A review of more than 2,000 comments to the Joint Commission's Office of Quality and Patient Safety found the most common concerns among healthcare workers are fear of the unknown, fear of getting sick and fear of bringing the virus home,” wrote Healthcare Dive reporter Hailey Mensik. “Staff shortages were another frequently cited issue.

“To rebuild trust and morale, the report encourages systems to foster more open and transparent communications with their workers. It also suggests organizations provide greater access to mental health services and consider more flexible scheduling.”

Ways to support healthcare workers

The Joint Commission report details five key ways to support healthcare workers.

 HFMA bonus content

Below is healthcare finance-related content produced by HFMA this past week:

  • Taking care of your mental health when you hit the pandemic wall is the topic of the latest “Voices in Healthcare Finance” podcast, with insight provided by Ranga Krishnan, professor of psychiatry and the CEO of Rush University System for Health. Nick Hut, HFMA senior editor, joins Erika Grotto, HFMA senior editor and podcast host, for this episode.
  • A Feb. 10 article by Nick Hut, HFMA senior editor, provides insight on a new Healthcare Leadership Council report about the lessons the U.S. should draw from the COVID-19 response to prepare for the next public health emergency.

About the Author

Deborah Filipek

is a senior editor with HFMA in Westchester, Illinois.

Sign up for a free guest account and get access to five free articles every month.

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