The Daily Rise: Thursday, April 14

Patients Paying More

The Kaiser Family Foundation shares a new report on the rapidly increasing costs paid by patients for our health insurance.

“We find that, between 2004 and 2014, average payments for deductibles and coinsurance rose considerably faster than the overall cost for covered benefits, while the average payments for copayments fell,” Gary Claxton, Larry Levitt and Michelle Long of the Kaiser Family Foundation write. “Patient cost-sharing rose substantially faster than payments for care by health plans as insurance coverage became a little less generous.”

From 2004 to 2014:

  • 256% Increase in the average payments by enrollees towards deductibles from $99 to $353
  • 107% Increase in the average payments towards coinsurance from $117 to $242
  • 77% Increase in overall patient cost-sharing from an average of $422 to $747

Despite paying more for their care, patients are getting less. During that period, average payments by health plans rose just 58%, from $2,748 to $4,354.

Another important finding: this cost-increase is also hitting the patients who require the most care.

“Individuals in the top 15 percent of health spenders (who together account for 74.8% of total health benefit costs for the sample), had substantially higher out-of-pocket costs, averaging $2,679 in 2014, including $1,249 in coinsurance payments, $928 in deductible spending, and $502 in copays.”

Reversing Troubling Liver Cancer Trend

Writing at Forbes, John LaMattina argues that more needs to be done to tackle a troubling trend among patients with liver cancer. In stark contrast to improving survival rates for other types of cancer, mortality rates are increasing for American liver cancer patients.

“From 2008 to 2012, liver cancer increased an average of 2.3% per year overall,” LaMattina writes, “and the liver cancer-related death rate increased by an average of 2.8% per year among men and 3.4% per year among women.”

What’s the best way to address this troubling trend among patients with liver cancer? The answer: Grant patients access to innovative new treatments.

“Liver cancer incidence is increasing, and this is due to a high prevalence of hepatitis C and the inability of many people to have access to the new drugs that are used to treat it, says physician Srinevas Reddy of the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, “so even though we have these new treatments for hepatitis C, it is not expected that the prevalence of the disease will drop until 2025.”

Jeff Montejano, chief of staff for Assemblymember William Brough, and Jonathan Wilcox of Patients Rising attend the Patients Rising public forum.
Jeff Montejano, chief of staff for Assemblymember William Brough,
and Jonathan Wilcox of Patients Rising attend the Patients Rising public forum.

Tia Gemmell, a contributing photographer with the Sacramento Business Journal, has compiled a slideshow from our April 5 event in Sacramento.

“Right Patient, Right Treatment, Right Now” brought together a panel of patients, patient advocates and health care policy professionals. Check out some of the pictures featuring state Assemblyman William P. Brough, health care economist Jennifer Hinkel and health policy director Stacey L. Worthy.

Be sure to Like our Facebook page for all the latest news and information about upcoming events.

Attacking Patents

Eduardo Porter suggests that patents are impeding innovation in everything from health care to clean energy technology.

“Are patents, which reward inventors by providing them with a government-guaranteed monopoly over their inventions for many years, the best way to encourage new inventions?” Porter asks in a recent piece published in the New York Times.

Although Porter asks a clearly leading question, he does provide valuable facts that only bolster the case for patents. His concern has been the lack of innovation for diseases primarily affecting patients in developing countries. Yet, as he writes in the piece, innovative companies have partnered with non-profit foundations to deliver treatment — while making no money off the investment. 

“Last year, GlaxoSmithKline finally introduced the world’s first malaria vaccine for large pilot tests among African children. The move, however, is not an endorsement of the profit motive as a spur for innovation,” Porter acknowledges. “The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation picked up much of the tab. And Glaxo does not expect to make money on its investment.”

New innovative treatments, which cost billions of dollars to develop, won’t happen without strong patent protections, which allow those companies to recoup their investment. Our goal needs to be encouraging more innovation.

“Today the problem is inventing the thing,” Adam Jaffe, who directs the research foundation Motu Economic and Public Policy Research in Wellington, New Zealand, told Porter.

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