wellness digest—week of september 26

October 3, 2011

in wellness digest

a roundup of last week’s news that caught my interest.

1. health overhaul heads to justices

last week, obama asked the supreme court to weigh in on the fate of the affordable care act, setting the stage for a showdown near the presidential conventions. this wall street journal article shares the cases and decisions so far, plus the two sides’ positions.

“Mr. Obama’s supporters hope the Supreme Court will vindicate the law, giving the president a major boost heading into the fall campaign. But that could also help energize Republicans, because the only way to overturn the law at that point would be to elect a Republican president and Congress to repeal it.”

2. average annual premiums for family health benefits top $15,000 in 2011, up 9 percent

the kaiser family foundation released their annual study on employer health benefits. the study collects data on costs, cost-sharing, plan types offered, the impact of health care reform, and much more.

“Now in its 13th year, the survey is a joint project of the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust.  The survey was conducted between January and May of 2011 and included 3,184 randomly selected, non-federal public and private firms with three or more employees (2,088 of which responded to the full survey and 1,096 of which responded to a single question about offering coverage).”

3. is health-care pricing transparency at hand?

what are the first two things you consider when making a big purchasing decision? quality and cost, typically. well, both are difficult to assess in health care, particularly the latter. this CFO article reviews three companies that want to make cost-comparison shopping possible. one of them—castlight health—i saw demoed at health 2.0 san francisco. it’s a well-designed tool that mimics many of our current online consumer shopping platforms, making it an easy transition for the majority of employees.

“With the relatively recent stampede by self-insured employers to consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) and other high-deductible plans, employees now have a clear monetary incentive to choose lower-cost providers. Yet it is still difficult to compare providers’ pricing and make a truly informed choice.

“Enter a new crop of companies that provide pricing transparency for employees of self-insured employers. Generally, they use new technology to analyze a company’s historical claims data—which is notoriously difficult to decipher into usable data—and allow users to compare pricing for specific services on a provider-by-provider basis within their plans. Because a third party performs the analysis, and members’ identities are omitted from the information provided to the client employers, the confidentiality of employees’ health records is preserved.”

4. health costs pictured as food prices, for shock value

shock value? i’ll say. can you imagine going into your local supermarket and paying $48 for a gallon of milk? the lack of transparency is all that keeps us from jumping up and down in protest. be sure to click through to the original source of this material for more maddening data points.

5. in a bronx complex, doing good mixes with looking good

at least anecdotally, we’re getting better at tackling big challenges from multiple angles. case in point: this new subsidized housing development in the bronx that offers its inhabitants more than shelter—and the architects behind it more than bucks in the bank or awards on the shelf.

“Asthma rates are high in the South Bronx, obesity commonplace, access to fruits and vegetables limited because supermarkets are, as always in poor neighborhoods, scarce, and the city’s population of Korean grocers is dwindling. In an ideal world new housing would be developed hand in hand with new schools and supermarkets that sell fresh produce. But for Via Verde the question was what a housing development on its own could do to shape and change behavior.

“The developers and architects came up with some simple answers—usually the best kind.”



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