Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Columbus Day!

I was surprised to learn today from a Boeing radio ad that Colorado was the first state to adopt Columbus Day as a state holiday. Colorado doesn't even have a sea coast.

In any event, the health insurance trade assocation, AHIP, released a PriceWaterhouseCoopers report on four aspects of the Baucus health care reform plan, which is the subject of a Senate Finance Committee vote tomorrow. Business Insurance reports that the report did not please either the White House or Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

This portion of the report particularly troubled me as it confirmed my suspicions:
As Congress seeks to finance coverage subsidies for low income individuals and small business, some bills are now targeting specific sectors of the health industry. The Senate Finance Committee legislation imposes new fees on certain providers: a $6.7 billion annual fee on health insurance companies, a $2.3 billion annual fee on pharmaceutical manufacturers, and a $4 billion annual fee on medical device companies. All of these assessments would increase the underlying cost structure of each of these segments in the health sector and, as CBO has indicated, will likely be passed back to enrollees in the form of higher premiums.

We estimate that these fees will raise annual insurance premiums by 2.5 percent for individual, small group, and large group plans over the 2010 to 2019 period, assuming they are fully passed through to patients. Self-insured employers would avoid the tax on health insurers since it is based on insurance premiums and thus self-insured plans would see a 0.3 percent increase in costs. As the fees are fixed in nominal terms, the percentage impact would decline each year. The average cost of a family plan would increase by almost $487 each year, while costs in the self-insured market would increase by $64 per year on average.

The FEHB Program falls into the insured segment for purposes of the $6.7 billion fee assessment. That's a big hit.

I was pleased to read that the National Institutes of Health have awarded Kaiser Permanente $54 million to study personalized medicine according to a Government Health IT report.

The largest of the 22 awards provides $24.8 million to study the influence of genes and the environment on health, disease and longevity over time and across diverse groups of people. The grants will fund genotyping of 100,000 Kaiser members in Northern California. The University of California in San Francisco is also a partner in the research.

The analysis will link genetic information with historical clinical data taken from health surveys and Kaiser’s electronic health record database, according to Raymond Baxter, senior vice president for Kaiser. Researchers will add to the study environmental information, such as air and water quality and proximity to parks and healthy foods.

Dr. Richard Hodes, NIA director of the National Institute on Aging, said genetic information generated by the project may help researchers discover genetic factors that explain differences between people in response to medications.

“This would help doctors provide patients with the best medicines for them individually,” he said.

Cool. Hopefully, Kaiser will make great discoveries, like Christopher Columbus.

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