About 1,000 health care economists from around the country descend on Philadelphia this week for the biennial conference of the American Society of Health Economists.
Think of it as Woodstock for health geeks who will, over several days, present nearly 550 papers covering insurance, hospital mergers and a host of other issues.
Of all those, Obamacare will be the jam that gets played over and over with 78 papers focused on some aspect of the law.
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Let’s face it: When it comes to products most of us buy, health insurance is one of the least popular. And new survey results from the Kaiser Family Foundation out Friday morning find that sentiment reaching new lows.
Kaiser’s Larry Levitt said it makes perfect sense why consumers are feeling cranky about their coverage. “People are paying more, and in many cases getting less,” he said. The most obvious reason people aren’t psyched, Levitt said, is due to the explosion in health plans with high deductibles.
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Three of the nation’s largest insurance companies – Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealth – have let researchers have a look at the negotiated prices they pay for services and procedures like C-sections, MRIs and hospital stays. This includes claims data for 88 million customers and $682 billion of healthcare bills. For a long time, economists like Martin Gaynor have believed the more hospitals merge, the more their monopoly power helps them drive prices up. Until now though, the evidence has been limited to single states or hospitals that have merged and it often relied on the sticker price listed by hospitals. This analysis is different because it comes from hospitals coast to coast and uses the actual amount insurers paid.