Notes From the Fieldby Martin Weil

Posts Tagged ‘healthcare’

May 18, 2015

Healthcare Costs Are Coming Under Control


Annual percentage change in US healthcare costs.

Whether you love or hate Obamacare, it does seem to be a factor in the decline in national healthcare, costs which have been long recognized as the major threat to US solvency.

With slowly growing prices, even rising demand for healthcare has led to less-than-projected spending, in just about every category. (To be clear: This doesn’t mean healthcare is getting cheaper; it means healthcare is getting more expensive slower than we anticipated.) The government is casually saving hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicare thanks to both direct cuts and other reforms. Insurance companies, despite a rough year due to the arrival of some expensive new drugs, have been spending less than the actuaries projected in 2010. Even with growth in high-deductible plans, out-of-pocket spending is actually coming in below projections from five years ago.

Forecasts of medical spending have undergone round after round of major surgery. Six years ago, the Urban Institute projected that the country would spend $23 trillion between 2014 and 2019. After Obamacare became law, it raised its forecast by half-a-trillion dollars. But the latest projections, published this month, are lighter by $2 trillion and $2.5 trillion, respectively.

From The Atlantic

February 4, 2015

Yes, Hospitals Can Kill You

This is just crazy. The WSJ reports on how mortality rates are far higher for heart attacks that occur in hospitals than for those that occur outside. This from a study of cardiac event response at UNC Chapel Hill’s hospital. Part of this effect is explained by the older sicker patient population found in hospitals, but not all. The graphic showing the dramatic difference in treatment times for cardiac events is mind-boggling. I have always (half) joked that “being in a hospital can kill you” but here is scientific evidence.PJ-BZ842_HEARTB_16U_20150202173311

I do want to highly commend the researchers at UNC however. Most for-profit hospitals, one suspects, would not publish this data. This candor will help shine a light on, and hopefully improve, hospital care nationwide.


January 31, 2015

The scenery of the Belgian Ardennes, the health statistics of Bangladesh

America still has both a health and health-care problem. This article in The Atlantic examines the miserable economic conditions in a rural coal mining area in Virginia where 20% of the population is on disability. It is a very stark reminder of another America, one that has few of the benefits we take for granted.

December 19, 2014

ABLE Accounts – Congress Agrees on Something

ABLE Accounts, which are tax-advantaged savings accounts for individuals with disabilities and their families, will be created as a result of the passage of the ABLE Act of 2014. Income earned by the accounts would not be taxed. Contributions to the account made by any person (the account beneficiary, family and friends) would not be tax deductible.

For anyone with a disabled family member or loved one, this is a huge step forward.  Envisioned as a variation on 529 college-savings plans, these accounts should make life simpler for those facing the enormous financial challenges of providing for a lifetime of support for a disabled person. The ABLE law specifies these accounts are for those persons with “significant” disabilities and with onset of disability prior to age 26. Annual contributions will be capped at $14,000.

Passed almost unanimously by both houses of Congress, the bill goes to the President for his signature. Look for implementation sometime in 2015.

December 8, 2014

Being Mortal

I am sending Atul Gawande’s latest, “Being Mortal,” to all my doctors this Christmas. I suggest you do the same. I am a huge Gawande fan. And this may be his most important book yet.

October 2, 2014

Ebola Talking Points

This post on the spread of Ebola, by a very credible group of economists, suggests the West will not see a major outbreak of the disease. They do believe that hundreds of thousands of Africans will die from it. I am no health expert, but this seems a credible enough analysis. I pass it along as people I speak with are starting to be concerned and a case of Ebola has been confirmed today in Texas.

May 30, 2014

To Age Well, Exercise

So says a new study in the medical journal JAMA and reported by the NY Times. The study found that exercising three hours a week in a combination of walking and light weight training significantly reduced disability rates for those aged 70-89. This is great news for anyone as disability is something most people would prefer to avoid. Most of us are going to live a lot longer than we expect and three hours of moderate weekly exercise seems a small price to pay to avoid the pain and cost of being debilitated.

Sadly, I know that many of our ingrained behavioral rationales “That’s not going to happen to me,” and poor longer-term decision making – failing to save today for great gains later – will cause many of us to stay on the couch.

March 5, 2014

What Should You Be Worried About? Health Edition

What Kills US? is an excellent short video on the real threats to our health and lives in the US. This is behavioral economics at its best – and explores how we obsess to our detriment on “headline risks” such as terrorism and airplane crashes when we would be far better off simply getting more exercise.

Thanks to The Big Picture

September 25, 2013

One Investor’s Take on Obamacare

With all the political noise, and now theatrics, around the upcoming implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare), there has been astonishingly little written about the investment implications of the substantial changes this law represents to health care finance. Into the breech strides Barry Ritholz with Investing Around Obamacare. Ritholz’s bottom line – mixing your politics with your investing is generally a losing strategy, and that healthcare, and hospitals in particular, are poised to outperform.

September 3, 2013

Long Term Care Insurance Premiums for Women to Rise 30% or More

Because women represent most of the long term care claims, major insurance companies will be rolling out their new gender-based pricing. That means, by the end of the year, female premiums will increase by 30-40%. However, this does not affect premiums for women who apply before the increase takes effect.

According to the Department of Health Services, 70% of Americans will need long term care in their retirement years. As part of a strong financial safety net, every family should have a long term care protection strategy. Strategy options include: purchasing traditional long term care insurance and/or designating a specific asset(s) to cover the potential costs of long term care. Having a long term care plan in place helps to maintain quality of life, while minimizing the burden on the family.

by Guest Author Denise Michaud ( is an independent insurance broker specializing in Long Term Care Planning and a consultant for the California Partnership for Long Term Care.

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