What We're Reading: Rethinking What We Know About Healthcare Costs

What we're reading, December 16, 2015: a new study casts doubt on what experts thought they knew about healthcare costs; unprecedented interest in health insurance coverage has prompted the government to extend the deadline for full-year 2016 coverage; and a law to create multi-state health plans won't reach it's 2017 goal.

A new study has found that the places that spend less on Medicare do not necessarily spend less on healthcare overall. The New York Times’ blog The Upshot reported that the new findings are going to force a rethinking of the conventional wisdom about healthcare. While the Affordable Care Act encourages hospital mergers, the new study casts doubt on the wisdom of these mergers. Grand Junction, Colorado, was used as the example: although it has one of the lowest spending on Medicare, the large, integrated hospital systems there tend to set higher prices in private markets resulting in high private spending.

Unprecedented interest in health insurance coverage has prompted the federal government to extend the enrollment period for coverage effective on January 1, 2016. The original deadline was Tuesday, but high call volumes caused some consumers to be turned away and asked to call back later. The New York Times reported that consumers will now have until 11:59 pm PST on Thursday or 2:59 am EST on Friday to enroll in coverage through HealthCare.gov for full-year health insurance in 2016.

A health insurance law aimed at creating multi-state health plans as fallen off course, according to Kaiser Health News. The law required that at least 2 multi-state plans be available in all states by 2017, but experts say it is unlikely that goal will be met. The purpose of the law was to increase competition in areas where a few insurers, or sometimes just 1 insurer, dominate the market.

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