Government’s spending to surpass private insurance

Republicans warned during most of 2009’s debate about health care reform that it if passed, the government would take over health care.

And now, the government’s own actuaries say that what’s going to happen anyway.

In two years, the government’s spending on health care will surpass private spending for the first time. That trend is expected to continue, and by 2019, state, local and federal health care spending will reach 52 percent of the health care market.

Actuaries from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services say that the economic recession, the rise in unemployment and changing demographics are among the factors that influence the government’s increased role.

During 2009, the health share of the gross domestic product increased 1.1 percent to 17.3 percent, the largest single-year increase since 1960. Average public spending growth for hospitals, doctors and clinical services, as well as prescription medication, are expected to exceed private spending growth by 2012.

The group of actuaries published their findings in the journal Health Affairs, and say the projection reflects the influence of the recession on payer trends — forcing government payers to grow much faster — by 8.7 percent — than private payers, up 3 percent.

Enrollment in private insurance companies declined 1.2 percent last year, despite a substantial boost from federal subsidies provided by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act intended to increase the rate of coverage provided by the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act, or COBRA insurance.

Health care spending is expected to bottom out this year, as both public and private spending rates grow at a much slower pace.

“Total health care spending is expected to grow increasingly faster each year, after bottoming out in 2010,” the report said, “reaching 7 percent by 2016. This acceleration is primarily a result of expected faster growth in disposable personal income associated with the economic recovery.”

The increasing number of baby boomers moving from private coverage to Medicare is expected to contribute to slowing private spending growth and accelerating the government’s role in health care.

Cheyenne Village approved

The Colorado State Division of Developmental Disabilities awarded Cheyenne Village its highest approval ratings — both for its services and for its financial health.

The nonprofit organization serves adults with developmental disabilities in group homes, apartments, host homes and supported living services. Adults with autism, Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy all live at Cheyenne Village. Services were provided to 19 percent more people during 2009, the second year of double-digit increases.

Bill addresses patient safety

A bill introduced at the General Assembly proposes to help facilities guard against employee drug theft, hold doctors to higher standards and create dialogue with patients after medical accidents.

The Patient Safety Act will help reduce medical errors and health care related injuries, said Rep. Jim Riesberg (D-Greeley).

House bill 1283 is the result of months of meetings with doctors and patient safety advocates. It has been endorsed by Citizens for Patient Safety, United Cerebral Palsy of Colorado, the Colorado Medical Society and the Colorado Hospital Association.

The bill does not limit an injured patient’s ability to file a medical malpractice suit, but it makes changes that legislators hope will limit the accidents that frequently bring about the lawsuits.

Other provisions of the legislation:

Allow doctors and hospitals to talk more freely with patients about what went wrong after an accident or other adverse medical event. If the patient decides to go to court, the information cannot be used against the doctor or the hospital.

Create a way for legislators to learn about non-court-based approaches to cases of adverse medical events can improve patient safety, provider accountability and fair and timely redress for injured patients.

Make hospitals and other health care facilities safer by giving them additional measures to guard against employee drug theft or other major crimes.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.