CENTER UPDATE | January 2022

This update features policy developments, literature items, media reports, and events
supporting continued momentum for multiple V-BID Center initiatives.

2022 Virtual V-BID Summit: Enhancing Equity

On March 23, 2022, the University of Michigan V-BID Center will hold our 17th annual summit. An extraordinary roster of national leaders from across the health care spectrum will guide discussions on a number of topics with an emphasis on advancing equity in healthcare. 

Register here for this no-cost virtual event.

Biden Guidance Eliminates Cost-Sharing for COVID Testing and Follow-Up Colonoscopy

The Biden Administration has released Frequently Asked Questions Part 51 regarding implementation of the ACA, FFCRA, Coronavirus Aid Relief, and CARES Act. The guidance reaffirmed no out-of-pocket costs for COVID testing as well as the elimination of cost-sharing for colonoscopies following a positive non-invasive colorectal cancer screening test. Read more here.

Access to Preventive Services without Cost-Sharing: Evidence from the Affordable Care Act

The latest issue brief from the ASPE Office of Health Policy examines research on the Affordable Care Act that suggests millions of Americans have benefitted from increased access to care without cost-sharing. Data shows that implementation of the ACA expanded access to no-cost preventive care services for an additional 150 million privately insured Americans, 20 million Medicaid expansion enrollees, and 61 million Medicare beneficiaries. Read the V-BID review examining the impact of this policy.

Employers Have Enhanced Health Benefits Under New IRS Rules

EBRI’s most recent infographic shows a positive employer response to increased flexibility for HSA-eligible health plans to cover medications and services used to prevent the exacerbation of chronic conditions prior to meeting the plan deductible. 76% of employers have expanded coverage since July 2019, and 81% would add pre-deductible coverage for additional health care services if allowed by law. An associated PowerPoint presentation is also available here.

Americans’ Challenges with Health Care Costs

Recent KFF polling data on the public’s experiences with health care costs reflects that many Americans continue to have difficulty affording medical care and prescription drugs and put off care due to cost. While vulnerable populations such as the uninsured are disproportionately affected by high healthcare costs, nearly half of those who are insured struggle to pay out-of-pocket costs.

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Covering Key Cancer Services Before Deductible Would Help Close Gaps

A recent AJMC article discusses how value-based insurance design can be leveraged to increase patient access to high-value oncology services and reduce low-value care, especially for communities of color, or those who are socioeconomically disadvantaged. “Capping or eliminating out-of-pocket costs for more cancer services will lead to more early diagnoses and treatment, when survival is more likely,” states Dr. Mark Fendrick, V-BID Center director. Read the full article here.

Lung Cancer Screening Guidelines May Lead to More Disparities

Black lung cancer patients experience delayed diagnoses and poorer outcomes, due in part to screening guidelines that rely on data that does not properly represent patients of color. Though USPSTF lowered screening age and pack years to include an additional 7 million Americans, it is estimated that these guidelines may still exclude large numbers of high-risk Black smokers. A recent NEJM perspective suggests that policy solutions are needed to prevent these unintended consequences. Read more here.

Out-of-Pocket Drug Costs for Medicare Beneficiaries Need to be Reined In

According to a recent JAMA Internal Medicine study, out-of-pocket medication costs of older adults with 8 common chronic conditions generally decreased between 2009 and 2019, but may have presented a substantial financial burden for Medicare beneficiaries. Costs for patients with all 8 of these chronic conditions increased by 41%. Capping annual out-of-pocket payments for seniors poses significant financial relief, especially for those below 150% of the poverty level, living on fixed incomes, or having to take multiple medications. Read more here.

Many Cancer Patients Face Mounting Bills Despite Having Insurance

Researchers have found that 3 out of 4 metastatic colorectal cancer patients experience major financial hardship despite access to health insurance. Authors of an accompanying editorial recommend routine and comprehensive screening for financial hardship and social needs for patients with cancer. Read more here.

2021 Healthcare in America Report

The West Health-Gallup 2021Healthcare in America report details a growing struggle to afford healthcare, as well as cost and inequity concerns that have reached an “all-time high” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A summary of the findings include:

  • 48% say their view of the U.S. healthcare system worsened due to the pandemic
  • 37 million report greater difficulties in paying for healthcare
  • 100 million characterize the U.S. healthcare system as expensive and broken

1 out of 20 adults say a friend or family member died because they couldn’t afford medical treatment

Survey: Employer Health Insurance Costs Surge as Elective Procedures Resume

Mercer’s 2021 national survey of employer-sponsored health plans illustrates a 6.3% increase in health benefit costs (compared with 3.4% in 2020). Experts say this jump can be attributed to “catch-up care” of non-urgent surgical procedures that have been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.

MA Plan Introduces Benefits to Address Chronic Disease Management

UVM Health Advantage, which is a Medicare Advantage plan that provides coverage for seniors in Vermont and northern New York, has added benefits for heart disease and diabetes. These additional supports aim to improve chronic disease management for plan beneficiaries. Read more here.

Please Help Support the V-BID Center

As a non-profit entity, the V-BID Center relies on fundraising to support our research, education, and policy efforts. Please help us continue our work by donating here. We truly appreciate your consideration.