“The five hearings we held reminded us of something else we should agree on: one major reason for the unnecessarily high cost of health care is that the health care system does not operate with the discipline and cost saving benefits of a real market. Too many barriers to innovation drive up costs. And most Americans have no idea of the true price of the health care services they buy—which also drives up costs.”

—Sen. Lamar Alexander 

Please submit comments to LowerHealthCareCosts@help.senate.gov by March 1, 2019.

Rather than opting for the cheap, politically expedient trick of “blaming Big Pharma,” our national leadership should insist that all members of the health-care ecosystem create expert-vetted, user-friendly education programs so that patients know the real costs of what they’re buying, where the profits are going and, most importantly, how they can use this knowledge to become savvier consumers.

The U.S. labor market is as healthy as it has been in a long time, especially for those with limited education and skills. Yet enrollment for the nation’s two largest means-tested safety-net programs, Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, remains near historic highs.

In previous periods of rising employment and income, takeup rates in assistance programs dropped. This hasn’t been the case in the years following the Great Recession, even after accounting for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid. What gives?

Last week, the econowonks at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the 2017 National Health Expenditure (NHE) data. Links below.

For 2017, drug spending grew by a mere 0.4%—significantly below the growth of spending on hospitals, physician services, and overall national healthcare costs. These latest CMS data confirm the drug spending slowdown that I have highlighted in previous Drug Channels articles.

The nation’s health care tab hit $3.5 trillion last year, or $10,739 per person, the government reported Thursday. But behind those staggering figures was some fairly good news: The rate of growth slowed for the second year in a row, according to economic experts at the federal Health and Human Services department. Health care spending increased by 3.9 percent in 2017, following a 4.8 percent increase in 2016.

According to a new NPR-IBM Watson Health Poll, about one in five people said they have delayed or canceled some kind of health care service, such as a doctor’s appointment or medical procedure, because of cost in the preceding three months. The proportion of people who said cost had deterred them from getting care varied by age, with a third of people under 35 saying it had been a problem compared with only 8% of people 65 and older. The cost of prescriptions also appeared to be a bigger concern for younger people, with 38% of those under 35 saying they had difficulty paying for their medicine. Only 9% of people 65 and older said they had the same problem.

When the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) added healthy, able-bodied adults without dependent children to the list of beneficiaries, policymakers overlooked the substantial price paid by these recipients who, as the Congressional Budget Office once forecasted, forego hourly wages and earnings in order to maintain their Medicaid eligibility. Without a work requirement for able-bodied adults to receive Medicaid, studies have shown that the program tacitly encourages such recipients to stay home and not go to work. And, as it turns out, Medicaid’s non-work incentive has some not-so-healthy consequences.

It shouldn’t shock most observers to realize that Congress gave itself a better deal than it gave most ordinary citizens. But Ocasio-Cortez’ complaints about the lack of affordability of health insurance demonstrate the way liberals who claim to support Obamacare’s pre-existing condition “protections”—and have forcibly raised others’ premiums to pay for those “protections”—don’t want to pay those higher premiums themselves.

Enrollment in the health-care marketplaces still appears to be lagging halfway through the ACA’s sixth sign-up season. Total sign-ups this year are down by about 300,000 people compared to the same time last year—a roughly 11% decline. However, this is the first year marketplace premiums are dropping instead of rising. Not only are premiums lower, but government subsidies for low-income Americans who want health insurance continue to be more generous than in years past.

The its 2019 State of Healthcare and Politics Report from insuranceQuotes.com unveils Americans’ knowledge, views and predictions surrounding the ACA, President Trump’s impact on the law, and the state of healthcare between now and 2020.

According to the report, 41% of Americans say they do not know what healthcare open enrollment is.

Other survey findings include: 38% are unaware that the ACA is still in effect; 24% of Americans say they view the ACA less positively after the 2016 election; and 18% say their view on the ACA have been “more favorable” since the election.