Blog | Tuesday, December 1, 2009

QD: News Every Day--health care costs go up and down

ACP Internist's daily digest of news and events continues with uncertainty about health care costs, and a definite fall in flu incidence in the past month.

Health care reform
The Congressional Budget Office scored the Senate's health care bill. The agency's conclusion: Health care costs will go up. They'll go down. Maybe a little.

Confused? The lead paragraph for the New York Times said, "The Senate health bill could significantly reduce costs for many people who buy health insurance on their own," while the Wall Street Journal said it "may raise them for some people who buy coverage on their own."

Who do you believe? Read the CBO director's summary and the original analysis. He chalks up the uncertainty to "estimating effects that depend heavily on how enrollees, insurers, employers, or other key actors would respond." Economics is the dismal science, indeed. (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Christian Science Monitor)

H1N1 influenza
While H1N1 influenza incidence fell for the fourth straight week, the overall death toll is still rising, as are pneumonia rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.

The number of states reporting widespread flu activity decreased from 43 to 32. Nationally, doctor visits for influenza-like illness declined. Flu-related hospitalizations and deaths declined slightly over the previous week, but are still very high nationwide compared to what is expected for this time of year. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was above the epidemic threshold for the eighth consecutive week.

Anne Schuchat, FACP, who heads the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said this year's flu patterns are not typical, and that there may be more illnesses ahead. (Washington Post, New York Times, Boston Globe)
Figure provided by the CDC