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The Effect of Pharmaceutical Innovation on the Functional Limitations of Elderly Americans Evidence from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey, by Frank R. Lichtenberg (The National Bureau of Economic Research)

I examine the effect of pharmaceutical innovation on the functional status of nursing home residents using cross-sectional, patient-level data from the 2004 National Nursing Home Survey. This was the first public-use survey of nursing homes that contains detailed information about medication use, and it contains better data on functional status than previous surveys.

Residents using newer medications and a higher proportion of priority-review medications were more able to perform all five activities of daily living (ADLs), controlling for age, sex, race, marital status, veteran status, where the resident lived prior to admission, primary diagnosis at the time of admission, up to 16 diagnoses at the time of the interview, sources of payment, and facility fixed effects.

The ability of nursing home residents to perform activities of daily living is positively related to the number of “new” (post-1990) medications they consume, but unrelated to the number of old medications they consume. If 2004 nursing home residents had used only old medications, the fraction of residents with all five ADL dependencies would have been 58%, instead of 50%. During the period 1990-2004, pharmaceutical innovation reduced the functional limitations of nursing home residents by between 1.2% and 2.1% per year.

Health Reform, Health Insurance, and Selection: Estimating Selection into Health Insurance Using the Massachusetts Health Reform, by Martin B. Hackmann, Jonathan T. Kolstad and Amanda E. Kowalski (The National Bureau of Economic Research)

We implement an empirical test for selection into health insurance using changes in coverage induced by the introduction of mandated health insurance in Massachusetts. Our test examines changes in the cost of the newly insured relative to those who were insured prior to the reform. We find that counties with larger increases in insurance coverage over the reform period face the smallest increase in average hospital costs for the insured population, consistent with adverse selection into insurance before the reform. Additional results, incorporating cross-state variation and data on health measures, provide further evidence for adverse selection.

Demand and Reimbursement Effects of Healthcare Reform: Health Care Utilization and Infant Mortality in Thailand, by Jonathan Gruber, Nathaniel Hendren and Robert Townsend (The National Bureau of Economic Research)

The Thai 30 Baht program was one of the largest health system reforms ever undertaken by a low-middle income country. In addition to lowering the cost of care for the previously uninsured in public facilities, it also entailed a fourfold increase in funding provided to hospitals to care for the poorest 30% of the population (who were already publicly insured). For the previously uninsured, we find that the 30 Baht program led to increased health care utilization, as well as a shift from private to public sources of care. But, we find a larger increase for the poor who were previously publicly insured, especially amongst infants and women of childbearing age. Using vital statistics records, we find that the increased access to healthcare by the publicly insured poor led to a reduction in their infant mortality of at least 6.5 per 1,000 births. This suggests significant improvements in infant mortality rates can be achieved through increased access to healthcare services for the poor and marginalized groups.

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