Reflex: September 14, 2011

Strict hand hygiene and other practices shortened stays and cut costs and mortality in a pediatric intensive care unit, reports a manuscript in Health Affairs“[O]n average patients admitted after the quality interventions were fully implemented spent 2.3 fewer days in the hospital, their hospitalization cost $12,136 less, and mortality was 2.3 percentage points lower, compared to patients admitted before the interventions. Aaron’s comment: The annual savings in one intensive care unit was projected to be $12 million! We can make light of it, but this is a serious problem and not hard to fix. We should do so.

A new tax on health benefits is included in Obama’s jobs plan, reports Julian Pecquet (The Hill). “Currently, individuals and families in the 35 percent tax bracket receive $0.35 off their taxes for every $1 in tax deductions and exclusions, including employer contributions to health. This proposal would change the limit to $0.28, making the deduction more in line with what middle class families receive today. No individual earning less than $200,000 and family earning less than $250,000 would be affected by this proposal.” Austin’s comment: This is similar in spirit, though different to, the Cadillac tax, which will tax high-premium health plans beginning in 2018. The main difference is Obama’s proposal is more progressive, hitting only the wealthiest taxpayers. Among economists and policy wonks, it’s a well-regarded way to increase revenue. Will it survive the political gauntlet? (H/t Igor Volsky)

The Healthcare Leadership Coucil will endorse raising the Medicare eligibility age, reports Janet Adamy (WSJ). The council, which “includes top executives from Pfizer Inc., Aetna Inc., the Mayo Clinic, [Johnson & Johnson, and Walgreens … is] expected to approve a proposal that would call for raising Medicare’s eligibility age and shifting the program toward private plans for beneficiaries. […] Austin’s comment: Any industry that would benefit from the higher payments offered by private insurers relative to Medicare is likely to be for this style of  Medicare retrenchment. Because Medicare’s drug benefit is entirely in the hands of private insurers, I don’t understand the support of drug manufacturers like Pfizer. For a run down of the consequences, see our FAQ entry. (H/t Brad Flansbaum)

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