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Health system changing with or without reform

BY Jim Frederick

Obamacare will stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court last week upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, including the notion that individuals could face federal tax penalties if they failed to purchase some level of health insurance by 2014. That could put as many as 40 million uninsured Americans into the coverage rolls — and potentially into prescription drug coverage — by the time the health-reform law is fully enacted.

No surprise, reaction from retailers is mixed. Such retail pharmacy groups as the National Association of Chain Drug Stores and the National Community Pharmacists Association are cautiously supportive of many elements of the health-reform law that boost prescription coverage for millions more Americans; establish some fair reimbursement standards; and potentially expand the role pharmacists play in preventive health care, accountable care organizations, medical homes and medication therapy management. But the National Retail Federation is vowing to continue working to overturn the law after the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

The main sticking point, said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay, is that "the law wrongly focuses more on penalizing employers and the private sector than reducing health costs."

With or without the Supreme Court’s approval, the forces driving a massive reform of the overextended and unsustainably expensive U.S. healthcare model are unstoppable. "The feds have already put $13 billion into implanting this law," noted Ann Berkey, SVP public affairs for McKesson, at a public policy forum for independent pharmacy owners last week in Las Vegas. And with or without the health-reform law, she said, "The market forces will continue" to drive a more cost-efficient, outcomes-based health delivery and reimbursement system in the U.S. "Pharmacists," Berkey added, “are a huge part of the solution," with "a terrific value to bring" to that system.

It’s a question both of cost and modernization.

The cost issue is well documented and downright scary. The Congressional Budget Office notes that "Growth in spending on healthcare programs is one of the central fiscal challenges facing the federal government … Healthcare spending per person has grown faster than the nation’s economic output per person by nearly 2 percentage points per year, on average, for the past several decades."

Not to be overlooked is the powerful role that computerization and electronic health records are playing in knocking down the isolated decision-making silos that have evolved and persisted over generations of American healthcare delivery. Steven Burrill, CEO of Burrill & Co., a financial services firm focused on life sciences, notes that health care is dramatically changing "with or without health reform legislation… as the convergence of information technology, wireless connectivity, and low-cost monitors will provide us with real-time information about our own health and wellness, and put individuals in unprecedented control of their own health."

Other nations have rebooted their healthcare systems in a quest for sustainable costs, improved health for their citizenry and expanded eligibility. Is America on the right track with its own health system overhaul?

Some predict that the tempest over reform will die down over the next few years as insurers, providers and patients adapt to the new model and learn to blend free-enterprise principles with government coverage guarantees and cost-control efforts. Are they right?

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RetailNext reports drop in traditional graduation gift shopping

BY Allison Cerra

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Shopping for traditional gifting items during graduation season has declined, according to a recent RetailNext study.

The company — which analyzed 513 U.S. retail stores, looking at traffic, transactions, rate and length of engagement with individual product categories, dollars sold and rate of converting shoppers to purchasers ("conversion") — found that the nation as a whole declined roughly 5% in shopping for traditional gifting items during graduation. Additionally, fairly consistent nationwide decreases in traffic to stores (down 5.4%), transactions at the register (down 4.7%), sales in dollars (down 4.3%) and items sold (down 5.6%) were recorded.

RetailNext did report, however, found a marked uptick in gift card shopping: Shoppers visited gift cards as a category 18% more often than in the baseline period, with a whopping 32% increase in shopping for cash-equivalent debit cards.

"This sharp increase in shopping for gift cards — and especially those debit cards that are taken in most stores — implies a preference for providing the recipient more flexibility in using the value of the gift," RetailNext VP insights Chitra Balasubramanian said. "That might reflect frugality in the present down economy and soft job market."

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The Little Clinic partners with University of Louisville Physicians

BY Antoinette Alexander

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Little Clinic has announced a collaborative affiliation with the University of Louisville Physicians’ Preventive Cardiology practice, which marks the third affiliation that The Little Clinic has formed with a medical group.

The partnership focuses on the management of hypertension for patients currently without a primary care physician. The relationship will create more convenient and affordable treatment by offering much of the ongoing monitoring for hypertension at The Little Clinic locations inside select Louisville Kroger stores.

“By partnering with University of Louisville Physicians, we’re able to assist in the identification and monitoring of hypertension, a condition that millions of Americans face, a large percentage without even knowing,” stated Ken Patric, chief medical officer for The Little Clinic. “Because we are open seven days a week, including evenings, The Little Clinic is able to bridge the gap between scheduling healthcare appointments and competing demands with a convenient option for patients seeking care."

“Our first clinics opened in Louisville in 2003, and it’s exciting to continue to grow in this market. The communities surrounding these clinics have been great hosts, and we believe this relationship will benefit them tremendously,” Patric added. 

Locations currently offering the hypertension-monitoring program include:

  • The Little Clinic: 5533 New Cut Road, Louisville;
  • The Little Clinic: 2219 Holiday Manor Center, Louisville;
  • The Little Clinic: 234 Eastbrook Pkwy., Mt. Washington; and
  • The Little Clinic: 9440 Brownsboro Road, Louisville.

“The collaboration with The Little Clinic is a wonderful opportunity for University of Louisville Physicians to expand our reach in the community,” stated ULP cardiologist Marcus Stoddard. “We are excited to serve as a resource for hypertensive patients and offer them access to our world-class cardiologists.”

This affiliation is the third that The Little Clinic has formed with a leading medical group. The Little Clinic and the Ohio State University Medical Center developed a partnership in 2011 at its Lewis Center, Ohio, clinic and also recently signed an affiliation agreement with the University of Colorado.

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R.HAMMERLE says:
Jul-03-2012 08:45 am

As the nation's leading retail clinic owned by a supermarket, TLC is just beginning to tap its opportunities in the field of preventive health services with this focus on hypertension. Two other major chronic diseases (obesity and diabetes) also seem natural foci, since all three involve food as a cause, cure or key for disease management. Still, one has to wonder-- after the retail clinic industry has spent more than a decade trying to establish a sustainable economic model-- why their owners have not incorporated higher income medical services and why their owners don't see them as integrated ports of entry for the retailers' own, self-insured employees. In Kroger's case, that could bring in 300,000 new patients a year without ever having to sell the service outside the company's own base of employees. Ron Hammerle Chairman and CEO Health Resources, Ltd. Tampa, Florida

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