This week, we discuss how much private health plans pay hospitals compared with Medicare; potential solutions for the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.–Mexico border; reducing opioid overdose deaths; myths about the Sri Lanka bombings; the gap between America's defense strategy and its military capacity; and how to fund the rebuilding of U.S. infrastructure.
In 2017, the prices paid to hospitals by private health plans averaged 241 percent of what Medicare would have paid. That's according to a new RAND analysis, which compared prices of nearly 1,600 U.S. hospitals and the medical claims of more than four million people.
Notably, there was wide variation in pricing among both hospitals and states. This suggests that employers have opportunities to redesign their health plans to better align hospital pricing with the value of care provided. Employers may also be able to exert pressure on health plans and hospitals to shift from the current pricing system to one that is more similar to Medicare.
Families and children from Central America have been arriving in growing numbers at the U.S. southern border. This is despite actions taken by the Trump administration, and its increasingly hard-line rhetoric on immigration. What's going on here? RAND's Blas Nuñez-Neto says one issue could be that most policies the administration has tried so far are not focused on families and unaccompanied children. But there are several options that Congress could consider. For one, adding capacity to the immigration court system could help reduce the backlog in asylum cases.
In some states, the opioid antidote naloxone can be dispensed by pharmacists without a doctor's prescription. A new RAND study finds that giving pharmacists this authority can sharply reduce opioid overdose deaths. Fatal overdoses fell by an average of 27 percent in the second year after such laws were passed. And in later years, overdoses fell even further—by 34 percent. Notably, weaker laws that expanded naloxone use but stopped short of giving pharmacists direct dispensing authority did not curb opioid deaths.
More than 250 people were killed in the Easter Sunday bombings that shook Sri Lanka three weeks ago. Before this tragedy slips from American attention, it's worth debunking several misconceptions, writes RAND's Jonah Blank. The most dangerous myth is that the bombings were retaliation for attacks on two New Zealand mosques five weeks earlier. This is almost certainly false. But both attackers did share a common goal: “to drive a wedge between Muslims and Christians worldwide, and fuel a cycle of violence…across the globe.”
Does the United States have the resources to successfully carry out its strategic and defense policies? A new RAND report finds that there is a significant gap between stated U.S. strategy and the nation's military capacity. To close that gap, the government will have to make difficult choices. All investments should be prioritized by their importance to U.S. interests. According to the authors, the top priority is improving nuclear deterrence.
Last week, President Trump and Democratic leaders agreed to pursue a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. But how would these funds be allocated to improve the nation's highways, railroads, and bridges? According to a 2017 RAND study, a national consensus on priorities is a necessary first step. “Spreading federal dollars around to fund short-term, 'shovel-ready' projects without a sense of national purpose or priority will not get the nation where it needs to be,” says lead author Debra Knopman.
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