Late news briefs for the week of June 17
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• While the era of double-digit growth in healthcare costs seems to have ended, the "new normal" pace of around 6% to 7% a year is still unsustainable, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Health Research Institute, which projected that medical costs in 2018 will increase by 6.5% from 2017. While the medical cost trend has declined from 11.9% in 2007, it will still outpace economic growth, which means employers, providers and insurers must work together to reduce costs over time, the study found. HRI's analysis measures anticipated spending growth in the employer-based market, which covers about half of all Americans. The study did not factor in changes to government payers and Affordable Care Act exchanges. It attributed increasing medical costs to rising general inflation, fewer employers turning to high-deductible health plans and fewer branded drugs coming off patent. Increased scrutiny on drug prices and better techniques for managing and deploying new treatments and technologies will prevent healthcare costs from returning to double-digit rates.
• Six Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries with serious disabilities sued Gov. Kim Reynolds and the head of the state Human Services Department in a proposed class-action lawsuit in federal court alleging the state's contracted managed-care organizations cut their monthly cost allowances for home- and community-based care, even though there was no change in their care needs. Approximately 15,000 Iowa Medicaid beneficiaries with serious disabilities ranging from multiple sclerosis to intellectual disabilities and brain injuries may have been affected by the cuts since Iowa shifted to private, for-profit managed-care plans in April 2016. The state's Medicaid program has several waivers available to fund care services for individuals who prefer to live independently rather than in institutional facilities. While some of these programs have monthly cost limits, the plaintiffs each had received variances to increase their care budgets to facilitate independent living.
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