IHA Daily Briefing: Oct. 9

DOJ Awards $320M to Combat Opioid Crisis
Employer Health Premiums Rising Faster than Wages
KFF Issue Brief Shows Marketplace Stabilizing
Briefly Noted

DOJ Awards $320M to Combat Opioid Crisis
Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the awarding of $320 million in grants to help combat the opioid crisis. Funds are distributed through the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Assistance division to address a variety of opioid-related issues and initiatives.

In Illinois, grants were distributed to:

  • Lake County: $500,000 to assist with first responder training and treatment providers;
  • Cook County Health and Hospitals System and DeKalb County Court Services: $900,000 each to provide staffing and opioid abuse treatment resources within county jails and upon re-entry into the community;
  • Illinois Dept. of Human Services: $750,000 to help strengthen the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program;
  • Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office: $381,000 to analyze substance abuse issues and identify potential solutions from public health, treatment, and public safety perspectives;
  • DuPage County Health Dept.: $472,000 to increase access to mental health and other treatment services for individuals with mental illness or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse issues;
  • Chestnut Health Systems, Inc.: $742,000 to provide services to children and youth who are victimized as a result of the opioid crisis;
  • Knox County (22nd Judicial Circuit Court in McHenry County): $491,000 to establish, expand, assist, and research the effectiveness of adult, family, and juvenile drug courts; and
  • Madison County: $502,000 for opioid abuse assistance in veteran’s treatment courts.

The DOJ is also reminding the public that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s National Prescription Drug Take Back Day is Oct. 27. A list of participating Illinois agencies can be found here. To search for a location near you, click here.

Employer Health Premiums Rising Faster than Wages
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) survey the annual family premiums for employer-sponsored health insurance rose 5 percent to average $19,616 this year. On average, workers this year are contributing $5,547 toward the cost of family coverage, with employers paying the rest says the 2018 benchmark Kaiser Family Foundation Employer Health Benefits Survey.

Annual premiums for single coverage increased 3 percent to $6,896 this year, with workers contributing an average of $1,186.

This year’s premium increases are comparable to the rise in workers’ wages (2.6 percent) and inflation (2.5 percent) during the same period. Over time, the increases continue to outpace wages and inflation. Since 2008, average family premiums have increased 55 percent, twice as fast as workers’ earnings (26 percent) and three times as fast as inflation (17 percent).

This year’s survey also finds the burden of deductibles on workers continuing to climb over time in two ways: a growing share of covered workers face a general annual deductible, and the average deductible is rising for those who face one.

The survey finds 57 percent of employers offer health benefits, similar to the share last year (53 percent) and five years ago (57 percent). Employers that do not offer health benefits to any workers tend to be small, and nearly half (47 percent) cite cost as the main reason they do not offer health benefits.

Read more in a KFF press release.

KFF Issue Brief Shows Marketplace Stabilizing
The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released an issue brief on “Individual Insurance Market Performance in Mid-2018.” The brief examined financial data from 2011 to the first six months of 2018.

Findings showed that the average second quarter 2018 individual market medical loss ratio decreased to 69 percent, down from 81 percent in 2011 and a high of 93 percent in 2015. The average individual market gross margin per member, per month for second quarter 2018 was $155.70, up from $41 in 2011 and an all-time low of $21.40 in 2015. Data showed the average premium per month per individual market member at $508 and claims at $352 for second quarter 2018. In 2011, the average premium per month per member was $216, while the average claim per month per member was $175. The average number of hospital patient days per 1,000 individual market members in second quarter 2018 was 27 days. In 2011, the average was 21 days.

The authors of the brief suggest that this data indicates the stabilization of the individual health insurance marketplace, noting that: “Premium and claims data support the notion that 2017 premium increases were necessary as a one-time market correction to adjust for a sicker-than-expected risk pool, and premium increases in 2018 were in large part compensating for policy uncertainty and the termination of cost-sharing subsidy payments.”

Briefly Noted
The Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project released a statistical brief on pediatric emergency department (ED) visits in 2015. The data showed that there were 30 million ED visits for children 18 years old and younger, with Medicaid as the payer for more than 60 percent of those visits. The most common reasons for those pediatric ED visits in 2015 were respiratory disorders and injury and poisoning.