A Huge Threat to the U.S. Budget Has Receded. And No One Is Sure Why

Link: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2023/09/05/upshot/medicare-budget-threat-receded.html?smid=url-share

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For decades, runaway Medicare spending was the story of the federal budget.

Now, flat Medicare spending might be a bigger one.

Something strange has been happening in this giant federal program. Instead of growing and growing, as it always had before, spending per Medicare beneficiary has nearly leveled off over more than a decade.

The trend can be a little hard to see because, as baby boomers have aged, the number of people using Medicare has grown. But it has had enormous consequences for federal spending. Budget news often sounds apocalyptic, but the Medicare trend has been unexpectedly good for federal spending, saving taxpayers a huge amount relative to projections.

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Some of the reductions are easy to explain. Congress changed Medicare policy. The biggest such shift came with the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which reduced Medicare‘s payments to hospitals and to health insurers that offered private Medicare Advantage plans. Congress also cut Medicare payments as part of a budget deal in 2011.

But most of the savings can’t be attributed to any obvious policy shift. In a recent letter to the Senate Budget Committee, economists at the Congressional Budget Office described the huge reductions in its Medicare forecasts between 2010 and 2020. Most of those reductions came from a category the budget office calls “technical adjustments,” which it uses to describe changes to public health and the practice of medicine itself.

Older Americans appear to be having fewer heart attacks and strokes, the likely result of effective cholesterol and blood pressure medicines that became cheap and widely used in recent years, according to research from Professor Cutler and colleagues. And drug makers and surgeons haven’t developed as many new blockbuster treatments recently — there has been no new Prozac or angioplasty to drive up spending. (Medicare is currently barred by statute from covering the new class of expensive anti-obesity drugs.)

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Medicare may even wind up saving money because of Covid-19 — because the older Americans who died from the disease tended to have other illnesses that would have been expensive to treat if they had survived, according to an analysis from the Medicare actuary.

Author(s): Sanger-Katz, Margot; Parlapiano, Alicia

Publication Date: 5 Sept 2023

Publication Site: NY Times

COVID-19 pandemic causes ‘broken heart’ syndrome cases to surge: researchers

Link: https://www.foxnews.com/health/broken-heart-cases-surge-covid-pandemic-especially-women-researchers?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

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Research has reportedly identified a spike in cases of Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, or “broken heart syndrome,” over the course of the coronavirus pandemic

Experts said the potentially fatal stress-induced heart condition is disproportionately affecting women.

“I don’t know how much we can really blame COVID, or how much of this is that we’re just recognizing more of it,” Dr. Noel Bairey Merz, director of the Barbra Streisand Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, told “Good Morning America” on Monday. “But, heart disease is the leading killer of women and all ages, including teenagers, midlife women and older women. This is just a component of that major killer. So, it’s really something that needs to be addressed.”

Merz said one in five of those who suffer from the heart-brain disorder will have another attack within a decade.

In an October news release, Cedars-Sinai shared Smidt Heart Institute research published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, which suggests that middle-aged and older women are being diagnosed up to 10 times more often than younger women or men of any age.

The study suggested that the condition has become more common, with incidences rising since well before coronavirus swept the globe. 

Author(s): Julia Musto

Publication Date: 8 Feb 2022

Publication Site: Fox News

Mortality with Meep: Cause of Death Trend — Heart Disease — 1999-2020

Link: https://marypatcampbell.substack.com/p/mortality-with-meep-cause-of-death

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The long-term trend has been improvement for this cause of death, with it most obvious for the oldest age groups. This trend has been driven by improvement in medical treatment for the condition, but also due to the decrease in smoking rates… decades ago. Some causes of death have behavior that precedes the death by decades, which can get tricky to track for our top two causes of death: heart disease and cancer. Even so, smoking cigarettes has been a huge driver for both these causes, and made a large differentiator by sex and smoking status for a long time.

Author(s): Mary Pat Campbell

Publication Date: 26 July 2021

Publication Site: STUMP at substack