KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Insured Americans Are Using Fewer Medical Services While Employers Consider Wellness Incentives

The Wall Street Journal: "Insured Americans are using fewer medical services, raising questions about whether patients are consuming less health care as they pick up a greater share of the costs. The drop in usage is showing up as health-care companies report financial results. Insurers, lab-testing companies, hospitals and doctor-billing concerns say that patient visits, drug prescriptions and procedures were down in the second quarter from year-ago levels. Others say that consumers are beginning to forgo elective procedures like knee replacements. … Continued weak demand could eventually put downward pressure on spiralling health-care costs, a long-sought goal of policy makers. It could also force insurers to lower premiums. The new trend comes amid a broader drop in health-care use as more Americans lose their jobs and their health insurance" (Johnson, Rockoff and Mathews, 7/29).

TopNews United Kingdom Blog: "Wayne DeVeydt, WellPoint Inc.'s Chief Financial Officer, has said that doctor visits by the insured Americans have reduced noticeably in the second quarter, as compared in the concurring period the last year. He said that patients are making less benefit out of their insurance. He said that insured citizens seem to be using less healthcare options than they are expected to" (Kumar, 7/29).

MarketWatch: "Employees have a new reason to drop the donuts and stop smoking before benefits enrollment season begins in a few weeks. As companies put the final touches on their health care plans for 2011, more of them say they are planning to penalize workers who decline to participate in disease management or lifestyle behavior programs, who smoke, or who do not take part in voluntary health screenings offered by an employer" (Brill, 7/29). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.