Healthcare Roundup—Healthcare a bright spot in April jobs report, Verma's take on pricing

Nurse-Patient-Hospital-Credit: Getty/monkeybusinessimages
U.S. hospitals added more than 8,000 healthcare jobs in April. (Getty/monkeybusinessimages)

Healthcare jobs bright spot last month

Healthcare added 24,000 jobs in April, with hospitals contributing 8,000 jobs, according to the most recent jobs report (PDF) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

This compares to 22,400 jobs the industry added in March. Ambulatory health care services jobs added more than 17,000 jobs. Healthcare has added 305,000 jobs over the year. 

Overall, the U.S. added 164,000 jobs and unemployment fell to about 4% in April, USA Today reported. That was slower than the average prior monthly gain of 191,000 over the prior 12 months. Industries that reported gains included professional and business services, manufacturing, healthcare and mining. (Release)

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CMS Administrator explains her take on price transparency 

Amid a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services push for transparent healthcare pricing, there are plenty who would argue that's just too hard.

Baloney, said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a column posted Thursday in Real Clear Health. She pointed to two studies, in particular, which found patients who were given price transparency tools were able to reduce overall costs for clinical services. "This research affirms the idea that giving people a choice can be a force to drive down costs in health care just as it does in other sectors of our economy," Verma said.

The Trump Administration has been ramping up efforts in recent months to improve tools empower consumerism in healthcare, including proposed rules to require data sharing between hospitals as well as post prices.

Of course, Verma acknowledged how tricky posting prices in healthcare can get since charges rarely match prices that patients actually pay. She also pointed out CMS is asking patients and industry stakeholders for ideas for how to make the information accurate and relevant. But make no mistake, things will be changing, she said.

"It’s time for a new era of consumerism in healthcare, with patients at the center of the delivery system," Verma said. "Patients should be empowered to make the best decisions about their care, and providers should have to compete for patients by offering them higher quality at lower costs." 

Massachusetts imaging spending among highest

The annual spending on imaging services for Massachusetts Medicare beneficiaries is 14% higher than the U.S. average and that providers may be overusing imaging, a new report shows.

Released by the Massachusetts Health Commission, the report which focused on Medicare spending in Massachusetts says the state ranks higher than the rest of the country when it comes to the volume of medical imaging the use of more expensive facilities. 

Overall, Medicare spending for imaging in Massachusetts totaled $762.1 million or 1.3% of total healthcare expenditures in 2015. Massachusetts spent $892 per beneficiary, 14% higher than the U.S. average of $782 per beneficiary. The research also found the price of imaging services was between 3% to 20% higher in Massachusetts compared to the U.S. average. For example, the average price for a heart ultrasound was $459 in Massachusetts compared to an average U.S. price of $379.

A report released last year called the 2017 Cost Trends Report found Medicare prices in Massachusetts are typically more than twice as high when a service is provided in a hospital outpatient department as compared to an office setting. (Release)