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Americans look ahead to a new year in health care

Health Care and Health Insurance
by Kevin Ruggeberg
States still trying to figure out individual health care approaches
States still trying to figure out individual health care approaches

The national health care landscape changed a lot over the course of 2017 and 2018 looks to be no different, with more uncertainty about the future of care and the legislative wrangling surrounding it now looming. To that end, health care is now the biggest single concern of nearly half of all Americans, putting it ahead of other pressing national issues.

Indeed, 54 percent of Democrats and 41 percent of Republicans cited health care as what they believe is the nation's biggest priority, according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. For the former group, that was the single biggest issue cited, and for the latter, it trailed only immigration (by a single percentage point). In addition, 46 percent of independents felt the same way, making it their top priority as well. This was the third straight year in which health care was cited as the top issue in the U.S.

Health care continues to change at the state and federal levels.Health care continues to change at the state and federal levels.

Legal issues at the state level
With so much changing about health care at the federal level, changes to numerous state laws regarding care and affordability have been underway for some time, and that's a trend that's only likely to pick up steam in the year ahead, according to analysis from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Nationwide, 75 state bills that were meant to control health care costs within certain states' borders were advanced to votes, and 21 passed. Both those numbers were up from the 72 considered and 15 passed seen in 2016, and more are likely coming.

For instance, Maryland, New York and Vermont have all passed laws this year that require increased transparency in both drug and hospital costs, and in 2016, Florida passed a patient's bill of rights to ensure consumers had more information about costs, the report said. In addition, PwC projects that it soon won't be just legislatures making transparency decisions at the state level, as many may also be put up for direct vote from residents in the form of ballot measures.

Finding more value
Perhaps as a consequence of those changes, as well as the general growing awareness of how much health care costs are rising in recent years, it's worth noting that spending on care and coverage in 2017 grew at a slower rate, according to Health IT Consultant. As more care providers shift their focus to finding value in the year ahead, spending - which hit an estimated $3.3 trillion this year - could continue to grow at a slower rate.

That may be particularly true if more providers start using big data and analytics to determine the best and most affordable plans of care for patients, the report said. As that technology becomes more readily available to providers across the U.S., patient outcomes could continue to improve at a faster rate.

These are all trends for those in the health care and insurance industries to keep a close eye on as the new year progresses, and let the shifting landscape more effectively shape their plans for increased responsiveness across the board.

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