Editorial: 10 healthcare predictions for 2018

Posted on by Drea

January 2, 2018

Modern Healthcare – Merrill Goozner

Talk about a New Year’s hangover. Healthcare—17.9% of the nation’s gross domestic product and still growing—will dominate the news in 2018 as it has for much of the past decade. It’s not shaping up as a good news story. Here’s why:

1. The opioid epidemic will remain unaddressed. Drug overdose deaths soared to 63,632 in 2016, with two-thirds of those deaths opioid-related. Despite President Donald Trump declaring a national emergency, no money has been earmarked to fight the epidemic. Looming budget deficits from the new tax law mean little or nothing will be done about it in 2018.

2. Life expectancy will fall for the third straight year. The average life-span fell to 78.6 years in 2016, down from 78.9 two years earlier. While opioid abuse and obesity get most of the blame, income and status inequality (as a famous British civil servant study showed) are also major factors. The new tax law will heighten income and status inequality.

3. Medicare funding will get hit with new cuts. In the wake of the new tax law, the Balanced Budget Act will trigger “pay-go” rules, which will lead to a major political battle over the shape of seniors’ healthcare. Trump will not stick to his campaign promise to leave Medicare alone. He will side with the most conservative elements of the party and back new cuts.

4. The ranks of the uninsured will grow. It won’t show up immediately, given the strong performance by the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges during this year’s shortened sign-up period. But elimination of the individual mandate will lead to sharply higher individual rates for 2019, even if cost-sharing subsidies are renewed, and a rise in the nation’s uninsured rate.

5. Hospital layoffs and closings will dominate the news in many parts of the   country. Job growth in the sector slowed dramatically in 2017, especially during the second half of the year. The outlook for 2018 is bleak. Admissions and lengths of stay continue to fall as more care moves to outpatient settings. Pressure to keep price increases low remains strong. Margins are narrowing.

Read Full Article at Modern Healthcare

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