The January/February 2006 edition of Health Affairs, due out on Tuesday, is a thematic issue which examines hospitals and their fraying social contract. Papers address topics such as pricing and payment policies; consolidation; specialty hospitals; quality; impact of consumer-driven health plans on hospitals, and more. The new issue also includes the annual U.S. health spending trends paper, with new national data for 2004 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).
Print editions may be ordered for $35 each on Health Affairs' Web site starting January 10 at http://www.healthaffairs.org/1330_issue.php or from Customer Service at 301-347-3900.
As a year-end review, Health Affairs is making available online the 25 most frequently viewed articles from December 21, 2004 to December 20, 2005. Readers may view the full text of these papers until January 11, 2006 at http://www.healthaffairs.org/Top25_2005.php.
Health Affairs subscribers have continuous access to the full online journal, including all current content, plus online research tools. See http://content.healthaffairs.org/subscriptions/online.shtml.
Informal Survey Results for Top Health Policy Stories for 2005
The growing number of uninsured people, the public health impact of Hurricane Katrina, and the start of registration for the new Medicare drug benefit were among the top health policy stories of 2005, according to respondents to an informal online survey conducted by The Commonwealth Fund and Health Affairs.
Other top stories included the mounting evidence that the U.S. health care system doesn't deliver the value it should for the costs it incurs and the continuing increase in health care costs, albeit at a somewhat slowing rate.
The Commonwealth Fund/Health Affairs survey listed 15 policy stories, compiled by Fund staff and journal editors, and asked Web site visitors to select the five they considered the most important. Top vote-getters among the 1,100 respondents were:
- The number of uninsured people continues to grow, hitting nearly 46 million, with another 16 million reported to be "underinsured"
- Hurricane Katrina draws dramatic attention to holes in the nation's health care safety net
- Registration begins for new Medicare prescription drug benefit, despite widely reported confusion among seniors over the myriad choices for coverage
- New cross-national studies add to evidence that U.S. health care system, the most expensive in the world, doesn't perform as well as those of several other industrialized nations on various clinical indicators and in reported patient experiences
- Health care costs continue to increase, putting increased pressure on consumers, particularly the growing number citing trouble paying off medical debt.