A Medical Device Daily

Spending to treat trauma disorders, such as from automobile accidents and violence, nearly doubled between 1996 and 2003, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ; Washington).

This doubling raised trauma expenditures up to a level comparable with that of heart disease, which in 1996 was the nation's No.1 medical condition in terms of treatment costs.

AHRQ's Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) found that:

  • In 1996, health insurers, government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, and patients themselves spent $58 billion to pay for hospital inpatient care for heart disease, as well as for office doctor visits, hospital outpatient care, emergency room visits, home health services and prescription medicines.
  • That same year, spending on these services for trauma disorders cost $37.1 billion.
  • But by 2003, medical spending for trauma disorders had increased to $71.6 billion and heart conditions expenditures rose to $67.8 billion, putting them at the highest positions in terms of expense.
  • Meanwhile, spending on cancer, which was about the same as that for trauma in 1996 ($37.7 billion) moved down the list in 2003. Expenditures for treating cancer in 2003 year totaled $48.4 billion.
  • MEPS also found modest changes in the number of people with expenditures for these conditions.
  • In 1996, roughly 16.6 million Americans had expenditures made for, or by them, for trauma-related disorders. By 2003, that number had increased to 20 million.
  • In contrast, the number of Americans with medical expenditures for heart disease did not change – just under 40 million in both 1996 and 2003.
  • The number of people with cancer-related medical expenditures changed modestly, going from 9.2 million in 1996 to 11 million in 2003.

MEPS collects information each year from a nationally representative sample of U.S. households about health care use, expenses, access, health status and quality. MEPS is a unique government survey because of the degree of detail in its data, as well as its ability to link data on health services spending and health insurance to demographic, employment, economic, health status and other characteristics of individuals and families

Schumer proposes tissue regulations

News reports indicate this week that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) is proposing new legislation that would regulate tissue transplants and donations.

The majority of tissue now comes from hospitals, though it is not illegal for funeral homes to sell tissue. However, Schumer's legislation would make it illegal for tissue banks to purchase tissue, bone and muscle from funeral homes or morgues, with exceptions for types of tissue in short supply.

Schumer also would tighten oversight by the FDA, requiring the agency to make unannounced visits to tissue banks at least once a year.

FDA now inspects tissue banks “as needed,“ according to a report by Newsday. Schumer's proposal also would put limitations on charges for processing tissue. In a letter to FDA last week, Schumer expressed concern about reports of a Brooklyn, New York-based funeral home selling body parts without consent to Biomedical Tissue Services (Fort Lee, New Jersey). The FDA in October 2005 sent a letter recalling the tissue.

According to the New York Post, Schumer said that there is “virtually no accountability“ in tissue transplants, though organ transplants and donations are “highly regulated.“ He added, “Healthy people are getting sick when they're supposed to be receiving lifesaving tissues.“

New monies predicted for EMRs

President George Bush is expected to set aside hundreds of millions in the upcoming federal budget in February to fund large-scale adoption of electronic medical records (EMRs).

Although Congress has proven slow to establish EMR standards and funding, reasonable estimates conclude that electronic medical records could reduce healthcare costs by $140 billion, while saving tens of thousands of lives, according to a report released by then HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson in 2004. Since that report, healthcare spending has continued to escalate.

According to the New York Sun, Dr. David Brailer, national coordinator for healthcare information technology, declared that “we are ready to step up in 2006 for a pretty aggressive campaign.“

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