Stories by Drew Altman, Kaiser Family Foundation

Narrow health care networks aren't actually that common

Adapted from Kaiser Family Foundation; Note: "<49 workers" category includes firms that have 3 to 49 workers. Chart: Axios Visuals

There's been a lot of discussion of narrow provider networks and how they reduce costs by limiting access to the highest priced providers. They're commonplace in the Affordable Care Act marketplaces where about 10 million people are enrolled, and in the individual market generally — but they are actually quite rare in the group market, where about 152 million Americans get coverage through their employers.

Why it matters: Don't confuse the ACA with the health insurance market most people use. Narrow networks are the exception, not the rule, in the private insurance system overall, and there is little reason to believe that will change any time soon.

Corporate health costs don't look like a crisis

Reproduced from a Kaiser Family Foundation report; Chart: Axios Visuals

The conventional wisdom is that corporate America has a renewed, almost crisis-level concern about rising health costs. But, in a puzzle I am struggling to solve, the data don’t suggest a basis for a new level of urgency about health costs in corporate America.

Why it matters: In fact, just the opposite is true. There's just not that much change — so any solution that's designed for a crisis will probably miss the mark or could unnecessarily harm workers.

Surprise medical bills could be a powerful campaign issue

Reproduced from a Kaiser Family Foundation report. Margin of error was ±3 percentage points. Survey methodology. Chart: Axios Visuals

There is growing interest in the problem of surprise medical bills in the media and on Capitol Hill, with a bipartisan group of senators drafting legislation to crack down on the problem. But the issue has not been prominent in midterm campaigns and is not showing up in campaign ads.

Why it matters: Recent analyses, including polling and a report on employers' medical claims, show that surprise bills could have as much — or even more — traction with the public than other health issues being featured in the midterms. In an election where health care is top-of-mind, candidates may be missing an opportunity.