Today's News

About devices:

J&J Agrees to $400 Million Settlement Over Faulty Hip Replacements: Not a good couple weeks for J&J. In addition to the court’s upholding of a $4.7 billion verdict in a case regarding asbestos contamination of its Baby Powder, the company is now facing settlement payments from faulty hip replacements. More claims go to trial next month.

Read the announcement

The public’s health:

What Is the Status of Women’s Health and Health Care in the U.S. Compared to Ten Other Countries?: The Commonwealth Fund just issued this paper and the results are mixed. For example: “Women in the U.S. have the highest rate of maternal mortality because of complications from pregnancy or childbirth, as well as among the highest rates of caesarean sections.” However, women in the US have among the highest breast cancer screening and lowest breast cancer mortality rates in the world. Of course, these positive results are attained at very high financial costs.

Read the study

The Major Causes of Death in Children and Adolescents in the United States: While this country spends many millions of dollars on disease treatments for children and adolescents, over all ages in this group about 61% of deaths are due to injuries- especially from auto accidents and firearms. What are we doing to address these problems?

Read the article (you may be able to signup for limited monthly access)

US adults aren’t getting taller, but still putting on pounds: The obesity data continues to get worse.
The latest CDC study came to some of the following conclusions:

—The average woman in the early 1960s was 5 feet, 3 inches and 140 pounds. Now, women are a half-inch taller and about 30 pounds heavier, on average.

—In the last decade, the average weight of men rose about 2 pounds, to 198. For women, it rose 6 pounds, to nearly 171.

—Men have 40.3-inch waistlines, on average; women’s waistlines are 38.7 inches. Over the past 15 years those dimensions are increases of about 1.5 and 2.5 inches, respectively.

Read the article

Nevada and Idaho Are the Nation’s Fastest-Growing States: The title of this Census Bureau announcement is a lesson in political spin. The upbeat presentation buries the fact that the overall US population grew by 0.62%- the lowest rate since 1937. Reasons for this finding include lower birth rates, higher death rates and reduced immigration. The latter cause has kept growth up and population aging down. As the population ages we will not only need more caregivers, but also people who work and pay taxes, particularly into the Medicare program.

Read the report

About insurance:
Cigna-Express Scripts clears final state approval, set to close on Thursday: After clearing many regulatory hurdles, the $67 billion merger is due to close today.

Read more about the completion of the deal

Cleveland Clinic Florida, Wellstar Health System among first to join Humana's value-based care program: In April, Humana announced its National Hospital Incentive Program, which will determine payments to physicians and hospitals based in criteria developed by the Joint Commission- especially looking at outcomes rather than volume of services. Humana is finally implementing this program at two well-regarded southern medical centers. Currently only a minority of care is delivered under value-based arrangements. Hopefully, this announcement heralds more efforts on the private sector to move from “volume to value.”

Read the announcement

Senate GOP blocks bid to intervene in ObamaCare case: In addition to the Justice Department, Congress can participate in the appeal of last week’s court decision that declared the ACA unconstitutional. Republican senators blocked the Democratic resolution for intervention on behalf of the law. House Democrats vow to join the fight once they take control next month.

Read the article

4.3M people sign up for healthcare in final week of ACA enrollment: “So far, 8.5 million people signed up for coverage, down about 3.4% compared to 8.8 million people the same time last year.” However, we won’t know the true numbers for a few months. As mentioned in a previous post, a number of reasons may favorably explain this drop, e.g., higher employment (exchange members changing to employers’ coverage) and Medicaid expansions. In Virginia alone, recent Medicaid expansion signed up about 100,000 former exchange enrollees.

Read the announcement

New Jersey health systems and insurers pitch in on Housing First programs: While this article is not, strictly speaking, about insurance, it is a program geared to frequent users of healthcare services. Housing for the homeless has been one strategy that insurers and health systems are implementing to improve community health and reduce healthcare costs. This New Jersey program is a great example of what can be done by partnerships among healthcare stakeholders.

Read about this program

About pharma:

Pennsylvania Auditor Calls for Flat Fees for PBMs: Continuing the theme of transparency for charges by Pharmaceutical Benefit Managers, this flat fee is the latest governmental recommendation. We will need to see how all the proposals shake out, but it appears they will not go away until the issue is resolved.

Read the announcement

Gottlieb: FDA Will Increase Inspections of Stem Cell Facilities: Despite last year’s announcement of closer supervision of stem cell facilities, unauthorized use and contamination persist. For example, today the CDC announced a bacterial outbreak due to stem cell injections. This enhanced oversight should not be confused with recent federal restrictions on stem cell research.

Read the announcement

'Bad drug' lawsuit ads hurt doc-patient relationships and need regulation, says industry coalition: This survey is the latest documentation that when lawyers advertise on TV about injuries from taking a drug, a significant number of people who benefit from the medication stop taking it- causing more harm. In this study, 58% of healthcare providers “said they’ve had patients who stopped taking their prescribed drugs after viewing drug-injury lawsuit ads.” Some legal regulation of these ads is being proposed, such as statements about not stopping medication without advise of a personal physician; however, that measure may not be enough. We have yet to see a proper balance between making people aware of their legal rights while protecting them from harmful scare tactics.

Read about the survey

Generic drug firms seek gag order in price-fixing case: Recall from a previous post that more than a dozen generic manufacturers are being investigated for price fixing. These companies are now asking a federal court in Philadelphia to issue a gag order on the investigation. So much for transparency.

Read the article

About information technology:

Methods Used to Enable Interoperability among U.S. Non-Federal Acute Care Hospitals in 2017: Despite the year in the title, this report was just issued by the Office of the National Coordinator detailing how hospitals transmitted and received records, especially from entities outside their own networks. While slow progress in interoperability is occurring, the following statistics are telling in how far we have yet to go: “About seven in 10 hospitals sent (66 percent) or received (73 percent) summary of care records using mail or fax in 2017.”

Read the entire report

Walgreens, Verily to work on projects to improve health outcomes: The drugstore giant and Alphabet subsidiary are joining to deploy technology that includes “sensors and software that can be used to help prevent, manage, screen and diagnose disease. The companies have a shared goal of scaling deployment at Walgreens retail locations. The companies plan to begin work on a medication adherence project that will deploy devices and other approaches designed to improve patient compliance with prescription orders.” Tis venture is yet anther creative collaboration between different sectors of the healthcare field.

Read the full announcement