Today's News

About the public’s health:

10 Notable Health Care Events of 2018: At this time of year everyone is publishing a ‘best of” or “most notable“ list. This list is from the Commonwealth Fund and it does a good job capturing this year’s top healthcare stories. While the topics range from legal challenges to the opioid crisis, all these issues affect the public’s health. What’s on your list?

Read the list and comments

Public Comment for Healthy People 2030: Every ten years, HHS launches a “Healthy People” campaign that outlines the country’s public health goals during that coming decade. HHS has just issued a call for comments on the next iteration of this ongoing project. This document will frame governmental initiatives through several administrations. Since all sectors of the healthcare field can be affected, it is important that everyone is familiar with its contents- not only for organizational strategy but for a concern for the public’s health.

Read the request for comments and a brief explanation of the initiative

America’s Health Rankings: Health Foundation’s 2018 Annual Report:
This report has some details about factors contributing to health (such as obesity, suicide and childhood poverty) but also some overall state rankings. At the top are Hawaii, Massachusetts and Connecticut. At the bottom are Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. What is implicit in this report is that there is no “nation’s health. ” There are such large state and regional differences that a national average (as reported in international rankings) is meaningless- except to highlight the disparities themselves.

Link to the Executive Summary as well as full report

CDPHP, St. Catherine's team up to house the homeless: I include this article as another example of insurance company or provider initiatives to address social issues affecting health. In this example, in Albany, NY, the Capital District Physicians' Health Plan is teaming up with St. Catherine's Center for Children to provide housing for the homeless. President Trump said he did not know what the late President George HW Bush meant by a “thousand points of light.” He should read this article.

Read the article

Sanofi's pediatric hexavalent vaccine approved by U.S. FDA: This announcement could also have been under a pharma heading; but the potential for improving the public’s health is profound. The vaccine, called Vaxelis, was developed in partnership with Merck and is designed for children aged 6 weeks to 4 years old. The vaccine covers: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, poliomyelitis, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenza type B. While this single shot should make vaccination more convenient (and hopefully lead to higher rates of compliance), presumably children will need to return to complete the course for Hepatitis B. This formulation is to come to market in 2020.

Read the announcement

Trump signs into law maternal mortality prevention legislation: Earlier this month, Congress passed The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act to address rising maternal mortality rates. The Act authorizes “$58 million for each fiscal year from 2019 through 2023 [to] support 33 existing states with maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs) and assist the remaining 17 states [to] develop them, as well as to standardize data collection across the country.” The measure is now law.

Read the article

About insurance:

Hospital prices are about to go public: In April, CMS announced its plan to require hospitals to post their charges. This January 1 hospitals will start complying. Many indicate they will post their
chargemasters on their websites. One caution is that these charges are a “wish list” of what hospitals would like to collect; they do not reflect what Medicare, Medicaid or contracted private insurers actually pay them. Even though the usefulness is limited, it is hard to oppose such measures because they are politically popular and explaining how they would really help the public (or not) is difficult.

Read the article

Booker Calls for Greater Transparency in Medicaid Drug Coverage Decisions: Last July, The Center for Public Integrity wrote about how drug companies are influencing physicians and their office staffs to prescribe products to Medicaid beneficiaries. Now, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) is calling for more transparency about how Medicaid drug coverage decisions are made. Recall that while all states provide medication coverage to this population, it is optional for them to do so and they have wide discretion in designing this benefit. It is not clear how Senator Booker’s plan would address influences at the physician office level.

Read the announcement

About quality:

Psychiatric Hospitals With Safety Violations Still Get Accreditation: On the front page of today’s print edition, the Wall Street Journal continues its series of articles criticizing the Joint Commission (JC) for not withholding accreditation for underperforming hospitals. This time, the focus is on psychiatric hospitals. The article is best summarized by its opening paragraph: “More than 100 psychiatric hospitals have remained fully accredited by the nation’s major hospital watchdog despite serious safety violations that include lapses linked to the death, abuse or sexual assault of patients, a database investigation by The Wall Street Journal has found.” The JC is authorized by CMS and private entities to accredit hospitals (and other healthcare organizations) using standardized criteria that are in line with Medicare’s “conditions of participation.” The operative question here is: when does identification of problems change from opportunities for improvement to immediate dangers for patients?

Read the article (subscription required)

About information technology:

New Tennessee Law Opens Up Telemedicine Across State Lines: Physicians must be licensed in the state where the patient resides. Functionally, it means that doctors are visiting patients not vice versa. This article provides a reminder about the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which facilitates cross-state medical licensure.

Read the example from this state