Today's News and Commentary

About healthcare IT

Medical devices are woefully insecure. These hospitals and manufacturers want to fix that: As the “internet of things” expands in healthcare, we need to be particularly aware of hacking medical products like pacemakers, pumps and diagnostic devices. They do not have the same regulatory requirements as traditional IT devices, like computers. A consortium of hospitals and manufacturers has issued a joint security plan to address this problem.

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New App Displays What Original Medicare Covers: Beneficiaries are often confused about what Medicare covers. This new app will help explain their benefits. We still need to see how CMS will announce this site to the general public.

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About insurance

HHS Sets New Priorities for Physician-Focused Payment Models: The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) established criteria for physicians to bundle services to qualify as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model. This qualification permits exemption from some reporting requirements and sets up potentially more favorable payment models. This article is a nice review of recent HHS clarification of the application process. The government hopes to reduce annual avoidable events by 10% and costs by $10Billion.

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Medicare for all?: Many legislators and health policy advocates have been calling for a program that gives Medicare benefits to all. The explanation is vague because the details of these proposals are very different. They range from a true single payer system with elimination of private insurance to an option for those who cannot afford or access other options. Here are a series of articles that should give you an idea about this debate:
How to build a Medicare-for-all plan, explained by somebody who’s thought about it for 20 years It nicely frames the issue and provides a framework for analyzing proposals.
45% of the uninsured population is out of the ACA's reach: KFF report This article highlights the reason we need more options for healthcare insurance.
Harris backs 'Medicare-for-all' and eliminating private insurance as we know it: Kamala Harris announced her support for this proposal and would even favor eliminating private insurance.

Transparent Hospital Pricing Exposes Wild Fluctuation, Even Within Miles: As previously mentioned, since January 1, hospitals have been required by the federal government to post their charges. This article compares prices for various services among hospitals close to one another in both Oakland, CA and LA. It is interesting that each location’s listing has a Kaiser facility—care is essentially free there if the patient has a referral from a primary care physician; this fact highlights the uselessness of the federal requirement.

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About the public’s health

Coca-Cola emails reveal how soda industry tries to influence health officials: Industry often tries to influence public policy, particularly in the healthcare field. (Think tobacco and pharma, for examples.) This case documents how Coca-Cola tried to influence the CDC to make exercise the primary tool to combat obesity- thus taking pressure off sugar-filled drinks. This article nicely documents this effort.

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About pharma

AstraZeneca's latest value-based pact serves up Brilinta at generic-level copays: AstraZeneca has cut a deal with UPMC Health Plan regarding its “blood thinner” Brilinta. The drug will be priced like a generic, allowing lower out of pocket copays for patients and a lower price for the plan. Also, the price will be based on how well the drug performs (upward or downward payments). This scheme is part of a trend in pharma and elsewhere toward value-based payments.

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