Today's News and Commentary

About healthcare quality

I’m a Journalist. Apparently, I’m Also One of America’s “Top Doctors.”: Today’s news starts with an amusing article by Marshall Allen, a non-physician healthcare reporter for ProPublica, who was named one of America’s “Top Doctors.” The story looks into the for-profit world of “best” lists for physicians in healthcare. Not in the article, but how accurate is that Yelp rating?

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CMS has just released its hospital star (quality) rankings-updating 2017 evaluations. You can look up specific hospitals on the “hospital compare” website. A number of hospitals and organizations have complained that these ranking do not adjust for severity of illness or social factors. One article that analyzed these concerns was from the Chicago Tribune, which detailed the drop in quality scores for a number of academic institutions in the Chicago area. In reply to critics, CMS asked for comments about the process.

About pharma

FDA warns Canadian drug distributor about sending ‘unsafe’ drugs to U.S.: In looking for less expensive medications, not all sources from abroad are safe and effective. According to the article: “The FDA urged U.S. consumers ‘not to use any medicines from CanaRx,’ which supplies drugs to employees of about 500 cities and counties, and private-sector employers seeking discounts on drug prices.”

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Read the FDA letter

Bill would allow lower priced insulin to be imported: Despite the above concerns, “ U.S. Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont introduced legislation on Thursday that would allow for the importation of low cost insulin from Canada and other countries for people with diabetes.”

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About healthcare insurance

GOP senator: Legislation combating surprise medical bills could come in March: The latest Congressional initiative to address surprise medical bills could be introduced this month.

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H.R.1398 - To delay the reimposition of the annual fee on health insurance providers until after 2021: One of the sources of funding for the ACA is a tax (fee) on healthcare insurers. Congress delayed this source of funding hoping that if insurers did not have to pay the tax they would lower premiums. There is now a bipartisan bill that would further delay reimposition of this tax.

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Read an article about the proposal

How Much Will Medicare for All Cost?: As previously reported, the “Medicare for all” proposal does not have a definitive funding source (or price tag). The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget writes that similar proposals would cost $28-32 trillion dollars over a decade. This interesting article also provides estimates from different sources about the cost for such plans. Where will we get the money?

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About devices

Guardant’s blood test outperforms standard tissue biopsy in landmark NSCLC study: One of the latest impactful technologies is so-called “liquid biopsies,” where blood is analyzed for cancer. This article reports that, by several measures, this new tool is better than the standard tissue biopsy.

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Genetic test to detect antimicrobial resistance developed:
Antibiotic resistance is traditionally determined by growing the bacterium and placing a disc containing an antibiotic amid the growing culture. Lab techs then observe whether the disc kills the bacteria. A rapid test for assessing resistance has now been developed that relies on detecting the genes responsible for resistance. The new test is not only accurate but much faster than the older method (10 minutes versus days).

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FDA warns against using surgical robots for breast cancer surgery: Just because it is new doesn’t mean it is better. The FDA is warning that the use of robotic surgery for breast and other cancer surgeries does give as good results as more traditional methods.

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About the public’s health

Hawaii Tops U.S. in Wellbeing for Record 7th Time: The new Gallup poll is out and again Hawaii is on top.

Read the poll results