Today's News and Commentary

About health insurance

U.S. judge calls hearing on merger of CVS and Aetna: court filing: The CVS-Aetna deal has closed, but Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia scheduled June 3 to hear arguments that the merger is anticompetitive. The hearing, which is to last a maximum of three days, is not expected to undo the merger.

Read the announcement

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Signs 1st-In-Nation Measure To Help Uninsured: “The new law will create a box for people to check on state income tax returns. If a taxpayer checks the box, the state’s health care exchange will see if the person qualifies, based on information in the tax return. Those who qualify for Medicaid will be enrolled automatically. The exchange will reach out to people who qualify for private coverage.” The government is proactively helping those in need? How unusual!

Read the story
New York’s 2014 Law to Protect Consumers from Surprise Out-of-Network Bills Mostly Working as Intended: Results of a Case Study:
Surprise medical bills have gotten the attention of Congress and the White House. In March 2014, the New York legislature passed the Emergency Services and Balance Billing Law (“Surprise Billing” law), which went into effect in March 2015. With this law, the state has come up with a successful program that may be a model for national initiatives. In its baseball-style arbitration: “Each party to the dispute (the payer and the physician) must submit to the arbiter their best offer. The arbiter must choose one of the two offers without compromising between the two sides. This encourages the parties to submit reasonable bids.” While not a panacea, the results are encouraging: a 34 percent drop in out-of-network billing since the law was in effect, with 57 percent of cases resolved. Decisions have been roughly evenly split between providers and payers.

Read the report

About the public’s health

How Public Health Outreach Ended A 1990s Measles Outbreak And What's Different Now: The measles epidemic is not over and is expected to spread. This article is a reminder that the past outbreak is very different than the current one. From 1989-1991 there was a funding problem causing low income children not to be immunized. With attention to funding and fundamental public health measures in a cooperative community, the problem was successfully addressed. The current problem is due to uncooperative parents who are misinformed about immunizations. Perhaps what we need is more PR/persuasive advertising than classical public health measures.

Read the story

The fate of rural and inner city hospitals: Two recent articles highlight the problems of rural and inner city hospitals. Both were local stories that provide lessons for similar institutions across the country.

Who’s going to take care of these people? As emergencies rise across rural America, a hospital fights for its life (From the Washington Post but appears to be open access)
Medical center's traumas illustrate struggle of all Medicaid-dependent hospitals (From Crain’s Chicago Business but appears to be open access)

About healthcare technology

Stem Cell Treatments Flourish With Little Evidence That They Work: Stem cell therapies have the potential to treat many illnesses. But their use in orthopedic conditions has not been shown to be definitively effective. Since infusions of stem cells (and platelets) into joints is not FDA regulated, these treatments are being administered without regulatory review of efficacy or safety. Caveat emptor.

Read the story

Health Canada Aligns with FDA Guidance for 3D printed Medical Devices: This article is a reminder of the medical uses of 3D printing and some of the companies in this sector.

Read the article
Read what the FDA says about 3D printed devices