Because of technical difficulties in sending yesterday’s blog, start here for Friday, June 21.
About the public’s health
Food Farmacy focuses on keeping patients healthy: The Presbyterian Community Health Resource Center in Albuquerque, N.M. is providing “fresh produce, dairy, dry goods and nutritious food to help patients live healthier lives.”
”’This Food Farmacy is for people who are food insecure and they're referred by a Presbyterian provider to access the Food Farmacy,’ said Leigh Caswell, Presbyterian’s vice president for community health. She says after a patient is referred to the Food Farmacy they can visit once a week for 6 months and chose up to 15 pounds of food for free. That equals about 10 to 12 meals.”
Read the story
Another cancer-causing chemical found in widely used blood-pressure pills: The blood pressure, heart failure drug valsartan was plagued by a carcinogenic contaminant (nitrosodimethylamine) earlier this year (see previous posts). Now a new contaminant, dimethylformamide, has been found.
AHIP Launches Project Link to Address Social Determinants: The trade group for health insurers has announced its own plan, called Project Link, that will address Social Determinants of Health. Rather than duplicate local efforts it appears to be a resource for payers.
Appeals court lets Title X 'gag rule' go into effect, allows Trump family planning restrictions: “The final rule released in February revises regulations around the Title X family planning program to block funding to groups that provide abortion referrals.” The implementation of the rule has been on hold pending legal challenges. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (San Francisco) said the rule can go forth pending the litigation.
About health insurance
Moody's: Surprise billing solutions will hurt hospitals: This report from Moody’s highlights the fact that many hospitals count on out of network (that is, higher) payments for their financial viability. If the Congressional and state-specific proposals go through, they would be paid at closer to in-network rates.
Trump to issue executive order seeking transparency on healthcare costs: Monday may be the day the President issues an executive order requiring healthcare providers and insurers to reveal their costs.
The Potential Implications of Texas v. United States: How Would Repeal of the ACA Change the Likelihood That People With Different Characteristics Would Be Uninsured? This study from the Urban Institute found that “increases in uninsurance would be most heavily concentrated among people with the lowest incomes (below 200 percent of the federal poverty level), young adults, families with at least one full-time worker, and residents of the South and West. These subpopulations of the United States have experienced the largest gains in insurance coverage under the ACA and consequently would be hit the hardest if the law were repealed.”
About healthcare IT
The Patient Customer Journey: Healthcare SEO Trends from Infants to Elder Care: Where do patients get their information? Apparently there is no single site that is the “go to” source.
BLOG FOR THURSDAY, JUNE 20
About the public’s health
Doctors increasingly use PDMPs, but opioid impact still rising: States have implemented prescription drug monitoring programs [PDMPs] to reduce opioid use and deaths. While such prescriptions decreased 33 percent between 2013 and 2018, mortality rates have not fallen. Are we targeting the wrong providers or patients?
Trump's climate rule rollback could undermine public health: The relaxing emission standards for coal fired plants will not only harm the climate but is dangerous to the public’s health. The article references a 2015 paper by Harvard researcher Jonathan Buonocore and colleagues that “estimated 10 more premature deaths per year under an approach similar to the [new] Affordable Clean Energy rule but 3,500 fewer premature deaths annually under an approach similar to the Clean Power Plan [current plan].”
Read the article(Washington Post but open access)
About healthcare IT
FCC to vote next month on $100M telehealth pilot program:
”At its July Open Commission Meeting, the FCC will vote on a notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on:
Budgeting for $100 million in USF support for providers to offset the qualifying costs of connected care services for low-income patients, including people in medically underserved areas and veterans.
Targeting support for innovative pilot projects to respond to a variety of health challenges, including diabetes management, opioid dependency, high-risk pregnancies, pediatric heart disease and cancer.
Providing an 85 percent discount on qualifying services for a three-year period with controls in place to measure and verify the benefits costs, and savings associated with connected care technologies.
Collecting relevant data to enable stakeholders to better understand the impact of telehealth and consider broader reforms that can support the trend toward connected care.”
Blockchain network looks to advance use cases in early 2020: “The Blockchain Health Utility Network was formed in January by IBM, Aetna, Anthem, Health Care Service Corp. and PNC. In February, Cigna and Sentara Healthcare joined the network.” This group is looking for case studies to illustrate how the architecture can be used in healthcare setting.
Wellcome Global Monitor: How does the world feel about science and health?: Here is the study cited yesterday with regard to beliefs in vaccines (starts on page 106).
About health insurance
Medicare Overpaid for Radiation Treatments, IG Reports: The HHS Inspector General “reviewed nearly $577 million in Medicare payments to three-dimensional conformal radiation therapy treatment plans between fiscal 2008 and 2017” and found more than $125 million went in unnecessary payments to hospitals for the same treatment—in part because the additional payments were billed on separate days.” The IG recommended global rates and billing for radiation therapy to avoid such problems.
The private sector has used this method for decades.
Employers Are Steering Workers Toward Controversial Stem Cell Therapies: In order to save money on such expensive procedures as knee replacements, many employers are first sending employees to stem cell clinics to be evaluated for treatments that are largely unproven.
Sen. Alexander Details His Plan To Fix Surprise Medical Bills: Yesterday, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) formally announced their plan to address surprise medical bills. The crux of the proposal is that when a patient is seen by a doctor who isn’t in their network their insurance would pay the “median in-network rate.” Expect pushback from hospital- based physician groups.
Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2020: This annual report from PwC says the healthcare cost trend is up slightly from the past couple years; the reason is price increases (as opposed to volume). In those price increases are increased technology, like biologics in the pharma space. To combat these costs, the paper explains a number of measures employers are using without resorting to increased cost sharing, e.g., "negotiating contract prices themselves, setting up provider networks and even building a parallel health system to take care of employees at more manageable costs.”
Global Efforts to Cut Smoking Show Mixed Results: As the headline implies, while progress has been seen in some countries (like the US) other countries are showing increases in tobacco use. One incredible statistic: “About 2.5 million metric tons (MMT) of cigarettes were smoked in China in 2013, more than Russia (0.36 MMT), the United States (0.28 MMT), Indonesia (0.28 MMT), Japan (0.20 MMT), and the next 35 highest consuming countries combined.” The data is a bit old (as is unfortunately common in healthcare) but the trends are current.
About heath insurance
The health plan that people recommend most: This story is FYI. The answer raised by the headline is Kaiser (for the 9th year in a row). The next question is “why?”