Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

Court rules Trump administration can go ahead with Title X 'gag rule':By a 7-4 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the June 20 ruling by a three-judge panel that allows the government to withhold Title X funds from clinics that provide abortion referrals.

Trends in prevalence of protective levels of hepatitis B surface antibody among adults aged 18–49 years with risk factors for hepatitis B virus infection—United States, 2003–2014: Fewer than a third of high risk adults had been immunized for hepatitis B by 2014. Clearly more needs to be done to increase this coverage. (The number today is perhaps higher given the requirement for vaccine coverage under the ACA. Recall the insurance exchanges started in 2014.) This problem is the perfect example for the need for more social marketing.

Health plans ramp up new IT efforts:This article is not just about IT. The main theme is how Social Determinants of Health are being addressed by insurers. The lead example is a food market in a bus that brings healthy food into a “food desert” in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

About pharma

Failure to Launch: Patent Abuse Blocks Access to Biosimilars for America’s Patients: This Whitepaper from the trade group “Biosimilars Council” details the impediments to biosimilars getting to market. The study claims that these obstacles, including patent abuse by branded products, have cost the public $7.6 billion.

Speaking of generics, the FDA tentatively approved Mylan's generic Eliquis. As this class of drugs goes generic, prices will come down; however the number of indications have increased.

About healthcare quality

Association of residency work hour reform with long term quality and costs of care of US physicians: observational study: Work hour reforms for residents started in 2003 because of problems in care attributed to fatigue. Since then the question has been raised about the quality of care these physicians will deliver after training, viz., will the reduced hours produce less qualified practitioners? The answer, at least for internists, is “no difference.” The bottom line: “ Exposure of internists to work hour reforms during their residency was not associated with post-training differences in patient mortality, readmissions, or costs of care.”

About health insurance

CMS Proposes Elimination of RAPs, $250 Million Medicare Payment Increase: CMS is proposing a number of changes in home care payments, including a new home infusion benefit. Overall, these changes “would increase Medicare payments to home health agencies by 1.3% — or about $250 million.”

CMS proposes new approach to monitoring protections for Medicaid beneficiaries: Current Medicaid rules require states to report data on access to that program every three years. But the rule only applies to fee for service Medicaid. Since the majority of Medicaid recipients are enrolled in managed care plans. the rules need to be changed. Further, CMS plans to change the type of evaluation to more of an outcomes-driven approach.

About healthcare IT

GE anesthesia/respiratory devices have cyber vulnerabilities: This story highlights another recent example of the vulnerability of healthcare “peripherals” too hacking.