- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 3
- Colon Cancer Screening: Five Things To Know
- Filling A Prescription? You Might Be Better Off Paying Cash
- California Insurance Commissioner Weighs In Against Aetna-Humana Deal
- Political Cartoon: 'Full-Service'
- Administration News 1
- White House Blasts Republican Zika Bill As 'Totally Inadequate,' Threatens Veto
- Supreme Court 1
- Supreme Court's Immigration Decision A Setback To California's Health Coverage Efforts
- Marketplace 2
- Calif. Regulator Advises Feds To Block Aetna-Humana Mega-Merger
- About 5% Of Home Health Agencies Have Characteristics That Suggest Fraud Potential, HHS Investigators Find
- Public Health And Education 2
- Deleting The Wrong Genes And Other Possible CRISPR Blunders
- Opioid Epidemic Straining Already-Taxed Medical Examiner Offices
- State Watch 3
- Facing Deep Funding Cuts For Children With Disabilities, Texas Democrats Ask Feds To Step In
- Mich. AG Files Charges Against Firms Over Water Crisis: 'They Failed Miserably In Their Job'
- Fulton State Hospital In Mo. Marks 'Milestone' In Reconstruction Project
- Health Policy Research 1
- Research Roundup: Laws To Curb Opioids; Cancer Spending; Special Enrollment Periods
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
The U.S Preventive Services Task Force recently expanded the list of approved colorectal cancer screening tests. Here’s a primer on these various tests and how they might be covered now and in the future by health insurance. (Julie Appleby, 6/24)
Amid growing concern about rising drug costs, the practices of prescription benefit management firms are drawing a new level of attention. (Julie Appleby, 6/24)
Commissioner says $37 billion deal would stifle market competition, raise health insurance rates and reduce access to care. (Ana B. Ibarra, 6/23)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Full-Service'" by Harley Schwadron.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
PRESCRIPTION DRUG COSTS FUELED BY 'BEWILDERING ARRAY OF FACTORS'
It’s the middleman?
Is that who adds to high costs?
Okay … but which one?
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
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Summaries Of The News:
The upper chamber has promised to kill the legislation anyway, and with only a few working days left before the August recess where both the House and Senate are in Washington, it doesn't look like funding negotiations will be settled soon.
The Associated Press:
Obama Threatens To Veto GOP-Backed Bill On Zika Virus Aid
The White House Thursday promised that President Barack Obama would veto the long-delayed response of the Republican-controlled Congress to the president's request for fighting the Zika virus, saying it provided too little money and contained too many partisan provisions. The $1.1 billion measure had already appeared sure to die in the Senate next at the hands of filibustering Democrats backing Obama's $1.9 billion request and opposing spending cuts that House Republicans added to the measure. (6/23)
The Wall Street Journal:
Gridlock Over Funding Threatens To Stall Obama Plan To Fight Zika Virus
White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz ... called the $1.1 billion deal “totally inadequate,” saying that Republican lawmakers had turned a public health issue into a partisan political exercise. “We urge Republicans to stop turning this into a political football and actually get to work, come up with a proposal that’s going to serve the American people,” Mr. Schultz said. Mr. Schultz ticked through a list of problems with the measure that passed the House, raising objections to what he said was insufficient funding. The bill also would “steal money” from other public-health priorities, he said, cutting unused funds from the Affordable Care Act, funds to fight Ebola and money from the Health and Human Services Department. (Armour and McCain Nelson, 6/23)
White House Threatens To Veto Republicans' Zika Funding Plan
The administration also criticized the bill for limiting contraception access for women seeking to prevent Zika, which can be spread through unprotected sex. (Rampton and Cornwell, 6/23)
White House Threatens Veto Of GOP's Zika Bill
Senate Democrats say the bill is all but doomed in the upper chamber, where it will need support from members of their party to pass. Lawmakers and aides say that would be extremely unlikely after Democratic lawmakers were dropped from the previously bipartisan talks. (Ferris, 6/23)
White House Threatens To Veto Zika Bill As Senate Barrels Toward Uncertain Vote
[Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell] chided Democrats for having “phony excuses” to oppose the bill. “Democrats should work with us to pass Zika control funding again, not block funding for combatting this virus,” he said in a Senate floor speech. “Phony excuses and made-up objections to the funding we’ve already passed won’t help create a vaccine or eradicate the threat of Zika.” (Scott, 6/23)
Zika Funding Fight Could Drag On For Weeks
The House isn't scheduled to return from recess until July 5. That leaves the House and Senate just a few work days when they’re both scheduled to be in Washington until both chambers depart until Labor Day. (Ehley and Haberkorn, 6/23)
Kaiser Health News:
A Primer: How The Fight Against Zika Might Be Funded
The Obama administration says the Zika virus is the nation’s next big public health threat. But there is continuing disagreement on how much money it will take to counter it and where that money will come from. And delays in reconciling those visions could be forestalling needed intervention to head off the mosquito-borne virus, whose rapid spread globally has for months fueled concerns. (Luthra, updated 6/23)
Media outlets also offer coverage of Zika news in the states —
Va. Health Commissioner Urges Preventative Zika Efforts
One thing was clear when Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa Levine spoke to the state Senate Finance Committee about the Zika virus Thursday: A lot remains unclear about the virus, making prevention all the more important. ... Twenty-seven Virginians have been infected with the virus, the Virginia Department of Health’s website reported Thursday. That marks the fifth consecutive week the number has increased. Last week, the website showed that 26 residents in the state had been infected. (Demeria, 6/23)
Zika Update: Central Florida Total Reaches 28
The number of Zika cases have been steadily climbing in Florida since the state began reporting them in early February, and they passed the 200 count this week. As of Thursday, there were 213 cases of travel-related Zika in Florida, 40 of which are in pregnant women. (Miller, 6/23)
The Dallas Morning News:
10th Person With Zika Confirmed In Dallas County, But There Could Be 10 More Cases
Ten people in Dallas County have Zika, and 10 pregnant women have "possible infection" with the virus, health officials said Thursday. The latest person to test positive for the virus is a 55-year-old Irving resident who traveled to Guatemala recently, the Dallas County Department Health and Human Services said in a news release. (Rajwani and Yasmin, 6/23)
If the court had upheld the deferred action programs, more than half a million immigrants in the country illegally could have become eligible for state-funded health insurance.
Los Angeles Times:
Supreme Court Decision Deals Blow To Health Coverage Efforts In California
The Supreme Court decision Thursday effectively blocking President Obama’s immigration programs also comes as a blow to California legislators who have been fighting to offer health insurance to people living in the country illegally. Immigrants living in the U.S. without authorization can’t enroll in Obamacare and make up a large portion of those who remain uninsured in California. But an unusual state policy allows those granted temporary relief from deportation to sign up for Medi-Cal, the state’s low-income health program. (Karlamangla, 6/23)
In other news, the Texas abortion case is one of the three remaining decisions expected to be announced on Monday —
The Associated Press:
Abortion, McDonnell Appeal Among Last Supreme Court Cases
After issuing a flurry of decisions on Thursday, the Supreme Court will close out its current term with opinions next week in its remaining three cases. The court meets Monday for a final time before the justices disperse on their summer breaks. The last three cases concern regulation of Texas abortion clinics, the public corruption conviction of former Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia and a federal law that seeks to keep guns out of the hands of people convicted of domestic violence. (Sherman, 6/24)
Hundreds of thousands of Louisiana residents have enrolled since the state expanded Medicaid earlier this month — and part of that can be traced to former Gov. Bobby Jindal's policies.
How Medicaid Expansion Took Off In Louisiana
More than 220,000 people have signed up for Louisiana’s Medicaid expansion since enrollment started earlier this month — and ironically, the state’s early enrollment success is largely thanks to the administration of Bobby Jindal, its Obamacare-hating former governor. It was Jindal’s Democratic successor, Gov. John Bel Edwards, who expanded Medicaid through an executive order earlier this year. But two smaller-scale coverage programs created during Jindal’s administration have given the state a huge enrollment head start. (Pradhan, 6/23)
As congressional lawmakers consider new legislation, doctors and patients testify on chronic illness care issues. Meanwhile, in other news from Capitol Hill, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell meets with Republicans over abortion rules, investigators look into pathogen mishandling at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and senators strike a GMO labeling deal.
Doctors, Patients Urge Legislation To Improve Hospice, Palliative Care
Doctors and lawmakers Thursday touted legislation to train more providers who specialize in hospice and palliative care and improve options for patients with serious chronic illnesses. (Muchmore, 6/23)
HHS Chief Meets With House Republicans On Abortion Dispute
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Sylvia Mathews Burwell met with Republican lawmakers on Wednesday to discuss their strong objections to a ruling on an abortion law made by her department, according to Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), who was in attendance. (Sullivan, 6/23)
CDC Failed To Disclose Lab Incidents With Bioterror Pathogens To Congress
Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday they have identified 34 incident reports involving bioterror pathogens mishandled at CDC labs that were “inadvertently” not disclosed in 2014 to congressional investigators who had asked for the information. The reports document inventory issues, specimens in unapproved areas and a few potential exposure incidents that occurred from early 2007 through January 2011, primarily at the CDC’s Fort Collins, Colo., infectious disease laboratory complex, said Steve Monroe, the CDC’s top lab safety official. (Young, 6/23)
Wyoming Public Radio:
Senators Reach Deal On National GMO Labeling Bill
Just a week before a Vermont law kicks in requiring labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients, U.S. Senate agriculture leaders announced a deal Thursday that takes the power out of states' hands — and sets a mandatory national system for GM disclosures on food products. Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled the plan that had been negotiated for weeks with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan. Senate Democrats from farm country called it a win for consumers and families, while Roberts said it would end "denigrating biotechnology and causing confusion in the marketplace" brought on by Vermont's state law. (Lowe, 6/24)
A provision in the health law was meant to help unprofitable insurers and stabilize consumer prices during the first three years of the new exchanges. But Land of Lincoln Health has become the fifth cooperative to file a claim against the government because of it. Meanwhile, the number of small-group options on the New Hampshire marketplace will fall by about a third, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota will stop selling plans to individuals and families next year and Colorado residents will vote on replacing Obamacare with a single-payer system in the state.
The Associated Press:
Illinois Insurance Co-Op Sues Feds Over Health Law Payments
A struggling Illinois health insurance co-op is suing the federal government, claiming it is being shortchanged $72.8 million in promised payments under the Affordable Care Act. Chicago-based Land of Lincoln Health filed the lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. At least four other insurers have filed similar claims over the so-called risk corridor payments, a temporary provision of the health care law meant to help unprofitable insurers and stabilize consumer prices during the first three years of the law's new insurance exchanges. (6/23)
N.H. Marketplace May Offer Fewer Options In 2017
The state’s health insurance marketplace will again have five companies offering plans next year, but the number of small-group options will fall by about one-third and the number of companies offering dental insurance will be down to two. Those numbers, presented at a public session Thursday, are still preliminary and don’t include rates, which are still in flux. It is generally expected that prices will rise sharply next year; insurance companies are citing losses due to factors such as high drug costs and a shortage of healthy patients enrolling in the programs to balance out patients who use a lot of medical services. (Brooks, 6/23)
Minnesota Public Radio:
Blue Cross Delivers Major Blow To Health Reform In Minnesota
Minnesota's largest health insurer, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota has decided to stop selling health plans to individuals and families in Minnesota starting next year. The insurer explained extraordinary financial losses drove the decision. ... The Blues reported a loss of $265 million on insurance operations from individual market plans in 2015. The insurer said claims for medical care far exceeded premium revenue for those plans. (Zdechlik, 6/24)
Colorado Considers Replacing ObamaCare With State Single-Payer Plan
Colorado could become the first state in the union to offer its citizens universal, single-payer health care if voters approve an amendment on November's ballot. Supporters hope that if Amendment 69, known as ColoradoCare, passes, other states will follow. (Burke, 6/23)
The recommendation comes a week after California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones also weighed in on the Anthem-Cigna deal. While he does not have the authority to block either merger, his opinion could influence the Department of Justice's decision.
California Insurance Commissioner Weighs In Against Aetna-Humana Deal
The official opinion of Dave Jones came just three days after California’s other health insurance regulator, the Department of Managed Care, approved the planned transaction. Just a week ago, Jones urged the federal government to block another mega-merger, Anthem Inc.’s $54 billion offer for Cigna Corp, also on competitive grounds. Jones said an Aetna-Humana tie-up would reduce competition in commercial health insurance markets that are already highly concentrated. “The Aetna and Humana merger has anticompetitive impacts that will likely result in increased prices, decreased availability of health insurance products, and decreased quality and access to healthcare,” Jones said. (Ibarra, 6/23)
California Insurance Chief Urges U.S. To Block Aetna-Humana Deal
California's insurance commissioner on Thursday urged national antitrust regulators to block health insurer Aetna Inc's proposed $34 billion acquisition of Humana Inc. David Jones, whose state Department of Insurance does not have authority to block the deal, said the acquisition would be anti-competitive in California and nationwide and contribute to higher prices for insurance. (Humer, 6/23)
Meanwhile, ProPublica reports that a Florida doctor -- who at one point was the state's second-highest prescriber of antipsychotic drugs in the Medicaid program -- has pleaded guilty to fraud charges.
About 5% Of Home Healthcare Agencies Show Potential Signs Of Fraud
More than 500 home healthcare agencies—about 5% of the total—and 4,500 doctors across the country share characteristics that often point to home healthcare fraud, according to a report released by HHS' Office of Inspector General on Wednesday. (Schencker, 6/23)
Florida Doctor Pleads Guilty To Fraud — Years After Complaints About His Prescribing
Seven years after a U.S. senator cited him as a national example of aberrant practices, the onetime top prescriber of antipsychotic drugs in Florida’s Medicaid program is in federal custody awaiting sentencing on fraud charges. The second-highest prescriber is serving a four-year term in federal prison after pleading guilty to fraud charges in 2012, but he only relinquished his license to practice medicine in Florida last fall. (Ornstein, 6/23)
A new project aims to validate the technology as a learning aid for kids who can struggle to understand social interactions, make eye contact or recognize facial expressions. In other health IT news, there's a growing movement to focus "digital health" efforts on the more vulnerable populations instead of just those who can afford it.
Google Glass Flopped. But Kids With Autism Are Using It to Recognize Emotions
Some children with autism struggle to understand social interactions, make eye contact or recognize facial expressions. So the Stanford researchers developed facial-recognition software specifically for Glass. The software acts as a coach, helping the kids search for and correctly identify emotions expressed on people’s faces. The technology could impact millions of children. In 2014, one in 68 children was diagnosed with autism, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s up about 30 percent from the previous estimate in 2012. (Hoshaw, 6/23)
'Digital Health' Not Just For Well-Heeled Fitness Fiends
A small but growing effort is ... aimed at using digital technologies — particularly cellphones — to improve the health of Americans who live on the margins. They may be poor, homeless or have trouble getting or paying for medical care even when they have insurance. The initiatives are gaining traction partly because of the growing use of mobile phones, particularly by lower-income people who may have little other access to the internet. (Feder Ostrov, 6/24)
Stat takes a look at what can go wrong when humans start editing their genes. Also in the news, the secret to successful weight loss, the link between muscles and brain power, things you should know before getting a screening for colon cancer and a pilot program tries to tackle preterm birth rates.
They’re Going To CRISPR People. What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Now that a federal biosafety and bioethics committee has approved what would be the first use of the trailblazing genome-editing technology CRISPR-Cas9 in people, the obvious question arises: Could anything go wrong? The purpose of such a Phase 1 clinical trial is to assess safety, so problems wouldn’t come as a total shock. The fact that the trial in cancer patients (which still needs OKs from the Food and Drug Administration, among others) would be funded by the new cancer institute founded this year by tech mogul Sean Parker adds a wild card. (Begley, 6/23)
The Fiscal Times:
Science Finally Knows Why Some People Succeed At Losing Weight
Swimsuit season is back. And that’s prompting many Americans to pick up abandoned New Year’s resolutions to cut calories or up their time at the gym. But to be successful, scientists say, you need to focus on short-term rewards. People who included immediate rewards in their pursuit of a long-term goal, such as losing weight or getting in shape, were more likely to stick with the diet or exercise program than those who didn’t, according to a recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research. (Herron, 6/23)
A Protein That Moves From Muscle To Brain May Tie Exercise To Memory
Researchers have identified a substance in muscles that helps explain the connection between a fit body and a sharp mind. When muscles work, they release a protein that appears to generate new cells and connections in a part of the brain that is critical to memory, a team reports Thursday in the journal Cell Metabolism. The finding "provides another piece to the puzzle," says Henriette van Praag, an author of the study and an investigator in brain science at the National Institute on Aging. Previous research, she says, had revealed factors in the brain itself that responded to exercise. (Hamilton, 6/23)
Kaiser Health News:
Colon Cancer Screening: Five Things To Know
It’s a predictable passage in life: Hit 50, get lots birthday cards with old-age jokes, a mailbox full of AARP solicitations — and a colonoscopy. But millions of Americans — about one-third of those in the recommended age range for colon cancer screening — haven’t been tested. Some avoid it because they are squeamish about the procedure, or worried about the rare, but potentially serious, complications that can occur as a result of it. Now, an influential panel has added some new choices, aiming to get more Americans screened for colorectal cancer, which is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. (Appleby, 6/24)
Program Seeks To Reduce Preterm Births In Tennessee
Tennessee will be part of a pilot program to change prenatal care for women as UnitedHealth Group and March of Dimes partner on an initiative to tackle high preterm birth rates — a problem that is persistent across the state. The duo want to get health systems and individual practices to implement a group prenatal care group so pregnant women have an opportunity to talk with women in the same stage of pregnancy, facilitated by a health care provider. (Fletcher, 6/23)
Some offices are so stretched for space from the influx of deaths stemming from the crisis that they are having to consider renting refrigerated trucks to store bodies.
The Associated Press:
Overdose Deaths Overwhelm Medical Examiner, Coroner Offices
Soaring numbers of overdose deaths are adding to woes already plaguing medical examiner and coroner offices, resulting in a shortage of places to store bodies and long delays in autopsies and toxicology testing. The Connecticut medical examiner's office has considered renting a refrigerated truck to store extra bodies because its storage area has neared capacity at times. In Wisconsin, the Milwaukee County medical examiner's office sometimes has to put bodies on Army-style cots in its refrigerated storage area because it runs out of gurneys. The Hamilton County coroner's office in Cincinnati has a 100-day backlog of DNA testing for police drug investigations, largely because of increased overdose deaths. (Collins, 6/23)
As Texas officials prepare to cut $350 million in state and federal funding from Medicaid, which covers pediatric therapy services, Democrats in the state look to the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to intervene. In other news, a look at those who fall into the "coverage gap" in Missouri.
The Texas Tribune:
Texas Democrats Ask Feds To Intervene On Therapy Cuts
Three weeks before Texas officials plan to slash funding for a program that pays for speech, physical and occupational therapy for children with disabilities, Democrats in the Texas House are asking the Obama administration to intervene. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should take action to ensure that cuts made to Texas Medicaid “do not restrict access to medically necessary therapy services,” all 50 Democrats in the Texas House wrote in a letter to Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the federal agency. (Walters, 6/23)
St. Louis Public Radio:
Checking In On A Few Of The Thousands Living In Missouri’s Medicaid Gap
Three years after Missouri’s legislature first shut down the option to expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act, an estimated 173,000 of adults who could have been covered by the law remain uninsured. Many, including Carter, turn to publicly funded health clinics like Affinia for care, where they can see a doctor for a small fee. It’s in these waiting rooms where the effects of Missouri’s “coverage gap” come to the forefront. (Bouscaren, 6/24)
The companies face civil charges of professional negligence and public nuisance. In other news, Milwaukee gets a $1 million loan to replace the lead water pipes and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., wants federal regulators to determine if PFOA should be banned.
The Washington Post:
Michigan Attorney General Charges Firms He Claims ‘Botched’ Work On Flint Water
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) on Wednesday filed civil charges against two engineering firms that he said “botched” their work on Flint’s water supply system, contributing to the city’s ongoing lead-polluted water crisis. The complaint filed Wednesday in a Genesee County Circuit Court targets Veolia North American, part of a global corporation that specializes in operating water and sewer systems for municipalities, which contracted with Flint in early 2015 to help with its drinking water quality. (Dennis, 6/22)
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Milwaukee Gets $1 Million Loan For Lead Pipe Replacement
Milwaukee will receive a $1 million state loan this year to begin work on an enormous and costly task of replacing 70,000 lead water pipes throughout the city. And the first priority will be replacing pipes to 385 state-licensed day care centers, public works officials said Thursday. No public school buildings now in use within the Milwaukee Public Schools district receive water through lead pipes, so the city will focus on the licensed day cares with young children. (Behm, 6/23)
The Associated Press:
Sen. Gillibrand Calls For EPA Action On Toxic Chemical PFOA
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on federal regulators to use new powers under the toxic substances reform bill to determine if the industrial chemical PFOA should be restricted or banned. The New York Democrat says in a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday that health concerns about the chemical have been heightened by the recent discovery of drinking water contamination in upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. (6/23)
In other hospital news, Sun Valley Hospital in California agreed to pay $1 million to settle a case alleging that hospital employees put a woman with mental illness into a taxi and then lost track of her for three days.
St. Louis Public Radio:
Fulton State Hospital Set To Move Emergency Command And Other Services Into New Building
Efforts to rebuild Fulton State Hospital have reached a "milestone," in the words of Gov. Jay Nixon. The first new building in the reconstruction project is complete and expected to become fully operational next month. The Energy Control Center and Services Building will house several functions, including the emergency command post, power supply, computer services, maintenance and food preparation for patients. (Griffin, 6/23)
Los Angeles Times:
Sun Valley Hospital Settles For $1 Million In Second Patient-Dumping Lawsuit
A San Fernando Valley hospital has agreed to pay $1 million in civil penalties to settle allegations that it put a mentally ill woman in a taxi and lost track of her for three days, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer announced Thursday. Under the terms of the settlement, Pacifica Hospital of the Valley admitted no wrongdoing but agreed to revamp its protocols for discharging homeless patients. It is the second time in two years that the hospital — a 231-bed facility in Sun Valley — has settled with the city attorney’s office in patient-dumping cases. (Branson-Potts, 6/23)
Meanwhile, hospitals in some developing countries face daily challenges that, in the United States, would be considered catastrophic -
Wyoming Public Radio:
It's Not Easy Running A Hospital Without Running Water
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at studies on 430 hospitals in 19 low- and middle-income countries. In an article published online in the Journal of Surgical Research, they reported that a third of the hospitals surveyed — a total of 147 — did not have continuous running water. The most startling statistics come from Liberia, where 80 percent of the hospitals did not have running water all the time, and Sierra Leone, where the figure was 81 percent. (Silver, 6/23)
Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.
The New England Journal of Medicine:
State Legal Restrictions And Prescription-Opioid Use Among Disabled Adults
We tested associations between prescription-opioid receipt and state controlled-substances laws [using Medicare administrative data for fee-for-service disabled beneficiaries] .,.. From 2006 through 2012, states added 81 controlled-substance laws. Opioid receipt and potentially hazardous prescription patterns were common. In 2012 alone, 47% of beneficiaries filled opioid prescriptions (25% in one to three calendar quarters and 22% in every calendar quarter); 8% had four or more opioid prescribers; 5% had prescriptions yielding a daily MED of more than 120 mg in any calendar quarter; and 0.3% were treated for a nonfatal prescription-opioid overdose. ... Adoption of controlled-substance laws was not associated with reductions in potentially hazardous use of opioids or overdose among disabled Medicare beneficiaries, a population particularly at risk. (Meara et al., 6/22)
Implementation Of Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs Associated With Reductions In Opioid-Related Death Rates
[F]orty-nine states (all but Missouri) created prescription drug monitoring programs to detect high-risk prescribing and patient behaviors. ... In adjusted analyses we found that a state’s implementation of a program was associated with an average reduction of 1.12 opioid-related overdose deaths per 100,000 population in the year after implementation. Additionally, states whose programs had robust characteristics—including monitoring greater numbers of drugs with abuse potential and updating their data at least weekly—had greater reductions in deaths, compared to states whose programs did not have these characteristics. (Patrick et al., 6/22)
JAMA/The Kaiser Family Foundation:
A Snapshot of Cancer Spending and Outcomes
This Visualizing Health Policy infographic provides details on cancer spending and outcomes in the United States. The U.S. cancer mortality rate, 203 deaths per 100,000 population, was slightly lower than in comparable countries in 2010. Among cancers, lung cancer is the largest contributor to disease burden for both men and women. The United States spent $124 billion to treat cancer in 2012, which accounted for about 7% of the nation’s disease-based health expenditures. However, growth in cancer spending contributed only 6.3% to the nation’s medical services expenditure growth, while the top 3 diseases contributed 36%. ... Cancer medications were among the top 3 for specialty drug spending in 2015, behind medications for inflammatory conditions and multiple sclerosis. (Gonzalez et al., 6/21)
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR):
State And Local Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws For Worksites, Restaurants, And Bars — United States, 2015
The number of states, including the District of Columbia (DC), with comprehensive smoke-free laws (statutes that prohibit smoking in indoor areas of worksites, restaurants, and bars) increased from zero in 2000 to 26 in 2010 and 27 in 2015. The percentage of the U.S. population that is protected increased from 2.72% in 2000 to 47.8% in 2010 and 49.6% in 2015. Regional disparities remain in the proportions of state populations covered by state or local comprehensive smoke-free policies, as no state in the southeast has a state comprehensive law. In addition, nine of the 24 states that lack state comprehensive smoke-free laws also lack any local comprehensive smoke-free laws. (Tynan et al., 6/24)
Helping Special Enrollment Periods Work Under The Affordable Care Act
On June 17, 2016, CMS began requiring consumers to document eligibility for special enrollment periods (SEPs). Some evidence suggests the need for verification. However, requesting documentation is likely to reduce enrollment by eligible people, given past experience with similar policies. It may be more effective to seek consumer documentation only if the Marketplace cannot quickly verify eligibility with existing data systems or phone calls. Roughly 5% of the SEP-eligible uninsured enrolled in 2015. Vigorous marketing by carriers and brokers might greatly increase SEP participation. However, such marketing will not happen if insurers continue seeing SEP members as financially untenable. (Dorn, 6/23)
Here is a selection of news coverage of other recent research:
Price, Stigma May Keep Patients From Using Insurance For STDs
Barriers to getting tested or treated for sexually transmitted disease (STD) need to be lowered, a U.S. study concludes. In 2013, before the Affordable Care Act -- better known as Obamacare -- was fully implemented, researchers found that half of patients at STD clinics were unwilling to use their health insurance for their visits, mainly because they worried about privacy or cost. (Doyle, 6/17)
Many Surgical Readmissions Can't Be Blamed On Hospitals
When too many surgery patients come back to a hospital after being sent home, the hospital can be fined by the federal government. But a new study suggests many of those so-called readmissions are not the hospital's fault. Many readmissions were due to issues like drug abuse or homelessness, the researchers found. (Seaman, 6/20)
Many Patients At Risk For Stroke Get Wrong Medicine
More than a third of patients with a heart rhythm problem that can cause a stroke are incorrectly given aspirin instead of the blood-thinning medications they need to make this complication less likely, a U.S. study suggests. (Rapaport, 6/20)
A selection of opinions on health care from around the country.
Republicans Have A Shot At Replacing Obamacare
Would the Republican plan work? Define “work.” If this plan passed, could it operate roughly as described? Probably, yes. I would have some worries about adverse selection with the mandate gone -- but given that being able to obtain cheap coverage in the future relies on obtaining it now, not that many worries. Of course, the numbers are not very specific, so we don’t know how much it would cost. (Megan McArdle, 6/23)
Republicans Find A Key To Dismantle Obamacare
Paul Ryan has gotten his often fractious House Republicans to endorse an outline of a plan to replace Obamacare, although not yet an actual piece of legislation. While the outline contains many of the health policies conservatives sought even before Obamacare, those policies may have particular appeal against the backdrop of the health-care system Obamacare has created. (Ramesh Ponnuru, 6/23)
Los Angeles Times:
Cutting Healthcare Costs Shouldn't Be This Painful
This is yet another example of the lack of transparency in medical pricing, and the fact that hospital charges for routine tests and procedures can be orders of magnitude more expensive than those of specialized clinics – although patients typically will find that out only after they’ve paid their bill and realize they’ve been fleeced. (David Lazarus, 6/24)
The Wall Street Journal:
Will House Republican Health Proposal And Trustees’ Report Make Medicare A Factor In Election?
Two things happened this week that could heighten Medicare’s visibility in the coming election cycle. So far Medicare has not been one of the major health-care issues in the presidential campaign. Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump has talked about it much. The former secretary of state has discussed the idea of a Medicare buy-in for the near-elderly, but that’s been mentioned more as a way of strengthening the Affordable Care Act, not reforming Medicare. Meanwhile, Medicare faces serious long-term challenges, including how to finance care for an aging population, ensure its solvency in the future, fill gaps in coverage, and address cost-sharing burdens that can be onerous for its mostly lower- and moderate-income beneficiaries. But more attention may be coming, thanks to this week’s events. (Drew Altman, 6/24)
The Washington Post:
It’s Us Against Zika — Whose Side Is Congress On?
In the very early morning hours Thursday, Republicans who control the House pushed through a bill to combat the Zika virus that is a totem to their favored causes and a poke in the eye of Democrats. More than four months after President Obama requested nearly $1.9 billion in emergency funding to deal with a public-health emergency, the House voted for $1.1 billion but saddled it with unnecessary partisan baubles. This may further delay action against the mosquito-borne virus that can cause severe fetal birth defects. (6/23)
The Wall Street Journal:
Please Don’t Take Away My Autistic Son’s Treatment
Though they have never met my son David and have no information about his specific diagnosis or care, bureaucrats at the Food and Drug Administration are endangering his life by proposing to stop the one treatment that has allowed him to lead a happy life that includes learning, socializing and having loving relationships with his family. (Paul E. Peterson, 6/23)
The Des Moines Register:
Iowa Can't Afford To Wait For Mental Health Reform
State policymakers and elected officials have long acknowledged that when it comes to mental health services, Iowa fails almost every conceivable test. A 2015 report estimates there are 120,000 people in Iowa with a serious mental illness, but only about 300 psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants who can prescribe medication. Iowa now ranks last among the states in terms of the available state psychiatric beds. (6/23)