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The Week’s Most Interesting Healthcare Reading (that you might have missed)

March 25, 2011
12:21 pm

The one year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act wasn’t the only significant healthcare news this week.  Here are links to some interesting and important reports you may have missed.

A study published in Health Affairs documents the savings generated by a major employer, Johnson & Johnson, as a result of employee wellness programs.

A new blood test is in development that can diagnose the risk of diabetes a decade before symptoms begin to appear.

On the subject of diabetes, Novo Nordisk and race car driver Charlie Kimball have teamed to launch a campaign urging patients to speak to their physicians about improved insulin delivery methods.

Could video games have a healthcare value?  Experts say they may help discover whether children have vision problems.

The Cleveland Clinic is taking advanced healthcare delivery concepts far beyond U.S. borders, bringing its expertise to Abu Dhabi.

Meet “Sammons Says,” Baylor’s new blog on cancer prevention, treatment & research.

Toasting the Indisputable

March 24, 2011
1:19 pm

There has been much ado made this week over the one year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.  And, just as was the case a year ago, controversy continues to rage over health reform.  Polls show the public continues to be divided on the issue and Congress is in a partisan deadlock over what the next steps should be in, depending on your point of view, ACA implementation, repeal or defunding.

This post isn’t about the controversy or the debate.

Instead, I want to call attention to one of the indisputably positive provisions of the health reform measure.  This week, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), created through the Affordable Care Act, launched its new website.  It’s more than just an informational site.  In fact, it’s a portal through which all participants in the healthcare system can submit ideas on how to improve U.S. healthcare to improve both quality and cost-effectiveness.  That’s the purpose of CMMI — to test new ideas aimed at providing better patient care in a more sustainable way.  It’s one of the aspects of health reform that, I believe, should be preserved and utilized to the fullest extent.

In fact, members of the Healthcare Leadership Council have already provided several examples of practices, tools and technologies that are, in fact, addressing both the quality and affordability of care.  We provided these to CMS administrator Don Berwick in the form of our HLC Value Compendium.  We’re working on an expanded volume of that compendium now with more metrics-supported case studies, as well as a Wellness Compendium with information on how HLC member companies and organizations are promoting better health and preventing disease.

The controversy over health reform will undoubtedly continue to rage on for some time.   Let’s just keep the quest for ideas on how to improve our healthcare system outside of the firing zone.

Making the “Donut Hole” Smaller

March 22, 2011
3:44 pm

According to a Department of Health and Human Services press release issued this week, nearly 4 million Medicare beneficiaries have received help with their prescription drug costs through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

In 2010, CMS issued seniors who reached the Part D donut hole a one-time, tax-free $250 rebate check, providing nearly $1 billion in out-of-pocket relief.

Beginning in 2011, biopharmaceutical research companies will provide Medicare Part D beneficiaries that reach the donut hole a 50 percent discount on their brand-name drugs. According to CMS, this will provide a cumulative $2 billion savings for enrollees this year.

In a statement today, Secretary Sebelius, announced that a similar number of Medicare beneficiaries are likely to enter the coverage gap in 2011 and will benefit from these ACA provisions that work to reduce and close the donut hole by 2020.

As I have said many times in this space, HLC has learned through its Medicare Today efforts that Part D has shown us that a public-private partnership can achieve a program that earns high approval among beneficiaries and continues to be a success story.

Governor Cuomo’s Bold Move

March 21, 2011
9:14 am

The state of New York is taking center stage in the effort to determine whether this country can bring much-needed improvements to our flawed medical liability system.

The state’s governor, Andrew Cuomo, is proposing a $250,000 cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases.  The idea emerged from the governor’s Medicaid reform task force, which also proposed an indemnity fund for brain-damaged infants.

Some may be surprised that a state with strong Democratic leanings would be proposing a serious tort reform measure, but New York has strong motivation to do so.  The state’s Medicaid program is in a state of crisis, with projections showing that it will account for over half of New York’s budget by 2020.  The governor’s medical liability recommendations would bring $700 million in Medicaid savings.

Plus, malpractice insurance rates in New York are unacceptably high.  New York hospitals are paying more than $1.5 billion in combined litigation-related expenses and soaring premiums threaten to make specialists like obstetricians and neurologists hard to find for New York patients.

This will be a gloves-off political brawl.  The American Medical Association has backed the governor’s measure.  The state’s trial bar association vigorously opposes it.  Republicans control the state Senate and have backed the liability reform proposal.  The Democratically-controlled state assembly has already dismissed the non-economic damages cap.

Let’s hope Governor Cuomo stands firm for his proposal.  New York and the nation need this important and essential progress.

The Week’s Most Interesting Healthcare Reading (that you might have missed)

March 18, 2011
12:06 pm

As we do every Friday, here are some of the more interesting, and important, healthcare stories of the week that may not have caught your attention:

•     In the effort to cut federal spending, the Center for Public Integrity reports that a target has been place on unspent economic stimulus dollars, including the funding dedicated to expansion of health information technology. 

•     It’s a tribute to the state of healthcare that life expectancy in America is up while the death rates from a plethora of illnesses are down. 

•     Employers are having an impact on their bottom line by investing in wellness

•     If you’re in the hospital, supplies may soon be brought to your room by a robot

•     Addressing one of the nation’s healthcare shortages, a growing number of medical students are planning to practice primary care.