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February 21, 2019

INDUSTRY NEWS

Over 50? Proposed bill would allow Medicare buy-in

It may not be “Medicare for All,” but three Democratic senators introduced a bill last week to allow those over age 50 to buy into Medicare. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said it’s not the kind of universal, single-payer coverage represented in the plan Sen. Bernie Sanders put forward as “Medicare for All” in his 2016 presidential run, but “I want to help people now.” Pollsters and candidates don’t always mean the same thing when they use the term “Medicare for All,” creating confusion on the 2020 presidential campaign trail. (Bloomberg; Kaiser Health News)

Verma: Claims data should follow the patient

A patient’s entire health record should be made available electronically when a patient changes health plans, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said last week, and Medicare will set the example. Verma announced a CMS project that will share Medicare claims data in a bulk format with accountable care organizations; it’s hoped that standards-based data configuration will allow software developers to tease out the information providers actually need. What’s envisioned is a health record that’s created at birth and includes information at every touch point with the health system. The idea is to put data in the hands of those who can keep patients healthy. "Let me be clear,” Verma said. “The idea that patient data belongs to providers or vendors is an epic misunderstanding. Patient data belongs to patients." (Healthcare Finance; CMS project announcement; CMS video)

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INNOVATION & TRANSFORMATION

Just 2 questions can ID alcohol risk in teens

Results of a two-question screening developed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism can accurately identify teens at risk for developing alcohol use disorders two and three years down the road. The related study, published in this month’s Pediatrics, indicates screening that takes less than a minute to administer in pediatric emergency rooms may identify future cases of alcohol use disorder, and resulting intervention could derail it.(2-Minute Medicine; Pediatrics)

Kaiser will waive tuition for newly-minted MDs

Kaiser Permanente health system will waive tuition for every student in its first five medical school graduating classes, following New York University School of Medicine’s similar move last year. By eliminating tuition—thus reducing future school debt—the integrated provider hopes to pivot more students to lower-paying primary care specialties. Nationally, three out of four medical students graduate with debt; the 2017 class reported a median $192,000 in debt.(The New York Times)

CONSUMERS & PROVIDERS

Younger patients prefer online access, more transparency

Patients born after 1997—the cohort known as Millennials and Generation Z—are much more likely to say they’re dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the effectiveness of treatment, convenience and transparency of care than patients in the Baby Boomer generation, according to a new survey of 2,000 adult consumers. They’re also more likely to demand online appointment capabilities than older generations, and they place more value on being able to communicate via secure email with a provider and re-order prescriptions online.(MarketWatch; Accenture 2019 Digital Health Consumer Survey)

WHO, Washington blame anti-vaxers for measles resurgence

Confirmed cases of measles worldwide this year have already outpaced last year’s numbers by more than 50 percent—despite availability of an effective, safe vaccine for the highly contagious disease. In wealthy countries like the United States and Europe, vaccination is losing ground because of medically baseless claims that vaccination causes autism. The outbreak has been severe in Washington state, where a philosophical exemption for vaccination is on the books; the governor declared a state of emergency last week. Lawmakers in Olympia are moving legislation that would remove the exemption there.(Economic Times; Seattle Times)

NEW & NOTED

Menopause may accelerate Alzheimer’s: Lower hormone production during menopause occurs in tandem with a slowdown in the brain’s metabolism. New research may link menopause to higher rates of Alzheimer’s disease, but age of the woman, timing and co-morbid risks make the findings complicated. (Wall Street Journal)  

Flu widespread in 48 states: Flu-like illness activity is high in 26 states and moderate to minimal in another 22, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Nearly 7,000 have been hospitalized for the flu this year, with 34 pediatric deaths reported. (Becker’s Hospital Review)

Syphilis rates rising with drug addiction: A significant intersection between drug use and syphilis is appearing among women and heterosexual men, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers say the link is not new; drug use spikes in general tend to coincide with higher syphilis transmission, too. (Kaiser Health News)

MULTI-MEDIA

Vaccination reluctance spreads socially

A medical anthropology focus on the measles outbreak in Washington state has produced an interesting hypothesis: parents decide against vaccination when they feel social pressure in that direction. In some Clark County, Wash., schools, the vaccination rates are lower than 40 percent (compared to a 78 percent average county-wide). That low rate may be driven by a desire to conform to a community where vaccination is regarded with skepticism, researchers say. (National Public Radio)

MARKETVOICES...QUOTES WORTH READING

“Rather than increase government control of healthcare decisions, this Administration has chosen to unleash the most powerful force for change in our country: The American people."-- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, in a CMS video. ,