August 8, 2019 | Canada to USA: Not so fast!

August 8, 2019


Partial expansion, waivers in jeopardy

CMS will no longer approve full funding for a partial Medicaid expansion by states. The agency announced the change when it turned down Utah’s request. Utah voters had approved full expansion in 2018, but lawmakers, citing cost, passed SB96, which repealed the initiative in favor of a more restrictive approach. Now that CMS has rejected phase two of that plan, some are again calling for full expansion. And they may get their way: Provisions in SB96 could automatically trigger a full expansion in January. (Healthcare Dive; Salt Lake Tribune)

Canada to USA: Not so fast!

Last week’s action plan from Health and Human Services represents the first steps to legalize drug importation of cheaper drugs from countries including Canada. But Canadian officials were surprised by the announcement and worry it would lead to shortages of some medications. Any importation plan will require Canada to sign off, and its Health Ministry has signaled resistance. (AP; Fierce Healthcare)


New AD blood test moves closer to reality

A new blood test appears to detect changes in the brain consistent with early Alzheimer’s disease (AD), according to research published in Neurology. Specifically, researchers report they can measure levels of the protein amyloid beta in the blood and use such levels to predict whether it has accumulated in the brain. When combined with age and genetic risk factor, the test is 94% accurate. (Science Daily; Neurology)

Targeted meal delivery could save millions

Medicare could save $57 million annually by delivering free meals to frail seniors after a hospitalization, according to a Bipartisan Policy Center report. The agency would have to spend about $101 million a year, but it would avoid over $158 million in costs from readmissions. These figures don’t take into account additional savings from avoided emergency department visits and nursing home admissions. Offering meals to every Medicare beneficiary would be cost-prohibitive, but targeting “a very, very sick group of people is how we were able to show…savings,” Katherine Hayes, health policy director for the center, tells the Associated Press. (AP; Bipartisan Policy Center report)


CEO pay soars, clinician pay stays relatively flat

Executive pay at nonprofit health care organizations continues to soar amid growing concern about cost of and access to care—and largely flat salaries for medical staff. This can erode public trust in health care organizations, Martin Makary, MD, MPH, of Johns Hopkins, tells Medscape Medical News. “What about the talent on the frontline, nurses and doctors? What about the clinicians and the staff at the hospital? Don’t we want the best bedside nurses? Don’t we want the best office staff picking up our phones and coordinating care for our practices?” (Medscape Medical News)

There’s (another) app for that

Anthem is rolling out a new smartphone app that will allow consumers--even those without insurance—to schedule and pay for medical visits, learn about potential diagnoses and text with doctors. For Anthem members, the app will be incorporated into other digital offerings. It’s part of a trend, according to the Wall Street Journal: Health insurers are “racing to roll out new digital tools that give them a deeper role in health care, aiming to reduce costs and improve convenience for consumers.” (Wall Street Journal)


Applying PTO to student debt: Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, in New York’s Hudson Valley, is allowing eligible employees to convert unused paid time off into an employer contribution of up to $5,000 per year to help pay off student loans. It’s one of the few hospitals offering such a plan. (Fierce Healthcare)

Unpacking the debates: Still trying to make sense out of the health care issues raised in last week’s Democratic debates? Fierce Healthcare offers top-line takeaways, while Kaiser Health News provides a news roundup. (Fierce Healthcare; Kaiser Health News


Solving medical mysteries in prime time

Chasing the Cure brings together a weekly live television broadcast with a 24/7 global digital platform to help people who are suffering from undiagnosed, misdiagnosed or uncured medical mysteries. A panel of top doctors will work alongside the audience to help crack patients’ cases. The show debuts tonight, Thursday, Aug. 8 on TNT, TBS and online. (Chasing the Cure)


“The idea, front and center, is to make it really easy. Otherwise people won’t use it.”—Allon Bloch, chief executive of K Health, the tech startup powering Anthem’s new app, quoted in the Wall Street Journal

Jorden Gunessever