A project of the Galen Institute

Issue: "Quality/Access"

Real World Data and its promise for medicine and research

Grace-Marie Turner, Galen Institute
Tue, 2014-07-29
"Better access to data about real world patient experience holds enormous potential to help achieve many of the goals of health reform, including improving the quality and delivery of medical care, reducing costs, and improving safety and outcomes by accelerating the knowledge base upon which the development of new treatments and cures relies. Capturing data about the actual experience of patients outside of the carefully controlled clinical trial setting – Real World Data – can help fill the knowledge gap between clinical trials and clinical practice. RWD offers a treasure-trove of information that could allow providers, innovators, health plans, researchers, and others in the scientific and medical communities to make faster, more efficient, and less costly advances in medical research and clinical treatment.

U.S. attorneys turn up heat on healthcare fraud

The Associated Press
Mon, 2014-07-28
"The top federal prosecutors from South Dakota and North Dakota say they have increased their efforts to fight healthcare fraud. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson of South Dakota said he has restructured his office to allow lawyers in the criminal and civil divisions to devote "significant time" to investigating medical fraud. He predicted it will be among the fastest-growing area of criminal investigation and wants his office to be in position to pursue increasing "complex and egregious" cases. "My advice to the medical community is to stay away from gray areas or outright fraud that wastes tax dollars, because we will be watching," Johnson told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. "The end result in many of these cases will be that the taxpayers get their money back with interest and penalties, and the medical professional loses their license." Johnson's office recently settled an alleged fraud case involving two doctors at Dakotas-based Sanford Health.

Limitations Of New Health Plans Rankle Some Enrollees

Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News
Mon, 2014-07-28
"Nancy Pippenger and Marcia Perez live 2,000 miles apart but have the same complaint: Doctors who treated them last year won’t take their insurance now, even though they haven’t changed insurers. “They said, ‘We take the old plan, but not the new one,’” says Perez, an attorney in Palo Alto, Calif. In Plymouth, Ind., Pippenger got similar news from her longtime orthopedic surgeon, so she shelled out $300 from her own pocket to see him. Both women unwittingly bought policies with limited networks of doctors and hospitals that provide little or no payment for care outside those networks. Such plans existed before the health law, but they’ve triggered a backlash as millions start to use the coverage they signed up for this year through the new federal and state marketplaces.

Republicans Will Run On An Obamacare Replacement in 2016 – Will Democrats?

Ben Domenech for Morning Consult
Sat, 2014-07-26
"The decision in the Halbig v. Burwell case this week was an unexpected legal boon to opponents of Obamacare. Spearheaded by the Cato Institute’s Michael Cannon and law professor Jonathan Adler, the case will almost certainly lead this debate about the text of the Affordable Care Act back to the Supreme Court. My colleague Sean Davis has written a comprehensive piece on the case, particularly on the nature of the supposed “drafting error” at its core. But whatever the ultimate outcome for Halbig, the case serves as a reminder of the uneven ground on which Obama’s health care law is likely to be standing over the next two years.

Varying health premium subsidies worry consumers

Kelli Kennedy, The Associated Press
Sat, 2014-07-26
"MIAMI (AP) -- Linda Close was grateful to learn she qualified for a sizable subsidy to help pay for her health insurance under the new federal law. But in the process of signing up for a plan, Close said her HealthCare.gov account showed several different subsidy amounts, varying as much as $180 per month. Close, a South Florida retail worker in her 60's, said she got different amounts even though the personal information she entered remained the same. The Associated Press has reviewed Close's various subsidy amounts and dates to verify the information, but she asked that her financial information and medical history not be published for privacy reasons. "I am the kind of person the Affordable Care Act was written for: older, with a pre-existing (condition) and my previous plan was being cancelled. I need it and I'm low income," said Close, who has spent more than six months appealing her case. "The government pledged to me that original tax credit amount. It's crazy."

Obamacare Help Was In High Demand, Survey Shows

Kaiser Health News
Wed, 2014-07-23
"Most working people in the U.S. sign up for health insurance in a very straightforward way: a few forms, a few questions for human resources, a few choices of plans. Signing up for Affordable Care Act insurance was nothing like that. It involved questions about income, taxes, family size and immigration status. And in most places in the country, there were myriad choices of plans with subtle differences between them. Guess what? People looked for help on the decision. During the Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, about 10.6 million people received personal help from navigators and other enrollment assisters, according to an online survey of the programs released Tuesday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) And the assistance was time consuming: 64 percent of the programs reported that they spent an hour to two hours with each consumer on average.

Obamacare: Anger over narrow networks

Brett Norman, Politico
Tue, 2014-07-22
"Anger over limited choice of doctors and hospitals in Obamacare plans is prompting some states to require broader networks — and boiling up as yet another election year headache for the health law. Americans for Prosperity is hitting on these “narrow networks” against Democrats such as Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, whose GOP opponent Scott Brown has made the health law a centerpiece of his campaign to unseat her. And Republicans have highlighted access challenges as another broken promise from a president who assured Americans they could keep their doctor. It’s not just a political problem. It’s a policy conundrum. Narrow networks help contain health care costs. If state or federal regulators — or politicians — force insurers to expand the range of providers, premiums could spike. And that could create a whole new wave of political and affordability problems that can shape perceptions of Obamacare."

Medicare Isn’t Fixed

James Capretta for National Review Online
Fri, 2014-07-18
"Medicare spending growth will be slow again in 2014 relative to historical standards, and some of the usual suspects are now crediting the Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — for the good news. For instance, a recent post at Vox suggests that the slowdown in Medicare spending can be attributed, in part, to the ACA’s provision penalizing hospitals for excessive readmissions of previously treated patients. This is nonsense. At the time of the ACA’s enactment in March 2010, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the readmission provision would reduce Medicare spending by $0.3 billion in 2014, and only $7.1 billion over a decade. That’s about one tenth of 1 percent of total Medicare spending over that time period. There has been no information from any source since 2010 suggesting that the savings from the readmission provision has escalated into a major cost-cutting reform.

Seattle Providers Mostly Keep Up With More Insured, But Worries Loom

Lisa Stiffler, Seattle Times
Thu, 2014-07-17
"The fear was this: The Affordable Care Act would give massive numbers of people new access to health care, creating a surge in demand for medical services and long waits to see the doctor. But in the seven months since new insurance plans began kicking in, Puget Sound-area, Washington, primary-care providers so far seem to be keeping up with growing numbers of patients. The question now is, can they keep ahead of the demand as the formerly uninsured continue seeking care, and as baby boomers age and a sizable fraction of Washington’s physicians retire."

Specialty Care Is A Challenge In Some ACA Plans

Carrie Feibel, Houston Public Media
Thu, 2014-07-17
"Primary care doctors have reported problems making referrals for patients who have purchased some of the cheaper plans from the federal insurance marketplace. Complaints about narrow networks with too few doctors have attracted the attention of federal regulators and have even prompted lawsuits. But they’re also causing headaches in the day-to-day work of doctors and clinics. “The biggest problem we’ve run into is figuring out what specialists take a lot of these plans,” said Dr. Charu Sawhney of Houston. Sawhney is an internist at the Hope Clinic, a federally qualified health center in southwest Houston, in the bustling heart of the Asian immigrant community. Her patients speak 14 different languages, and many of them are immigrants or refugees from places as far flung as Burma and Bhutan. Most of her patients are uninsured, which means she is familiar with problems of access. But the limited options of some of the HMOs sold on the marketplace surprised even her.

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