WEEKLY E-BULLETIN


Consumer Reports Ranks Hospitals on Acquired Infections

Consumer Reports states in a new analysis that several high-profile teaching hospitals are not doing enough to shield patients from certain bacterial infections. The organization investigated nearly 2,000 hospitals and ranked 31 hospitals as low performers that failed to adequately protect patients against infections in which bacteria enters the bloodstream through a catheter. Consumer Reports listed 32 top performers as well, with Harvard-affiliated Mount Auburn Hospital and University of Chicago Medical Center among them. Overall, the report states that central-line infections have fallen by 50 percent since 2008. Click here for the report.

Major Health Care Bill Passes House, Senate Likely to Pass this Week

The Senate will take up legislation today that passed the House of Representatives last week called the 21st Century Cures Act, which is a revised version of the medical innovation package passed in the House last year. The bill increases opioid funding, overhauls mental health programs, and adjusts Medicare provider payments. The bill is expected to pass the Senate and the President is likely to sign it. Among the specific issues in the bill:

  • Continues Medicare payment under HOPD prospective payment system for services furnished by mid-build off-campus outpatient departments of hospitals;
  • $1 billion in grant funding for opioid abuse response projects and a separate legislative package seeking to overhaul mental health policies and boost treatment programs;
  • Retains and adds various telehealth, health information technology, and Medicare service delivery provisions; and
  • Extends the 25% rule waiver for long-term care hospitals through fiscal year 2017.
  • Forces more EHR interoperability (click here.)

 To review the full summary of the bill click here, the full bill language is available here.

Obamacare Repealed in January?  Then What?

The GOP-controlled Congress is planning to repeal Obamacare next month, but then phase-in over 3 years a replacement plan, according to various sources.  The repeal would not strip coverage from individuals immediately, but target programs for elimination to be replaced with a variety of new coverage approaches.  Click here for a NYTimes report.

  • What other major health care programs could be changed?  Click here for the Strategic Health Care’s team 2-pager.
  • The current CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt is urging the next administration not to undo 8 years of progress.  Click here.
  • The person nominated to be the next CMS Administrator, Seema Verma, is an expert in Medicaid policy and was the lead designer of Indiana’s Medicaid changes under Gov. Mike Pence.  Click here for a Health Affairs blog she co-wrote in August describing Healthy Indiana.

Emergency Visits Increasing for Drug Side Effects

There were four ER visits for adverse drug events per 1,000 individuals in 2013 and 2014, according to a new CDC study published in JAMA. More than one-quarter of those visits resulted in hospitalization and people over age 65 accounted for more than one-third of the visits for adverse drug events. Since 2005-2006, the proportion of ER visits for adverse drug events from blood thinners and diabetes drugs has risen, while the amount from antibiotics has decreased. To read the study, click here.

Over 2.1 Million Signed Up Through Healthcare.gov Since Open Enrollment

More than 2.1 million customers have picked a plan through HealthCare.gov since the Affordable Care Act open enrollment began on Nov. 1, and nearly one-quarter are new customers, according to CMS data released last week. Altogether, 1.6 million customers have renewed their coverage and roughly 520,000 shoppers have picked a new plan. Thirty-nine states use HealthCare.gov, but nearly 1 million sign-ups came from just four states — Florida, Texas, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. Enrollment may surge over the two next weeks ahead of the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1. The administration is expecting around 13.8 million people to sign up for plans during this enrollment season, which ends Jan. 31. Click here to view the CMS snapshot.

Experts Says Ambulances Should Be Safer

Ambulances have been involved in 4,500 crashes a year on average over a 20-year period, a third of which resulted in injuries, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. About 2,600 people a year were injured and 33 were killed. Some were drivers or ambulance crew members, some were patients and some were pedestrians, bicyclists or occupants of other vehicles. Safety and EMS experts say ambulances should be safer than cars and more like school buses, given that they’re transporting sick or injured people and workers caring for them. Click here for more.

Preventive Services Task Force Facing Increasing Criticism

House Energy & Commerce Republicans last week criticized the Preventive Services Task Force for a lack of transparency and cost considerations while promoting legislation that would amend the entity. A draft bill would require the task force to publish research plans to help its review of scientific evidence of the effectiveness of preventive services, make evidence reports and recommendations available for public comment, create a grading system for preventive care, organize a stakeholders board to give feedback to the task force. To review testimony and the draft bill, click here.

Supreme Court to Hear Religious Hospitals’ Pension Plan Dispute

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear a lawsuit challenging whether religious hospitals’ pension plans must meet federal standards. The court agreed last week to hear a trio of employee lawsuits against faith-based health systems challenging the organizations’ religious exemption from the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). The hospital employees claim that the exemption allows the faith-based nonprofits to dodge minimum funding and reporting requirements, putting their pensions in jeopardy. Federal appeals courts had refused to throw out the ERISA lawsuits against St. Peter’s Healthcare System, Advocate Health System and Dignity Health, prompting the hospitals to appeal the cases to the Supreme Court. For more on the cases from ABC News, click here.

Health Care Spending, $9,990 Per Person, Now Accounts for Almost 18% of U.S. Economy

According to new data from the CMS actuary’s office, U.S. health care spending grew by 5.8 percent in 2015 compared to 5.3 percent the previous year as more people became insured under the Affordable Care Act and prescription drug spending has continued to climb. Health care spending accounted for 17.8 percent of the nation’s economic output, slightly higher than in 2014 when it accounted for 17.4 percent. The nation’s uninsured rate dropped from 11.2 percent to 9.1 percent during the year. The spending uptick in 2014 and 2015 followed five consecutive years of historically low growth between 2009 and 2013. However, spending growth is still lower than in the early 2000s, before the onset of the recession. Click here for more from CMS.  Click here for a news analysis.

Top 1% Account for 22.8% of Total Health Care Spending

In 2014, the top 1 percent of persons ranked by their health care expenditures accounted for 22.8 percent of total health care expenditures, while the bottom 50 percent accounted for only 2.8.  Persons age 65 and older comprised 15.1 percent of the U.S. civilian noninstitutionalized population and accounted for 33.6 percent of total health care expenditures. In contrast, children under age 18 comprised 23.2 percent of the population and 10.2 percent of expenditures. While 14.4 percent of adults under age 65 were uninsured during 2014, this group accounted for only 5.7 percent of health care expenditures.  Click here for more information from AHRQ.

One Area Left in Florida as Designated Zika Zone

Zika infections in Florida have been reduced to one neighborhood in South Beach after state officials cleared a different area in Miami last week, CDC officials confirmed. No new Zika cases had been reported in the Little River neighborhood in the last 45 days. CDC officials are still advising pregnant women not to travel to South Beach however. Florida was the first state in the U.S. to report locally transmitted cases of Zika, with 185 cases so far. Click here for more from the CDC.

Secondhand Smoke Making Our Pets Sick

Secondhand smoke is not only harmful to people but it is making our pets sick as well, according to the FDA. Not only that, third-hand smoke, residues left on skin and clothes, as well as furniture, carpets, and other things where a smoker lives, pose a threat to our four-legged friends as well. Dogs, cats, and even birds and fish have been shown to develop lung cancer and lymphoma. Click here for more from the FDA.