August 14, 2017

Mayo, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Leads U.S. News Best Hospitals Rankings

In their 28th year, the rankings and ratings compare more than 4,500 medical centers nationwide in 25 specialties, procedures and conditions. This year a total of 152 hospitals were nationally ranked in at least one specialty. U.S. News also recognized 535 Best Regional Hospitals, ranking them by state and metro area based on their performance in both complex and common care.

  • Click here for the list of the top 610 hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery.
  • Click here for the 895 top cancer hospitals.
  • Click here for the 1,640 top orthopedic hospitals.
  • Click here for additional lists and information about rankings methodology.

ACA Repeal, Replace and Repair Efforts Continue During Recess

Reps. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Tom MacArthur (R-NJ) are in talks for a bill that would stabilize ObamaCare markets. The measure would fund key exchange subsidy payments known as cost-sharing reductions, possibly in exchange for expanded flexibility favored by conservatives for states to waive ObamaCare regulations through broadening an existing provision known as 1332 waivers. Click here for the report.

  • The same Rep. Meadows, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), and other members of the Freedom Caucus filed a discharge petition on Friday to repeal Obamacare. Now that the discharge petition is on the floor, House members will start gathering the necessary signatures to force the House to vote on the legislation. It requires 218 signatures. Click here for details.

Americans Want ACA Fix Over Repeal: Poll

According to the latest tracking poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation, most Americans believe it is a “good thing” that Senate Republicans failed in their effort to pass legislation repealing the Affordable Care Act last month. Six out of 10 respondents indicated that they are glad the bill failed, compared to just 35 percent who expressed disappointment that it wasn’t passed. Most favor a bipartisan approach to improving the ACA, with 57 percent indicating that’s the best approach and only one in five respondents want Republicans to continue working on their own plan. Click here to see the polling data.


1 in 8 Americans Is an Alcoholic: Study

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry finds that the rate of alcohol use disorder, or what’s colloquially known as “alcoholism,” rose by a shocking 49 percent in the first decade of the 2000s. One in eight American adults, or 12.7 percent of the U.S. population, now meets diagnostic criteria for alcohol use disorder, according to the study. Click herefor details.


Developments in the War Against Opioid Addiction

  1. Opioid mortality rate changes were considerably understated in in some states, according to a new study, however they were dramatically overestimated in others. The response to the opioid epidemic and particularly identifying regional disparities in overdose deaths has been complicated by the fact that up to 25-percent of all death certificates do not specify the drug responsible for the fatality. Researchers state that the there are more significant jumps than previously reported in opioid-linked deaths in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey and Arizona and in heroin deaths in Pennsylvania, Indiana, New Jersey, Louisiana and Alabama. To read the full report, click here.
  2. One in 12 physicians, including nearly 1 in 5 family medicine doctors, have accepted payments from drug companies that sell opioid prescription painkillers.  Click here for more.
  3. Physicians who graduated from lower-ranked medical schools prescribe nearly three times as many opioids per year as those who attended top-tier institutions, according to a new study.  Click here.
  4. To confront rising rates of abuse of the medicines, at least 17 states are placing tight restrictions on the number of powerful prescription painkillers doctors can prescribe. The moves have raised concern among some physicians. Click here.

Exchange Insurers Get Filing Extension in Most States

Insurers will have an additional three weeks to finalize their premium rate requests for policies sold on the federal exchanges in 2018, CMS stated in a Thursday filing. Insurers now have until Sept. 5 to finalize their rate requests, the previous deadline was Aug. 16. That will give insurers that are uncertain about the future of the marketplaces an additional time to make decisions about products and pricing for plans they expect to sell on States that run their own exchanges can also delay the filing deadline. The current deadline for signing final contracts for 2018 participation is Sept. 27, with open enrollment scheduled to begin on Nov. 1. Click here for CMS’ filing memo.

  • State insurance commissioners are working on alternative plans should the Trump Administration cut the subsidies. Click here for the report.

Exchanges Show Large Premium Hikes Nationwide

Americans buying insurance from the marketplace for 2018 could see double-digit premium increases in some regions, according to a new analysis, though some consumers could actually find themselves paying less next year because of federal tax credits. According to the analysis, a single adult making $30,000 a year and purchasing a plan on the exchange would actually pay 3 percent less, when considering the tax credit, in 2018 compared to this year in all 21 cities. Click here for the analysis.

  • What are the financial effects of eliminating the exchange subsidies on the federal budget?  The CBO will release a report this week.

Bipartisan Health Expert Group Makes Recommendations to Congress

A bipartisan group of health policy experts, the newly formed Health Reform Roundtable, has drafted recommendations for Congress to pursue in the wake of the failed Affordable Care Act repeal and replace effort. Broadly, the experts suggested five categories of policy ideas to improve the ACA and maintain coverage for millions of patients including: reauthorize of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), stabilize Obamacare markets, pursue more tools to encourage Americans to sign up for health insurance, increase state flexibility and expand the use of health savings accounts. Click here to read the recommendations and view the members of the panel.

  • The American Heart Association is weighing in with 12 other patient groups with their recommendations on fixing the ACA.  Click here for that.

MIPS Considered Top Regulatory Burden by Physicians

Physician practices are racking up dollars trying to comply with new and existing federal regulations, according to a new Medical Group Management Association survey. Nearly half of the 750 group practices surveyed said they spend more than $40,000 per full-time physician each year, directly or indirectly, to comply with federal regulations,

The most burdensome regulation? It’s Medicare’s new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) program, cited by 82% of respondents as “very” or “extremely” burdensome. Medical groups cite clinical relevance to patient care (80%) as their top MIPS concern. Click here for the report.


New Problem Facing Cancer Research:  Not Enough Patients for Clinical Trials

With the arrival of two revolutionary treatment strategies, immunotherapy and personalized medicine, cancer researchers have found new hope — and a problem that is perhaps unprecedented in medical research. There are too many experimental cancer drugs in too many clinical trials, and not enough patients to test them on. Click here.


Dementia Risks Increased for Patients with Cardiovascular Issues

An new NIH-funded study suggests a link between cognition functions and cardiovascular health. The study suggests that middle-aged Americans suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and other risk factors have a greater chance of suffering from dementia later in life. In particular, researchers discovered a link between dementia and pre-hypertension, a condition in which blood pressure levels are higher than normal but lower than hypertension. Additionally, researchers state that race did not influence the association between dementia and the vascular risk factors they identified. Click herefor details.


GAO Names 15 to the Health Information Technology Advisory Committee

The Governmental Accountability Office has released the 15 appointments to the HIT Advisory Committee, which is tasked with making policy recommendations to advance an inter-operable health information technology infrastructure. Click here for more from GAO about the Committee and view the appointments.


Class Action Suit Filed Against CVS Suggesting Collusion

A new class-action lawsuit was filed against CVS Health alleging that the company knowingly colluded with third party pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) to increase profits and drive up the cost of generic prescription drugs. The lawsuit, Schultz v. CVS Health Corp., was filed in the District Court of Rhode Island by CVS customer Megan Schultz who states she was charged $169 for a generic drug that would have cost only $92 had she not used her health insurance and instead paid in cash.  To read the suit, click here.

  • Rising prices on two heart drugs have caused hospitals to stop using them.  Click here for the study.

New 340B Registration System Expected in September

The Health Resources and Services Administration has announced that it expects the new 340B registration system to be released by mid-September. This will not include to the 340B ceiling-price verification component. HRSA notified users, and put on the registration website, that the current 340B Office of Pharmacy Affairs Information System (OPAIS) will be unavailable from Aug. 15 through mid-September as part of the transition to the new registration system. HRSA says it will begin to archive the information on the current 340B database in preparation for the release of the registration component of the new 340B OPAIS. To view the announcement on the HRSA website, click here.


Study Finds Delays in Rural EMS Response Time One in 10 EMS units did not reach an emergency scene within 30 minutes of the 911 call a recent study published in JAMA found. Longer EMS response times have been associated with worse outcomes in trauma patients, where even modest delays can be life threatening. Howard Mell, the study’s lead author, noted that, “when someone’s heart is not beating…when someone’s not breathing, any delay in care, even a minute – it’s proven to be detrimental.” That’s why 32 states have adopted legislation requiring high school students to be trained in CPR and use automatic electric defibrillators. In rural areas, while caring for the sick or injured is an EMS worker’s job, family and bystanders are often the first line of care. To read the study, click here.

  • ER Costs are skyrocketing, according to new reports, and patients are scrambling to pay.  Click here.

Best and Worst States for Health Care: Analysis

Hawaii, Iowa and Minnesota are at the top of the list of best states for health care, according to an new analysis from WalletHub.  Louisiana, Mississippi and Alaska are at the bottom of the list.  Click here to see all the states and how the rankings were complied.

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