The funding bill passed Monday in the Senate has longer-lasting impact than the three-week government funding provisions. It will extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program for the next six years. The bill also included a two-year suspension of the medical device tax, and the "Cadillac" tax on high-cost employer health benefit plans will be suspended through 2021. Both taxes are part of the Affordable Care Act. (
A consensus statement supported by six major health care organizations aims to make prior authorizations less burdensome. Among the tenets of the agreement is reducing the number of clinicians who need to get prior authorization, improving communication to reduce delays in care and accelerating adoption of national electronic standards for prior authorization. The agreement was signed by the American Hospital Association, America's Health Insurance Plans, American Medical Association, American Pharmacists Association, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association and Medical Group Management Association. (Becker’s Hospital Review; announcement)
When profit margins shrink for certain generic drugs, fewer manufacturers make them. The resulting shortages lead to much higher costs, and those put hospitals in a bind. Intermountain Healthcare is spearheading an effort to go into the drug manufacturing business, either by contracting with third-party manufacturers or making their own. About 300 hospitals, including Ascension, the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital group, are participating. (
The New York Times)
While a typical clinic hands a new patient a clipboard full of forms, Forward’s receptionist asks members if they prefer flat or sparkling water while they wait. And they don’t wait long. This concierge medicine startup challenges the status quo through one- to two-minute wait times, Apple Store-like décor, flat-screen EHR interfaces and AI-assisted medical records. Founder Adrian Aoun says Forward is not a substitute for insurance—just a supplement. (
The New Yorker)
Health care in rural areas suffers from limited resources, workforce shortages and provider isolation. The challenges can get a boost from technology, but problems are interdependent. Solutions should be, too, according to a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Reinventing Rural Health Care examines the current landscape and offers recommendations to improve access and reinvigorate rural health. (
US News and World Report;
Reinventing Rural Health Care)
Many clinicians are unable to confirm whether they’re exempt from the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, although quality reporting for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services program began Jan. 1. About half a million providers are expected to be exempt because of a new rule that excludes physicians who earn less than $90,000 a year from Medicare or who have fewer than 200 beneficiaries on the books. Physician groups have asked CMS to update its provider look-up tool or send letters confirming provider status. (
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Allscripts ransomware attack:EHR vendor Allscripts reported two of its applications were offline after its data centers were hit by ransomware Jan. 18. Some systems were still offline early this week. Allscripts wasn’t targeted specifically, the company says, and self-hosted customers weren’t affected—neither were Allscripts’ backup data systems. (
Becker’s Health IT and CIO Review)
Blame your brain for the sugar binge:A Japanese research team discovered that activating social stress neurons made mice crave more carbs and decrease their intake of fats. It’s the first study to unveil the brain’s role in food preferences, given a stressor. (
More than 12,000 Aetna members who take HIV medications will receive payouts totaling $17 million after the insurer settled a lawsuit this week.
In 2014 and 2015, Aetna sent letters in wide-window envelopes that revealed private HIV medication information. Some members had to move or lost their jobs because others could read the information without opening the letters. Aetna has agreed to change its practices to prevent a future such privacy breach. (
Kaiser Health News)
MarketVoices...quotes worth reading
"There's a common sense fairness element that I don't have to explain." – Anders Gilberg of the Medical Group Management Association, commenting on CMS's failure to let providers know if they are exempt from MIPS and its quality reporting requirements
—which began Jan. 1—as quoted by MedPage Today.