Saturday, February 28, 2015

Licensing Out-of-State Doctors: Half of Medical Boards Perform Poorly

Telemedicine embraces technologies as diverse as surgeons operating robots remotely, radiologists reading scanned images remotely, or psychiatrists conducting therapy sessions via videoconference. A new research article in the Telemedicine and E-Health Journal shows how difficult state regulatory barriers are making it for doctors to practice effective telemedicine.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Health Spending Chews Through A Weak Economy

Friday's second estimate of fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) confirmed what we pointed out from the initial estimate released on January 30: Health spending is chewing up more and more of the weakening economic recovery.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

The National Health IT Czar Does Not Need A Big Budget Hike

One overlooked “ask” in the President’s 2015 budget was a 25 percent hike in the budget of the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC). Admittedly, it is a small amount of money, $75 million. Nevertheless, it is a 25 percent hike in a budget that should be reduced.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

FDA Allows Direct-To-Consumer Genetic Tests

One year after a very public squabble with genetic-testing company 23andMe, the Food and Drug Administration has decided not only to allow 23andMe to directly market its genetic test to consumer as a diagnostic device, but to free other genetic-testing companies from pre-market review or prescription status.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

More Evidence We're Winning the War on Cancer

his blog has previously presented evidence of America’s remarkable success in the war on cancer. The factors leading to success included lifestyle changes (especially quitting smoking) as well as improved diagnosis and treatment.

New research looks only at diagnosis and treatment, and finds stunning improvements since 1990.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Milliman Explains Why Medicare Advantage Has Not Collapsed

Milliman, the actuarial consulting firm, has published a new report on the impact of the government’s cuts to Medicare Advantage. The report was sponsored by the Better Medicare Alliance, which announced that “seniors now face soaring maximum annual out-of-pocket costs” due to the cuts.

And yet, the purported cuts have not really bitten health insurers.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

States Are Bundling Social Services With Medicaid

NCPA recently published a study encouraging Congress to bundle payments to states for Medicaid with payments for other social services, proposing this reform as an adjustment to Representative Paul Ryan’s Opportunity Grants proposal.

New research from the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc. shows that states are already doing this through Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). One tool, used in Oregon, is the global budget.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Obamacare Health Plans Shun the Sick More In 2015 than 2014

A consistent theme of this blog is that Obamacare motivates health plans to shun the sick and attract the healthy. We often cite research from Avalere to support our case.

Avalere has done it again, with a study of how Obamacare plans place drugs for the most serious diseases, as HIV, cancer, and multiple sclerosis — on the highest drug formulary cost-sharing tier.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

GAO: Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Health Administration at High Risk for Waste, Fraud, Abuse

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has published its annual update of federal programs “that it identifies as high risk due to their greater vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement…”

Healthcare programs feature high on the list. Medicare, the entitlement program for seniors, and Medicaid, the joint state federal welfare program for low-income households, are longstanding members of the list; and the GAO notes that legislation will be required to fix them.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

21st Century Cures: Waking Up Dormant Drug Therapies

Representative Fred Upton, Chairman of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, recently released a discussion draft of legislative language for the 21st Century Cures Initiative. This initiative attempts nothing less than to “boil the ocean” of regulations and incentives that govern medical innovation in the U.S. The 400-plus-page draft rolls up a number of previously proposed bills (including an updated version of Representative Marsha Blackburn’s SOFTWARE Act, discussed in a previous Health Alert).

A large share of the draft incorporates legislation designed to improve the incentives for inventing new medicines, or finding new uses for old medicines. This is important, because we are facing a crisis in pharmaceutical innovation.

One of these is the Dormant Therapies Act, put forward by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO). This would give a “dormant therapy” 15 years of marketing exclusivity after approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), significantly more than currently exists.

Read the entire column in Forbes.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Is Obamacare Finally Juicing Healthcare Jobs?

Last week’s employment report showed good growth, and jobs in health care were a big part of it. Total nonfarm payroll increased by 257, 000, of which 38,000 (15 percent) were jobs in health care. Job growth in healthcare was 0.26 percent, month on month, versus only 0.17 percent for nonfarm, non-health jobs.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Health Savings Account Assets Up 25 Percent to $24 Billion

The 2014 Year-End Devenir HSA Research Report, which reports on Health Savings Accounts reports that HSA accounts rose to 13.8 million, holding over $24 billion, a year over year increase of 25 percent for HSA assets and 29 percent for accounts in 2014.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Obamacare's Tax Chickens Come Home To Roost

One of the worst aspects of Obamacare has nothing to do with health care directly: It is the harmful effect on the labor market caused by Obamacare’s crazy quilt of subsidies. Because these subsidies phase out with income, they create extremely high effective marginal income tax rates. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this will lead to 2 million fewer jobs in 2017 than would have existed without Obamacare.

Well, we file our tax returns for 2014, and the chickens from Obamacare’s first year are coming home to roost:

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

"Site-Neutral" Medicare Payments: A Good Idea From President Obama's Budget

Imagine that there are two providers of the same service. Their quality and timeliness are comparable. However, one provider charges significantly more than the other. In a normally functioning market, you would expect that the more expensive provider would have to significantly change its cost structure to stay in business.

What if the more expensive provider argued that it had higher overhead, and therefore needed and deserved to be paid more? He would be laughed out of the marketplace. Yet, this is exactly what happens in Medicare.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Health Technology Forum: DC Meetup March 11 Featuring "Spring Success Stories"

If you are in the Washington, DC area, please join the Health Technology Forum: DC for an event featuring local entreprensurs, including Kevin MacDonald of KitCheck, which has just raised $12 billion of Series B funding to continue to grow its cloud and RFID based medication tracking business.

More information and details are at Health Technology Forum: DC.

I look forward to seeing you there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Reward Medicare Patients For Saving Medicare Money

One of the most under-reported medical success stories in recent years has been the increase in medical tourism: traveling abroad to get high-quality care at a fraction of what it would cost in the United States.

The same Lasik eye surgery that might cost $4,400 here (for both eyes) is available in India, for example, for $500, according to the Medical Tourism Association. A heart-valve replacement that might cost $170,000 in the United States could cost less than $30,000 in Israel.

While going overseas for care isn’t for most people, it certainly should make us wonder why we don’t encourage Americans, especially Medicare recipients whose bills are largely paid by taxpayers, to at least shop around in their own states or communities.

Read the entire article at the Washington Post.

Get the Federal Government Out of the Electronic Health Records Business

In 2009, the federal government decided that doctors and hospitals were slow to take up electronic health records (EHR).  Isn’t everyone fed up with filling out forms and having his or her medical records filed in manila folders?  So the feds decided to dish out $30 billion to pay doctors and hospitals to install EHRs credentialed by a new government agency, the Office of the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology (ONC).
By July 2014, $25 billion of these payments had gone out the door.  Unfortunately, results indicate that this federal spending has perverted the natural adoption of EHRs, and may have even lowered the quality of care.
Read the entire article at The American Thinker.

The Administration Should Fully Disclose The Risks of Enrolling in Obamacare For 2015

More and more businesses are figuring out that continuing to offer health benefits puts them at a competitive disadvantage vis-à-vis firms who socialize the cost of health care by shifting their employees onto Obamacare exchanges. These crafty firms, however, probably don’t realize they are putting their employees at enormous risk. If they are operating in one of 36 states where Obamacare might come to a screeching halt in the second half of 2015, their workers could lose their subsidized Obamacare plans as early as July.

Read the entire column in The Hill.

Health Care Spending Is Up, Way Up

The economic data on health spending has been bouncing around like crazy in the age of Obamacare, so we must not read too much into one report. Nevertheless, the January 30 report on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) issued by the Bureau of Economic Analysis indicates that health spending has begun to race up again, despite moderate economic growth.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.

Relax: The FDA Will Not Regulate Things That Increase The Flow Of Your Qi

Qi, as I understand it, is a term in Chinese culture that refers to the life force or natural energy that flows in living things and, perhaps, the entire universe. Many Americans know about it through Chinese traditional medicine or martial arts. If you are a fan of such practices, you will be glad to learn that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently announced that it has no plans to regulate items which claim “to increase, improve, or enhance the flow of qi” as medical devices.

Read the entire column at Forbes.

Medical Device Excise Tax Kills Jobs, Obamacare Kills Many More

The sweet smell of success for the medical-device industry is wafting over Capitol Hill. News from Senator Orrin Hatch is that the Senate will take up repeal of the medical-device excise tax. This is a tax of 2.3 percent on most medical devices that was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act to fund Obamacare.

Read the entire column at NCPA's Health Policy Blog.