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Wednesday, June 21, 2017                                                                                                                              

What's up with the health care bill?
The Senate’s health care legislation is being negotiated, and a few things are becoming clear. This week, NBC News published a guide to understanding what’s going on. Among the insights: The legislation will likely be similar to the House version, but a little less ambitious. It could pass before the July 4 recess, but it would require 50 of the 52 GOP senators to vote on it, which is iffy. Medicaid and how to deal with pre-existing conditions remain significant points of contention. (NBC News)

Wyman: Obamacare uncertainty may mean higher premiums
Insurer uncertainty over the future of Obamacare could mean premium increases of 28 to 40 percent for those using the insurance exchanges in 2018, according to a new study from Oliver Wyman. The firm also reports that, although most insurers (94 percent) expect to stay in the exchanges, 42 percent said they would leave if the federal government stops funding cost-sharing reduction payments. Insurers are worried that those payments -- worth $7 billion this year -- will cease due to congressional or administrative action, or because of a pending federal court case, CNBC reports. (CNBC; Oliver Wyman)

Merck and UnitedHealth Group’s Optum have announced a collaboration to advance value-based contracting for pharmaceuticals. The companies say they will use real-world data to develop and simulate models linking payment for prescription meds to patient health outcomes. Through a multi-year collaboration on a shared “Learning Laboratory,” the companies will explore value-based and pay-for-performance models and their potential for broad adoption among health insurers, pharmacy benefit managers and pharmaceutical companies. (Healthcare Dive; announcement)

FDA to launch Digital Health Innovation Plan
The FDA plans to launch a Digital Health Innovation Plan focused, according to Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, on fostering innovation at the intersection of medicine and digital health technology. “This plan will include a novel, post-market approach to how we intend to regulate these digital medical devices.” The FDA also intends to release new guidance for digital health products designed to provide more clarity for manufacturers. (FDA blog)

Seniors opting out of post-discharge care
Many seniors offered home health care when they’re being discharged from a hospital are opting out. One reason: They confuse home health care with “home care” delivered by aides who help people bathe, shower, etc.; home health care is delivered by medical professionals. Other reasons for refusals: A desire for privacy and unrealistic expectations of what recovery will entail. Seniors need to know what services will be provided, by whom, for how long and at what price. They also need to understand the potential benefits. (
Kaiser Health News)

GAO: VA pharmacy system needs improvements
The Department of Veteran Affairs needs to modernize its pharmacy system to improve patient safety, according to a Government Accountability Office report released last week. A key issue: interoperability. The VA pharmacy system was unable to electronically exchange prescription data with non-VA providers and pharmacies. (Becker's Hospital Review; GAO report)

Who's to blame for drug costs? With so many players to share the blame for high drug costs, how should reporters cover the issue? David Lansky, CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health, shares his perspective. (Center for Health Journalism)

Telehealth in Texas: This follows passage of Texas SB 1107, which removes the restriction that a patient-physician relationship must be established with an in-person visit before a telemedicine consult takes place. (Healthcare Informatics)

Kaiser Permanente's Pearl on medical error, preventable disease
Robert Pearl, MD, executive director and CEO, The Permanente Medical Group, is the author of Mistreated: Why We Think We're Getting Good Health Care-And Why We're Usually Wrong. In that book, he explores why hundreds of thousands of patients die each year from preventable diseases and medical errors -- and shares that one of them was his own father. In this video, he speaks to the Commonwealth Club of California. (YouTube)

MarketVoices...quotes worth reading

“Are high drug costs a policy problem, a market failure, or one of those odd and inexplicable artifacts of American culture? The answer, of course, is 'Yes, all of the above.'"David Lansky, CEO, Pacific Business Group on Health, in a blog post on the Center for Health Journalism site


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