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Wednesday, May 17, 2017                                                                                                                              

The WannaCry ransomware attack Friday crippled computers in more than 150 countries and revealed health care and other service sectors as particularly vulnerable. It held records hostage at the UK’s National Health Service, causing doctors to cancel surgeries and other medical procedures. Computers with up-to-date security software weren’t affected. The swift and widespread attack underscores the need for cybersecurity vigilance and risk of operating outdated, unsupported software. (National Public Radio; The New York Times; Healthcare ITNews)

Aetna exited the last four Obamacare health care exchanges last week, making it the latest health plan to walk away entirely. At one time a participant in 15 states, Aetna dropped involvement to four last year and then to two last month. Aetna’s exit leaves Delaware and Nebraska with just one insurer, and there are rumblings much of Iowa may soon be left without a single insurance option in its ACA exchange. Instability and uncertainty about the future of the health care law, as well as financial losses in prior years, were reasons for the exit. (Bloomberg)

It’s the Senate’s turn to rework or devise its own ACA repeal plan, and Republican senators disagree on how to handle insurance regulations and Medicaid. Many states took advantage of Medicaid expansion by adding clinics or shifting costs, allowing 11 million more people to have insurance, but loss of that funding threatens the future of benefits. Possible solutions include withdrawing expansion, keeping it (perhaps in a different form), and creating a new tax credit or a stabilization fund. (The Hill; The Wall Street Journal)

The VA is chomping at the bit to expand its burgeoning telemedicine practice, but state-by-state medical licensing requirements hold it back. Legislation is needed to bring about change: “We really need to be authorized to deliver care to a veteran in any location: libraries, post offices or academic sites, or any private site where a veteran can come for care,” says the VA’s Kevin Galpin, MD. The agency is asking Congress to invoke the supremacy clause to override state licensing laws so the VA can make better use of specialists and reduce wait times for veterans to get needed care. (Federal News Radio)

Where you live could add 20 years to your life, according to new research published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Summit County, Colo., home to many ski resort towns, boasts the highest life expectancy at 86.8 years, while counties including Native American reservations in North and South Dakota have the lowest. For children under the age of 5, all counties show a decline in the risk of early death, while 11.5 percent of counties show an increased risk of death among those ages 25 to 45. (CNN)

Hellenic American Academy in Lowell, Mass. recognized Jean McCarthy for 71 years in nursing; she is the oldest practicing nurse in New England. McCarthy gives this advice to UMass Lowell nursing students: “Listen to the patient and see if they're afraid of something, or explain what you're doing and why. It's important to have communication with them. You're so busy, but you have to take time to take care of the clients.” (Lowell Sun)

Am I included? The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an online tool for clinicians to determine whether they must participate in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) this year. About 800,000 clinicians won’t be participating, an increase from the estimate in the final rule. (Modern Healthcare; tool)

States get three more years to implement rule: Federal standards requiring states to find ways to deliver care to Medicaid enrollees in home and community-based settings will take effect in 2022 instead of 2019. The rule requires states to provide opportunities for enrollees to engage in community life, control their own money, and seek employment in competitive settings. It also ensures that enrollees in group homes and other residential settings get more privacy and housing choices that include places where non-disabled people live. (Kaiser Health News)

In 2001, Jeff Merkley, now one of Oregon’s senators, started fighting for a database his state's residents could use to research complaints and ratings of long-term care facilities. His passion came from personal experience with his father. In May 2008, a site finally went live but, even now, it’s far from complete.  Lacking 60 percent of all substantiated complaints and difficult to find on the state’s Aging and Disability Resource Connection website, the site is far from providing consumers a full picture. “To be able to make an accurate decision, they have to know what the record is,” Merkley said. (OregonLive)

MarketVoices...quotes worth reading

“We need to figure out a program so we can remote-in that care or do a hybrid model where we bring in some in-person and some remote care. And at our rural sites, if you lose one of your primary care providers, we don't want to wait six months to a year to get someone else in there." -- Kevin Galpin, MD, executive director of telehealth services in the Veterans Health Administration, in testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee.


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