A Texas federal judge will allow Democratic attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia to intervene in a lawsuit (led by Texas and backed by 20 Republican state attorneys general) against the federal government to strike down all or part of the Affordable Care Act. The suit was spurred by Congress’ repeal of the individual mandate penalty. Without the penalty, the mandate is no longer a tax—which was the basis for the courts upholding its constitutionality in the first place. (Health Affairs blog)
In what appeared to be a surprise to him, Acting Veterans Administration Sec. Robert Wilkie was informed by Pres. Donald Trump during a press briefing that he was the new nominee to lead the agency. Wilkie, who also serves as undersecretary of personnel and readiness in the Department of Defense, must officially vacate his position as acting VA administrator during the nomination process. Wilkie doesn’t hold a medical degree—his graduate studies were in law—but he is a veteran. (Bloomberg News;HealthExec; Fayetteville Observer)
Do you subscribe to H2RMinutes? Get the top stories of the week in health care transformation with a free subscription here.
Free, healthy food was the prescription for an average two-point reduction in HbA1c counts for Geisinger diabetes patients. The health plan embedded two food insecurity statements within the medical record protocol for patients with type 2 diabetes and referred qualifying patients to its Fresh Food Farmacy program that provides diabetes-appropriate food for two meals a day, five days a week. Geisinger realizes an average $8,000-$12,000 cost savings per patient HbA1c percentage point. (MedPageToday[login required])
Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente announced it’s committing up to $200 million over the next two to three years to address housing stability and homelessness. Through its Thriving Communities Fund, the integrated health network will initially focus on those whose housing is affected by rapidly changing communities and those who need supportive housing in the eight states it serves. Kaiser is partnering with a coalition of mayors and CEOs on the project, designed to impact community health through adequate housing. (CityLab; announcement)
A reporter from a Chicago television station decided to test the accuracy of a range of direct-to-consumer genetic test vendors by sending in his own DNA sample—and that of his golden retriever, Bailey. Although most of the big-name vendors sent Bailey’s sample back as unreadable, one did not. Orig3n specializes in tests to determine characteristics like strength, intelligence and speed. Bailey’s DNA merited a 7-page report from Orig3n that overlooked the fact that he wasn’t human but noted he would be good at sports like boxing and basketball. One recent study found that up to 40 percent of DTC genetic tests provide incorrect readings in the raw data; the fine print often notes that findings are not validated for accuracy or intended for medical use. (Becker’s Health IT & CIO report; ScienceDaily).
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services clarified its stance on contractual gag clauses that prevent pharmacists from telling patients the most inexpensive way to pay for drugs. In the letter to Medicare Part D providers, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said its existing policy requires plan sponsors to ensure enrollees have all the information they need to pay the lowest price, even if it’s not through their health plan. Pharmacy benefit managers sometimes include clauses in contracts with pharmacies to prevent them from telling patients that a drug could cost less if they just pay cash instead of going through their insurance plan. (Healthcare Finance)
Epic Supreme Court decision:The Supreme Court ruled this week that employers may require employees to resolve individual wage-and-hour claims through arbitration rather than collective action. While the decision has broad national application to employers, it all started when a technical writer at electronic health record giant Epic Systems alleged the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act when it failed to pay him and other employees overtime. (Healthcare IT News)
Sisters have a say:Big mergers are becoming the norm in health care these days, with the Federal Trade Commission often weighing in on whether they unduly dilute market competition. When mergers involve hospitals and health systems affiliated with the Catholic Church (about 8 percent of hospitals), they also require approval from governing nuns, bishops and, occasionally, the Vatican. Red flag issues for the Catholic Church: its prohibition of medical care it considers immoral, such as abortion, sterilization and physician-assisted suicide. (The Wall Street Journal [subscription may be required])
Iora completes $100M venture capital round:Primary care provider group Iora Health announced it secured growth funding to the tune of $100 million. The group plans to expand the number of physician practices and will likely continue to focus growth on the Medicare market. Iora will invest more in its care coordination technology software, too. (MedCityNews)
The City Health Dashboard is a publicly available tool that allows policy makers and planners to gain insight into 36 measures for health and the social factors that shape health for 500 U.S. cities (representing about one-third of the U.S. population). Developed by New York University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Health, it looks at clinical factors like obesity and chronic disease, but also incorporates community factors like housing affordability, school quality and violent crime rates. The intent is to equip cities with a one-stop shop for reliable data to build healthier communities. (HealthIT Analytics; City Health Dashboard)
“Many of the communities we serve are grappling with some of the highest rates of housing insecurity and homelessness in the United States. As a family physician, I’ve provided medical care to the homeless, and have seen first-hand the impact that living without a home can have on someone’s health.” Dr. Bechara Choucair, Kaiser Permanente’s chief community health officer, as quoted by CityLab.