What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.
Minnesota STD Cases Hit Record High Number
Minnesota health officials say sexually transmitted disease cases in the state rose to a record level in 2017. Overall the number of cases in Minnesota jumped 8 percent last year. Via MPR.
For the First Time in Years, New Groups May Vie to Run Organ Transplant Network
For 32 years, the nonprofit United Network for Organ Sharing has held the federal contract to run the complex U.S. transplant system, a round-the-clock operation that matches donated organs with the sick people who need them. The Richmond-based UNOS has grown substantially and become more entrenched as transplantation has expanded. It collected nearly $58 million in revenue in 2015, according to federal tax records. But it has not faced competition from any other bidder since before 2005. Via Washington Post.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Opens First Airport Health Center
Travelers and employees at Sky Harbor Airport will soon have a new health care option. Phoenix is believed to have the nation's first airport health center. It’s called USCareWays, and it’s expected to open to the public late this week. Located inside Terminal Four, the center will provide certain vaccinations, prescriptions, and lab tests, among other services. Non-life threatening conditions like ear infections, colds, coughs, sprains, and cuts can be treated on a walk-in basis. Via KJZZ.
Anxiety Relief without the High? New Studies on CBD, a Cannabis Extract
As more states legalize marijuana, there's growing interest in a cannabis extract—cannabidiol, also known as CBD. It's marketed as a compound that can help relieve anxiety—and, perhaps, help ease aches and pains, too. Part of the appeal, at least for people who don't want to get high, is that CBD doesn't have the same mind-altering effects as marijuana, since it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of the plant. Via NPR.
Addictive Opioids Still Overprescribed after Surgery
Doctors continue to prescribe far too many opioid painkillers to patients following surgery, a new study indicates. In fact, one of every three patients prescribed an opioid, such as Oxycontin, didn't take a single pill during their recuperation, said lead researcher Elizabeth Habermann, Ph.D. She is Scientific Director for Surgical Outcomes at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Via U.S. News.
Minnesota Alcohol Use among Students Dropping Since 2001, According to Analysis
The perception that most high school kids drink alcoholic beverages isn't true, the Minnesota Department of Health reports. And it's less true now—much less true—than it was at the beginning of the century. Via Duluth News Tribune.
NIH Abruptly Changes Course on Industry Opioids Partnership after Ethics Flags Raised
It’s been touted by health officials for almost a year: a planned opioids research partnership worth roughly $400 million. Ideally, the National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical industry would each pick up half the tab, NIH Director Francis Collins has said, to fund research aimed at addressing the opioid epidemic. Collins reiterated last month: Dozens of drug companies were on the verge of teaming up with the agency, which researchers hope will lead to the discovery of new medicines to treat addiction or serve as alternatives to opioids. Via STAT.
U.S. Regulators Float Ideas for Boosting Medical Device Safety
U.S. health officials proposed steps to improve the government’s system for overseeing medical devices, which has been criticized for years for failing to catch problems with risky implants and medical instruments. The plan from the Food and Drug Administration includes few immediate changes, but lists a number of ideas and proposals with the goal of improving safeguards on pacemakers, artificial joints, medical scanners, and other devices. Via AP.
As Opioid Prescriptions Fall, Prescriptions for Drugs to Treat Addiction Rise
The number of new monthly prescriptions for medications that treat opioid addiction nearly doubled over the past two years, according to new data, while prescriptions for opioid painkillers continued to decline. The changing calculus reflects a stepping up of efforts among policymakers and the medical establishment to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, which is killing more than 115 people every day. But it also underscores questions about whether some pain patients are now being undertreated, and whether tightened prescribing over the last few years has contributed to the surge in overdose deaths from heroin and especially fentanyl. Via NY Times.
Hospitals Are Getting More Medicare Advantage Members
More than 3 million people are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that is owned by a hospital system or physician group, which is up more than 20% from 2015, according to an Axios analysis of federal data. Seniors are increasingly choosing Medicare Advantage instead of traditional Medicare, and hospitals want a piece of those Medicare Advantage dollars as their other revenues stagnate or grow slowly. Via Axios.