What’s New in Health Care Reform: Aug. 8

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.

Medicare Approves $4.8 Billion Raise for Hospitals

Medicare will pay hospitals $4.8 billion more in 2019, according to a final rule published by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. That's up from the $4 billion raise that was proposed in April. There's a lot of jargon to unpack in the rule, but hospitals will be mostly happy with the overall pay raise. Via Axios.

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Health Care Industry on Track for Massive Profits

With more than a week to go in the second-quarter earnings season, the health care industry has already banked more profits than any other quarter in the past year. Company after company has posted profits that have exceeded Wall Street estimates, and most firms have raised profit estimates for the rest of 2018. As of August 2, 85 publicly traded health care companies have amassed $47 billion of global profit on $545 billion of global revenue in the second quarter, according to company documents. Via Axios.

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Use of Prescription Opioids in U.S. Remains High

Use of prescription opioids remains high in the U.S., despite public health efforts and growing awareness of risks for abuse and overdose, a new study suggests. Over a decade, the proportion of adults being prescribed opioid medications has changed little, but dosages have continued to rise and are especially high among patients with permanent disability, researchers report in The BMJ. That was surprising to study leader Molly Moore Jeffery, Ph.D., of Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “You expect to see them using more, but it was bigger than I expected,” she said. Via Reuters.

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Rat Lungworm May Be More Common in U.S. Than People Think, CDC Says

A parasite called rat lungworm, which can get into people’s brains, has infected 12 people including toddlers in the continental U.S. in recent years, federal health officials said. And more cases may have gone unreported, because the parasite often does not cause severe symptoms, and it’s been found across several states. Rat lungworm made headlines last month after it infected two people in China who ate raw centipedes, but people living in the U.S. might catch it by eating snails or vegetables out of home gardens, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. Via NBC News.

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Some Bacteria are Becoming "More Tolerant" of Hand Sanitizers, Study Finds

New research published by Science Translational Medicine shows that several strains of these bacteria have begun adjusting to alcohol-based hand sanitizers. They're not resistant to the alcohol—at least, not yet—but they're becoming "more tolerant" of it, the authors write. That means the bacteria were able to survive for longer periods of time after being doused with alcohol. The researchers used different strengths of alcohol concentrations to combat the bacteria, starting with 23 percent. Eventually, at a 70-percent alcohol mixture, the bacteria were conquered. Typically, hand sanitizers are 60 percent alcohol. To make matters worse, many of these alcohol-tolerant bacteria are resistant to multiple drugs as well. Half of the strains the researchers studied cannot be treated with vancomycin, a last-line antibiotic. That means the bacteria are spreading more easily within hospitals, and there aren't many options for treatment. Via NPR.

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Re-Envisioning Rochester

As you drive into Rochester, one of the first things you notice is the veritable forest of cranes that dominate the skyline. Most of the construction activity is related to the Destination Medical Center (DMC), a 20-year, $5.6 billion project to position the city as a global destination for health and wellness. Now, five years since the project officially got underway, DMC is making headway, with its first approved building, a 20-story Hilton hotel, due to open next spring. DMC is the largest public-private economic initiative in Minnesota’s history and one of the largest in the country. Mayo Clinic first proposed DMC in 2010. Three years later, the state agreed to allocate $585 million for public infrastructure projects once $200 million in private investments were raised. Last year, DMC exceeded that goal by nearly $100 million. Via Twin Cities Business.

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Teens with Depression May Benefit from Collaborative Care Treatment

Using substance abuse and anxiety assessments at the enrollment of collaborative care treatment for depression can help identify teenagers with depression at risk for treatment failure, findings published in Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggest. “While collaborative care models are demonstrating success in treating depression in adults, few studies explore the use of collaborative care in pediatric populations with depression,” Alexander Ginsburg, M.D., from Mayo Clinic, and colleagues wrote. “Adolescent depression may be particularly well suited for collaborative care approaches because it has a high prevalence, confers profound morbidity and presents a substantial societal economic burden.” Via Healio.

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Belly Fat Linked to Cognitive Decline

In the largest study of its type, researchers conclude that having higher levels of belly fat in old age is correlated with a reduction in cognitive function. Are belly fat and cognitive performance linked? Dementias, including Alzheimer's, are a growing concern. As the average age of the population steadily rises, their prevalence increases. Currently, an estimated people worldwide are affected by dementia. This number is expected to rise to 75 million by 2030. Understanding the risk factors involved in these conditions is important; it gives us potential interventions to help reduce the risk of dementia developing as we grow older. One such risk factor is obesity. Earlier studies have demonstrated that adults who are overweight do not fare as well in memory and visuospatial tasks. However, whether this relationship continues into older age is not well understood. Via Medical News Today.

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Diet Hit a Snag? Your Gut Bacteria May Be Partly to Blame

Ever been on a diet but didn't hit your goal weight? Your gut bacteria may be part of the explanation. New research suggests the mix of microbes in our guts can either help—or hinder—weight-loss efforts. "We started with the premise that people have different microbial make-ups, and this could influence how well they do with dieting," explains Purna Kashyap, M.B.B.S., a gastroenterologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Via NPR.

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It’s an Addiction Crisis

If there were any doubt that opioids are the major health emergency of our time, two facts can put that doubt to rest: Of the approximately 64,000 overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, opioids were involved in about two thirds of them, and Opioid abuse has been deemed single-handedly responsible for lowering the overall life expectancy in the U.S. for the past two years. The data on drug overdoses, emergency room visits and admissions to treatment tell a different story, however: one that is more endemic, more varied and definitely more complicated than opioids and farther reaching than the Twin Cities. What the statistics indicate is that our state isn’t facing an opioid crisis as much as it is facing an addiction crisis, and the drug of choice—for now—is meth. Since 2009, treatment admissions for meth in Greater Minnesota have skyrocketed compared to opioids, including heroin. And while overdose deaths due to opioid use are at alarming levels, deaths due to meth use are on the rise, too. Via RuralMN.org.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.