RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 02/10/2016

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Opioid Crisis Puts Pharmacists on Front Line
John M. Glionna, Stat
The crisis has upended many lives. Pharmacists, however, are in an especially tough position, pulled between patients in dire need of relief and people addicted to opioids who will stop at nothing to get their hands on the drugs. More than 4 million Americans abuse prescription painkillers, federal data show, and such gnawing need has fueled a thriving black market.

Walgreens Rolls Out Drug Disposal Kiosks
Robert Channick, Chicago Trib
The initiative, announced Tuesday, will allow for the safe disposal of unwanted and expired medications, including opioids and other controlled substances, ensuring the drugs are not misused. The installation of kiosks began in California and will expand to 39 states this year, including Illinois.

Medicare Weighing Changes to Drug Payments
Zachary Tracer, B'berg
The U.S. is mulling changes to how the Medicare program pays physicians for administering expensive cancer drugs and other medications given in doctors’ offices, according to a memo from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

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The Budget & Health Care: A Quick Rundown
Timothy Jost, Health Affairs
On February 9, 2016, the Obama administration released its proposed budget for 2017. The 2017 budget includes a host of health care-related proposals, including new initiatives to increase access to mental health care, expand opioid abuse treatment, fight antibiotic resistance, address the Zika virus threat, and fund a “cancer moonshot.”

Big Questions Could Stall Senate Medical Bill
Mary Ellen McIntire, MC
A disagreement in the Senate over medical research funding is standing in the way of broad-based legislation that could match the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act.

Ruling Gives Hospitals Hope on RAC Appeals
Lisa Schencker, Modern HC
Hospitals persuaded a federal appeals court to give new life to their legal fight to force HHS to work more quickly through a backlog of disputed findings by Medicare's controversial recovery audit contractors. A lower court had dismissed the case in December 2014, saying the delay in processing RAC appeals wasn't unreasonable enough to elicit an order from the court and that HHS and Congress should work together to resolve the issue.

Silicon Valley's Big Problem with Health Care
Carolyn Johnson, Wonkblog
Zenefits is just the latest example of a high-flying startup trying to revolutionize the health-care space, only to discover along the way that Silicon Valley's philosophy of disruptive innovation can be more difficult to apply to health care than in the digital world. Silicon Valley's taglines usually involve transforming an industry and changing the world. But in health care, where life and death can hang in the balance, less thrilling matters such as licensing procedures can be everything. What Zenefits' tumult shows is how easy it is to break longstanding rules while trying to change how an industry works with outside-the-box thinking.

Untold Story about Middle-Aged White Mortality
Commonwealth Fund
Primarily attributing the rising death rates to an increase in suicides and substance abuse, Case and Deaton laid the foundation for additional research on the troubling trend. The New York Times picked up the mantle, reporting that white adults aged 25 to 34 are also dying younger -- mainly due to higher rates of suicide and substance abuse. But for middle-aged whites, there is more to the story.

Better Diets May Be Reducing Teen Health Risks
Maureen Salamon, HD
The severity of metabolic syndrome -- a cluster of health risk factors such as belly fat and poor cholesterol levels -- among U.S. teens has been improving, and researchers believe that healthier diets may be the reason why.

Calif. Costs for Undocumented Kids Could Rise
David Gorn, Calif. HL
The cost of providing full Medi-Cal benefits to immigrant children who are in California unlawfully could be significantly more than the state’s health care agency has projected, according to experts and advocates. That’s because state officials may have underestimated the number of kids who will be eligible for the program – though it’s hard to know precisely by how much.

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