RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 02/17/2016

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Agreement on Measures Tracking Doctors' Quality
Jordan Rau, KHN
The federal government and the insurance industry released on Tuesday an initial set of measures of physician performance that they hope will reduce the glut of conflicting metrics doctors now must report. The measures are intended to make it easier for Medicare, patients, insurers and employers to assess quality and determine pay.

Tax Suspended, Medical Device Firms Reap Savings
Mark Zdechlik, NPR
U.S. manufacturers of medical devices started 2016 with a windfall — a two-year suspension of a controversial tax on their revenue. Medical devices include a wide range of products and machines used in medical care, such as tongue depressors, endoscopes and MRI scanners, for example. Manufacturers say the tax on devices hurt their business. The Congressional Research Service estimates companies paid out $2.4 billion in 2014.

Community Health Has Surprise Q4 Loss
John Lauerman, Bloomberg
Business was hurt as fewer patients came to the hospital during a slow flu season. Total hospital admissions fell 3.6 percent from a year earlier, and fell 3.4 percent on a same-facility basis, Franklin, Tennessee-based Community Health said in a statement on Monday. Excluding certain items, the loss was 28 cents a share in the quarter, Community said in the statement. Net operating revenue fell 2.4 percent to $4.8 billion.

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Health Care Cases Arrive Soon for Supreme Court
Lisa Schencker, MH
There's not much more time to speculate about how the Supreme Court will handle healthcare-related cases without the late Justice Antonin Scalia. A number of them are fast approaching on the court's calendar, including one scheduled for arguments Tuesday. Legal experts say they expect the court will go ahead and hear those cases and others despite the conservative justice's unexpected death late last week.

Opioid Bill Will Provide Litmus Test for Senate
Caitlin Owens, Morn Cons
A bill authorizing grants for the nation’s opioid epidemic is heading to the Senate floor in the next couple of weeks, and its fate is already in question over queries about replacing the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The bipartisan measure could offer Senate Democrats their first chance to flex their muscles blocking legislation following Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s statement that no Supreme Court nominee will be confirmed until there is a new president.

More College Students Misusing ADHD Med
Kathleen Doheny, HealthDay
College students aiming for an academic edge may explain a surge in the misuse of a stimulant commonly prescribed for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), new research suggests. Among U.S. adults, the number of Adderall prescriptions stayed stable from 2006 to 2011, but misuse of the drug jumped 67 percent and related visits to emergency rooms went up by 156 percent, researchers found.

Social Impact Bonds Only 'Pay for Success'
Lenny Bernstein, Wash Post
Two states announced Tuesday that they would experiment with an unusual method of financing human service programs that allows governments to pay nothing unless the programs are successful. The approach recruits private companies and philanthropies to provide millions of dollars up front for efforts aimed at difficult social problems. If they meet a series of measurable goals over a number of years, the states will pay them back — with interest.

Community Health Workers Act As a 'Bridge'
Martha Bebinger, WBUR
Community health workers are running interference for all kinds of patients in all kinds of social service and health care settings. The job title covers more than 50 positions, including health care coaches, patient navigators and peer counselors.

Health Care System Leaves Homeless Behind
Bob Tedeschi, Stat
The roots of the issue are well understood, and they are basic. Homeless people typically have no connection to the medical system other than emergency rooms. Hospitals can manage these patients’ symptoms, but often lack the resources to discharge them anywhere other than the street. Without shelter, these patients cannot take advantage of hospice care.

When a Surgeon Becomes a Malpractice Atty.
Marshall Allen, ProPublica
The line drive ripped off the hitter’s bat and rocketed into the right hand of Dr. Lawrence Schlachter, shattering bones and ending his career as a neurosurgeon. The Atlanta doctor, then 52, turned to an unusual place for a new challenge: Law school. He became, of all things, a medical malpractice attorney. Schlachter has been practicing law for a dozen years and says he sees the medical world differently than he did from the operating room.

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