RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 02/19/2016

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Kasich Calls for Transparency in Provider Bills
Columbia State
Kasich, who has been endorsed by The State, steered a center-right course. He didn’t insist that the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, be scrapped, as some of his rivals have urged. He wants it easier for consumers to learn about quality and cost. “We don’t know how our hospitals really do and what their costs are, and we really don’t know how our doctors do or what their costs are,” he said. “It’s easier to interpret the Dead Sea Scrolls than a hospital bill,” he joked.

Employers Use Big Data to Track Employee Pregnancies
Zayra, Fortune
Health care analytics companies can mine workers’ medical claims, pharmacy claims, and search queries to figure out if an employee is trying to conceive or is already pregnant. One such company is Castlight Health, which counts major employers such as Walmart and Time Warner among its biggest clients.

Promise, Perils of Big Data in Health Care
Frakt & Pizer, AJMC
Spurred by the accuracy with which companies like Google and Netflix use large amounts of data to anticipate our interests, there is growing investment in "Big Data" applications to healthcare. For example, the FDA’s postmarket surveillance program—the Sentinel Initiative—analyzes billions of drug prescriptions for adverse events. However, if we’re not careful, big data healthcare could cause harm.

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Lessons from Hospital That Paid 'Ransomware'
Josephine Wolff, Slate
The electronic medical record was supposed to change everything. Human mistakes would be eliminated by the pharmacy’s ability to automatically check for dangerous drug interactions; hospitals would be able to retrieve data instantly and find out whether they were following best practices; the mysteries of medical handwriting would be replaced by clear, definite printed information. As we all now know, it didn’t quite work out that way.

ACA Has Barely Made a Dent in ER Visits
Kimberly Leonard, U.S. News
A government report published Thursday shows Obamacare is still far from achieving one of its goals. President Barack Obama's health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, has brought the number of people lacking health insurance to a historic low. Yet it also aimed to reduce visits to emergency departments, where the uninsured would often go to receive care but which are often strained with high volumes of patients and deliver more costly services. In giving millions more people access to health insurance coverage, the creators of Obamacare theorized that patients would seek medical help earlier with their doctors as symptoms develop, rather than rush to the emergency room during a time of crisis.

More than Just an Opioid Crisis: Benzo Deaths Rise Too
L. Samuel, Stat
Deaths from opioids grab news headlines, government budgets, and the futures of troubled people. But these deadly drugs often have help. Benzodiazepines — underestimated and, some say, overprescribed — are killing people, too.

Results of Many Clinical Trials Take Years to Publish
Mozes, HealthDay
Less than one-third of clinical studies performed at major academic medical institutions are published within two years of completion -- a lapse that deprives the scientific community of time-sensitive, valuable information, investigators said.

Coverage for Autism Treatment Varies by State
Jen Fifield, Stateline
Since 2001, 44 states have begun requiring some insurance plans to cover ABA for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. But the rules are all different, making for uneven coverage across states. Autism Speaks, a national nonprofit, estimates that 36 percent of Americans have access to autism coverage.

With Donated Drugs, Calif. Pharmacy Provides Free Meds
Ostrov, CHL
The Better Health Pharmacy is possible because of a California law passed in 2005 that allowed counties to accept and redistribute previously sold, unexpired and unopened prescription medications to people in need. (Drugs can't be donated by individuals.) Typically, these drugs would be thrown away or destroyed after patients die or no longer need them.

Improving Dental Care Access for Minority Children
Elena Rios, NHMA
February is National Children’s Dental Health Month, a much needed opportunity to focus on the issues facing the oral health of kids in the U.S. today. According to the California Society of Pediatric Dentistry, “Tooth decay is the number one chronic health problem of children.” Minority children are particularly hard hit. African Americans, Hispanics and American Indians generally have the worst oral health among all racial or ethnic groups in America. The ill effects of these tooth decay issues are broad ranging: missed school days, impeded speaking and learning development, low self-esteem and generally poor social development.

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With coverage in every zip code, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies know that healthcare starts at home. Whether it’s access to affordable prescriptions or making sure you have access to care of the highest quality, we’re committed to helping your state tackle the healthcare issues that are most important to your community. Learn more about what’s happening in your state.

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