RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 02/22/2016

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Who's Advising Donald Trump on Health Care?
Paul Demko, Politico
To shed light on the advisers shaping Trump’s eclectic thinking, POLITICO scoured the landscape of notable policy wonks – from academics to lobbyists to congressional staffers to think tank fellows – but was unable to find anyone, on either side of the political divide, who acknowledged whispering health care policy tips in the billionaire’s ear. Or for that matter, of hearing of anyone who had talked to his campaign.

Trump Health Care Comments Shock Conservatives
Rappeport, NYT
He has broken with many Republicans on taxing the rich, threatening trade wars and keeping Planned Parenthood alive. On Friday, Donald J. Trump faced criticism for an even bolder act of conservative heresy: embracing the core tenet of the Affordable Care Act. Mr. Trump has to date offered only bits and pieces of his health agenda, generally presenting a vow to repeal “Obamacare” and replace it with “something great.”

Highmark Trimming Payments to Stem ACA Losses
Kris Mamula, PPG
Highmark Health is cutting reimbursement to doctors by 4 percent effective April 1 for care provided to patients with health insurance bought through the government exchange — the latest effort to trim losses in a market segment that has caused headaches for carriers nationwide.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe it’s important to take medications as directed by your doctor for the best health and safety. Learn more.

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Insurers, Drugmakers Try Value-Based Contracts
Bob Herman, Mod. HC
The deafening public outcry over drug pricing has forced health insurers and pharmaceutical companies to devise ways of expanding access to potentially life-saving drugs without breaking the bank. Value-based contracts, in which insurers pay for drugs based on their effectiveness, have begun to sprout, and more are expected to follow.

Oscar Health's Path to 1 Million Members
Zachary Tracer, Bloomberg
Oscar Health Insurance Corp. CEO Mario Schlosser has found the strategy he says will build his startup into a million-customer player in the health insurance industry: use tight, exclusive networks with hospitals to sell competitively priced insurance in perhaps 30 U.S. markets. The tactic, a shift from Oscar’s beginnings in New York, has helped it grow to about 43,000 members in Dallas and San Antonio during its first year in the Texas market, according to preliminary figures provided by the company.

Bipartisan Support Grows for Medicare Advantage
Caitlin Owens, MC
Record-high Medicare Advantage enrollment is translating into snowballing political support for the program. The Medicare-like coverage offered by private-sector companies was originally a Republican idea. But now, some of Medicare Advantage’s most important advocates are Democrats.

Regulators Propose New Medicare Advantage Rates
Mathews, WSJ
Federal regulators proposed what they said was a slight rise in payments for insurers that offer private Medicare plans, a closely watched figure as this coverage becomes increasingly central to the companies’ business. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that the Medicare Advantage rate proposal represented a 1.35% increase on average for 2017, though the agency said the insurers would likely see overall revenue increase about 3.55% as they deliver—and bill for—more intensive services.

Slow Progress on Connectivity in Medical Devices
Mike Freeman, LAT
In a few years, patients with chronic breathing problems will puff on an Internet-connected inhaler that instantly sends data about how often the device is used to the medicine provider and doctors who monitor care. This is just one example of the potential benefits of bringing connectivity to medical devices. It is not lost on pharmaceutical and technology companies, which are working to get more medical Internet-of-Things devices to market.

Strokes on the Rise Among Younger Adults
Rae Ellen Bichell, NPR
These days, Hodge is one of many Americans having strokes at a younger age. About 10 percent of all strokes occur in people between 18 and 50 years old, and the risk factors include some that Hodge had: high blood pressure, overweight, off-kilter cholesterol, smoking and diabetes.

Ford Spent $40 Million to Reshape Asbestos Science
Jim Morris, CPI
All told, testimony shows, Ford has spent nearly $40 million funding journal articles and expert testimony concluding there is no evidence brake mechanics are at increased risk of developing mesothelioma. This finding, repeated countless times in courtrooms and law offices over the past 15 years, is an attempt at scientific misdirection aimed at extricating Ford from lawsuits, critics say.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies believe it’s important to take medications as directed to make sure you get the right dose at the right time. Following doctors’ directions, remembering to take medicines and disposing of them properly are all important for better health and safety. Learn more.

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