RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/07/2016

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Nancy Reagan: 'Champion' of Alzheimer's Research
Sheila Kaplan, Stat
Reagan, who died Sunday at age 94, had a greater impact on public health than most Americans might recall. Despite opposition from many Republican Party leaders, Reagan pushed for stem-cell research, established an Alzheimer’s research institute, and, like First Lady Betty Ford before her, talked publicly about her breast cancer treatment when the subject was still considered taboo in polite society.

ACA Isn't Wiping Out Unpaid Hospital Bills
Melanie Evans, Modern HC
The promise of the Affordable Care Act for hospitals was that bad debt -- a figure that reflects bills a hospital can't collect -- would shrink substantially under the law's coverage expansions. The reality, so far, is less uniformly dramatic, even though 9 million fewer Americans are uninsured. Even in states that agreed to expand Medicaid, the popularity of high-deductible plans in those insurance exchanges has added to hospitals' mounting concerns over how patients can pay those bills, if at all.

Doctor Quality Ratings May Be Influenced by Setting
Kennedy, Reuters
Patients give the same doctors different ratings depending on where their visit took place, according to a small U.S. study. Although doctors might act differently in an emergency room compared to a calmer office setting, researchers say the results also suggest that ratings are not a completely reliable measure of the quality of care physicians give.

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Senate Bill Would End Drug Ad Tax Breaks
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
A congressional lawmaker introduced legislation that would end the tax break that drug makers can take for advertising medicines to consumers. Called the Protecting Americans from Drug Marketing Act, the bill is designed to encourage companies to focus on developing new medicines, instead of “marketing schemes,” according to US Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) who introduced the legislation on Thursday.

Ayotte Makes Push for Senate Opioid Bill
Mark Hensch, The Hill
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Saturday said that Congress must immediately combat drug addiction or risk losing everyday American lives to opioid abuse. “This is a life-or-death issue,” she said in the weekly Republican address. “In 2015, 420 New Hampshire residents lost their lives to a drug overdose – more than the number of people killed in traffic accidents.

States Remove Barriers To Physician Assistants
Bruce Japsen, Forbes
In some cases, states are removing bureaucratic barriers that in the past led to redundant tasks or slowed the ability of patients to get the care they needed. In New Jersey, for example, Gov. Chris Christie in January signed into law legislation that removed the so-called “countersignature requirement,” which previously required the PAs’ collaborating physician to countersign all medical orders.

Young Physicians & the Winds of Change
Peter Wehrwein, Managed Care
They may still wear white coats and use stethoscopes. But these younger doctors—they’re different. With their tech savvy and willingness to work in groups, they could shake up the status quo of American health care, although they are perceived as being weaker on some of the “old school” virtues like a good bedside manner, according to a survey conducted by MediMedia Research.

Colonoscopy Culture Clash: Why Get One?
Rachel Zimmerman, WBUR
Late last month, for the first time, Canadian medical professionals came out against colonoscopies for routine screening, saying that the evidence is lacking that this method is effective enough at preventing deaths from colon cancer. “We recommend not using colonoscopy as a screening test for colorectal cancer,” the new guidelines, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, say, in a summary.

Food Companies Distort Nutrition Science
Julia Belluz, Vox
About a year ago, Marion Nestle finally got sick of the rotten state of nutrition science. Everywhere she looked, she found glaring conflicts of interest. "Without any trouble, I could identify industry-funded nutrition studies by their titles," says the New York University professor. "It was so obvious."

Zika Mosquito & Phila.'s 1793 Yellow Fever
Don Sapatkin, Phila. Inquirer
In 1793, the Aedes aegypti mosquito carried yellow fever from the tropics to Philadelphia, killing 10 percent of the population and forcing much of the rest - including President George Washington and his entire government - to flee. That same mosquito is now spreading the Zika virus through Latin and South America. But the insect species no longer thrives anywhere near Philadelphia. What has changed?

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