RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/14/2016

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Average ObamaCare Premium Rises 5 Percent
Peter Sullivan, The Hill
The average monthly ObamaCare premium grew by about 5 percent over last year once financial assistance is factored in, according to government data released Friday. The average monthly premium on the ObamaCare marketplace is $106 this year, compared to $101 last year, according to a new Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report.

5 Insurers Take Big Share of Medicaid Expansion
Bruce Japsen, Forbes
Of the more than $115 billion “in total Medicaid premiums written” in 2014, the first year broader coverage was available under the health law, nearly half were administered by Anthem, Centene, Molina, UnitedHealth Group and Wellcare Health Plans, according to a report from Fitch Ratings.

Study: Medicaid Expansion Boosted Colo. Economy
Olinger, Denver Post
A new Colorado Health Foundation report says state expansion of the Medicaid program has created 31,074 new jobs and added $3.8 billion in economic activity. The report concludes that "in the two years since implementation, expansion in the state has had a significant positive effect on the economy at no expense to the general fund" in the state budget.

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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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Hospitals Rattled by Drug Price Increases
Brady Dennis, Washington Post
The problems, hospital administrators say, extend well beyond the increases that have grabbed headlines and caused public outrage, most notably the 5,000 percent spike by Turing Pharmaceuticals and its former chief executive, Martin Shkreli, in the list price of a drug to treat the parasitic infection toxoplasmosis. Pharmaceutical mergers and acquisitions, which can be beyond regulators’ reach, are only part of the dynamic. Some companies have raised prices more modestly but repeatedly for a variety of medications old and new, and those increases add up over time.

Voters Angry over Surging Prescription Drug Costs
Melanie Mason, LAT
That concern about the cost of prescription drugs has emerged as a big issue in the presidential campaign, prompting candidates in both parties to sharpen their rhetoric against pharmaceutical companies and put curbing drug prices at the center of their healthcare plans. The message is particularly resonant here in Florida, which holds its primary Tuesday and where people over 60 make up more than a third of registered voters.

States Move to Control Painkiller Prescribing
Meier & Tavernise, NYT
The states’ push points to a looming change affecting how doctors use narcotic painkillers, or opioids, which are the most widely prescribed class of medications in the United States. The move comes against the backdrop of a public health crisis involving heroin-related overdoses.

AHIP Preaches Collaboration Amid Divided Industry
Bob Herman, MH
The health insurance industry is calling for a more organized, cooperative approach to build on the Affordable Care Act. But large barriers stand in the way of getting to any kind of kumbaya moment—especially during an election cycle that has been fraught with partisan pandering and bitter attacks.

The Terminally Ill & 'Aid in Dying'
Jonathan Lapook, 60 Minutes
Brittany Maynard was dying of brain cancer when she decided to drink a lethal prescription to end her life. She was just 29 years old. Her decision made her a symbol in the debate about how much we should be able to control the time and manner of our own death. This is not euthanasia, when a doctor gives a patient a lethal injection. That's illegal in all 50 states. Aid-in-dying, or what opponents call "assisted suicide" and supporters call "death with dignity," relies on people taking the medication themselves.

We All Want to Die with Dignity -- But Not Yet
Chicago Tribune
Medical advances bring the promise of extending life, but some of the treatments used in a person's last months, weeks or days - such as CPR for failing hearts, dialysis for failing kidneys and feeding tubes for those unable to nourish themselves - often do not provide more time and can worsen quality of life. Yet saying no to more treatment is tremendously hard to do, whether that decision is made by patients or by relatives for patients who are too infirm to express themselves.

Insurance Companies Turning to Home Care
Kathleen McGrory, TBT
Across the country, the number of seniors enrolled in in-home care management programs is exploding. Humana's program, Humana at Home, serves nearly 1 million people nationwide, 37,000 of whom live in Florida, and is growing by about 1,500 members daily, said Kate Marcus, director of telephonic care management. Insurance companies say the programs, usually offered through their Medicare Advantage plans, can help keep seniors out of the hospital, and even extend their lives.

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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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