RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/18/2016

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More Opposition for Medicare Part B Drug Plan
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
Just days after the Obama administration unveiled an experiment to revamp the Medicare Part B program, more than 300 hundred groups representing physicians, drug makers, and patients are urging the government to withdraw its proposal. Although some details must still be worked out, the administration wants to encourage greater use of lower-cost, but equally effective treatments.

How Medicare 'Value-Based Pricing' Would Work
Julie Appleby, KHN
Aetna and Cigna inked deals in early February with drugmaker Novartis that offer the insurers rebates tied to how well a pricey new heart failure drug works to cut hospitalizations and deaths. If the $4,500-a-year drug meets targets, the rebate goes down. Doesn’t work so well? The insurers get a bigger payment. In another approach, pharmacy benefit firm Express Scripts this year began paying drugmakers a special negotiated rate for some cancer drugs — to reward the use of the medicines for the specific cancers for which they have the most demonstrated effectiveness. Those are examples of the kind of private sector efforts the Obama administration hopes to borrow as it tests a handful of payment strategies in Medicare.

OptumRx Partners with Walgreens on Prescriptions
Tracer, Bloomberg
UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s OptumRx unit struck an agreement to ease customers’ access to drugs through Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.’s drugstores, a move to help the business compete with rival pharmacy benefit managers. Clients of OptumRx, the third-largest U.S. drug benefit manager after CVS Health Corp. and Express Scripts Holding Co., will be able to pick up 90-day prescriptions at almost 8,200 Walgreens pharmacies, rather than receiving them by mail, the companies said Thursday in a statement.

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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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GOP Budget Would Cut $3.5T from Health Care
Caitlin Owens, MC
For years, Republicans have told voters they can they can repeal Obamacare while reducing the deficit. Now they face angry voters who feel that Washington hasn’t done anything for them. These voters likely would not be pleased if they were among the millions to lose their health insurance if what the GOP is proposing becomes law.

It's Easy To Get A Surprise Medical Bill
Jeffrey Young, Huffington Post
The American health care system is confounding under the best of circumstances. But frustration can reach a boiling point when a patient thinks she’s followed all the rules and still gets hit with a huge surprise bill. That’s what happened to Lisa Bettendorf in 2012. She had to pay almost $10,000 even though she said the doctors told her their treatment would be covered.

Accuracy Concerns on Blood Testing Device
Katie Thomas, N.Y. Times
Since the INRatio and a later model, the INRatio2, were cleared for use in 2002, the F.D.A. has received more than 9,000 reports of malfunctions with the products, and more than 1,400 reports of injuries, according to an analysis in December by the Public Citizen Health Research Group, a consumer organization. Reports of injuries associated with the INRatio devices are far higher than similar products on the market, a review of F.D.A. records shows.

Can We Keep Zika Out of U.S. Blood Supply?
Maryn McKenna, Nat Geo
If Zika virus comes to the United States, will the US blood supply be at risk? Because the disease has demonstrated that it can pass via blood from mother to fetus, and via other bodily fluids between sexual partners, the question lurks in the back of most discussions of Zika’s likely arrival on the US mainland.

EHR Notifications Cost Doctors an Hour/Day
Jack McCarthy, HIT News
Primary care doctors now lose more than an hour a day to sorting through approximately 77 electronic health record notifications, researchers at Baylor University found. “Information overload is of concern because new types of notifications and ‘FYI’ (for your information) messages can be easily created in the EHR (vs in a paper-based system),” the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine.

More Older Women with 'Moderate' Disabilities
Amy Norton, HealthDay
Back in the 1980s, older U.S. women typically lived more years free of disabilities than their male peers did, but a new study shows that pattern appears to be changing. For older men, the news is largely positive, researchers report: They're not only living longer, but with fewer disabilities. For women, the picture is different: They've made smaller gains than men have and, in some respects, they've taken a step backward.

The Roots of the Opioid Epidemic
Cicero & Ellis, The Conversation
Abuse of opium products obtained from poppy plants dates back centuries, but today we are witnessing the first instance of widespread abuse of legal, prescribed drugs that, while structurally similar to illicit opioids such as heroin, are used for sound medical practices. So how did we get here?

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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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