RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/30/2016

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SCOTUS Seeks Input on Birth-Control Cases
Lyle Denniston, SCOTUSblog
The Supreme Court on Tuesday afternoon, looking for a new way to spare religious non-profit institutions from any role in providing birth-control techniques for their employees and students even while assuring that those services are available, asked lawyers on both sides of seven cases to make new proposals on how both might be done.

Obama Pushes for Funding to Treat Addiction
Greg Jaffe, Wash. Post
The president came to Atlanta to participate in the National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit at a time when Americans are overdosing from prescription opioids and heroin in record numbers. Obama has made the nation’s heroin and prescription drug epidemic a priority in his second term, and the scourge has been one of the few areas in which the White House has been able to draw bipartisan support from Congress.

The Opioid Crisis: Changing the Culture of Prescribing
Politico
Opioid-related deaths have reached an all-time high in the United States. More than 47,000 people died in 2014, and the numbers are rising. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this month released prescribing guidelines to help primary care physicians safely treat chronic pain while reducing opioid dependency and abuse. Given that the guidelines are not binding, how will the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services make sure they make a difference? What can payers and providers do to encourage a countrywide culture shift?

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The latest Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report shows the importance of continuous health care coverage in ensuring people get the right health care service in the right setting and at the right time. To learn more, download the full report.

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MedStar Struggles to Manage Hacking Crisis
Steve Sternberg, U.S. News
An FBI investigation of the incident is underway, hospital officials say. MedStar has opened command centers in each of its facilities. Doctors and other healthcare personnel are communicating by phone and text, as the system's information technology team scrambles to get its computer network up and running.

Marketplace Enrollee Spending Is Increasing
Anna Wilde Mathews, WSJ
People who enrolled in insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act generated higher medical spending in the law’s second year than in the first, according to a new analysis of health-insurer data released by an industry group. The analysis, based on claims from 21 Blue Cross and Blue Shield insurers around the country, highlights a challenge the companies say they face covering the population that signed up for plans issued under the ACA, sold both on the law’s signature marketplaces and outside them.

Few Families Prepared for Dementia Costs
Encarnacion Pyle, Col. Dispatch
An estimated 5.4 million Americans — including 210,000 Ohioans and 30,000 central Ohioans — have Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual Facts and Figures report being released today. Nearly 16 million friends and family members, such as Day, provide financial, physical and emotional support, often without asking for help despite their own needs.

Florida On Brink of Mental Health Overhaul
Michael Auslen, T.B. Times
Now, after a series of fits and starts, Florida is finally on the brink of a historic overhaul to mental health and substance abuse treatment that supporters say will better equip the criminal justice system to handle mental illness. What's more, advocates say, the changes could help people receive treatment earlier, addressing problems before they become more severe and reducing the strain on the state's mental hospitals.

We Aren't Doing Enough to Stop TB
Jane E. Hill, The Conversation
For most people in the West, TB seems to be a disease of the past, when it was still called consumption, and the ill were sent to sanitariums in the mountains or desert. But TB hasn’t gone away. In 2015 the number of TB cases in the U.S. rose for the first time in 23 years. In 2014 more than 500 people died from TB in the U.S. Even so, a lot of people have no idea that TB is still found here, or what a major health risk it poses in other parts of the world.

Antibiotic Resistance & India's Chickens
Pearson & Limaye, Bloomberg
While antibiotics are helping to sustain intensive food production, doctors worry their uncontrolled use on farms is turning animals into reservoirs of hard-to-kill bacteria that can spread rapidly and globally. G. Bal Reddy said it seems he’s fighting a losing battle. “We have to use more medicines these days,” he said. “Diseases have become harder to beat in the last two to three years.”

Patrick Conway Shapes Policy, Treats Patients
Robert Pear, N.Y. Times
On weekdays, Dr. Patrick H. Conway is one of the most powerful doctors in America, steering federal health programs that spend nearly $1 trillion a year while shaping health policies that affect tens of millions of citizens. On many weekends, he is just another doctor in blue sterile gloves and a yellow gown with a stethoscope around his neck, comforting children and training young physicians, many of whom have no idea of his other role.

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Ongoing, continuous health care coverage can help people get healthy faster and stay healthy longer with improved access to primary and preventive services, and better management of chronic illnesses. Read key findings from the latest Blue Cross Blue Shield, The Health of America Report, which taps the broadest, deepest pool of medical claims data to uncover the latest trends and insights. Download the full report.

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