RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/01/2016

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Are Some Medicines Too Cheap?
Ben Hirschler, Reuters
Philip Aubrey buys medicines for British government-funded hospitals across London, capital of the world's fifth-largest economy, but last year he struggled to secure supplies of a basic AIDS drug. He is not alone. Shortages of essential drugs, mostly generic medicines whose patents have long expired, are becoming increasingly frequent globally, prompting the World Health Organization (WHO) to suggest minimum prices may be needed to keep some products on the market.

Hospitals Brace for New Medicare Payment Rules
Melinda Beck, WSJ
Starting Friday , nearly 800 U.S. hospitals face sweeping new payment rules that could have a direct impact on their bottom line, but not everyone is ready, industry experts say. The rules will hold hospitals accountable for all the costs of hip and knee replacements for 90 days. If patients recover and go home quickly, hospitals could reap savings. If they have complications or need lengthy stays in a rehab facility, hospitals could owe Medicare instead, starting next year.

Obama Tells Holdouts to Expand Medicaid
Mary Ellen McIntire, Morn Con
In its final year, the Obama administration is pulling out all the stops to convince the 19 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to do so. States that have not adopted Medicaid expansion, mostly in the South and Midwest, are nearly all led by Republican governors. The White House has been offering financial incentives to persuade them to expand the program to cover people whose incomes are above 138 percent of the federal poverty line but don’t make enough money for Obamacare subsidies.

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"Real Data" Needed on Mental Health Coverage
Arielle Becker, CT Mirror
Psychiatrists tell stories of suicidal patients being required to get prior authorization from their insurance company before being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. Advocates talk of patients struggling to find a mental health clinician who accepts his or her insurance plan. Some see it as a sign that insurance companies don’t treat mental health or addiction treatment as they would physical illness – despite a federal law requiring it.

Prudential Pulls a Fast One on LTC Policyholders
David Lazarus, LAT
In the past, long-term care policyholders would be asked by Prudential from time to time if they wanted to up their insurance ante. If not, they wouldn't have to do a thing and their coverage would continue as always. Now, however, Prudential is informing customers that the system has changed. Instead of being asked if they want to increase coverage, the insurer will assume that they do and raise rates automatically.

Industrial Science Hunts For Nursing Home Fraud
Ina Jaffe, NPR
State attorneys used time and motion studies – a concept borrowed from industrial engineering — that show how long it takes health care staffers to do individual tasks. They focused on activities considered "basic care," such as bathing, feeding, and turning residents so that they don't get bed sores. The attorney general's office then compared those findings with the care required by the actual residents of the targeted nursing homes.

Task Forces to Rein in Nursing Home Abuses
Lisa Schencker, MH
Federal, state and local authorities will collaborate in 10 new regional task forces across the country to toughen enforcement against nursing homes accused of providing grossly substandard care to patients and residents, the the U.S. Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Schools Protest Subpoenas for Researchers' Names
Peter Sullivan, Hill
Medical schools and universities are protesting Republicans’ decision to issue subpoenas for the names of researchers involved in fetal tissue studies, saying it could put their safety at risk. The Association of American Medical Colleges, which represents all of the country’s medical schools, expressed its “significant concerns” in a letter on Thursday to the heads of the congressional committee set up to investigate Planned Parenthood.

Report Shows Theranos Tests Plagued by Problems
Andrew Pollack, NYT
Medical testing done by the closely watched start-up Theranos was plagued by quality control problems that could have led to inaccurate results for patients, according to an inspection report released by federal regulators on Thursday.

States and CDC Respond to Fentanyl Deaths
Christine Vestal, Stateline
Fentanyl, used in its legal pharmaceutical form to treat severe pain, represents the latest evolution of an epidemic of opioid addiction that began with prescription painkillers and moved to heroin, as users demanded cheaper drugs and greater highs. At least 28,000 people died of opioid overdoses in 2014, the highest number of deaths in U.S. history. Of those, fentanyl was involved in 5,554 fatalities, a 79 percent increase over 2013, according to a December CDC report.

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