RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/05/2016

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ACA Has Not Uprooted Employer Coverage
Reed Abelson, N.Y. Times
The Affordable Care Act was aimed mainly at giving people better options for buying health insurance on their own. There were widespread predictions that employers would leap at the chance to drop coverage and send workers to fend for themselves. But those predictions were largely wrong. Most companies, and particularly large employers, that offered coverage before the law have stayed committed to providing health insurance.

Final Medicare Advantage Rates Rise Modestly
Bob Herman, Modern HC
Payment rates for insurers that sell Medicare Advantage plans will rise by 0.85% on average for 2017, the CMS said in its final rate notice Monday, which came out after the stock markets closed. That compares to a 1.35% proposed rate increase from February, although many insurers argued the average proposed rate adjustment was misleading and likely closer to break-even after factoring in other payment policies.

New Tax Inversion Rules & Pfizer-Allergan Deal
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
After months of anticipation, the US Department of Treasury issued new rules about so-called tax inversions that raised uncertainty about the $160 billion merger deal between Pfizer and Allergan. The rules are designed to curb inversions, which effectively reduce federal revenue and, as a result, have been widely criticized as unpatriotic and detrimental. In these deals, a US company buys a foreign company and reincorporates headquarters overseas where corporate taxes are lower.

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Senate Cures Deal Could Be Reached This Week
Peter Sullivan, The Hill
Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said Monday that a medical innovation bill could be ready for the Senate floor as early as next week. The bill is the Senate’s companion to the House-passed 21st Century Cures Act, which seeks to speed up the Food and Drug Administration’s approvals of new drugs and devices and boost funding for medical research.

Study Finds Doctors Unprepared to Discuss Costs
Shefali Luthra, KHN
Patients are increasingly responsible for shouldering more of their own health costs. In theory, that’s supposed to make them sharper consumers and empower them to trim unnecessary health spending. But previous work has shown it often leads them to skimp on both valuable preventive care and superfluous services alike. Doctors could play a key role in instead helping patients find appropriate and affordable care by talking to them about their out-of-pocket costs. But, a range of physician behaviors currently stands in the way, according to the study.

Yelp Provides Insight Into Patient Experience
Sabriya Rice, Modern HC
Excessively pricey bills, long waits for staff, rude doctors and difficulties setting up appointments drove people to rant about their hospitals on Yelp, according to a study published online Monday. While those issue frustrate patients, most are not tracked on government surveys and ratings programs meant to capture patients' experiences in U.S. hospitals.

Telemedicine May Not Be Best for Urgent Care
Lisa Rapaport, Reuters
When it comes to urgent medical problems like ankle injuries or suspected strep, virtual MDs may be no match for the real thing, a new U.S. study suggests. Researchers got 67 volunteers to test out how well eight popular virtual visit companies diagnosed these problems and four other common medical issues – sore throat, sinus infection, low back pain, and urinary tract infection. About one in four patients got the wrong diagnosis or none at all from the virtual visits, the study found.

Conn. Wellness Plan Increased Preventive Care
Arielle Becker, CT Mirror
A wellness program added to the state employee health plan as part of a controversial 2011 concession package led to significant increases in the use of preventive care and a drop in certain emergency room visits, but it’s still too soon to say if it will save the state money, according to a study published Monday in the journal Health Affairs.

Med Students' False Beliefs About Black Patients
Ike Swetlitz, Stat
Black patients are systematically undertreated for pain, decades of research have shown. And a study published Monday sheds light on one factor that might contribute to this disparity. In a survey of 222 white medical students and residents, about half endorsed false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites. And those who did also perceived blacks as feeling less pain than whites, and were more likely to suggest inappropriate medical treatment for black patients, according to the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Report Warns Climate Change Will Harm Health
Brady Dennis, WP
More deaths from extreme heat. Longer allergy seasons. Increasingly polluted air and water. Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and ticks spreading farther and faster. Those are among the health risks that could be exacerbated by global warming coming decades, the Obama administration warned in a new report Monday.

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