RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/08/2016

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VA Bosses in 7 States Falsified Wait Times
Donovan Slack, USA Today
Supervisors instructed employees to falsify patient wait times at Veterans Affairs' medical facilities in at least seven states, according to a USA TODAY analysis of more than 70 investigation reports released in recent weeks. Overall, those reports — released after multiple inquiries and a Freedom of Information Act request — reveal for the first time specifics of widespread scheduling manipulation.

Joint Surgery Rule Will Pinch Many Hospitals
Shannon Firth, MedPage
Most hospitals involved in Medicare's new hip and knee replacement model will suffer penalties if they fail to reduce care costs, according to a new analysis from Avalere Health. "Historically, hospitals focused on what's happening within the four walls of their institution," said Josh Seidman of Avalere Health, but much of patients' costs occur after a procedure is completed and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes this.

Security Flaws Found in 3 State Exchanges
Beam & Alonso-Zaldivar, AP
Federal investigators found significant cybersecurity weaknesses in the health insurance websites of California, Kentucky and Vermont that could enable hackers to get their hands on sensitive personal information about hundreds of thousands of people, The Associated Press has learned. And some of those flaws have yet to be fixed.

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MedPAC Outlines Post-Acute Pay Overhaul
Virgil Dickson, Mod. HC
The post-acute proposal, to be included in the commission's June report to Congress, would change the way Medicare reimburses skilled-nursing facilities, home health agencies, inpatient rehabilitation facilities and long-term-care hospitals. It would establish rates according to specific patient conditions instead of the kind of specific care setting.

Former Rep. Is Medicare Adv. Ambassador
Caitlin Owens, Morn. Cons.
Medicare Advantage, a private insurer alternative to Medicare, typically makes it onto Washington’s policymaking radar for about two months in the spring each year. That’s when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issues new MA plan rates and policies for the next year. Former Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) is trying to change that. She believes Medicare Advantage should be in the healthcare conversation year-round. As head of the relatively new nonpartisan MA advocacy group, Better Medicare Alliance, she intends to make that happen.

Cancer's Sinister Financial Side Effects
Carolyn Y. Johnson, Wash. Post
Money is low on the list of things most people want to think about after a doctor says the scary word "cancer." And it's not just patients — physicians also want to weigh the best treatment options to rout the cancer, unburdened by financial nitty gritty. But a growing body of evidence suggests that, far from crass, ignoring cost could be harmful to patients' health.

Collaboration Aids Health Care for At-Risk Patients
Lisa Gillespie, KHN
By teaming with community organizations, doctors and hospitals can deliver high-quality care at good value to disadvantaged people at risk for poor health, according to a new report from a panel of experts.

Older Docs May Do More Prostate Cancer Tests
Lisa Rapaport, Reuters
Despite U.S. guidelines recommending against prostate cancer screening in elderly men, many specialists and older physicians still do these tests, a recent study suggests. In 2008, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF), a government-backed panel of independent physicians, recommended against routine prostate cancer tests for men at least 75 years old or with a limited life expectancy. They cited concerns that widespread screening often caught harmless tumors that didn’t need treatment and led to unnecessary procedures with side effects like impotence and incontinence.

Predicting Longevity May Be Simpler Than Thought
Robert Preidt, HD
Testing the length of the ends of your DNA strands may not be the best predictor of how long you will live, a new study suggests. Instead, simpler measures that include your age and your ability to climb stairs or walk a short distance may more accurately pinpoint longevity, researchers report.

Disney Sought Withdrawal of Research Paper
Sheila Kaplan, Stat
The Walt Disney Company urged an academic journal to withdraw a nutritional study of children’s meals at Disney World last fall — a study it had funded — amid a public backlash over corporate involvement in scientific research, according to newly obtained emails. Disney wasn’t concerned about the study’s findings, but feared being publicly associated with one of its main authors, James Hill of the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Hill’s work last summer drew an outcry among scientists who felt his project, funded by Coca-Cola, played down the impact of sugary drinks in obesity.

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