RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/18/2016

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ONC Fail: EHR "Data Blocking" Still Rampant
Joseph Conn, Modern HC
Growing frustration with the slow pace of making EHRs interoperable, including on Capitol Hill, has left federal officials scrambling to show they are doing something about the problem. “We would like to hear about every example – small, medium, large – when someone is getting in the way of interoperability,” Andy Slavitt, acting administrator of the CMS, said at the Health Information and Management Systems Society conference. “We want as a team to hear about these examples and confront them.” They won't have to look far.

U.S. Should Want a Refund on EHR Spending
D. Gorenstein, Marketplace
The federal government has invested more than $30 billion in electronic medical records. The idea is that these records will let doctors and hospitals improve patient care – and potentially lower costs – by tracking all the treatment a person receives. The government may want its money back.

UnitedHealth to Exit Michigan Exchange
Zachary Tracer, Detroit News
UnitedHealth Group Inc. plans to exit a third state Obamacare market as the insurer works to stem losses from its struggling Affordable Care Act business. The insurer won’t sell policies through Michigan’s ACA exchange for next year, according to Andrea Miller, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Insurance and Financial Services.Georgia and Arkansas said last week that UnitedHealth will quit their exchanges for 2017.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are committed to addressing the nation’s growing opioid crisis community by community, nationwide. Learn more about the BCBS commitment.

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What Insurance Consolidation Means for Premiums
Peter Ubel, Forbes
If you like high prices, then you probably hate marketplace competition. Nothing disrupts the normal relationship between supply and demand better than a monopoly. If you doubt that, look at your local cable bill. But in healthcare, competition doesn’t necessarily affect prices the way it does in other parts of the marketplace.

CMS Innovation Center Weighs Quality, Cost
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, AP
In a sprawling, nondescript office park near Baltimore, some 360 people at the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation are trying to change the health care system, using the government's premier insurance program as leverage. If they prevail, the U.S. may no longer have the worst of both worlds: unsustainable spending and unenviable results.

Can Fixed Payments Transform Health Care?
Guy Boulton, Milwaukee JS
Two items stood out when employees of UnityPoint Health-Meriter first saw the total cost of knee and hip replacement surgery for its Medicare patients. One was that some physicians sent patients to nursing homes after surgery much more often than others — at a cost of $550 to $600 a day, a decision that costs roughly four times as much as home health care. Another was that many nursing homes and other skilled-nursing facilities kept the patients for the full 21 days covered by Medicare, no matter how quickly the patients recovered.

Immunotherapy Doubles Melanoma Survival
Laurie McGinley, WP
More than a third of advanced-melanoma patients who received one of the new immunotherapy drugs in an early trial are alive five years after starting treatment -- double the survival rate typical of the disease, according to a new study. The data, released Sunday at a cancer conference, showed that 34 percent of patients with metastatic melanoma who received Opdivo, an immunotherapy drug also known as nivolumab, have survived. The five-year survival rate for patients with advanced melanoma who got other treatments was 16.6 percent between 2005 and 2011, according to the National Cancer Institute.

You Can Get Vision Prescriptions Online Now
Kim Painter, USA Today
For most people who wear prescription eyeglasses or contact lens, it’s an annual or biannual ritual: a trip to “the eye doctor” — usually an optometrist — for an exam and an updated prescription. Nearly 114 million adults, including 65% of eyeglass wearers and 82% of contact lens users, got an eye exam in 2015, according to the Vision Council, an industry group. But just as surely as Uber upended the taxi industry and Amazon changed book-buying habits, there’s now a company hoping to turn vision testing into an online routine requiring nothing but a computer and a smartphone.

Question of Risk: Medtronic's Lost Study
Jim Spencer, et al., Star Tribune
Medtronic collected data on thousands of patients given its Infuse device, uncovering complications. The problems went unreported for years – even as scrutiny intensified.

More Doctors Want Legalized Marijuana
Christopher Ingraham, Wonkblog
A group of more than 50 physicians, including a former surgeon general and faculty members at some of the nation's leading medical schools, has formed the first national organization of doctors to call on states and the federal government to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana in the interest of public health.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies around the country are undertaking initiatives to help patients, families, health professionals and communities address the opioid epidemic. These programs are reducing the misuse of opioids while ensuring those who need access to pain medication can get it, when they need it. Learn more about the BCBS commitment to fight substance use disorder and help prevent opioid addiction.

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