RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/22/2016

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Obscure SCOTUS Case Is a Big Deal for Rx Drugs
Dylan Scott, Stat
America’s drug price debate is coming to the Supreme Court. How the nation’s highest court rules in a case that, on its face, has nothing to do with prescription drugs could, nonetheless, leave a big mark on medicine. Oral arguments in the case, to be heard Monday, come as a huge majority of Americans say medicines are not affordable and drug costs have become a major issue in the 2016 presidential race.

Can Transparency Drive Down Drug Prices?
Rebecca Plevin, KPCC
Two bills moving through the California legislature would require more transparency around prescription drug costs. One bill, SB 1010, would obligate drug manufacturers to notify health plans if they were going to increase the wholesale cost of a drug by at least 10 percent during any 12-month period and justify those increases. Another bill, AB 2463, would require insurance plans to inform consumers how much they will pay for a drug and how much their health plan paid for the drug.

Refining How to Rate the Best Hospitals
Harder & Comarow, U.S. News
Which hospitals deliver the highest quality of care across the board? The answer depends on the dimensions of quality a given observer selects and how they are measured. Different methodologies will produce different results even if they make use of the same raw data. For 26 years, the U.S. News answer has been our annual Best Hospitals Honor Roll, a roster of 15 to 20 hospitals that excel in many specialties.

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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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CMS Proposes Raising Some Payment Rates
Dickson, et al., Modern HC
The agency Thursday proposed nearly doubling the increase skilled-nursing facilities received last year. This would amount to a $800 million bump. Last year they only received a 1.2% Medicare rate increase, leading to $430 million in higher payments from the previous year. Medicare would pay out $125 million a year more to rehabilitation facilities while those facilities would face about $5.2 million in costs related to new quality-reporting requirements. The CMS wants to boost Medicare payment rates to hospices by 2% next fiscal year and introduce two new quality measures.

FDA's Foray Into Big Data Still Maturing
Bridget M. Kuehn, JAMA
With access to claims data on about 200 million patients and 5.5 billion patient encounters across the United States, the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) Sentinel Initiative has grown into a juggernaut of patient experience since its pilot program launched in 2008.

Bill Would Boost Rural Medicare Payments
Holly Fletcher, Tennessean
The bill establishes a 0.874 as the national floor for the average wage index, or AWI, which is used as a multiplier for determining what Medicare reimburses hospitals. The legislation, called the Fair Medicare Hospital Payments Act of 2016, is the Senate version of a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn.

Ark. Gov's Veto Preserves Medicaid Expansion
Brandon Riddle, Ark. D-G
Gov. Asa Hutchinson has vetoed amended language in Medicaid legislation that would have ended funding for his Arkansas Works program by Dec. 31, thus continuing funding through fiscal 2017. Earlier Thursday, the Arkansas House of Representatives approved an appropriation bill to fund the state’s Medicaid expansion for low-income residents, one day after the Arkansas Senate approved similar legislation.

Safety Oversight Sought for NIH Hospital
Nell Greenfieldboyce, NPR
The largest research hospital in the world, the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, needs reform so that patient safety is always the priority — and never subservient to the demands of science. That's the conclusion of a sweeping review by a task force of independent experts convened by the NIH.

9 Questions on a Post-SGR World
Emily Rappleye, Becker's Hospital CFO
MACRA is set to roll out in 2019, but 2017 could mark the start of performance measurements that will determine reimbursement in 2019. For physician practices that have been sitting back — it's time to assemble a preparation plan and put it in motion.

CDC: U.S. Suicides Have Soared Since 1999
Melissa Healy, L.A. Times
Driven by stark increases in the numbers of white women and Native Americans who are intentionally killing themselves, suicide rates in the United States jumped 24% in the years between 1999 and 2014, says a new government report.

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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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