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Double-digit premium hikes common in pre-ACA small-group market

Average premium increases in the small-group market typically ranged from 5% to 6.5% in most states from 2000 to 2013, according to a new analysis of insurance data from researchers at the Urban Institute. But double-digit increases were not unusual and the breadth of changes varied significantly from year to year.

“It really wasn't uncommon for there to be big swings in one direction or another in premiums in a given year,” said Linda Blumberg, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute and co-author of the report. “These things tend to even out.”
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CT scans may be overused for detecting kidney stones

5 pm, Sep. 17 |
Using an ultrasound rather than a CT scan for patients suspected of having kidney stones could be preferable to reduce unnecessary radiation exposure, concludes a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine. No significant differences were evident in detecting high-risk diagnoses, serious adverse events, pain scores, readmissions or hospitalizations among patients who were given ultrasounds as a first choice of imaging, the study found.

The research adds to a growing consensus finding use of CT scans for the initial detection of kidney stones might be associated not only with unnecessary radiation exposure but also higher costs.
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Wearable activity trackers: Do they help health and wellness?

3 pm, Sep. 17 |

(Jawbone)
The attention given Apple's new smartwatch and Health app has brought the debate center stage over whether wearable activity trackers conform to best evidence-based practices—and whether they work as promised. Authors of a just-published study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research concluded that many trackers do use evidence-based behavior techniques. But they remained unsure about whether those techniques effectively translate to better health and wellness.

The researchers examined 13 wearable activity trackers and their accompanying smartphone applications, including popular products from companies like Jawbone, Nike and Withings, and categorized them according to their adherence to 93 evidence-based behavior change techniques such as “prompt review of behavioral goals” and “provid[ing] instruction.”
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Insurance coverage, provider preference affect who gets bariatric surgery, report finds

3:45 pm, Sep. 16 |

Wide variations in whether Medicare patients undergo bariatric surgery to treat obesity suggest that insurance coverage and provider preference are heavily influencing who has access to the procedure, a new report indicates. What the report didn't find, however, was a correlation between the bariatric surgery rate and the rate of diabetes and obesity in the community.

Patients in Muskegon, Mich., for example, are 27 times more likely to undergo bariatric surgery than those in San Francisco, according to the report from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, a series that is looking at variations in care for surgical procedures.
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County health department takes major tech step forward on privacy

Five behavioral health patients in Maryland, picking and choosing what information they want to share with their primary healthcare physicians, are among the vanguard of a paradigm shift going on in healthcare privacy, a public health official there says.

These five Maryland patients affirmed what studies have indicated elsewhere, that people want more control over the disclosure of their health information than they're commonly afforded under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule, and they want more options to choose from than the simple opt in or opt out they're typically offered by regional, statewide or private health information exchanges today.
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Consumer access to online health data spotty, usage low


Only about 1 of every 4 consumers has online access to their medical records with less than half of that group using such access, according to a report released Monday by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT.

Among the 28% of patients who have been offered online access to their records, 54% did not access them, according to a 2013 survey conducted by NORC, a social research institute at the University of Chicago, according to the report. Among the major reasons cited for not using online access is a lack of interest (74%), concerns about privacy (28%) and lack of Internet access (23%).
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MedPAC disputes that half of new Medicare enrollees pick Advantage


Half of new Medicare beneficiaries are opting for private plans over the traditional fee-for-service program. That's a statistic that's been reported by Modern Healthcare and other publications in recent years. Healthcare consultant John Gorman, one of the foremost experts on Medicare Advantage, has frequently touted it.

It's a startling figure given that roughly 10,000 individuals are aging into Medicare every day and helps explain why health plans with significant Medicare business have fought so tenaciously (and often successfully) against proposed cuts to the program in recent years.
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Sunshine Act's financial disclosure policy drawing more frowns


The chorus to delay or change the types of financial disclosures required by the Physician Payments Sunshine Act is getting louder.

Now, a group of 64 patient-advocacy groups led by the National Health Council is asking the CMS to exclude medical-device and drug companies from reporting indirect payments to these organizations.
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More hospitals shunning furniture with flame retardants


A few months ago, Kaiser Permanente said it would stop buying furniture with flame retardants because the chemicals are believed to be toxic. Now several other large hospital systems are following suit.

A group of hospital systems—Advocate Health Care, an 11-hospital based in Downers Grove, Ill.; Beaumont Health System, a three-hospital system based in Royal Oak, Mich; New Jersey's 685-bed Hackensack University Medical Center; and University Hospitals, a six-hospital system in Ohio—said this week they will buy upholstered furniture only if the pieces do not contain flame retardant chemicals.
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Some providers already taking Medicare's RAC appeal deal


It's been about two weeks since the CMS told hospitals and health systems it would pay a portion of appealed inpatient-status claims, and at least a few have taken Medicare up on its offer.

As of Sept. 9, four unnamed providers submitted paperwork that would result in the CMS paying 68% of inpatient-status claims that are sitting idly in the appeals process, according to a document posted on the CMS website.
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