Vital Signs

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Public wants more Medicare benefits, not less

7:15 pm, Sep. 23 |
Tags: Tags: PolicyMedicare
Budget-hawk policymakers and pundits determined to cut and restructure Medicare may have a hard time bringing the American public around to their preferred approach, judging from a new report on public attitudes from the nonpartisan Center for Health Care Decisions.

The center conducted 82 three-hour guided discussions in California over the past year with 810 participants in small groups of eight to 15 people, including seniors, young adults, healthcare professionals, and community leaders. The center used an interactive tool called MedCHAT and a public deliberation process to help participants consider 12 categories of Medicare coverage. The participants had to eliminate or restrict benefits if they wanted to establish new ones.
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Narrow networks draw few complaints from consumers: study

Narrow networks were a popular health insurance option on the exchanges in the first enrollment period, with half of all plans for individuals offering limited groups of lower-cost providers, and new research shows consumers generally aren't griping about the products.

Researchers at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute studied narrow-network plans sold on the individual-market exchanges last year in six states: Colorado, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Virginia. Health insurers have said the healthcare reform law is spurring them to offer more narrow networks, which they say save them money and lead to lower monthly premiums in exchange for a smaller number of in-network hospitals and physicians.
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Will Dr. Emanuel opt for death at 75? Maybe not

6:45 pm, Sep. 22 |

Nobody has ever accused the famous Emanuel brothers—Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of University of Pennsylvania, Mayor Rahm Emanuel of Chicago, or Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel—of humility. And no one who reads Dr. Emanuel's new essay in the Atlantic Monthly, “Why I Hope to Die at 75: An argument that society and families—and you—will be better off if nature takes it course swiftly and promptly,” will accuse him of that trait now.

Emanuel, 57, an oncologist and bioethicist who played a role in crafting the Obamacare legislation, tries to convince readers of the rightness of his own preference to only live to 75 and go out while he's still making solid professional contributions and his family and friends can remember him as a vigorous and productive person. He wants everyone to consider adopting his view, though he acknowledges that his physician father, now in his late 80s, is still happy despite having slowed down a lot.
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New research again points to impact of climate change on public health

6 pm, Sep. 22 |

On the heels of large protests held in several cities Sunday that called for action against climate change, new research adds to the chorus of voices that argue the issue should raise concerns over its associated public health risks.

A study published Monday in JAMA examining evidence going back two decades found indications of an association between climate change and adverse effects on health conditions.
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New doubts raised about e-cigs and smoking cessation

3:15 pm, Sep. 22 |

New doubts are being raised over claims about the use of electronic cigarettes as a tobacco-cessation alternative for cancer patients.

A study published in the Sept. 22 issue of the journal Cancer found e-cig use among cancer patients who also smoke tobacco increased dramatically between 2012 and 2013, from 10% to 38%.
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Rap video uses patient safety as a refrain

2:30 pm, Sep. 22 |

If the same-old, same-old is not working in terms of moving a healthcare organization toward a culture of safety, hospital quality leaders say it may be time to think outside the box.

Adding some spunk to the message may be one way to engage staff in a way that could—quite literally—be music to their ears.
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Why one congressman wants to scrap Medicare's hospital appeals deal

The CMS has been pretty quiet about its Medicare appeals settlement for hospitals, and now a congressman wants the agency to retract the offer altogether.

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), who serves as chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell this week urging her, at a minimum, to explain how the government developed the settlement process.
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More tech support, trust needed to boost wellness plan participation, survey shows

Many employer-sponsored wellness programs need some healing hands themselves, particularly when it comes to embracing home and mobile health technology. That's especially true when employees still remain queasy about participating in the programs because of concerns their personal information might be used against them, a new study of employers and employees shows.

Neither ailment is incurable, however, according to the 22-page report, “Measuring Wellness, From Data to Insights,” by the The Economist Intelligence Unit, a research arm of U.K.-based Economist magazine.
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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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