Health Wonk Review: Health Insurance in China over the Past 50 Years; A Review of The Autistic Brain; Stay Calm, Obamacare is On Track

The newest edition of HealthWonk Review, a round-up of some of the very best recent healthcare posts, is now online.
Colorado Health Insurance Insider’s Louise Norris hosts this mid-summer edition of the review. She offers summaries of intriguing posts, along with evenhanded, insightful commentary. Both will help you decide which posts you want to read.
Many of her reviews whetted my interest. But here I want to call attention to just two entries covering topics that we don’t often read about on Healthcare blogs, as well a reassuring sane post summing up what Washington insiders say about the state of Obamacare. It will be a bumpy ride, but it’s heading into the station.

A History of China’s Health Care System

Norris reports that on :“The Healthcare Economist,  Jason Shafrin, brings us a great summary of health insurance in China over the past half century. Until the end of the 1970s, there were three main health insurance systems in China that covered nearly everyone.
“But the wheels started to come off after that; by 1998 almost half of the urban population had no health insurance, and by 2003, 95% of the rural population in China was uninsured. “
Shafrin explains that a shift to “fee for service” health care seems to have exacerbated the problem: “Some have claimed that the stark increases in health-care are due to provider profit-seeking behavior in China’s fee-for-service system. . .
“This price structure that was originally intended to cross-subsidize the delivery of basic interventions creates perverse incentives for providers to supply sophisticated care wherever possible, by shifting demand from low-margin basic services to high-margin high-tech diagnostic services and drugs.”
Does this sound familiar?
The good news is that China, like the U.S., has set out to reform its enormous health care system.For details, see Shafrin’s post. .
As Norris observes: “While plenty of progress has been made there is still a long way to go.”
She could have been talking about either country.
Norris also spotlights Jared Rhoads’ review of The Autistic Brain by Temple Grandin. “If you’re interested in autism,” Norris writes, “Jared’s summary [suggests] that this book is a good place to start learning more. I’m adding it to my list of books to read, so thanks for the tip Jared!”
Here’s just a snippet from Rhoads’ review: “Gradin and coauthor Richard Panek trace some of the clinical history of the condition, explain what can and cannot be gained from techniques like neuroimaging, and share what they believe are some good child-rearing strategies for parents with autistic children. . . .
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Health Wonk Review Is Up: A Superb Summary of Provocative Healthcare Posts

The latest edition of Health Wonk Review is now up on Wing of Zock.

 Sarah Sonies and Jenifer Salopek have done a superb job of summarizing some of the most provocative healthcare blog posts of the past two weeks. 

Here are just a few of the questions these posts  raise:

–   Should states mandate nurse staffing ratios in acute care hospitals?

– What can we learn about early Medicaid expansion in some states?

–   Why do we need more research into the value of colonoscopies?

I won’t try to summarize the posts. Just go to Wing of Zock                    

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A New “Sardonic”Edition of Health Wonk Review

This edition, hosted by Brad Wright, of Wright on Health takes an original approach to the bi-weekly round-up of the best healthcare posts of the past two weeks: It’s excellent—I urge you to check it out. Just keep in mind that the descriptions of the posts are largely tongue-in-cheek.

 (I would provide more detail about the newest edition of HWR, but my lap-top rolled over and died two days ago. As a result, I  don’t have the time to give newest edition of HWR the attention it deserves.)

I hope you will.

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Health Wonk Review: Oncologists Tell the Truth about Cancer Drugs; Will There Be Enough Plans to Choose From in the Exchanges? What Does Oregon’s Research on Medicaid Tell Us? And More . . .

The newest edition of Health Wonk Review  is up on Managed Care Matters.

There, host Joe Paduda calls attention to an eye-opening post by The Health Business Group’s David E. Williams. 

Williams reports on what oncologists say about cancer drugs in “The Price of Drugs for Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML); A Reflection of the Unsustainable Prices of Cancer Drug.” The article, which was published in the journal, blood, includes candid comments from more than 100 experts  They tell us  that:.

  • Many costly treatments aren’t worth the money
  • New treatments with tiny orno benefits often cost a multiple of existing therapies
  • Despite their reputation for penny-pinching, health plans are often not aggressive in negotiating price
  • Patients are already suffering mightily from high costs –and it impacts quality of life and survival as well as financial health
  • Society as a whole cannot afford to pay the high prices charged for so many of the new therapies

 (I’m reminded of “A Very Open Letter from an Oncologist published on HealthBeat in 2009.)  It’s encouraging to see more oncologist stepping forward to telll the truth about cancer drugs..)

.As Williams observes these insights “come from people who know what they’re talking about and who have traditionally been sympathetic to drug makers and unperturbed about costs.”  

But now, the companies that make these drugs have taken greed too far.

 Paduda also highlights Health Affairs just-released research indicating that the decline in inflation could result in a reduction of $770 billion (yup, that’s “billion” with a B) in public program health care costs over ten years. “

But is the trend sustainable? John Holahan and Stacy McMorrow of the Urban Institute are “cautiously optimistic.” Paduda agrees: “there’s no question there are fundamental changes occurring that are affecting care delivery, pricing, and reimbursement.”

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Doctors Sue Hospitals to Protect Patients; A University Buys Insurance that Doesn’t Protect Students; What Gay Marriage Laws Mean for Gay Coverage . . . . and More

The newest Health Wonk Review has been posted. This time around, Colorado Health Insurance Insider’s Louise Norris is the host, and it’s an excellent read.

A few highlights:

                                 Doctors Sue Hospitals, Protect Patients

Over at Healthcare Renewal, Roy Poses digs into how doctors are pushing back against hopsitals who put profits above everything else. His article describes two recent lawsuits filed by physician groups alleging that the hospital systems they worked for were sacrificing patient welfare in the name of profit. 

As Louise observes, “the details are sickening to read:  One hospital group encouraged its docs to exaggerate the severity of patient conditions and needlessly admit patients from the ER to hospital beds in order to bill more for their treatment.  Another hospital group that owns three hospitals and also partially owns an ambulance company was making patient transfers (using their own ambulance company despite slower response times) a top priority – to the extent that a doctor’s transfer rate was a factor in bonuses and performance reviews.  An admin email stated that “the performance we are looking for are transfers.”  Wow.  Transfers just for the sake of racking up revenue – patient welfare had nothing to do with it, and was likely compromised when the slower ambulance company was used in cases where the transfer was actually warranted.”

I’m just skimming the surface of the corruption Roy exposes. You really should read his entire post.

Often doctors are afraid to stand up to greedy hospital administrators.  But by banding together, physician groups can stand up for patients.

I would add that, in the past  two doctors— working at separate non-profit hospitals—have told me about hospital administrators pressuring physicians to admit ER patients, even when they did not need to be hospitalized. This is how some hospitals “put heads on beds.” 

                 When Universities Buy Inadequate Insurance for Their Students

On his blog, Duncan Cross tells the story of the Arizona State graduate student who died because his Aetna plan (a student plan purchased through the university) capped how much the insurer would pay out over the course of a lifetime at $300,000. It also didn’t cover prescription drugs.  One might be tempted to blame the insurance company,
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Health Wonk Review Posts Investigate

Nursing Homes, Nurse-Practitioners Developing More  Expertise, Efforts to Block Exchanges, How Patients Respond to Evidence that Some Tests are Unnecessary, and Whether Obamacare “Screws” Young Americans  . . . 

This  time around Peggy Salvatore hosts a Valentine’s Day Edition of  Health Wonk Review –over at Healthcare Talent Transformation . Her round-up of some of the best of recent HealthCare posts includes:

–  A piece on Health Affairs Blog by David Rothman investigating how Americans respond to “evidence that certain medical tests and screenings might be unnecessary, harmful, and not worth the money.”  How do they react to research showing that some drugs are harmful? To find out, you’ll have to read the post.  (You will find the link to this post, and all of the posts discussed below, here )

–  Good news from Louise at Colorado Health Insurance Insider:  A bill that would have repealed the 2011 law that created Colorado’s health insurance exchange/ marketplace, died in committee in a 9-2 vote. “Republicans and Democrats on the Committee on the committee rejected his portrayal of the Exchange– which has already made a lot of progress towards an opening date this fall.”

Louise adds: “Given the progress that Colorado has made over the past two years in creating the state’s marketplace and implementing various other healthcare reforms (both state-based, like maternity coverage and gender-neutral premiums, and ACA-related, including the recent push to expand Medicaid), I would say that Colorado is on track to greatly improve its overall healthcare outcomes.

She also includes a useful map showing the states that have defaulted on setting up Exchanges. As she notes “this doesn’t mean they will get a pass on Obamacare.”  By law, the federal government will set up Exchanges for them.

–  A post by Disease Management Care Blog’s Dr. Jaan Sidorov pointing out that non-physician professionals and lay-persons are managing to achieve a remarkable degree of medical expertise. This is, as Peggy notes, a controversial subject.

– A report that asks “do non-profit nursing homes really provide better care than their for-profit counterparts”?   Over at Healthcare Economist Jason Shafrin analyzes a study that suggests the answer is  “Yes.”   How do they arrive at that conclusion? Again, you’ll  have to read the post.

– A post that takes on “a recent infamous article on Buzzhead ”  claiming  that Obamacare “screws” young Americans.  Over at California Access Health’s Anthony Wright observes:  “there are some obvious and non-obvious reasons why Obamacare is a boon to young adults. “ The non-obvious reasons are worth thinking about.

These are just a few of the treats in this Valentine’s Day Edition.  I recommend that you read the entire Review here.

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The Newest Health Wonk Review—on Health Affairs

Chris Fleming hosts the latest edition of Health Wonk Review, a compendium of recent posts on health care blogs.

On Managed Care Matters, Joe Paduda offers 5 predictions for health care in 2013.  He’s convinced that all but a handful of states will expand Medicaid. (“The pressure from hospitals and providers will be overwhelming.”) He also predicts that “The feds and CMS will get even more aggressive on Medicare and Medicaid fraud.”  (For what it’s worth, I think he’s right on both counts.)

                                       Food for Thought

Some posts are likely to stir controversy, either because they’re rebutting the conventional wisdom, or because they’re questioning some deeply held beliefs.  I think these posts are important because they define issues that we should all think about.

Over at Colorado Health Insurance Insider, Louise Norris examines the question of whether smokers should pay more for their health insurance.  Under the ACA, smokers can be charged up to 50 percent more than nonsmokers.  . . .

“Norris prefers the carrot over the stick,” Fleming observes, “endorsing the requirement that all plans cover tobacco cessation programs as part of the ACA’s preventive services mandate, although she cites evidence showing that implementation of this requirement has been inconsistent. “ (It’s worth noting that tobacco cessation programs work. “Sticks,” behavioral psychologists tell us, just aren’t nearly as effective.) 

The Hospitalist Leader’s  Brad  Flansbaum suggests that our emphasis on getting everyone vaccinated during a severe influenza (and claims about Tamiflu) may well amount to “oversell.”  Eye-opening.

 At the Innovative Health Media Blog  David Wilson writes: “The Medicare Annual Wellness Visit  (AWV) is the perfect vehicle to address the increasing need for early detection of cognitive impairment.  The AWV” gives physicians the opportunity “to provide such a screening and receive reimbursement for it .

“Once a patient shows the need for additional testing physicians can use self-administered computerized tests to perform the additional screening without referring the patients to another doctor or office,” he adds. “ This also creates additional reimbursement for physicians.” 

MM–I can’t help but ask: “Since we have no cure or effective treatments for Alzheimer’s (or most forms of senile dementia) do you really want to know that, in three or four years, you may  be diagnosed with full-blown Alzheimer’s?”

Certainly, seniors who want this testing should have access to it. Perhaps, one day, accumulated data will help researchers understand the disease. But Medicare patients should know that they can say “No” There is no requirement that this be part of your Annual Wellness visit.

On the Health Business Blog, another David Wilson has published a post that is likely to be even more controversial. He argues that “The Nursing Shortage is a Myth.”

We have plenty of nurses,  Wilson suggests. In fact, in the future, he writes, “robots will be replacing nurses “just as robots have replaced “paralegals” and “actuaries.” (“Insurance companies used to hire tons of them, but their work can be done much more efficiently with computers.”)

Over at Wright on Health, Brad Wright takes a look at the recent Institute of Medicine report comparing health in the U.S. to health in other wealthy nations. He notes that data on preventable deaths among young people points to the importance of public health interventions, including reducing access to guns.

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Health Wonk Review-The Holiday Edition

On this last holiday week-end, I hope many of you will have the time to read  the  newest edition of Health Wonk Review, a round-up of some of the best health care posts of the past two weeks.

This time Lynch Ryan hosts HWR on  Worker’s Comp Insider. . The posts raise provocative  questions:

Did the LA Times Sensationalize Blue Cross of California’s rate increases?

Why doesn’t President Obama require that CMS negotiate for drug discounts –a move that would take us $200 billion closer to a cliff-avoiding deal?

[My guess is that this will happen sometime this year. Back in April of 2011 Naomi published a HealthBeat post suggesting that Obama had put the idea of letting Medicare negotiate prices back on the table].

How do commercial insurers evaluate physician quality?

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The Post-Election Edition of Health Wonk Review

This most recent edition of HWR, a compendium of some of the best health care posts of the past two weeks, came out ten days ago. I apologize that I’ve been tardy in commenting— but, not to worry, it’s an “evergreen.” The problems Health-Wonkers raise haven’t been solved in the past week, and the issues discussed remain just as “hot”– as they were.

Managed Care Matters” Joe Paduda does an outstanding job of hosting the round-up in a post titled: “Elections Have Consequences.”

He begins with “Health Policy and MarketPlace Review’s”  Bob Laszewski, who  notes in the wake of the election, we can be certain of one thing: Obamacare will be implemented. To be sure, there will be lawsuits challenging reform legislation, but Laszewski says, “I wouldn’t waste a lot of time worrying about those. Anyone in the market will do better spending their time getting ready for all of the change coming.” He’s far more worried about whether the government will be able to set up the Exchanges in time to meet the deadline—and how legislators are going to solve the “fiscal cliff” problem.

Writing on “Health Affairs” Timothy Jost agrees that “there is a great deal of work needs to be done before reform becomes a reality.”  He focuses on the many rules that the administration will need to issue to provide guidance to the states, to employers and to insurers:  “The exchanges must begin open enrollment on October 1, 2013,” he observes. “By that date, the exchanges must have certified qualified health plans.  But before health plans can be certified, they must have their rates and forms approved by the states.  And before that can happen, insurers must determine what plans they will offer and what premiums they will charge.  Yet insurers cannot establish their plans and set their rates until they know a lot more than they do now about the rules they are going to have to play by.” In other words, the administration had better “roll up its sleeves and get to work.”

Meanwhile, President Obama still must contend with ornery governors, and rebellious states. “In an ominous sign,” Jost notes, “Missouri passed a ballot initiative prohibiting state officials from cooperating with the federal exchange in its state,  and authorizing private lawsuits against any official who cooperates.”   (Thanks, Missouri–just what we need, lawsuits against officials trying to do their jobs..)  “Whether this is constitutional remains to be seen,” says Jost, who is a constitutional expert.

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Health Wonk Review: ‘Voices from the Blogosphere’

The following post originally appeared on the healthinsurance.org blog.

This week, Maggie Mahar edits the Health Wonk Review, a biweekly compendium of the best of the health policy blogs.

Voices from the Blogosphere, May 21-June 6

I’ve decided to let the “Voices” of healthcare bloggers become the theme of this edition of Health Wonk Review. Some are passionate; others are dispassionate; some are disarmingly candid; others are angry.

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