Friday, February 24, 2017

California Health Care Foundation -- Health Care That Works for All Californians

The Affordable Care Act is at a crossroad.  Repeal or Amend ?  Those are terms which require explanation. To repeal the act without a replacement would be a disaster and tragic for many who have learned how to enter the system. If that were to be jerked away from them it would be premeditated disregard and further increase mistrust in our government.

Knowledgable health professionals would agree the act needs to be significantly amended. This is very possible and most likely.  Many acts and laws have been amended in the past.  Our current political divide near 50/50 with representatives voting along party lines make the task more difficult than it could be.

Resource Center for Amending the Affordable Care Act . This page will be updated regularly

This resource is brought to you by the California Health Care Foundation

As the debate over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) evolves, CHCF will maintain a list of data resources and emerging analyses, from CHCF and other organizations, on the potential impact on California. This list is organized by the potential impact of ACA repeal on coverage, economic indicators and health care spending, and insurance market regulations, although some resources span multiple categories. Within each category, resources are organized chronologically.  

Uncertain Future for the ACAFAQs on Repeal and Replace

Our entire health system is a gordian knot of complexity and confounding regulations. It will be a challenge to unravel it without disturbing many sections that work quite well.  The most likely early amendments will be eliminating the individual mandate. which is a . tax penalty for non-enrollment in an approved plan. And despite the law many . people have been granted an exemption for . financial reasons. The law is quite arbitrary, black and white and does not allow for many who have extenuating financial or health concerns.

Updates,  ITUP

California Health Care Foundation -- Health Care That Works for All Californians

Thursday, February 23, 2017

On the Path to a Medical Career

During this time of uncertaintly in health care it is important to identify if a medical career is a goal you or your children wish to pursue.

Early decision will make it somewhat easier to decide on the path.  When choosing, most individuals do not know what specialty to chose.

Choosing your career is always difficult – but with many medical careers overlapping in the types of patients they deal with or the locations they work in, budding health professionals really have their work cut out for them.
So what should you consider if you’re deciding between two roles?

Consider your college degree

One of the biggest and most crucial steps in your journey through the health industry is studying for your college degree. If you get a good feeling about a particular subject, chances are you’ll love the job it leads you to.   If you’re unsure whether to become a physician assistant or a doctor, for example, consider the fact that PA qualifications can be as short as two years while medical degrees are far longer. How long would you like to spend in education, and does the course content seem like a good fit for you?

Consider getting some work experience

Another very effective litmus test for your future medical career is to get some work experience. Not only do internships and shadowing placements give you something great to speak about in interviews or on your college application, it also gives you the chance to see the reality of your chosen role.
Want to speak to someone about the stresses of the job, the training and the night shifts? Speak to someone who’s in that position right now, and ask them about the key differences between the roles.
The world of healthcare is extremely varied and interesting. Depending on your qualifications, you could find yourself working on a cruise ship, at a school or abroad – the options for healthcare professionals are practically limitless! Focus on the huge possibilities of your future health career, and we’re sure you’ll find a role that makes you jump out of bed in the morning.
These are many ways to gain exposure to a future career in medicine. Volunteering at a local hospital or clinic, to shadow a physician or to engage in something more exotic, such as a medical internship abroad

Advice for girls and women interested in surgical careers.  In most cases surgical careers are much more demanding of time and commitment, during training and into practice..
Surgery is a demanding career. Do it if you can’t imagine doing anything else. But, if you have the passion, the tolerance for the hard work and the long hours, you will be rewarded by transforming lives.
There are still many challenges to overcome, such as improving work life balance and making childbearing easier for women surgeons. But as I think back on Elizabeth Blackwell, I am heartened that change will come so that the field is truly welcoming to any woman who wants to become a plastic surgeon, have children and maintain a happy marriage.

If you wish to pursue a career in health there are many options besides an M.D. Here is the shortlist;
Physician's Assistant, Laboratory technician, Nurse practitioner,  Nurse, Radiology technician, Pharmacy technician, or Pharmacist.  All of these occupations require less time and education.

It is a good time to enter the health professions. Despite what you hear it is an exciting area to work in.  Motivation as to why you chose a particular field is important.  Perhaps the most is your interest and curiosity about the subject.

Choosing between multiple medical careers

Monday, February 20, 2017

Openness and Transparency | Public Health | JAMA | The EU is way ahead

The European Medicines Agency and Publication of Clinical Study Reports

A Challenge for the US FDA

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been the standard of drug regulation worldwide for decades. In 1962, in response to the thalidomide tragedy, Congress directed the FDA to evaluate the effectiveness of drugs based on “adequate and well-controlled investigations, including clinical investigations” conducted by qualified experts.

Backed by this congressional enactment, the FDA crafted groundbreaking administrative regulations (eg, the requirements of a prespecified protocol, placebo or active controls, the phasing of clinical investigations, and informed consent from patients) that have guided the global clinical trial enterprise ever since.1 The FDA’s regulations revolutionized the evaluation of drugs in the United States and abroad.

However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the counterpart to the FDA in the European Union, is poised to leapfrog ahead of the FDA in an equally important drug regulatory space of transparency. In October 2016, the EMA published on its website the clinical study reports for 2 drugs (carfilzomib and lesinurad) it recently approved. In so doing, the EMA enabled access to approximately 260 000 pages of detailed clinical trial information, including the protocol, statistical analysis, and detailed clinical data. Although some information was redacted to protect patient privacy, the EMA considered only 2 pages to contain “confidential commercial information.”
he EMA adopted policy No. 0070 to achieve the goals of “better informed use of medicines” and “to make medicine development more efficient” by allowing researchers to “learn from past successes and failures.” The EMA concluded that disclosure of detailed clinical data would enable the development of “new knowledge in the interest of public health.” Whether policy No. 0070 will achieve these goals is an unproven hypothesis, but, by publishing clinical study reports, the EMA has arranged a form of natural experiment that should allow an estimate of the actual benefit, if any, from its new policy.

However, policy No. 0070 faces legal uncertainty. In July 2016, the EU General Court issued an interim injunction that has the potential to undermine or reverse that policy.7 In that case, PTC Therapeutics submitted to the EMA a clinical study report of a phase 2 controlled efficacy study of ataluren for the treatment of Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Based on that clinical study report, the EMA conditionally approved ataluren in July 2014. Another unidentified pharmaceutical company requested a copy of the ataluren clinical study report. The EMA offered to redact several portions of the clinical study report, but PTC Therapeutics took the position that the entire clinical study report was confidential commercial information.The challenge the FDA must confront is that the clinical study reports submitted in support of drug marketing applications in the United States are basically the same as in the European Union.8 The FDA currently considers clinical data to be confidential commercial information, whereas the EMA does not. The EMA’s policy No. 0070—if it survives the current legal case with PTC Therapeutics—could lead to the anomaly that the EMA proactively publishes clinical study reports online (after decisions are made regarding marketing authorization applications), whereas the FDA withholds the same or similar clinical study reports. Despite the importance of this issue to public health, in neither the United States nor the European Union is there yet clear legal authority on whether clinical study reports should be made public and, if so, under what conditions.

The European Medicines Agency and Clinical Study Reports | Public Health | JAMA | The JAMA Network

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Hidden Reasons Why Obama Care (ACA) is Failing

The true measure of how well the ACA is working should not be measured by how many uninsured people sign up for it.  The press fails to report the deep financial flaws brought about by a congress that passed the ACA for political gain.

One of the most litigated questions under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is whether the United States government owes health insurers that offered qualified health plans (QHPs) through the ACA’s marketplaces the full amount that would be due them under the formula found in the ACA’s risk corridor statute and regulation. At least 17 cases brought by insurers are now pending in the Court of Federal Claims, one of which has been certified as a class action. An additional case is pending on appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.


The risk corridor program is, along with the risk adjustment and reinsurance programs, one of the Affordable Care Act’s three premium stabilization programs. It was designed to attract normally risk-averse insurers into offering a new product to a new population with uncertain prospects during the first three years of the health insurance marketplaces. It collects contributions from participating insurers that made profits that exceed certain “risk corridors” and makes payments to insurers whose losses fall outside those corridors. It was only in force for 2014, 2015, and 2016.
Nothing in the statutory provision creating the ACA program required it to be revenue neutral. Insurers entered the marketplaces in 2014 believing that risk corridor payments would be made if they were due under the statutory formula regardless of the level of collections. In 2014, however, nine months after health plans had submitted their rates for 2014 and three months after they had begun marketing qualified health plans (QHPs), CMS began to describe the program as budget neutral.
Regardless of HHS assurances and CBO projections, the potential magnitude of risk corridor receipts and payments and the effects on particular insurers and markets is highly uncertain.  The substantial uncertainty facing insurers participating in the exchanges in 2014 has only been partially resolved as they develop rates for 2015.  There remains a real possibility that promised risk corridor payments could significantly exceed receipts for 2014 or later.  If so, payment reductions could be problematic for some insurers, especially for smaller companies and/or new entrants.As it turns out, several insurers are now in court suing CMS for losses.  
Flash forward to 2016-2017.  The final accounting for evaluation of 2016 risk corridor adjustments does not occur until July 2017. The original final notice included budget neutrality while recent comments from HHS avoid that issue in it's forward looking plan for reimbursing insurance companies for their losses.  The scheme is a game of chairs.

Now it may all be moot, since President Trump and the GOP congress are about to repeal/amend the Affordable Care Act.

Dear Dr. Price: 5 suggestions for the new Health and Human Services secretary

Congratulations on your confirmation ! That was easy, and now comes the hard part.

If I could speak with the new head of HHS I would tell him many things, however this writer covers most of it .

Suneel Dhand writes his message to Tom Price. on KevinMD's blog.

 "As a physician myself, it’s great to know that a fellow physician will head up the agency. I’m sure you understand too, having been a practicing orthopedic surgeon, how disheartening and frustrating it is to have non-clinical “experts” making key decisions about health care.
I’m sure you’ve also seen the news about how your nomination has divided the physician community. Nevertheless, you have the full support of many of our nation’s top physician organizations, including the American Medical Association.
I am all for physicians taking leadership positions in health care, industry and — yes — politics. Your resume is hugely impressive. I’m aware of many of your viewpoints. And in the interests of being completely honest, I am not in agreement with all of them — as I’m sure is the case for a large percentage of the over 800,000 physicians in the United States.
Especially if you ever propose changes that risk any of our long-suffering patients losing access or have the result of making health care more unaffordable for them. Having said that, I am glad about your consistent wish to put the “doctor-patient relationship” first. Nobody needs to tell you what has gone on over the last decade and how the practice of medicine has changed for the worse. We need to consider the following five points to make American Health Care Great Again:
1. The cost of our health care system is just unsustainable, as we’ve known for a very long time. 2. The frontline of medicine has been decimated by excessively onerous regulations.   3. Let’s keep our independent physicians.  4. Let’s foster a health care system that favors doctors (or nurses, or indeed any other health care professionals) in positions of leadership.  5. As you’ve already said time and again, we must always remember that it’s all about the patient and their doctor. This paradigm is central to all health care systems — true patient-centered care.   
As much as we need to improve, let’s also not forget all of the great things about American health care. We have the most amazing doctors and nurses and lead the world in innovation and research. We can maintain our high standards, while still giving our patients the best possible deal at much lower costs. We can also make our system a great one to work in for our hard-working doctors. This health care ship can still be reversed — especially by the collective efforts of those physicians who all started off with the same call to service and altruistic intentions that you probably did too.

Author:  Heath Train Express took several liberties in quoting his article for the sake of brevity.  The entire article is linked below.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Consumers want telehealth—what does that mean for health systems? | Healthcare IT News

Today, 50 million U.S. consumers would switch providers to one that offers telehealth, compared to 17 million in 2015.

60 percent of adults willing to have a video visit with a doctor want to see a doctor online regularly to help manage a chronic condition. The perception of what a visit to the doctor or clinic has shifted measurably during the past two or three years/ . It has become more accepted as an accepted mode of practice by physicians and patients alike.

Many clinics are struggling as to how to implement this function to their practice. 
Consumers want to see their PCPs
65 percent of consumers are interested in seeing their PCP over video
Consumers want to see the PCP they trust and know through tele-health. Twenty percent of consumers said they were willing to switch to a PCP that offered video visits. For health systems looking to retain current patients, as well as bring new patients into the system, making tele-health part of the primary care offering can produce big results.
What is driving this change?
Consumers are more likely to avoid an ER if telehealth is an option
20 percent of Americans would use a video visit for middle-of-the-night care
That’s not to say that consumers have abandoned the emergency room but they are open to alternative options of care. This consumer sentiment is driven largely by long wait times and high costs. Health systems can use telehealth to divert resources and costs away from the ER and urgent care facilities and into lower cost options like telehealth.
Southwest Medical Associates, a health system based in Las Vegas, Nevada, deploys an in-clinic marketing strategy for its telehealth service, SMA NowClinic. One marketing tactic involves the use of TV screens to post the wait times at all SMA Urgent Care locations—sometimes showing as high as 90 minutes—while another screen reads “Need to speak to someone right away” and promotes the telehealth service. To date, Southwest Medical has enrolled more than 30,000 patients in telehealth and conducted more than 20,000 telehealth visits.
Consumers want to use video visits for follow-up care
52 percent of adults willing to have a video visit to see a doctor are interested in using video visits for post-surgical or hospital stay follow-ups.
It’s estimated that between 15 percent and 25 percent of people discharged from the hospital will be readmitted within 30 days, with many of these readmissions being preventable. Consumers are open to the idea that follow-up care can be done via telehealth. Physicians that offer follow-up care via video may find that patients are more likely to adhere to recommendations since they feel more in control of their treatment.
In addition to offering urgent care services with its telehealth service NYP On Demand, New York-Presbyterian also offers follow-up visits so that patients can see their own physicians for appointments that do not require coming in to a clinic or hospital.
Consumers want to manager chronic conditions via video
60 percent of adults willing to have a video visit with a doctor are interested in seeing a doctor online to manage chronic conditions
Today, 1 in 2 U.S. adults have a chronic condition. Treating chronic conditions comes at a high costs for both consumers and health systems, making it equally beneficial to move these reoccurring visits to video. Building specialty programs for conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and congestive health failure—and making consumers aware of the programs—can drive better patient outcomes.
Marshfield Clinic, a health system based in Wisconsin, is expanding its virtual care services and envisions providing support to its diabetic population by monitoring blood sugar and offering medication counseling.
Consumer thoughts and perspectives on telehealth are becoming increasingly important to health systems, and forward-thinking health systems are using telehealth to determine the services they offer in the future. 
Numerous companies have sprung up to fill this need.

Consumers want telehealth—what does that mean for health systems? | Healthcare IT News

Early marijuana use associated with abnormal brain function, study reveals

The legalization becoming common due to recent referendums and state legislative actions.

A dried flower bud of the Cannabis plant. Credit: Public Domain

Does legalization make it safe? Has the Food and Drug Administration any jurisdiction over it's production or sale.

Marijuana is a mood altering molecule derived from a plant.  It has been popular as an underground treatment that reduces anxiety and creates distortions of sensory input (particularly visual). It increases appetite, and alters pain perception.  In the past regulation consisted of an outright ban on growing and usage.  During the past several years many states have legalized it's use for medicinal purposes by requiring a physician's signature.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance in the world. Previous studies have suggested that frequent marijuana users, especially those who begin at a young age, are at a higher risk for  and , including depression,  and schizophrenia.
Dr. Osuch and her team recruited youth in four groups: those with depression who were not marijuana users; those with depression who were frequent marijuana users; frequent marijuana users without depression; and healthy individuals who were not marijuana users. In addition, participants were later divided into youth who started using marijuana before the age of 17 and those who began using it later or not at all.
Participants underwent psychiatric, cognitive and IQ testing as well as brain scanning. The study found no evidence that marijuana use improved depressive symptoms; there was no difference in psychiatric symptoms between those with depression who used marijuana and those with depression who did not use marijuana.
In addition, results showed differences in brain function among the four groups in areas of the brain that relate to reward-processing and motor control. The use of marijuana did not correct the brain function deficits of depression, and in some regions made them worse.
Of additional interest, those participants who used marijuana from a young age had highly abnormal brain function in areas related to visuo-spatial processing, memory, self-referential activity and reward processing. The study found that early marijuana use was also associated with lower IQ scores.
"These findings suggest that using marijuana does not correct the brain abnormalities or symptoms of depression and using it from an early age may have an abnormal effect not only on brain function, but also on IQ," said Dr. Osuch.
Read more at:
Early marijuana use associated with abnormal brain function, study reveals