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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dueling Star Ratings May Confuse Some Home Health Patients | California Healthline











Dueling Star Ratings May Confuse Some Home Health Patients | California Healthline

Patients looking for home health care services will be impressed if they check out the federal government’s ratings of AccentCare. Two of the company’s home health agencies in California — in San Diego and Newport Beach and Rancho Cordova — each earned 4.5 or 4 stars, nearly the top quality score, primarily based on Medicare’s assessment of how often patients got better.
But further research may lead to confusion. Medicare also posts stars to convey how patients rate agencies after their care is over. There, these same three agencies earned two stars.
Such contradictory results between how patients view home health agencies and how the government rates them are hardly unusual. One in five agencies had clinical and patient ratings that differed by two stars or more, a Kaiser Health News analysis of government records shows.
In California, for instance, agencies were three times as likely to receive five stars for their patient reviews as they were for their clinical quality. Skilled home health services, where Medicare sends nurses, aides and physical and occupational therapists to people’s houses, are becoming more important amid pressures to keep homebound patients from going to the hospital. To help doctors and patients select among more than 12,000 agencies, Medicare last year published star ratings for clinical quality on its Home Health Compare website, and in January it added star ratings to reflect the views of patients.
Medicare was liberal in giving top marks based on patients’ opinion scores, awarding four or five stars to 74 percent of agencies it rated. Of those, 2,152 agencies got five stars.

Apparently Medicare is giving more attention to the "Patient experience". 
But in encapsulating clinical quality measures, Medicare used a different formula that ensured three-star ratings would be most common. Only 27 percent of agencies received four or five stars. Just 286 agencies received the maximum five stars.In a statement, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service said the different star ratings should not be confusing. “CMS stresses that website users should look at all of the different types of measures available for a given provider type, including for home health care agencies,” the statement said. “By providing both clinically based and survey-based measures, CMS hopes to make available to the public a range of perspectives and information that consumers can evaluate to help inform their decision about an agency.”
As the number of quality metrics has proliferated, star ratings follow other Medicare efforts to distill sometimes complex quality assessments into a consumer-friendly format. Medicare also assigns stars for dialysis center quality, hospital patient experience and several aspects of nursing home care.
“We’re really talking about very different sets of metrics,” said Teresa Lee, director of the Alliance for Home Health Quality and Innovation, a nonprofit research group. “It’s unfortunate, but maybe it’s the truth that patient experience and clinical quality of care do not go hand in hand.”
Adding to the potential confusion, 41 percent of the star ratings summing up patient views are not reliable — by the government’s own admission — because fewer than 100 surveys were returned, records show. Home Health Compare warns consumers in footnotes to use the scores “with caution as the number of surveys may be too low to accurately tell how an agency is doing.” Medicare did not assign stars for agencies if fewer than 40 surveys were returned.
“It is important to point out that our patient population has an average age of 86 and often relies on family members, powers of attorney and/or guardians to complete” the survey, she said.
Some elder care experts have broader reasons to question the ratings.
While there is some confusion and questions about the validity of these surveys and the more objective Medicare quality measures,  patients' families now have somewhere to screen  possible caregiving agencies for their loved ones.























Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Health and Wellness 63rd St. Farm

Better health and wellness may be more than going to  your local supermarket to purchase 'vegan'. How about growing your own 'vegan' in a community supported agriculture'.

We all have local and/or regional parks which are common place. Why not have local government allot vacant land to community's who wish to grown their own food ? Living off the land, at least partially would provide some nutrition which could be organically grow and serve as an educational site for young people.  Perhaps schools should alot some of their land for this purpose as well. What better purpose than to provide leaning in nutrition, environmental impact, recycling and for other purposes.

In innumerable cities across America, these 'agricultural centers'  could provide healthy products such as lettuce, melons, tomatoes and other flavinoid rich foods in what are otherwise kinow as  'food deserts'  It is a well known fact that impoverished people have higher death rates, increased morbidity and obesity due to poor access to healthy foods.

63rd St. Farm — CSA

Disparity in Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor Is Growing - The New York Times

Disparity in Life Spans of the Rich and the Poor Is Growing - 

Experts have long known that rich people generally live longer than poor people. But a growing body of data shows a more disturbing pattern: Despite big advances in medicine, technology and education, the longevity gap between high-income and low-income Americans has been widening sharply.

The poor are losing ground not only in income, but also in years of life, the most basic measure of well-being. In the early 1970s, a 60-year-old man in the top half of the earnings ladder could expect to live 1.2 years longer than a man of the same age in the bottom half, according to an analysis by theSocial Security Administration. Fast-forward to 2001, and he could expect to live 5.8 years longer than his poorer counterpart.
New research released on Friday contains even more jarring numbers. Looking at the extreme ends of the income spectrum, economists at the Brookings Institution found that for men born in 1920, there was a six-year difference in life expectancy between the top 10 percent of earners and the bottom 10 percent. For men born in 1950, that difference had more than doubled, to 14 years.
For women, the gap grew to 13 years, from 4.7 years.
“There has been this huge spreading out,” said Gary Burtless, one of the authors of the study.
The growing chasm is alarming policy makers, and has surfaced in the presidential campaign. During the Democratic debate Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton expressed concern over shortening life spans for some Americans.
“This may be the next frontier of the inequality discussion,” said Peter Orszag, a former Obama administration official now at Citigroup, who was among the first to highlight the pattern.

An Expanding Longevity Gap

Wealthier Americans tend to live longer than poorer Americans. Despite advances in medicine and education, the difference in life span after age 50 between richest and poorest has more than doubled since the 1970s.
It is hard to point to one overriding cause, but public health researchers have a few answers. In recent decades, smoking, the single biggest cause of preventable death, has helped drive the disparity, said Andrew Fenelon, a researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As the rich and educated began to drop the habit, its deadly effects fell increasingly on poorer, uneducated people. Jessica Ho, of Duke University, and Mr. Fenelon calculated that smoking accounted for a third to a fifth of the gap in life expectancy between men with college degrees and men with only high school diplomas. For women it was as much as a quarter.
Obesity, which has been sharply rising since the 1980s, is more ambiguous. The gap between obesity rates for high earners and low earners actually narrowed from 1990 to 2010, according to an analysis by the National Academy of Sciences. By 2010, about 37 percent of adults at the lower end of the income ladder were obese, compared with 31 percent at the higher end.
More recently, the prescription drug epidemic has ravaged poor white communities, a problem that experts said would most likely exacerbate the trend of widening disparities.
Limited access to health care accounts for surprisingly few premature deaths in America, researchers have found. So it is an open question whether President Obama’s health care law — which has sharply reduced the number of Americans without health insurance since 2014 — will help ease the disparity.
At the heart of the disparity, said Elizabeth H. Bradley, a professor of public health at Yale, are economic and social inequities, “and those are things that high-tech medicine cannot fix.”
Life expectancy for the bottom 10 percent of male wage earners born in 1920 was 72.9, compared with 73.6 for those born in 1950, the Brookings researchers found. For the top 10 percent, life expectancy jumped to 87.2 from 79.1.
Many researchers believe the gap in life spans from lower- to upper-income Americans started widening about 40 years ago, when income inequality began to grow. 
“There are large swaths of the population that are not enjoying the pretty impressive gains the rest of us are having in life spans,” said Christopher J. L. Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle. “Not everybody is sharing in the same prosperity and progress.”
Ref:  NY Times




In America, the art of doctoring is dying - The Washington Post

For almost 20 years  I practiced Ophthalmology and geriatrics in my own office. I had tens of thousands of face-to-face interactions with a group of folks who, with time, grew to trust me. I respected them as well; many I came to love — a term that I hesitate to use in this hypersensitive age. Given how geographically dispersed families are today, for many of my older patients I functioned as a surrogate son.
Things began to change abruptly in 1989, as HMOs, capitated reimbursement, as well as a flurry of eponyms guiding how medicine should be practiced.

There is no doubt that the kind of medicine I was fortunate to practice is disappearing. Most doctors are employed by large group practices, hospitals or insurance companies. Many want to have personal connections with their patients but have too little time. Young primary-care doctors are relegated to assembly-line clinics; their patients pass through as widgets, not as individuals with complex inner lives, wrought family structures, varied spiritual and cultural beliefs — not to mention their individual capacities to understand and deal with their medical symptoms, diagnoses and multiple medications, as well as their own hopes and fears.
There is no doubt that the kind of medicine I was fortunate to practice is disappearing. Most doctors are employed by large group practices, hospitals or insurance companies. Many want to have personal connections with their patients but have too little time. Young primary-care doctors are relegated to assembly-line clinics; their patients pass through as widgets, not as individuals with complex inner lives.
Physicians are now insulated from knowing too much about their patients. It is all about the technology, the testing, the imaging, the electronic health record, the data — once collected by the doctor, but now so regulated and overwhelming that paramedical professionals have been enlisted to record the so-called minutiae, the often rote information in which may lie important clues. Some of these may remain forever buried, the patient not wanting to share sensitive details with just anyone, especially someone who no longer makes eye contact, whose face remains buried behind a computer screen, who seems uninterested or just unskilled in reading body language — that downward glance, that shift in the chair, that half-swallowed response.

(Original translation from the Greek)

"I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humility and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God."

(Modern version)

 I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humility and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

Note that the two versions are identical.  Despite centuries of existence our oath remains unchanged, while the world around us has changed. It seems to parallel the existence and intepretation of the U.S. Constitution set forth over 250 years ago.  Today we alter the foundation based upon our present day needs.

For my younger colleagues, who ask, "What was it like to practice medicine in your day ?" My answer is "the patients are the same, the treatments are better. Isn't science wonderful ? " The Creative Destruction of Medicine.




In America, the art of doctoring is dying - The Washington Post

Excise Tax On Medical Marijuana Sales Proposed In California - capradio.org


AP) - A state senator from Northern California has introduced a bill that would impose a 15 percent tax on retail sales of medical marijuana.
 
Sen. Mike McGuire estimated that the excise tax he proposed Wednesday would bring the state over $100 million annually.
 
The Healdsburg Democrat's SB987 directs 30 percent of the revenues collected to the new state agency charged with enforcing the new medical marijuana licensing regulations the Legislature approved last year.
 
The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation would be charged with distributing the funds as grants to help local governments with the costs of enforcing the regulations.
 
McGuire's bill also would dedicate 20 percent of the excise tax money to running and maintaining state parks and 10 percent to county substance abuse programs.
 
Like other tax measures, the bill requires a two-thirds vote to pass.

Brown Approves Statewide Regulation Of Medical Marijuana





Excise Tax On Medical Marijuana Sales Proposed In California - capradio.org







Excise Tax On Medical Marijuana Sales Proposed In California


(AP) - A state senator from Northern California has introduced a bill that would impose a 15 percent tax on retail sales of medical marijuana.
 
Sen. Mike McGuire estimated that the excise tax he proposed Wednesday would bring the state over $100 million annually.
 
The Healdsburg Democrat's SB987 directs 30 percent of the revenues collected to the new state agency charged with enforcing the new medical marijuana licensing regulations the Legislature approved last year.
 
The Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation would be charged with distributing the funds as grants to help local governments with the costs of enforcing the regulations.
 
McGuire's bill also would dedicate 20 percent of the excise tax money to running and maintaining state parks and 10 percent to county substance abuse programs.
 

BREAKING: OMB receives CMS rules overhauling Medicaid - Modern Healthcare Modern Healthcare business news, research, data and events

BREAKING: OMB receives CMS rules overhauling Medicaid - Modern Healthcare Modern Healthcare business news, research, data and events

The CMS has sent a sweeping finalized rule that will overhaul the managedMedicaid program to the Office of Management and Budget for review.

The 653-page proposed version of the rule suggested the biggest changes in Medicaid managed-care regulations in more than a decade. It would cap insurer profits, require states to more rigorously supervise the adequacy of plans' provider networks, encourage states to establish quality rating systems for plans, allow more behavioral healthcare in institutional settings and encourage the growth of managed long-term care.

That version had a requirement that states needed to make sure plans had adequate provider networks.

At a minimum, Medicaid plans' provider networks must have time and distance standards for certain types of providers, including hospitals, primary-care physicians and OB-GYNs. The CMS said time and distance more accurately capture whether beneficiaries have adequate access to care than provider-to-enrollee ratios. States must also consider whether plans offer an adequate number of providers who speak languages other than English.

The CMS encouraged states to include pediatric primary, specialty and dental providers in their networks because of the large number of children covered under Medicaid and CHIP.

The CMS rule also sets a medical-loss ratio (MLR) of 85%, meaning at least 85 cents of every premium dollar must be used for medical care. The remainder can go toward administration, marketing and profit. Plans would not be penalized if they don't meet the ratio, but states could lower future payments if plans don't meet the minimum MLR. 

The CMS' proposed rule suggests that states establish a quality rating system for Medicaid plans to help beneficiaries select plans. The CMS already has a star rating system for Medicare plans. But the agency said it would defer to the states on this issue.

Although the health-plan industry has lobbied against inclusions of a minimum MLR, observers say the new Medicaid requirement would not have much effect on large national insurers. About three-quarters of states with Medicaid managed care already require average MLRs of at least 85%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The proposed CMS rule also could significantly improve access to behavioral healthcare for Medicaid beneficiaries. Since the creation of Medicaid 50 years ago, there has been a coverage exclusion for behavioral and substance-abuse treatment at inpatient facilities with more than 16 beds. The new proposed rule, however, would allow states to pay plans for behavioral care to beneficiaries who have a stay of no more than 15 days in a so-called institution for mental disease. 

About 46 million people, or 73% of all regular Medicaid beneficiaries, are in managed-care plans, and that figure will continue to rise through the Affordable Care Act's expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults, according to consulting firm Avalere Health. Millions of kids in the Children's Health Insurance Program are also in managed care and would be covered by the proposed rule.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Health Insurance Private Exchanges: Are They Making the Cut? - TalentCulture







Health Insurance Private Exchanges: Are They Making the Cut? - TalentCulture







It wasn’t long ago that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) swept over the American healthcare landscape, bringing with it a real focus on private exchanges. Consultants, brokers—and anyone with products to sell—were all focusing on these exchanges, which had a dramatic impact on both individuals, and businesses of all sizes, concerning the health care benefits afforded employees.
Fast forward to today.
Have Private Health Exchanges Lived Up To The Hype? 
With the cost of healthcare on the rise, many companies in the United States have been trying to figure out how to cut those hefty employee insurance premiums. Businesses have responded in different ways, with some organizations eliminating coverage altogether.
Of course, that’s only an option for the smallest of businesses due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate and penalty, which go into effect this year.
Another response has been for companies to increase the deductible their employees must pay before employer-sponsored coverage kicks in. Still other organizations have turned to private health insurance exchanges, which emerged in the wake of the ACA as an insurance marketplace for employers.
Private health exchanges allow companies to control contributions while giving employees the ability to choose from different plans and find a policy that best fits their needs. The use of Private health exchanges is an approach to employee benefits which has been thriving over the past few years.
In 2014, the private health exchange market included 2.5 million users. Last year, that number doubled. Industry analysts, such as consulting firms Accenture and Oliver Wyman, expect the market to grow to as many as 40 million users by 2018.
Private health exchanges offer a chance for employers to manage their costs and risks while giving employees control over their health coverage. But exchanges aren’t a revolutionary cure-all, either. To be the solution they could be, there’s still a lot of work to be done.
According to a survey by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, most employers who’ve made the switch from traditional benefit models to private health exchanges are happy with the result; just eight percent of those surveyed said they were dissatisfied with their experience. The majority of them saw their costs drop and say they now play a less active role in providing benefits that are comparable, if not of higher quality, to what employees had before.
On the whole, however, private health exchanges are a good option with a lot of advantages. The ones who succeed will have some, if not all, of the following attributes:
  • A forward-looking approach to the ACA. The ACA changes that will take effect this year are only the tip of the iceberg. Many employers are concerned about 2018 when a 40 percent tax—commonly referred to as the “Cadillac tax”—will be applied to what employers and employees jointly pay for coverage above a certain amount. Staying on top of these changes and offering compliance-driven products will set platforms above their competitors.
  • A strong focus on technology. Multiple technological failures set the ACA program back when it launched in 2013. Our expectations as users are high; if a platform doesn’t work well, it won’t last. Exchanges with platforms that aren’t consistent, easy-to-use, and high-functioning will be passed over for more user-friendly options.
  • Demonstrated compensation transparency. For the private exchange system to thrive, all stakeholders need to receive some value, and transparency of data and benefit will play a fundamental role in current and future success. Employers who want to stay on top of costs will gravitate toward providers who offer clear fee schedules and compensation information.
  • Demonstrated administrator experienceInexperience has been a stumbling block for private exchanges so far. Both benefits and exchange administrators may not have the industry experience or training needed to manage day-to-day operations of the exchange setup effectively. Better training and communication will drive successful relationships between employers and exchange providers in the years to come.
Right now, the private health exchange market is growing and becoming increasingly successful—but not as quickly as experts predicted five years ago. Of course, this doesn’t mean private health exchanges aren’t a solid option; it only means the industry needs more time to evaluate how the new model measures up.
The Federal government stepped in several years ago with a government website. Many states decided to build their own.  Health.gov is a prime example how not to roll out a not for prime time sofrware platfrom.  The Health.gov web site singlehandely almost destroyed the Affordable Care Act.
Private exchanges can ill afford repeating that scenario, and at this time have avoided that minefield.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Brown Nearing MCO Tax Deal With Health Plans - capradio.org

The unforseen effects of the Affordable 
Care Act



California lawmakers could vote this week on a proposal to restructure a tax on health care plans in order to avert a potential $1 billion state budget hole.
This “managed care organization” (MCO) tax brings in federal funds for Medi-Cal, California’s health care program for the poor. The federal government say the state’s current structure is no longer acceptable – and must be fixed by the end of June for the state to keep getting the money.
So Gov. Jerry Brown and health plans have been negotiating for months – and now talks are in the final stages.
Any deal would require Republican votes to pass the Legislature. There are signs that the votes could be there for the right deal as long as it's “revenue neutral“ – that is, the federal funds offset any tax liability to the health plans so the insurance companies don’t pass costs on to the rest of us.
A deal would also likely include funding increases for in-home care for the elderly and disabled (known as in-home supportive services or IHSS), and programs that benefit people with developmental disabilities.




















Brown Nearing MCO Tax Deal With Health Plans - capradio.org

Saturday, February 6, 2016

The Silence Around Stillbirth is Unspeakable

7,200 lives are lost every day to stillbirths. Imagine if we could reduce that number and stop this epidemic 
Almost 2·6 million babies are stillborn worldwide every year. That’s roughly the population of Rome, wiped out. Yet we still don’t talk openly about stillbirth. Vulnerable girls and women are often left to suffer in silence. It only perpetuates the stigma when they have little to no information on the topic. More must be done to cut through the sociocultural, religious, and health barriers that inhibit open dialogue.

A healthy pregnancy should be a universal right. Millions of women worldwide are still denied access to basic education about pregnancy and stillbirth. Education must include information about sexual health, birth control and treatable diseases, as well as the risks associated with smoking, obesity, and pregnancy in later life.

Skilled health professionals matter. Their care is vital for all expectant mothers. Yet they are in short supply. We must value health workers, including skilled birth attendants, in order to succeed–boost their numbers, increase access to quality training, give them a visible community presence, and remove the barriers to access.  

 1·3 million of the 2·6 million stillborn babies started labour alive


Monday, February 1, 2016

Where the Leading Presidential Candidates Stand on Healthcare

Much of the presidential candidates’ discussions of healthcare center on Obamacare, but there are other key issues affecting the health of the country.

Ballotpedia is a one stop source for the 2016 candidate's position on health care and the affordable care act.





                                                  The Candidates:  Democratic




Not only are most people confused  about what the Affordable Care has done to the health system, another challenge is to understand and differentiate what the 2016 Presidential candidate's platform say about further health reform.  Bear in mind, positions will change, and  be subject to congressional actions.

                                                  The Candidates:Republican





This Health  Train Express post hopes to offer some framework for their stances. The myriad proposals and the short term effects of the Affordable Care Act add to the confusion.

Voters have many interests, besides health reform, terrorism, immigration, economy, police abuse, gun control all of which are considerable.



Where the Leading Presidential Candidates Stand on Healthcare


'Landmark' Study Identifies Genetic Link to Schizophrenia Nancy A. Melville

In what some are calling the strongest evidence to date of a genetic link to the development of schizophrenia, researchers have identified a gene that shows a significant association with the mental disorder that may explain its characteristic brain volume reductions and onset during adolescence.

For many years research scientists suspected a genetic component to schizophrenia. "This represents a landmark study which certifies more definitively than in previous studies the specific genetic contribution that causes schizophrenia," 

Jeffrey A. Lieberman, MD, the Lawrence C. Kolb Professor and chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City, agreed that the study's implications are important and may help guide treatment as well as diagnosis in schizophrenia.

Imaging studies of patients with schizophrenia exhibit a shrinkage in gray matter. The gene appears to control a complement component C4 which controls synaptic pruning..the decrease in the number of synapses seen in the aging process.  As we age, old connections are deleted through a process called synaptic pruning.
"If we have a suspicion of schizophrenia, we could examine through imaging or another means the trajectory of their brain's change or growth, so it offers an opportunity to help with diagnostic assessment," he said.
"It could also help guide how we treat the disease. For instance, instead of looking downstream, trying to block dopamine, we can look to factors that preserve or slow synaptic elimination.
In the future it may be possible to forecast who is at risk of developing schizophrenia.