News & Information
One Insurer Holds Subsidies Hostage in Two States
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 04:38 PM

In Iowa and South Dakota, the two states where the ACA insurance marketplaces struggled the most, just 11.1% of residents eligible for subsidized insurance signed up for it. 

The individual insurance market in both states is dominated by one insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield. The company chose not to sell on the ACA exchanges in the first year, locking its consumers out from buying subsidized plans from the company. And it is staying out of the Iowa and South Dakota exchanges for year two.

How Much Does That X-Ray Cost?
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 04:13 PM

When Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield became embroiled in a contract dispute with Exeter Hospital in New Hampshire in 2010, its negotiators came to the table armed with a new weapon: public data showing the hospital was one of the most expensive in the state for some services.  When the dust settled, the insurer had extracted $10 million in concessions from Exeter.

The hospital "had to step back and change their behavior," said health policy researcher who studied the state's efforts to make healthcare prices transparent.  New Hampshire is among 14 states that require insurers to report the rates they pay different healthcare providers -- and one of just a handful that makes those prices available to consumers. The theory is that if consumers know what different providers charge for medical services, they will become better shoppers and collectively save billions.

Surgical Training Can Be Fun and Games
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 03:56 PM

Make simulation training like a game and surgical residents will want to play, researchers reported in a letter in JAMA Surgery.  It works even better if it's competitive and gives prizes.

In a 14-week study, researchers tried out an $85,000 da Vinci Skills Simulator to practice minimally invasive surgical techniques.  Only three residents accepted the invitation initially, for four sessions, doing 28 exercises, and spending a total of 2.7 hours training.

Then, at week seven's end, a tournament was announced and prizes were added as well, ranging from $50 to an iPad.  Participation surged -- by week 14, a total of 21 residents had done 70 sessions and 1,632 exercises, spending 83.9 hours using the simulator.

U.K. Researchers Start Metformin Research
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 03:20 PM

Researchers in the U.K. are initiating a new trial to bolster what they call a dearth of substantial evidence for the efficacy of metformin, the staple of type 2 diabetes therapy.  The new trial will study the long-term cardiovascular effects on pre-diabetic patients.  

Said one of the medical researchers:  ""It's amazing that more than 5 decades after metformin's introduction we remain unclear about the true benefits and risks of the most widely-used anti-diabetic drug on the planet."

'Dying in America' IOM Report Calls for Major Reform
Written by Editor   
Tuesday, September 23, 2014 02:47 PM

The US health system needs major reform to ensure high-quality, affordable, and sustainable end-of-life care for Americans, according to a new Institute of Medicine (IOM) report called Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life.  The 507-page document reports recommendations developed during the past two years by a 21-member national committee.

"This is one of the most comprehensive and up-to-date studies that has been performed on end-of-life care for people of all ages who are approaching death."  The time is now for our nation to develop a modernized end-of-life care system as envisioned by this report.”

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