Archive for the ‘News roundups’ Category

A fresh Health Wonk Review for your perusal

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

Jason Shafrin, our favorite Healthcare Economist, has posted a fresh collection of health policy punditry, the “I will build a great Health Wonk Review . . . and nobody builds Health Wonk Reviews better than me, believe me”  edition. Want the scoop on AHCA, national drug policy, pharma, bundled payments or other current topics in the policy arena? Check out this post. If you don’t follow the health arena on a daily basis, Heath Wonk Review is a great way to keep up with the important news.

If you are feeling particularly wonky or would like to follow back issues, got to Health Wonk Review’s home page.

 

Health Wonk Review: the Groundhog Zombie Goes Back to the Future Edition

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

 

It’s quite the day to be going to press with a new Health Wonk Review. We were trying to think of  a movie themed metaphor for today’s edition but can’t decide between Back to the Future, Groundhog Day or a zombie flick, so we’re going for a mashup.   Suspense is in the air as we await a vote later today on the revised AHCA. Or at least that’s what the media has been predicting as the bill suddenly sprang back to life late  yesterday after some arm twisting and deal sweetening in the corridors of power. One wonders what the hurry is since the Congressional Budget Office has not had sufficient time to weigh in and a quick vote would seem to violate the pledge of a minimum three-day public review. But maybe avoiding those pesky details are are seen as features not bugs. Our wonks submitted posts from the past week, so most were submitted before yesterday’s frantic hubbub of activity, yet still make trenchant observations about the revised bill. And of course, even though this topic is currently dominating the news, many of our wonks have healthcare observations on topics other than repeal-and-replace so if you are tired of the ongoing legislative goings on, read on.

Joe Paduda has kept an eye on the repeal & replace movement with his series of posts on the ACA deathwatch at Managed Care Matters. In his most recent post, he talks about flaws that plague the current bill and why it is destined to fail: ACA Deathwatch: No, AHCA is not going to pass Congress

At healthinsurance.org blog, Harold Pollack warns us to get ready for the uncomfortable questions with AHCA. Currently, an estimated 27 percent of American adults have been diagnosed with declineable preexisting conditions. Rollback of protections for those with pre-existing conditions means health insurers will again be rummaging through your health history.

Think the $8 billion that the revised AHCA bill earmarks for preexisting conditions solves that problem? Timothy Jost explains why that is unlikely at Health Affairs Blog.

One drum that Roy Poses of Health Care Renewal continues to beat (thankfully) is pointing out how health care organizations are increasingly run by a network of insiders who often put self-interest ahead of patients’ and the public’s health. As we head into today’s vote, he points out another vivid example: How Legislators rigged the repeal of the ACA to keep their own health insurance affordable.

Vincent Grippi points us to a post by Care Centrix CEO John Driscoll at The Homefront blog examining the recent struggle of the American Healthcare Act and highlighting why value-based care is an important part of the solution in his post Coal Mining Isn’t Coming Back and Neither is Fee-for-Service Medicine. It makes great points in light of recent congressional goings on.

Louise Norris of Colorado Health Insurance Insider looks at what’s next in Colorado for health care reform noting that, lately, it’s been a whirlwind. A bill to help out people over 400% of FPL just failed, disappointing many; there is uncertainty about Anthem BCBS staying in the exchange; insurers don’t have an exit clause if Cost Sharing Reduction funding is eliminated; rates will be filed late this year due to market uncertainty, and there is a bill to eliminate the exchange still in progress.

InsureBlog‘s Bob vineyard highlights the financial challenges of actually *paying* for even minor health care in his post Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?

It’s tough being a cancer patient. New urgent care clinics designed specifically for cancer patients help ease the burden and could be a model for the rest of healthcare. David Williams of Health Business Blog talks about what distinguishes these clinics and wonders why such services aren’t available to all healthcare consumers.

Brad Flansbaum of The Hospital Leader has a challenge to physicians: How often do you ask this (ineffective) question? A recent study calls into question the effectiveness of a widely accepted practice.

Healthcare Economist Jason Shafrin looks at the hedonistic treadmill and asks if it works in reverse when it comes to acclimating to deteriorating health conditions. (Don’t know what the hedonistic treadmill is? We sure didn’t but it is our nomination for concept of the day). He cites an recent study on the topic.

Here at Workers Comp Insider, we recently commemorated Workers Memorial Day, a time remember those who were hurt or killed on the job. In conjunctions with that event, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health issued The Dirty Dozen, highlighting employers who put workers and communities at risk due to unsafe working conditions.

Next up to bat: May 18, 2017 – Jason Shafrin – Healthcare Economist.

Fresh Health Wonk Review and other noteworthy news

Thursday, April 20th, 2017

It’s Health Wonk Review week and Brad Wright has a fresh, newsy, engaging issue posted over at Wright on Health, the Health Wonk Review: Who’s On First? Edition.

He grapples with health reform, alternative facts, and many other topics. To stay in the know in this dynamic climate, HWR is a great way to stay current on the changing landscape.

 

Here are a few other news items we’ve noted this week: 

In the “in case you missed it” department:

Quick takes

Freshly posted Health Wonk Review at InsureBlog

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Start your Friday with your morning beverage of choice and a fresh edition of Heath Wonk Review. Over at InsureBlog, Hank Stern has posted the Health Wonk Review: Pre-Passover edition. In his Twitter promo for this edition, he promises “Everything from horseradish to opioids” – you are probably not going to find too many insurance-related posts quite that eclectic!

In addition to wonks weighing in on RyanCare and the future of the ACA, other topics include opioids, physician burnout, the physician mission, price transparency, “the coding swindle” and more. Check it out!

We bring one post in particular to your attention – a post by HWR regular Brad Wright at his Wright on Health blog. He relates an up-close-and-personal encounter with the health care system, and reflects on his experience in the larger context of healthcare availability and accessibility.  Wonkery is all well and fine, but there is nothing quite like a personal testimonial to make a powerful impact. (Wishing you the best as you recover, Brad!)

 

 

Wonks weigh in on AHCA prior to today’s vote; more news of note

Thursday, March 23rd, 2017

Today is not only countdown to the House vote when we learn if AHCA passes the first hurdle. The date is significant because it is seven years to the day that President Obama first signed the Affordable Care Act into law, as Louise Norris notes in this week’s hot-off-the-press AHCA: The Aye or Nay? Edition of the Health Wonk Review, posted at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. As you’d expect, many wonks weigh in on ACA/AHCA related matter, but on other health policy issues as well – check it out, Louise always offers a great digest of posts.

Other noteworthy news

The return of Confined Space: It’s with mixed emotions that we welcome the excellent workplace health & safety blog Confined Space back to the blogosphere. It’s a welcome addtion – it’s been on mothballs while author Jordan Barab served as OSHA Deputy Assistant Secretary. It has been a boon for the nation’s workers to have Barab working in a position of influence on their behalf, so we are sorry to see that he is no longer in that post, but we can’t endorse his blog strongly enough – an informed voice and a strong advocate for safe workplaces. We’re fans because we view safe workplaces not only as a moral imperative because they are good for employees, they are good for business too. You can also follow Barab on Twitter @jbarab.

WCRI’s facelift: Just in time for Spring, the Workers Comp Research Institute – more familiarly known as WCRI – has launched a fresh new WCRI website, complete with a a fresh new logo. It’s a much cleaner look with simplified navigtion and designed to be more responsive on any device, including phones. We’re also delighted to see that they’ve added a WCRI Blog, a handy way to keep up on what’s new. You can read more about the new site here: WCRI Launches Redesign of Website with New Logo.

Telemedicine: Joe Paduda says that “Telemedicine will be one of – if not the – most disruptive force in workers’ compensation medical care.” Check out Paduda’s interview with Jonathan Linkous, CEO of the American Telemedicine Association.

NIOSH Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program: NIOSH is offering free, confidential health screenings for coal miners in 2017. Screenings will be provided in coal mining regions throughout Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, and Eastern Kentucky. The schedule for Alabama Black Lung Screenings (PDF) has been issued – they begin next week. Watch this site for more information and future screening locations.

More noteworthy news

Wonks opine on Republican healthcare plan & more

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Check out the freshly posted “May You Live in Interesting Times” Edition of Health Wonk Review posted by Peggy Salvatore at Health System Ed Blog. If your head hurts from trying to analyze the new plan, let the wonks lighten your load – some pretty smart people have weighed in.

Of course, while Obamacare past, present and future is the 800 pound gorilla in the room. that’s not the only issue discussed in this weighty issue. Other topics include a tribute to a health care advocate pioneer, a look at our new Secretary of Labor, posts on cancer care, clinical outcome technology, cyber security and medical marijuana.

Fresh Health Wonkery and other news of note

Friday, February 24th, 2017

Check out the newest Health Wonk Review: Presidents’ Day edition, hosted by David Williams at the excellent Health Business Blog. This week’s issue has a plethora of posts about the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare – quelle surprise! The wonks offer diverse and informed opinions. Don’t miss David’s post on the Cadillac Tax – that one was news to us. There are other topics discussed, too. We always Like Roy Poses posts – he is always holding someone’s feet to the fire for conflicts of interest, and we like that about him!

Other noteworthy news

I can tell you from my own experience that injured workers entering our system are confused and befuddled, guided by complete misperceptions about who we are and what we do. The general lack of thorough communication in the form of understandable explanations and dialogue often creates a vortex of negative opinion with damaging results. Living Abled & Healthy is designed and intended to cure that particular ill. It provides explanations that will empower the willing injured, not in a confrontational mode, but rather one that can help them determine a better outcome for themselves

 

Fresh Health Wonk Review at medicareresources.org blog – check it out!

Friday, February 10th, 2017

Steve Anderson has posted the latest and greatest Health Wonk Review – the #alternative_facts Edition at medicareresources.org blog.

The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) is not all that’s on our wonks’ minds of late, but it certainly takes up a huge portion of the mind share as evidenced by the plethora of related posts. We are a diverse crew, though, so there are also posts about a variety of other topics: the reaction to/impact of the immigration ban on healthcare industry, best cancer treatments, the process of healthcare M&As, legal liability in the form of class action suits for a data breach. and workers comp. One thing we find: the contributors are all very knowledgeable people – even if a topic is not on your radar, it’s a good way to learn something new.

Two posts we think are particularly worth calling out:

If ACA is repealed, how many will max out on restored lifetime coverage caps?

If ACA is repealed, how many are at risk of losing coverage by U.S. Congressional District? (Data covers 35 states)

Fresh Health Wonk Review posted at Joe’s place

Friday, January 27th, 2017

As we embark on the second week of a new administration, Joe Paduda has posted Health Wonk Review’s Inauguration Edition at Managed Care Matters. Rather unsurprisingly, the Affordable Care Act is much on the minds of the wonks, so there’s quite a few posts dealing with various aspects of repeal and replace.

Related to the topic of this week’s health wonkery, Joe also has a post on his blog about how the demise of the ACA would impact workers comp, specifically. A key quote:

“If ACA is repealed without a simultaneous and credible replacement, we may well see a rise in the number of workers without health insurance. The key issue to track is a cutoff of funding for Medicaid expansion – ACA added about 13 million more employed people to the insured rolls; if they lose coverage they’ll need a different payer to cover their injuries. Bad news for workers’ comp.”

And we’d point you to one other not-to-miss post at Managed Care Matters – Beware of Astroturf, the infuriating story of the American Pain Foundation, an pharma industry sponsored opioid-peddling outfit masquerading as a patient advocacy organization.

OSHA under President Trump: early signs

Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

We’re still awaiting an appointment to the Department of Labor under the Trump administration, so we don’t expect an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) director to be named until after that. Right now, a hearing for the controversial Andrew Puzder as secretary of labor is scheduled for February 2. Part of the controversy related to the fast-food CEO revolves around numerous civil rights suits that his company has logged.

In the National Safety Council’s Safety + Health Tom Musick reports that legal experts are predicting significant changes for worker safety regulation under the new administration in his article OSHA under Trump: A closer look.

Here’s a summary of the article’s key points:

  • Labor-law experts predict that OSHA will move away from an enforcement-based strategy and toward compliance assistance and cooperative programs for employers.
  • OSHA’s funding could decrease, and the way it spends its funds also could change if Trump limits the agency’s enforcement budget.
  • Recent regulations such as the injury and illness recordkeeping rule, the silica rule and the so-called “blacklisting rule” all could be in jeopardy under the Trump administration.

For another take at the crystal ball, Russell Carr has issued two in three-part series of articles on potential changes at EHS Today. Carr comes from the perspective of an owner of an environmental, health and safety consulting business.

In looking at changes that may be in store for OSHA and other regulatory agencies, it’s instructive to look at the broader context of some steps that have been taken early in the new administration.

Hiring freeze

On his first day in office, President Trump issued a hiring freeze on non-military federal employees and, at least for some departments, on grants and contracts.

“President Donald Trump’s hiring freeze will last only as long as it takes his administration to come up with an alternative attrition plan, according to a memorandum released by the White House Monday, and could provide broad exemptions for agency leaders.

Trump said his hiring moratorium would “be applied across the board in the executive branch” and apply to any positions vacant as of Jan. 22. It would bar agencies from creating new positions. Agency heads can exempt positions they deem “necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”

The hiring freeze is expected to be a precursor to federal job cuts of as much as 20% in some departments and was issued to counter “the dramatic expansion of the federal workforce in recent years.” An article at Government Executive points out that there has been no federal workforce expansion and that “employment by the federal government as share of all US employment is relatively low compared to most of the last 70 years.”

Opponents to the freeze point to several potential unintended consequences: Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze May Kill Hundreds of Jobs for Nurses, Scientists and Engineers

Unions and veterans groups say the federal hiring freeze would make the government less efficient, and make it harder for the US military personnel to find jobs when they leave the service. (About a third of all federal hires are military veterans, although if they’re working security positions, for example, they may not be affected).

The freeze could also take off the table thousands of well-paying jobs for US citizens with higher education and specific skills.

Federal employees have other reasons to feel pressure, among them the recent reinstatement of the Holman Rule: House Republicans revive obscure rule that allows them to slash the pay of individual federal workers to $1:

The Holman Rule, named after an Indiana congressman who devised it in 1876, empowers any member of Congress to propose amending an appropriations bill to single out a government employee or cut a specific program.

The use of the rule would not be simple; a majority of the House and the Senate would still have to approve any such amendment. At the same time, opponents and supporters agree that the work of 2.1 million civil servants, designed to be insulated from politics, is now vulnerable to the whims of elected officials.

Information lockdown – temporary or a sign of things to come?

There’s always a level of anxiety in the federal workforce when a new administration takes the reins, but one other issue has been causing a level of discomfort among employees. Numerous news reports reveal an information crackdown on staff in various federal agencies, from the the Environmental Protection Agency to Departments of Agriculture, Health & Human Services, and the Interior. In its article Trump clamps down on federal agencies, The Hill reports:

It’s not unusual for incoming administrations to seek control over agency communications, especially at the outset, when Cabinet secretaries aren’t in place.

But experts on the federal workforce say they have never seen a White House take the type of steps Trump’s administration has to curb public communications.

Restrictions are reported to include press releases, photos, tweets, speaking engagements, fact sheets, news feeds, and more. See a related story at Politico: Information lockdown hits Trump’s federal agencies. Hopefully, this will be short-term in nature, but one that we will be watching – by early indicators, it doesn’t seem as though an open “sunlight” approach to communications will be a core value of this administration.  if we were putting money on it, we’d bet that it’s just a matter of time until OSHA’s recordkeeping rule is toast, particularly in light of pending lawsuits challenging the rule and Trump’s recent promise to roll back regulations by somewhere int he order of 70-80%.

See our prior post:  Reading the tea leaves: The Trump administration and OSHA