Checking Up On Health: October 8, 2013

Health Policy News and Views
Compiled by Benita M. Dodd

(Back after a two-week hiatus!)

Benita Dodd Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation
Benita Dodd
Vice President, Georgia Public Policy Foundation

There’s an app for that: Apple’s iTunes Store has introduced a section featuring apps aimed at health care providers. Available under “Collections” on the iTunes Store home interface, the section is further divided into reference, medical education, electronic medical records, and patient monitoring and more.

mHealth database: The Knowledge for Health Project, implemented by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has announced the launch of a new Web site designed to bring together accumulated global knowledge on mHealth (mobile health) programs to offer best practices for organizations looking to harness mHealth. The site, mHealthEvidence.org, features 4,360 searchable records and reports, and will continue to expand in the coming months, the school announced. Source: Becker’s Hospital Review

Mental health check: Do you work with a psychopath? Even if their behavior isn’t criminal, psychopaths bring a number of toxic traits into the workplace, according to Kelly Wilson, president and director of forensic services for Edina, Minn.-based PsyBar LLC. Citing the research of the late Hervey Cleckley – a pioneer in the study of psychopathy – Wilson noted that psychopaths tend to be: Superficially charming and gregarious; inhumanly calm; unreliable; dishonest and insincere; antisocial; arrogant and egocentric; unresponsive to interpersonal relations, and outrageous and uninviting in their behavior. Robert Hare, author of “Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go to Work,” estimates that there are 2 million psychopaths in the United States, while others put that number closer to 3 million, Wilson said. Source: EHSToday.com

Stem cells could soon be “human organs:” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is proposing to include apheresis-acquired hematopoietic stem cells under the definition of “human organ” in an effort to prevent the sale of HSCs for profit. Previously aspiration was used to extract the stem cells directly from the bone marrow. But with apheresis, patients can take drugs that coax the stem cells from the bone marrow and into the blood stream, making them easier to harvest. The proposed rule includes a penalty of up to $50,000 and a maximum of five years’ imprisonment to those who attempt to make money from the transfer of HSCs. The changes would amend the current definition of human organ, which covers bone marrow “or any subpart thereof,” under the National Organ and Transplantation Act of 1984. A court agreed that the cells should be considered a fluid like blood – not an organ – since the law doesn’t prohibit payments for blood, plasma or other human fluids. The court did rule, however, that the HHS has the authority to define peripheral blood stem cells as organs –  and with the proposed rule, HHS is doing just that.

Quick study: The American Association of Medical College Center for Workforce Studies estimates that within the next decade the United States will need 45,000 more primary care physicians and 46,000 more surgeons and medical specialists. An article in MedpageToday.com looks at the evolution of physician training. With the need growing and students’ desire to go into primary care waning, Georgia’s Mercer University School of Medicine – whose stated mission is to educate primary care physicians – launched an accredited three-year accelerated program in 2011, targeting students committed to family medicine. Five years ago, 40 percent of Mercer students went into family practice but that pattern and now just 5 percent of Mercer graduates are opting for family practice, according to the school. Mercer worked closely with faculty at Texas Tech University School of Medicine, which had already implemented an accelerated family medicine program. Texas Tech has seven to10 students per class and Mercer has two per class. Detractors worry that it’s not enough time.

ObamaCare

Watch this! Last night, ”Daily Show” host Jon Stewart accused Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of lying to him about ObamaCare.

ObamaCare by the numbers, from last week’s Friday Facts:

304 – The average monthly dollar cost for the lowest-cost “silver” health insurance plan offered under the Affordable Care Act in Georgia. Bronze covers 60 percent of expected costs, silver covers 70 percent and platinum covers 90 percent)

95 – The dollars an uninsured person will have to pay in penalties in 2014 (up to a family maximum of $285, or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater).

34 – The states with federally run exchanges or a state-federal partnership launched on Oct. 1. Georgia has a federally run exchange.

18.4 – The percentage of uninsured in Georgia, based on the Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, which is a snapshot in time.

5 – The insurance companies participating in Georgia’s exchange.

4 – The “navigators” certified to guide Georgians through the health care exchange when it launched on October 1.

2 – The groups that received federal grants to train 100 navigators for Georgia.  

Poor young things: Millennials’ life prospects have already suffered under the economic downturn, struggling to find jobs and pay back student loans. Now comes the Affordable Care Act.  Large health insurance premiums and other costs hidden in ObamaCare will further dim their prospects, according to U.S. News & World Report. Choosing a state at random, the Manhattan Institute found that before ObamaCare, the average 27-year-old male in Arkansas could buy a health insurance policy for roughly $54 a month. According to the White House Web site, on the federal exchange, the average lowest-priced plan will be three times more expensive, costing him around $181 a month – a 235 percent increase. If he were to purchase a stripped-down catastrophic plan, it would cost roughly $135 per month, two-and-a-half times more than his current insurance.

Insured. Or not. Insurers are getting faulty and incomplete data from the new federally run health exchanges, which may mean some Americans won’t be covered even after they sign up for an insurance plan. Companies are receiving electronic files that can’t open or have so much missing information on new enrollees they’re unusable, consultants say. Some insurers have been forced to fix entries by hand. “If we don’t see substantial improvement by the end of this week, then I would throw up the yellow flag,” said Dan Schuyler, a consultant advising states and insurers on the exchanges. “If we don’t see it in the next two to three weeks, it’s time for red flags. The concern is some people could get to Jan. 1, and not have coverage.” Since the exchanges opened on Oct. 1, consumers have struggled to access the online marketplaces, which have been overwhelmed by millions of visitors. Source: Bloomberg News

Georgia Public Policy Foundation Senior Fellow Ron Bachman wrote a commentary last week that details the downfalls of a government-run exchange and the benefits of private exchanges, or marketplaces. It’s well worth the read. It’s titled, How Do You Spell Confusion? E-x-c-h-a-n-g-es

Quotes of note

“If you’ve only got a dozen bad enrollments, that’s OK, but what are you going to do when you have 200,000 bad enrollments? What we’re seeing in public is the web portal, which is a mess. It is just as bad behind the wizard’s curtain.” – Bob Laszewski, an insurance-industry consultant based in Arlington, Va.

“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates

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