Add ‘Surprise Billing’ to U.S. Health Care Worries

May 16, 2019, Bloomberg, Alexander Ruoff and Danielle Parnass -  A rare point of potential common ground for U.S. President Donald Trump and members of Congress from both parties has emerged on the topic of medical bills. Much of the debate over health care in America—which unlike most rich nations doesn’t provide treatment for all citizens—is what to do about the tens of millions of people who lack coverage. The latest issue to flare involves people who do have coverage, yet still can be financially imperiled by sky-high “surprise billing.”

Eating ultra-processed foods will make you gain weight. Here’s the scientific proof

May 16, 2019, LA Times, Emily Baumgaertner -  For four weeks, 20 healthy volunteers checked into a research center hospital and were served a variety of tempting meals: cinnamon french toast, stir-fry beef with broccoli and onions, turkey quesadillas and shrimp scampi. Researchers scrutinized everything that was eaten and came away with the first hard evidence to support a long-held suspicion: Heavily processed foods could be a leading factor in America’s obesity epidemic.  The unusual clinical trial compared the volunteers’ calorie consumption and weight gain when they ate a diet based on unprocessed ingredients and when they ate meals dominated by ultra-processed foods. Both daily menus had matching amounts of calories, fat, sugar, carbohydrates and salts, and diners said they were equally tasty and satisfying.

Senators introduce surprise medical bill ban with arbitration

May 16, 2019, Modern Healthcare, Susannah Luthi -  A bipartisan group of senators released legislation Thursday to ban surprise medical bills, and landed on arbitration as a final resort if hospitals, specialty physicians or insurers aren’t happy with the pay rate proposed for out-of-network treatment. The new bill from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) has been in the works nearly a year. Under the proposal, a patient’s insurer would automatically pay the out-of-network doctor or hospital about the same rate it would pay if the service were in network. But adding arbitration gives industry an appeals process that hospitals and specialty physicians want. The White House isn’t a proponent of arbitration. Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee left it out of the discussion draft proposalthey released on Tuesday.
At a press conference Thursday, Cassidy said he sees the method as landing on a “sweet spot” where doctors keep getting paid but have recourse.  Cassidy, Bennet and other members of the working group - including Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) who first proposed arbitration last fall as a way to settle disputes - have been working on legislation for months, through extensive discussions with industry players and patient advocates. Cassidy told reporters that he was skeptical of the approach at first, but that he and Hassan worked together on the bill.

161,000 avoidable deaths occur in hospitals annually, Leapfrog Group finds

May 15, 2019, Modern Healthcare, Maria Castellucci - An estimated 161,250 preventable deaths occur each year in U.S. hospitals, a decline from three years ago, according to a new analysis from the Leapfrog Group. The study, published Wednesday and conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality through a contract with the Leapfrog Group, found that poor hospital performance on 16 patient safety measures used by Leapfrog Group to assign hospital grades caused more than 161,000 deaths annually. The findings actually represent a decline in deaths from 2016 when Johns Hopkins conducted a similar analysis for Leapfrog Group in which 206,000 preventable deaths occurred each year. “We are cautiously optimistic we are going to see real change and that is the good news from the report,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of the Leapfrog Group.

Trump administration looks to revive Arkansas, Kentucky Medicaid work requirements

May 15, 2019, Modern Healthcare, Robert King - The Trump administration on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court to revive Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas.  HHS and the Justice Department told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that the agency properly reviewed the Section 1115 proposals and that the work requirements are policy experiments that support Medicaid’s mission, arguments the federal district judge rejected in both cases. “The goal of the policies is to encourage compliance, and the terms and conditions of approval include safeguards intended to minimize coverage loss due to noncompliance,” the agencies wrote. “There is, of course, no requirement that HHS quantify the outcome of the experiments in advance.”

Black Women More Likely to Die of Breast Cancer - Especially in the South

May 15, 2019, PEW Trust, Max Blau - When Felicia Mahone was 27, she felt her breast and found a mass. Breast cancer had killed nearly all the women in her family - her mother, two aunts and two cousins. Her doctor, though, downplayed the lump, assuring her everything would be all right. For months, Mahone resumed her busy life. But she couldn’t shake the feeling the lump might be a tumor. So she saw another doctor at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. There was more testing, and more nervous waiting. Finally, a biopsy confirmed her deepest fears: stage two breast cancer. Daunted by the prospect of facing cancer without family support, she made a vow to God: Get me through this, and I’ll help others not to go through this alone.  Treatment advances have improved breast cancer survival rates among all U.S. women, but the disparity between white and black women has grown: Black women such as Mahone are 40% more likely to die from the disease than white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No region has as many high-disparity states clustered together as the South. Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest racial disparities in breast cancer mortality. In both of those states, the excess death rate among black women is more than 60%, according to the American Cancer Society. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee all have excess death rates over 40%.