Briefly Noted

Almost 90 percent of Americans know that antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, but a third also believe that they can fight viral infections as well, according to a poll done by the Pew Charitable Trusts for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This type of information is followed closely by public health policy experts in light of the soaring growth of antibiotic superbugs. . . . The number of accountable care organizations (ACOs) will nearly double next year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services predicts. There are currently 153 ACOs that contract with Medicare.

That could grow to 300 next month as new contracts are approved. . . . The preterm birth rate continues to drop, with the 2011 rate the lowest in 10 years, according to the March of Dimes in its 2012 Preterm Birth Report Card. The 2011 rate of 11.7 percent marks the fifth year in a row the preterm birth rate has dropped. About 64,000 fewer babies were born prematurely in 2011 than were born in 2006. Still, there’s a long way to go: More than 500,000 are born too soon. . . . A link between statins and surviving cancer is being explored. Patients taking these anticholesterol drugs were 15 percent less likely to die of cancer than were people not taking statins, according to a Danish study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study didn’t look at whether the statins prevent cancer, only at what happens after diagnosis. . . . One of the things health insurance experts will be watching as the Affordable Care Act goes into effect is the number of self-insured employers.

Now there’s a benchmark, thanks to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute, which examines the growth of self-insurance. In 1998, 41 percent of employees belonged to such plans. In 2011, the study finds, that number jumps to 59 percent. Companies that self-insure can offer uniform benefits across state lines, which can ease the administrative burden and lower expenses. They can also avoid state-mandated benefits. Many large employers jumped at these perks, and increased enrollment in such plans was fueled almost exclusively by companies with 1,000 or more workers. In the meantime “The percentage of workers in self-insured plans in firms with fewer than 50 employees has been close to 12 percent in most recent years examined in this analysis,” says the study.