News & Commentary

Briefly Noted June 2018


The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., launched a new tele­monitoring program that allows low-risk expectant mothers to make fewer clinic visits. Patients in the OB Nest program can monitor their weight and track blood pressure and fetal heart rate at home thanks to equipment provided by the clinic. If there’s cause for concern, they can contact their nurse online or by phone.

Under the ACA, companies with more than 50 employees who do not provide health benefits can be fined. The Wall Street Journal reports that “the IRS said it would begin assessing penalties, starting with companies that failed to comply in 2015, when parts of the employer mandate first kicked in.” Businesses are pushing back.

Hospitals keep getting more powerful. Between July 2015 and July 2016, U.S. hospitals bought up 5,000 independent physician practices, according to research conducted by Avalere Health for the Physicians Advocacy Institute. In 2012, roughly one in four physicians worked for a hospital. By 2016, that proportion had grown to 42% of physicians.

Seventy hospital systems have expressed interest in joining in an effort by the VA, Intermountain Health, SSM Health, Trinity Health, and Ascension Health to form a not-for-profit organization to produce generic drugs, Politico reports. The new entity would “ship to hospitals, bypassing wholesalers and other middlemen to keep costs down. It will also publish product prices”.

A grassroots movement appears to be forming in Arizona that will ensure that encounters between police and people with autism do not become dangerous situations, azcentral (of the USA Today network) reports. The idea is to teach both police and families with a member who has autism how best to handle the situation. The CDC says that nearly 1 in 68 American children have autism spectrum disorder.

CMS unveiled a voluntary bundled-payment program that rewards providers for keeping 90-day costs for care under a target threshold while also maintaining quality, reports Skilled Nursing News. The program covers 32 different clinical episodes of care and started October 1. It is scheduled to continue through December 2023.

Dr. Leonard McCoy, the Star Trek character, might have been impressed by this. Workers at correctional centers can step into a kiosk and get a real-time consultation with a physician, reports the Herald-­Palladium, of St. Joseph, Mich., describing the kiosks as “something out of a sci-fi movie. The doctor can get real-time blood-pressure readings, take the patient’s temperature, measure heart rate and even write a prescription.” As Mr. Spock might say: “Fascinating.” Until the deductible is reached, the cost of a visit to the kiosk is $49, according to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Indiana.

Insurance claims for urgent care centers skyrocketed by 1,725% from 2007 to 2016, according to an analysis by Fair Health, a not-for-profit group that bills itself as providing fair and neutral information about health care costs. As HealthLeaders Media reports, that’s seven times the 229% growth for emergency department claims over the same period. But urgent-care centers and ERs weren’t the only segments to see growth. The analysis says that there was growth “for every place of service (retail clinics, urgent care centers, telehealth, ASCs [ambulatory surgery centers], and ERs) but growth was particularly notable in urgent care centers, retail clinics, and telehealth—indicating the spreading acceptance and/or availability of these alternative venues of care.”