Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tuesday Tidbits

Stat reports that the Senate Finance Committee leaders, Chairman Chuck Grassley (R Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D Ore.) have introduced a bill to control prescription drug spending under Medicare and Medicaid to the tune of $100 billion in savings over ten years.

The Wall Street Journal discusses health insurer efforts to improve the smartphone apps that they make available to consumers.
Insurers say new services aim to go beyond one-off telemedicine encounters, with personalized doctor recommendations, online appointment-booking and pricing information, as well as a growing array of mental-health offerings. “How do we use technology to guide people to the care that’s best for them?” said Firdaus Bhathena, CVS’s chief digital officer. “We’re working on the actual connected end-to-end experience.”

Recently, the FEHBlog pointed out recent Centers for Disease Control statistics finding a 5% drop in opioid crisis deaths from 2017-18.  This ABC News article discusses this and other aspects of this sobering CDC report.
Between 2012 and 2017, the rates for white and black people aged 25 to 44 increased 21% each for both groups, while Hispanic people of the same age range saw a 13% rise. Sally Curtin, a statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and one of the report’s authors, said an uptick in suicides, homicides and drug overdoses contributed to the higher rates for the younger part of the group.. 
Also disturbing is this Reuters report concerting a study finding that sizable numbers of Americans take antibiotics without a prescription.
When people take antibiotics without a prescription, they often take unnecessary medication or choose an inappropriate drug or dose, the study team notes in the Annals of Internal Medicine. People might get sicker when they self-medicate with a drug that’s not effective for their illness, exposing themselves to potentially preventable complications - and they can also make antibiotics less effective not just for their own use but for others who need these drugs. Every time somebody takes antibiotics they don’t need, it contributes to antibiotic resistance, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There's a public health issue for you.

The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the employer health coverage affordability percentage for 2020 will be 9.78%, e.g., the employee contribution for self-only coverage is less than 9.78% of W-2 income.  In the FEHBP the calculation is made against the lowest cost nationwide plan available to all employees. That 2020 percentage is down slightly from 2019's 9.86% figure. The affordability percentage is used along with 60% minimum actuarial value to determine whether an applicable large employer complies with the affordability requirements of the ACA's employer shared responsibility mandate. While the ACA's individual shared responsibility provision is kaput, the employer mandate is alive and well.

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