The Rundown | Healthcare News for the Week of 10.30.2017

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Privia has compiled a list of stories to keep you up to date on all things healthcare:

Enrollment in the ACA: What You Need to Know

Every year before open-enrollment for the ACA, the Department of Health and Human Services puts out a report that shows the options and costs within each state. This year’s report show two major trends, Axios reports. Trend 1: Competition is down: “45 percent of enrollees live in areas with three or more competing insurers, down from 75 percent in the first open-enrollment window.” Today, the average enrollee has a total of 25 specific plans to choose from — down from last year’s 30, and 51 during the first enrollment period. Trend 2: Premiums are up by an average of 37 percent, but so are subsidies. The average subsidy across all enrollees will be 45 percent higher than it was this time last year.

>>Read more: ”ACA enrollees will see fewer choices next year” and “Health Plan Choice and Premiums in The 2017 Health Insurance Marketplace” (ASPE Research Brief)

Why Fax Machines Dominate the Healthcare Industry

The fax accounts for about 75 percent of all medical communication, by one private firm’s estimate. It frustrates doctors, nurses, researchers, and entire hospitals, but a solution is evasive, Vox reports. Why is such a clunky, outdated form of technology so pervasive in the American healthcare system? While the Obama administration spent upwards of $30 billion encouraging American hospitals and doctor offices to switch from paper to electronic records, it offered no incentive to encourage interoperability between systems.Obama officials believed competing health systems would volunteer to share patient data. They now admit that was naive. ‘We don’t expect Amazon and Walmart to share background on their customers, but we do expect competing hospital system to do so,’ says David Blumenthal, who coordinated health policy for the Obama administration from 2011 to 2013. ‘Those institutions consider that data proprietary and an important business asset. We should never have expected it to occur naturally, that these organizations would readily adopt information exchange.’”

>>Read more: “The Fax of Life”

Blockchain Technology Shows Promise for Increasing Interoperability

IBM Watson Health has joined forces with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help explore new applications for blockchain in healthcare, reports Healthcare IT News. When combined with artificial intelligence, blockchain holds big promise for managing patient data over time and across various care settings. “‘The healthcare industry is undergoing significant changes due to the vast amounts of disparate data being generated,’” Ebadollahi, says chief science officer at IBM Watson Health. ‘Blockchain technology provides a secure decentralized framework for data sharing that will accelerate innovation throughout the industry.’”

>>Read more: IBM Watson, CDC on the hunt for new blockchain apps for healthcare”

Pew: Nearly Half of All Americans Have Had a Drug Addicted Family Member

A recently issued Pew survey finds that 46 percent of Americans are related to an individual suffering from drug addiction. “This seems to cut across sex, race, age, education levels, and even partisan lines — no matter how you break it down, a bulk of US adults know someone who has been addicted to drugs.” While the largest group is for alcohol use disorder, comprised of 15.1 million people, opioids have been the key driver of the recent US increase in drug overdose deaths. In 1999, there were 17,000 overdose deaths; in 2016, 64,000.

>>Read more: “Nearly half of Americans have a family member or close friend who’s been addicted to drugs”

Healthcare is Costly, and Price Info is Hard to Come By

Medical debt is one of the primary drivers of bankruptcy in the US. — and nowhere else. A key reason? Costs are sky-high, reports Vox.  While the Affordable Care Act did much to help lower the cost of healthcare to consumers, it did nothing to affect the actual unit price of services and treatment. In fact, “prices actually accelerated in growth post-ACA.” And many emergency rooms do not make pricing information readily available, adding yet another layer of obscurity to the issue.

>>Read more: “The Problem is the Prices”

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