The Rundown | Week of 11.26.2018

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Employer-Sponsored Insurance Linked to Reduced PCP Visits

A new report from the Health Care Cost Institute found that primary care office visits declined 18 percent between 2012 and 2016 for adults with employer-sponsored health insurance. Meanwhile, visits to nurse practitioners and physician assistants increased by 129 percent during the same time period. However, the shift did not result in significant cost savings; the average cost of a PCP visit is $106 compared to a non-physician provider’s $103. The decline in primary care visits occurred in every state, both in states that allow non-physician providers to operate with “full practice authority” and those that require “the oversight and billing of a physician.”
>> Read More: Trends In Primary Care Visits

ACA Enrollment Down From 2017

Enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans through the healthcare marketplace has fallen 6 percent from 2017. Now in its third week, enrollment currently stands at 1.9 million individuals compared to last year’s 2.3 million. However, the tally — calculated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — does not factor in enrollees from states that operate their own exchanges, such as Minnesota, which experienced nearly 7 percent growth compared to the previous year’s figures. One possible reason for the decline is the Trump administration’s short-term and association health plans, which, though not ACA-compliant, have thus far offered more robust benefits than many speculated. Another impediment to enrollment could be the reduced funding for “navigators” who assist consumers in the plan-selection process.
>> Read More: ACA Enrollment Continues to Fall; Insurers Have 3 Weeks to Make Gains

Plant-Rich Diet May Lower Risk for Memory Loss

Men who consistently eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruit were less likely to experience memory loss, according to a new study in Neurology. Researchers evaluated 27,842 male participants with a mean age of 51 years old in 1986 who completed five dietary questionnaires over 16 years. The results demonstrated that those whose diets included a high intake of fruits and vegetables — though not necessarily plant-based (i.e. vegan or vegetarian) were more likely to report greater subjective cognitive function later in life when controlling for nondietary factors.
>> Read More: Long-Term Intake of Vegetables and Fruits and Subjective Cognitive Function in US Men

Humana’s $7M Commitment to Social Determinants of Health

The Humana Foundation recently announced nearly $7 million in contributions to alleviate problems associated with social determinants of health. The nine beneficiaries serve a diverse set of needs ranging from food shortages to isolation to monetary independence. Seven of the nine organizations operate within Humana’s “Bold Goal” communities, areas where the insurer aims to improve health by 20 percent by 2020. Each organization “will have an opportunity to receive continuing funding for one or two additional years based on the specific results they achieve during the first year of their respective programs.” In related news, Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, announced a new initiative to address the social determinants of health. “We believe we could spend less money on healthcare — and, most important, help Americans live healthier lives — if we did a better job of aligning federal health investments with our investments in non-healthcare needs,” Azar said.
>> Read More: Humana Foundation Investing Total of $7 Million in Seven Communities as Part of New Program Addressing Social Determinants of Health

Autism Diagnoses on the Rise

A new study published in Pediatrics estimated that 1 in 40 children — nearly 1.5 million — in America have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Researchers from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) concluded that this finding represents a rise, both in nationally and globally, in the number of diagnoses. Michael D. Kogan, lead author of the study, attributed the increase to “changes in broadening diagnostic criteria, more provider and parent awareness, and changes in risk factors including more births to older parents.” The study relied on parent-reported information for 50,212 children aged 3 to 17. Of those children with ASD, 27 percent took medication for related symptoms and 64 percent had received behavioral treatments within the last year.
>>Read More: The Prevalence of Parent-Reported Autism Spectrum Disorder Among US Children

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