The Rundown | Week of 7.24.2017

Est. Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Are you a busy provider needing a quick summary of healthcare news that affects you? Check out The Rundown.

Healthcare is a rapidly evolving industry and it’s difficult to keep up with the news, but the success of your practice can depend on how knowledgeable you are about the changes in the healthcare landscape. Privia has compiled a list of stories to keep you up to date on what you need to know about all things healthcare.

“Watch the Show”

The Republicans’ quest to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act took an unsuspecting turn early Friday morning with Republican Senator John McCain’s surprising “no” vote on what has been called the “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act. Politico reports that McCain previewed this decision by telling reporters to “watch the show” before he entered Senate chamber to cast his vote. McCain, along with Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins and all Democratic Senators, voted “no” to stop the bill. While McCain’s decision shocked his colleagues, Murkowski and Collins have consistently been “no” votes on these latest efforts.This skinny repeal removed some key components of Obamacare, including the individual and employers mandates. Politico also reports that most Republican senators agreed that the skinny repeal was not good policy and should not become law, but instead was a means to keep the repeals process alive.
No one can really predict what is next for the Affordable Care Act, but Republican leadership has shown to be more open to bipartisan work on healthcare.
>>Read more: “Senate rejects Obamacare repeal

We’re Not Number One…or Two…or Three…

A recently published study released by The Commonwealth Fund places U.S. Healthcare performance dead last among all other developed nations in the study, despite spending the most money. Australia, Canada, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the U.S. were graded on seventy-two factors across 5 domains, including Care Process, Access, Administrative Efficiency, Equity, and Health Care Outcomes. On nearly all factors, the U.S. ranked last or nearly last. Say study authors, “based on a broad range of indicators, the U.S. health system is an outlier, spending far more but falling short of the performance achieved by other high-income countries.”
>>Read more: Mirror, Mirror 2017: International Comparison Reflects Flaws and Opportunities for Better U.S. Health Care

Celgene Corp to pay $280 million dollars to settle lawsuit

Reuters reports that Celgene Corp has agreed to pay $280 million dollars to settle a lawsuit that accuses Celgene of promoting their cancer drugs, Revlimid and Thalomid, for “off-label uses.” While Celgene maintains innocence, the company has agreed to resolve the suit that states “it had violated the federal False Claims Act by submitting false claims to Medicare.” According to this report, the lawsuit was originally filed by “whistleblower” Beverly Brown who “claimed that Celgene engaged in the off-label marketing of its drugs, which caused off-label prescriptions that were ineligible for reimbursement to be submitted to Medicare and state Medicaid programs, violating the federal False Claims Act.”
>>Read more: Celgene to pay $280 million to settle off-label promotion case
Amazon Moves into Healthcare?
Is e-commerce giant, Amazon, making a move into healthcare? CNBC reports that Amazon has created a “secret skunkworks lab” that will focus on medical records and virtual visits. This team, titled “1492”, will look at opportunities with legacy electronic medical records and telemedicine. According to the CNBC report, this actually isn’t the first healthcare project for Amazon, as the Amazon Web Services team has hired health experts to secure contracts from health systems and pharmaceutical vendors. Amazon has also been selling medical supplies and is looking to move into the pharmacy business, as they try to lead the pack in healthcare.
>>Read more of this story: Amazon has a secret health tech team called 1492 working on medical records, virtual doc visits

Immuno-oncology Attracts Attention and Dollars

A drug that harnesses the power of the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells is attracting major attention. The drug, Merck’s pembrolizumab, or pembro (brand name: Keytruda), is currently under evaluation in more than 500 clinical trials, including more than 300 combination trials. It’s been approved for ten indications, and is aiming for many more, Forbes reports. The story of the drug’s hard-won rise to prominence illustrates how unpredictable the road to biomedical innovation can be. As Roger Perlmutter, executive vice president of Merck & Co. and president of Merck Research Laboratories, who was involved in the discovery and early development of the molecule, puts it, “‘When you realize the potential of something like this…you need to bet your career on it.’”
>>Read more: The Startling History Behind Merck’s New Cancer Blockbuster

Want to Increase Practice Revenue? Adding Support Staff Might be One Way to Go

A report from the Medical Group Management Association suggests that adding non-physician providers and other support staff is one factor that can drive more profitable and productive practices. The report was based on data of more than 2,900 organizations and 40 specialties and practice types, Fierce Healthcare reports.
>>Read more: Medical practices that add nonphysician staff often see revenue gains

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