The Rundown | Week of 7.29.2019

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Health Systems Underinvesting in Primary Care

A new report from the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative found that health systems could lower emergency room visits and hospitalizations cost by investing more in primary care. The surveyed health systems spent, on average, 5.6 percent on primary care, a stunningly low figure compared to the average 14 percent spent by health systems in other developed countries. “An association was found between increased primary care spend and fewer emergency department visits, total hospitalizations, and hospitalizations for ambulatory care-sensitive conditions,” the executive summary read. However, researchers noted that 10 of the 29 showed “increased momentum” by state policymakers to measure and increase “primary care investment[s].”
>> Read More: Investing in Primary Care: A State-Level Analysis

Wearables Show Minimal Benefit

A new study indicates wearable devices, a key component of the Internet of Healthcare Things, make little difference in users’ health outcomes. The systematic research, which was published in the American Journal of Medicine found that only one of the six studies analyzed “showed a significant reduction for weight loss among participants who used wearable devices.” Furthermore, “No significant reduction was discovered in cholesterol or blood pressure.” Researchers concluded the “devices play a role as a facilitator in motivating and accelerating physical activity but current data do not suggest other consistent health benefits.”
>>Read More: Is There a Benefit to Patients Using Wearable Devices Such As Fitbit or Health Apps on Mobiles?: A Systematic Review

CMS Proposes Hospitals to Publish “Payer-Specific” Rates

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued several changes to Medicare payment rules, including a proposal for hospitals to publicly disclose “payer-specific negotiated charges.” In essence, these disclosures would show what patients would pay based on their insurer and payer. HHS Secretary Alex Azar said of the proposal: “Under this proposal, hospitals will finally have to make their real, negotiated prices known to patients, enabling patients to shop among providers. Hospitals would disclose these “standard charges” in a way that is “easily accessible, without barriers, and searchable.”
>> Read More: CMS Press Release from July 29, 2019

Drug Pricing Legislation Passes Senate Committee

New legislation to slow increasing Medicare drug prices is scheduled for a Senate-wide debate in September. Despite a mixed vote, the Senate Finance Committee ultimately approved the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act, which targets Medicare drug reimbursement. Nine of the 15 Republican committee members voted against the bill while all 13 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) said in a statement: “Everyone can agree that the price of many prescription drugs is too high. These skyrocketing costs hurt seniors, lower-income earners, people with disabilities and all Americans. This legislation is the result of months of working across the aisle to find areas of consensus. Its common-sense reforms will save more than $100 billion and deliver real relief to patients across the board while preserving innovation in the healthcare industry.”
>> Read More: Grassley Statement on Committee Passage of Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act

Study: One Hour of Exercise Helps Joints

Elderly individuals with “lower extremity joint symptoms” were able to significantly increase “the likelihood of maintaining disability-free status over four years” by exercising for one hour per week. The study was a response to the federal guidelines suggesting individuals exercise for 3.5 hours per week. The study, which was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, analyzed participants with osteoarthritis who were older than 49. The findings were consistent across “sex, BMI, age, and knee osteoarthritis presence.” One hour of weekly moderate to vigorous activity reduced “mobility disability onset” by more than 80 percent and nearly halved “daily living disability.”
>> Read More: One Hour a Week: Moving to Prevent Disability in Adults With Lower Extremity Joint Symptoms

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