The Rundown | Week of 9.16.2019

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Low Rates of Screening for Social Determinants of Health

New research reveals few practices and hospitals screen for social determinants of health despite growing awareness of their effects on health outcomes. The cross-sectional study, which was published in JAMA Network Open, indicates 24 percent of hospitals and 16 percent of physician practices screen “patients for food, housing, transportation, utilities, and interpersonal violence needs.” However, “Practices that serve disadvantaged patients report higher screening rates.” These groups generally focus on “primary care improvement models, bundled payments, and commercial ACO contracts.” Researchers concluded “meeting patients’ social needs is likely to increase as more take on accountability for cost under payment reform.”
>> Read More: Prevalence of Screening for Food Insecurity, Housing Instability, Utility Needs, Transportation Needs, and Interpersonal Violence by US Physician Practices and Hospitals

Hospital Concentration and Prices Increasing

A recent report by the Health Care Cost Institute determined the majority of metropolitan areas have high hospital concentration, which can cause prices to rise. Researchers noted increased concentration — from 67 percent in 2012 to 72 percent in 2016 — is related to growing consolidation. “In most markets, patients have faced fewer choices as markets have become increasingly dominated by a smaller number of hospitals and hospital systems.” Furthermore, this concentration and consolidation correlates — though does not necessarily cause — price increases. After acknowledging the influence of external factors, researchers concluded “increases in market concentration plausibly related to hospital mergers coincided with increases in prices.”
>> Read More: Hospital Concentration Index

Vape Bans and Criminal Investigation

After attributing than 500 cases of severe lung illnesses and seven deaths to e-cigarettes, the Trump administration has announced plans to ban all flavored e-cigarette products. “The Trump Administration is making it clear that we intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. Details of the compliance plan will “outline enforcement policy addressing non-tobacco-flavored e-cigarette products that lack premarket authorization moving forward.” Furthermore, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation to target the contaminants causing the illnesses and e-cigarettes’ supply chain.
>> Read More: Trump Administration Combating Epidemic of Youth E-Cigarette Use with Plan to Clear Market of Unauthorized, Non-Tobacco-Flavored E-Cigarette Products

Purdue Pharma Declares Bankruptcy

Purdue Pharma, the drugmaker behind OxyContin, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to settle litigation from 24 state attorneys over the company’s role in the opioid epidemic. The settlement would provide more than $10 billion to combat the opioid crisis via opioid reversal medications. The Sackler family would contribute at least $3 billion and leave the company. Steve MIller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors, said: “This settlement framework avoids wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and years on protracted litigation, and instead will provide billions of dollars and critical resources to communities across the country trying to cope with the opioid crisis. We will continue to work with state attorneys general and other plaintiff representatives to finalize and implement this agreement as quickly as possible.” However, many states have rejected the tentative deal.
>> Read More: OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, settles lawsuits

Report: Costs Employer-Sponsored Health Benefits to Grow by 6.5 Percent

The costs of employer-sponsored health benefits are set to increase by 6.5 percent in 2020, according to a report from Aon. High-cost specialty drugs, the rising price of care, and declining utilization are three factors driving the increase. These predictions mean employer-sponsored health benefits will grow by approximately twice the rate as general inflation. This increase is similar to last year’s. Researchers forecasted that “ negative utilization trends” would “drift higher in the next few years, but should remain low” while “utilization of services remains relatively flat or decreasing.”
>> Read More: 2020 Global Medical Trend Rates Report

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