The Rundown | Week of 10.17.2017

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Tom Marino Withdraws from Nomination as Drug Czar

According to a new report from NPR, Republican Congressman Tom Marino has withdrawn his nomination as drug czar after new reports detailing his backing of a controversial bill that worsened the opioid crisis. This controversial bill, “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act,” made it harder for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to investigate drug companies that may have suspicious orders for narcotics. This legislation limited the DEA to only identifying drug threats categorized as “immediate” instead of the previous benchmark of “imminent.” This position joins a list of positions in the Trump administration that still need nominees, including the secretary of Health and Human Services and the director of the DEA.

>>Read more: “Tom Marino, Trump’s Pick As Drug Czar, Withdraws After Damaging Opioid Report”

Trump Pulls CSR Payments

The Trump administration announced last Friday that they will cut cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments, according to a report by CNBC. These payments are made to payers to help offset the costs of insurance for lower-income Americans who are just above the Medicaid qualification threshold. Many healthcare industry experts are opposed to this law due to expectations for higher out of pocket costs for patients, while insurers and state regulators are worried about what rates will look like next year. The Congressional Budget Office projected that cutting these payments would raise the healthcare costs for taxpayers by $6 billion in 2018. The Trump administration defended this move as a part of fulfilling their promise to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

>>Read more: “Medicaid is the biggest winner in Trump’s Obamacare subsidy cuts”

Inexpensive Medical Responsible for Majority of Waste

A newly issued study from Health Affairs analyzing 2014 data from the Virginia All Payer Claims Database finds that “about 44 low-value health services [netted] more than $586 million in unnecessary costs. Among these low-value services, those that were low and very low cost ($538 or less per service) were delivered far more frequently than services that were high and very high cost ($539 or more). The combined costs of the former group were nearly twice those of the latter (65 percent versus 35 percent).” This data suggests that the healthcare industry should tackle the issue of overuse. The results offer deeper insight into an ongoing profusion of unnecessary tests and procedures. Previous research has suggested the problem is more pronounced among hospital-based primary care clinics, especially when patients see someone other than their own physician.

>> Read more: Low-Cost, High-Volume Health Services Contribute The Most To Unnecessary Health Spending

Patient Survey Report: 95 percent of Patients Happy with PCP

In a survey conducted by the National Physician’s Association, 95 percent of respondents reported being “happy with their primary care physician.” The study, executed by Regina Corso Consulting, was commissioned to evaluate the attitudes of patients on four major areas: the physician-patient relationship, the cost of healthcare, social determinants and lifestyle issues. Though patients are happy, Other findings from the study include, 92 percent of respondents feel that health insurance companies impact treatment options for medical conditions, among physicians, just half (51 percent) would recommend medicine as a career to their children or other young people, and 89 percent of respondents are concerned about healthcare costs affecting them in the future.

>>Read more: 2017 Patient Survey Report for the Physicians Foundation