TGIF

Well, it’s been an interesting news day. According to this Federal News Radio report, Marilyn Tavenner, who has been the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, a very powerful position in U.S. healthcare, announced that she will step down from that position at the end of February. Here principal deputy administrator, Andy Slavitt, will serve as acting administrator beginning in March.  Mr. Slavitt spent many years at UHC’s technology subsidiary Optum.

The CMS administrator position requires Senate approval which should be interesting.  In the same vein, the Wall Street Journal reports on HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell’s list of legislative initiatives upon which the Administration and the Republican controlled Congress may find common ground.

Speaking of technology, earlier this week the Food and Drug Administration approved Enteromedic’s implantable device called the Maestro Rechargeable System to treat obesity. This AP report explains that the device “uses electrodes implanted in the abdomen to stimulate the vagus nerve, which signals to the brain that the stomach is empty or full. Patients and doctors can adjust the device settings using external controllers.”  Enteromedic’s stock price promptly jumped.

Also on the technology front, Modern Healthcare reports on whether 3-D mammography is cost effective? Evidently it is for younger women with denser breast tissue. It avoids unnecessary call backs for another test.

Reliable Drug Channels reports on the newest benchmarking numbers on retail and specialty pharmacy reimbursement. “[R]etail pharmacies received the highest reimbursements, even as the gap with mail pharmacies has narrowed. The retail reimbursement rate, as measured by the percentage discount from Average Wholesale Price (AWP), has remained surprisingly steady in recent years.”

Finally, Robert Moffitt from the Heritage Foundation and a colleague wrote a study on OPM’s multi state plan program (“MSPP”). The study is interesting reading particularly with respect its analysis of OPM’s key role. The conclusion must have been written before OPM surprisingly announced late last year that it was adding healthcare co-cops to the multi-state program. The failed Iowa co-op was not included in the MSPP.  

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