Tuesday Tidbits

The Washington Post reports tonight that OPM does not plan to extend the Federal Benefits Open Season beyond December 14 despite “jammed [Open Season] phone lines” at the agency.  The Post also provides an Open Season Q&A with OPM’s FEHB Program Director John O’Brien and NARFE’s Federal Benefits Services Director David Snell.   

Today the OPM Director  Beth Cobert commented in her blog on the progress that OPM is making in notifying people affected by the agency’s data breach.  She also announced that OPM has created

a verification center [website] to help individuals who have had their information stolen in the malicious cyber intrusion carried out against the Federal Government. This verification center will help those who believe their data may have been taken but have not received a notification letter from the government. The center will also assist individuals who have received a letter letting them know they were impacted by the background investigation records intrusion, but who have lost the PIN code that allows them to sign up for the free services that the Federal Government is providing.

The Wall Street Journal reported today on why the U.S. pays higher prices for prescription drugs than other industrialized countries.  The short answer is that other industrialized countries rely on government price controls.

The pharmaceutical industry says controls such as those seen in Europe discourage investment in research and deny patients access to some drugs. “The U.S. has a competitive biopharmaceutical marketplace that works to control costs while encouraging the development of new treatments and cures,” said Lori Reilly, an executive at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a trade association. If U.S. pricing fell to European levels, the industry would almost certainly cut its R&D spending, said Mr. Evans, the health-care analyst. “Does the U.S. subsidize global research? Absolutely, yes,” he said. 

Surely there must be a happy medium.

On the bright side, the Journal also reported on successful, entreprenurial initiatives by health care providers to better educate patients about their health care conditions and hospital discharge plans.

Research shows patients don’t absorb much of the medical information they receive from their physician and are often wrong about what they do remember. Patients “immediately” forget 40% to 80% of what the doctor told them, according to a 2003 paper in Britain’s Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Some 50% of patients discharged from hospitals make mistakes in their aftercare with medications, and many end up back in the hospital, says Brian Jack, chief of family medicine at Boston Medical Center, who is leading a research effort he hopes will retool the discharge process in U.S. hospitals. “We throw papers and throw words at patients. It is crazy to think they would understand,” he says. This is especially true of older patients and those who are depressed.

The new approaches rely on video and audio recordings that can be replayed along with provider follow-up.

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