Mid-week update

The ACA regulators issued their 31st set of ACA Frequently Asked Questions today. The FAQs cover an array of topics from free birth control to reference pricing. Every single one of them, while well meaning, raises costs for health plans, which means cost curve up. 

On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued their proposed rule describing Medicare Part A reimbursement and policy changes for the federal fiscal year that begins October 1, 2016.  Medicare Part A applies essentially to hospital services.  Per the American Hospital Association’s press release, the rule appears to be a mixed bag for hospitals.

Morning Consult reports on the House hearing held yesterday morning about CMS’s implementation of a new valued based system for paying doctors under Medicare Part B. Heavens to Betsy, Medicare is a complex program.

Health Data Management has an interesting story about how a regional urgent care center chain has integrated telemedicine into its business, thereby boosting patient satisfaction.

Some urgent care providers are wary of telemedicine because they view it as a threat to their businesses, says Alan Ayers, vice president of strategic initiatives for Practice Velocity, a Rockford, Ill.-based vendor that provides technology and billing capabilities for urgent care centers. Telemedicine is not currently taking business from urgent care now, but that could change in the future, he says. “Longer term, we do see urgent care cases increasing in acuity, and if urgent care is going to be an alternative to the emergency room, providers should be treating conditions that are just short of those that need to go to the ER,” Ayers says. “It’s not necessarily a bad thing that telemedicine would take away some of the routine, low-touch care.”

NPR reports on a Journal of the American Medical Association study of U.S. life expectancy patterns.  “The study suggests that the relationship between life expectancy and income is not ironclad, and changes at the local level can make a big difference.”  Intriguing.

Finally, FCW writes about an odd loose end stemming from the OPM data breach, and the St. Louis Business Journal brings us up to date on the early stages of Anthem’s lawsuit against is prescription benefit manager Express Scripts. A busy week so far.