Weekend update

Congress remains out of town this week. Yesterday, the President signed into law a bipartisan bill which according to the Washington Examiner

provides funding for veterans who seek treatment from a private doctor in certain cases. It also allows the Veterans Affairs department to lease 28 new facilities around the country, in an attempt to expand access to government-provided care. That makes it a compromise in the larger debate between conservative and liberal proponents of VA reform.

Speaking of bipartisan legislation, Avik Roy shares his observations here on what Congress should do to stabilize the ACA health insurance marketplace.

With the failure of Republicans’ health care effort, some Senate moderates are looking to prop Obamacare up with additional taxpayer funds. There’s a case to be made for a short-term bailout of Obamacare—but only if it’s accompanied by serious reforms that liberate consumers from the law’s rising health insurance premiums.

The FEHBlog heartily agrees. It’s a good piece.

Meanwhile, medical groups are complaining about rising regulatory burdens (amen to that).

  • Modern Healthcare reports that “The benefits coming from the CMS’ [punitive] Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program [created by the ACA] have slowed enough that some industry experts and hospital leaders say it may be time to retire the program.  Also, “[a] major complaint about the program has been that readmissions rates aren’t easy for a hospital to control.” That’s just common sense.
  • Healthcare Data Management reports that “The vast majority of physician practices are finding it difficult to comply with the [Medicare’s new but Obama era] Merit-Based Incentive Payment System and are facing several other critical health information technology challenges that are making it difficult to provide timely, quality patient care.  That’s the main finding of a new survey by the Medical Group Management Association, which found that 82 percent of practices see MIPS as very or extremely burdensome, 74 percent view the lack of national electronic attachment standards as similarly detrimental, while 68 percent likewise perceive the lack of EHR interoperability as debilitating.”  CMS has been struggling to create a HIPAA electronic attachment standard for over a decade. For a handy update on HIPAA implementation, check out this May 1, 2017, NCVHS annual report to Congress. HHS and Congress messed up by not providing for electronic health record interoperability when Congress funded $32 billion to provide hospitals and doctors with those systems. 

Finally, Kaiser Health News discusses the relationship between obesity and depression. It’s an important issue because many people are faced with both health problems. According to the article 43% of people with depression are obese.

While on the surface the two conditions appear very different, they share important similarities. Both are chronic diseases that are tricky to treat, requiring long-term physical and mental health interventions.
In cases in which depression and obesity coincide, those interventions can be even more complex, with research often showing the best results when care involves not only doctors and nurses but also other health professionals such as dietitians, behavioral health specialists and physical therapists.
“We need to find synergistic therapies — or it’s going to be the same kind of messy system in which we spend a lot of money and don’t get any return,” said William Dietz, the director of George Washington University’s Sumner M. Redstone Global Center for Prevention and Wellness, who researches obesity interventions.