Weekend update

Congress is back in town this week. Last Wednesday, the FEHBlog erroneously posted that the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee would be holding a confirmation hearing this coming Tuesday on the President’s nominee for HHS Secretary Alex Azar. In fact, the Senate Finance Committee is holding that hearing on January 9 at 10 am.

The Senate HELP Committee, which held its confirmation hearing on Mr. Azar last year, is holding a hearing about the opioid crisis on January 9 at 10 am. The Committee’s sole witness is author / journalist Sam Quinones who wrote a book about the crisis titled Dreamland. The FEHBlog, who had not been familiar with Mr. Quinones or his book, downloaded it from Amazon (for a quite reasonable price) and found that the book is worth reading.

Last Friday, as Healthcare Dive reports HHS released a draft Trusted Exchange Framework report required by the 21st Century Cure Act that is intended to create a roadmap to electronic health record interoperability. The draft is open to public comment for 60 days. The government should have prepared this framework before shelling out $30 billion on electronic medical record systems. Quel dommage.

NPR reported on Friday that 23% of US hospitals are receiving a 1% haircut on Medicare funding in 2018 because they fell in the last quartile of patient safety measure results. The FEHBlog realizes that most readers understandably will react to this sentence with the thought “Don’t cry for me Argentina.”  The FEHBlog nevertheless is not a fan of the many, many punitive aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Too many sticks, not enough carrots.

Kaiser Health News tells us about the need for doctors to control over-screening of aged adults for cancer and other diseases.

Doctors should prioritize what they can do to help patients be healthier, said Dr. Louise Walter, chief of geriatrics at the University of California-San Francisco and a geriatrician at the San Francisco VA Medical Center. For many older patients, screening for cancer is not their most pressing need. 

“Instead of spending time and effort on things that are hurtful and never going to help them, why not direct time and energy on things that will help them live longer and better?” Walter asked. 

For example, Walter might tell a patient, “‘Right now, you have really bad heart failure and we need to get that under control,’” Walter said. 

Other key issues for many older people include preventing falls, treating depression and alleviating stress in their caregivers, Walter said. Gross said he urges patients to take steps shown to improve their health, such as getting a flu shot or exercising at least 15 minutes a day. 

“These are things that can help them feel better very quickly,” Walter said. “Screenings can take years to have a benefit, if at all.”

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