Tuesday Tidbits

OPM’s website issued a welcome to the new OPM Director Pon and Deputy Director Rigas.  The FEHBlog welcomes them too.

Modern Healthcare reports that HHS Secretary Azar spoke to an AHIP conference last week about the Administration’s drive toward value based payments and more consumer choice. “Azar said he would also ease up on insurers on the regulatory front. ‘We know the amount of time and money that goes into complying with well-meaning but often byzantine rules and regulations regarding consumer communications.'”  We can only hope that OPM Director Pon shares a similar message with FEHB carriers at the OPM AHIP FEHBP carrier conference on March 22 and 23.

Speaking of value based payments, Health Payer Intelligence informs us that

Value-based care helped close 50 million gaps in care between 2013 and 2017 while reducing care costs, lowering ED utilization, and increasing provider care quality, according to a new report from UnitedHealthcare (UHC). 

UHC examined data from more than 110,000 physicians and 1100 hospitals that treat people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored, individual, Medicare, and Medicaid health plans. The payer found that adoption of value-based care programs in all their business segments consistently benefited payers, providers, and patients.

Similarly, Mercer consultants and the American Benefit Council offer their report on employer innovations in health care coverage.

According to Healthcare Dive,  “Shareholders for both CVS Health and Aetna voted Tuesday in New York City to approve the $69 billion merger between the pharmacy chain and the insurer.”  Both companies expect that the merger will receive necessary government approvals and close by the end of this year.

Just when the FEHBlog thought there was nothing more to stay about last week’s HIMSS conference, he noticed this Healthcare IT News report on the successful use of blockchain technology in health care.

“How do you actually guarantee that you know where the data has been throughout its lifetime, and who has touched it?” said Robert Barkovich, CEO of Health Linkages. In a blockchain-based system, manipulation or falsification of data “will not be possible because the hashes will not match – you mathematically prove the integrity of the data.” 

Similarly, blockchain is already showing big potential for helping health systems manage pharma and medical device supply chain, patient recruitment for clinical trials, security and interoperability of Internet of Things and medical device data and privacy protections for precision medicine, he said. 

Finally, the Wall Street Journal reports on a dispute among provider and other advocacy groups about proper blood sugar targets for people with diabetes type 2.

“For most patients, an A1C between 7 and 8 seems to be the right spot where you maximize benefit and minimize burden,” says Jack Ende, president of the doctors group issuing the new guidelines and an internist at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Dr. Ende says the burdens of striving for a lower number include a greater risk of low blood sugar, which can cause fainting. Patients taking medication to reach a lower A1C level may face side effects and weight gain. Studies have found that the more aggressive treatment of diabetes didn’t reduce deaths or complications, including heart attacks or strokes, he says.

Interesting. Other groups argue for a lower target. Medicine in the FEHBlog view remains as much as art as a science.

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