Midweek update

The Senate “read” the bipartisan Postal reform bill (S. 2629) a second time on Monday and placed the bill on the general orders calendar (item no. 366). The next step will be for the Senate leadership to bring up the bill for a vote.

The House Ways and Means Committee released a bipartisan staff report on stakeholder suggestions on how to address the opioid crisis.   The legislative themes that attracted majority stakeholder approval were opioid prescription limits, better data tracking, and increasing public access to medication-assisted treatment and non-opioid based pain remedies.

Healthcare Dive provides us with expert opinions on whether the U.S. can cope with a physician shortage and steps that are and can continue be taken to increase the number of physicians.. For example,

Edward Salsberg, director of health workforce studies at George Washington University’s Health Workforce Institute, does not share the concern that the nation is facing a severe shortage, pointing to how the industry is redesigning service delivery to enhance utilization. 

“While the number of new physicians is growing slowly, the number of NPs and PAs is growing very rapidly as is a whole host of other professions,” he told Healthcare Dive. “Making better use of the workforce we have through innovations in service delivery and modifications in scope of practice laws/regulations can help increase access, improve quality and constrain the growth in health care costs.”

 More recommendations —

  • Revcycle intelligence.com discusses three strategies to reduce low value health care, and
  • Health Affairs discusses two approaches that payers can take to improve the efficacy of accountable care organizations.  
More innovations — 
  • Employee Benefits News reports that a hospital in its role as an employer is using a predictive modeling company to control its employee healthcare costs.  The modeling company is called Advanced Plan for Healthcare whose electronic tool is amusingly named Poindexter.
  • EBN also reports that CVS Health “recently launched an e-prescribing program that provides real-time visibility to medication costs and lower-cost alternatives. Before prescribing a drug, physicians can review up to five therapeutically equivalent brand alternatives or generic medications on the patient’s health plan formulary. The doctor or the pharmacist can view patient-specific cost information for each drug based on an employee’s coverage terms and how much of the annual deductible has been met.” Cool.