Thursday Miscellany

Earlier this month, the National Center for Health Statistics released a report on 2019 births in our country. Here are some notable snippets from that report:

  • The provisional number of births for the United States in 2019 was 3,745,540, down 1% from the number in 2018 (3,791,712). This is the fifth year that the number of births has declined after the increase in 2014, down an average of 1% per year, and the lowest number of births since 1985.
  • The birth rate for teenagers in 2019 was 16.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15–19, down 5% from 2018 (17.4), reaching another record low for this age group. The rate has declined by 60% since 2007 (41.5), the most recent period of continued decline, and 73% since 1991, the most recent peak.
  • The low-risk cesarean delivery rate, or cesarean delivery among nulliparous (first birth), term (37 or more completed weeks based on the obstetric estimate), singleton (one fetus), vertex (head-first) births, also decreased to 25.6% of births in 2019 from 25.9% in 2018.
  • The percentage of infants born preterm (births at less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) fell 8% from 2007 (the most recent year for which national data are available based on the obstetric estimate of gestation) to 2014, but has risen 7% from 2014 (9.57%) to 2019.

Healthcare Dive reports that

The number of Medicare beneficiaries using telehealth skyrocketed in the early weeks of the pandemic as the Trump administration relaxed regulations to virtual care.

The looser regulations are only in place for the extent of the national public health emergency, but myriad groups have called on HHS to permanently relax the barriers. Top administration health officials have said they’re exploring the possibility.

Here’s hoping.

Health IT Security informs us about Verizon’s latest data breach investigations report.

For healthcare, there were 798 security incidents and 521 confirmed data breaches in 2019, compared to 304 incidents in the previous year. While miscellaneous insider errors, privilege misuse, and web applications were the leading causes 2018 healthcare data breaches, external threats outpaced insiders in this year’s report.

In fact, 51 percent of healthcare data breaches were caused by external actors, and insider-related breaches fell to 48 percent. Despite the slight increase in external-related breaches, healthcare does remain the leading industry for internal bad actors.

It’s not always a good thing to be in first place.

Let’s wrap it up with a story about responsible corporate citizenship. Becker’s Hospital CFO Report informs us that

CMS automatically sent out the first slice of federal funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act based on historical Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement. Now, several companies are returning the relief aid.

[Healthcare companies] Cigna, CVS Health, DaVita, Encompass and Walmart are among the companies sending back federal grants they received under the CARES Act, which are meant to reimburse healthcare providers for expenses or lost revenues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Business Insider. The companies are returning a total of nearly $574 million.

The common reason for returning these large amounts of money was aptly stated by CVS Health:

“We have made the decision to return the funds and forgo participation in subsequent disbursements,” CVS Health President and CEO Larry Merlo wrote in a May 19 letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “In doing so, we hope to help HHS provide additional support to other providers who are facing significant financial challenges as a result of the pandemic.”

Bravo.

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