Weekend update

From Washington, DC,

  • The American Medical Association reports,
    • “As of today, patients and physicians have a clear-eyed view on how to protect Medicare from injurious cuts. A bipartisan group of House members— led by Reps. Greg Murphy, M.D., (R-N.C), Danny Davis, (D-Ill.), Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M. (R-Ohio), Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-Ind.) and Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-Texas)—introduced HR 6683 that would eliminate the pending 3.37 percent cuts to Medicare payments. These cuts threaten healthcare access for seniors as well as the viability of physician practices, including many in rural and underserved areas. Canceling the cut is a good new year’s resolution.”
  • The Federal Benefits Open Season ends tomorrow, December 11.
    • OPM explains that “The Federal Benefits Open Season ends at 11:59 pm Eastern Time on Monday, December 11, 2023, for the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) and the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS). Open Season for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) ends at 11:59 pm, in the location of your electronic enrollment system, on Monday, December 11, 2023.”

From the public health front,

  • Fortune Well provides background on pneumonia, the lung disease that is the number one cause of hospital admission in children and adults.
  • Bloomberg Prognosis delves into the old saying, “Feed a cold and starve a fever,” which dates back to the 16th century. Well, it turns out that your best bet is to feed colds and fevers according to Bloomberg.
  • The Washington Post reports,
    • “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday warned clinicians and the public about an outbreak of a rare but deadly tick-borne disease that hospitalized five patients in Southern California, killing three of them, after they traveled to or lived in a Mexican border city in recent months.
    • “Rocky Mountain spotted fever (RMSF) is transmitted by the bite of infected ticks that live primarily on dogs. It’s rare in the United States but it has emerged at epidemic levels in northern Mexico, where more than 2,000 cases, resulting in hundreds of deaths, have been reported in the past five years.
    • “In a health advisory issued late Friday, the CDC said the five patients had been diagnosed since late July. All had traveled to or lived in the city of Tecate, in the northern Mexican state of Baja California, within two weeks of getting sick. All five sought care in hospitals in Southern California, including four pediatric patients. CDC officials declined to provide more details about the individuals to protect their privacy. Three of the patients were U.S. residents, and two were siblings who lived in Mexico. Two deaths were pediatric patients and one was an adult, CDC officials said.”
  • The Post also discusses nitazenes, a street opioid more potent than fentanyl.
    • “Naloxone, the commonly used overdose reversal drug, can revive nitazene users. But nitazenes may complicate rescue efforts if users or medical personnel do not know the drugs have been consumed. In a study published in August, researchers found that a small group of emergency room patients who had taken nitazenes needed more naloxone than people overdosing on fentanyl. Two patients who ingested a compound known as metonitazene suffered heart attacks. One died, according to the study in JAMA Network Open.
    • “The concerns about nitazenes being more potent than fentanyl were confirmed by the study,” said Alex F. Manini, a study co-author and a professor of emergency medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.”

We have big news from the U.S. healthcare business front.

  • The Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon,
    • Cigna abandoned its pursuit of a tie-up with  Humana that would have created a roughly $140 billion giant in the health-insurance industry.
    • “The companies couldn’t come to an agreement on price and other financial terms, according to people familiar with the matter. In the near term, Cigna is turning its focus toward smaller, so-called bolt-on acquisitions. * * *
    • “Instead, Bloomfield, Conn.-based Cigna plans an additional $10 billion of stock buybacks, bringing its total planned repurchases to $11.3 billion. * * *
    • “Humana, the No. 2 Medicare insurer, remains in the midst of its own succession handoff. Humana said in October that Jim Rechtin—previously chief executive of Envision Healthcare—would take over as president and chief operating officer, effective Jan. 8. Rechtin is then to take over as chief executive officer from Bruce Broussard in the back half of 2024.”