Monday Roundup

Photo by Sven Read on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The New York Times reports,
    • “The prospects for passing legislation to speed military aid to Ukraine this year are fading, as Republicans balk at striking a quick deal on immigration policy changes they have demanded in exchange for allowing the bill to move forward.
    • “After a weekend of intensive bipartisan border talks yielded progress but no breakthrough, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, acknowledged on Monday that negotiators were still far from completing a deal.
    • “It’s going to take some more time to get it done,” he said on the Senate floor on Monday afternoon, laying out plans for the week that made no mention of any votes on the aid package for Ukraine.”
  • Govexec tells us that “The Senate on Monday voted 50-11 to confirm former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley as commissioner of the Social Security Administration, ending a drought of more than two years in which the embattled agency lacked a permanent leader at the helm.”
  • Fierce Healthcare informs us,
    • “The Biden administration on Monday released amended fees related to independent dispute resolution under the No Surprises Act.
    • “In the amended final rule, CMS said it will instead set an administrative fee of $115 for disputes that are subject to the rule. A separate rule, which is up for comment until Jan. 2, adjusts the fees for disputes initiated after Jan. 1, 2025. * * *
    • “In addition, CMS outlined ranges for certified IDR entity fees, which the arbiters charge for determinations. Under the rule, the agency finalized a range of between $200 and $840 for a single determination and between $268 and $1,173 for batch rulings.
    • “These fees are also set annually, and IDRs can request to update them once each year, which the feds must approve.”
    • The rule takes effect on January 20, 2023.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • STAT News points out,
    • “As more data emerges that obesity drugs like Wegovy can reduce complications from heart and kidney problems as well, scientists have been wondering whether these benefits are driven by weight loss alone or also by other mechanisms.
    • “A new study suggests that one possible contributor is the drugs’ ability to reduce inflammation independent of weight loss.
    • “In mice experiments, scientists found that the treatments, known as GLP-1-based drugs, acted through the brain to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This was over a short period of time before the mice lost weight, according to the study, published Monday in Cell Metabolism.
    • “Though the researchers only studied mice, and didn’t look at how much the reduced inflammation translates to actual health benefits, they detailed a previously unknown mechanism of GLP-1 drugs that may help explain their effects on organs throughout the body.
    • “This is a new model for the anti-inflammatory actions of GLP-1” drugs, said Daniel Drucker, senior author of the study and a senior scientist at the Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.”
  • JAMA Pediatrics provides good news:
    • Question  Is maternal influenza vaccination during pregnancy associated with a reduction in influenza-associated hospitalizations and emergency department (ED) visits in infants younger than 6 months?
    • Findings  In this case-control study of 3764 infants younger than 6 months, maternal vaccination was associated with a reduction in influenza-associated hospitalizations and ED visits in infants. Vaccine effectiveness was highest among hospitalized infants, those younger than 3 months, and those born to mothers vaccinated in the third trimester.
    • Meaning  The findings in this study indicate that maternal influenza vaccination during pregnancy provided important protection for the infant in the first few months of life before infants are eligible for vaccination.”
  • The American Medical Association shares what doctors wish their patients knew about social drivers of health.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Bloomberg reports
    • “We’re seeing wide price variation even in the same hospitals on the same day based upon the negotiated prices by the differing health insurance carriers or health plans,” said Cynthia Fisher, founder and chairman of the philanthropic group Patient Rights Advocate, , which provides free price data for nearly all of the more than 6,000 hospitals in the US. “For the employers, this is eye-opening.”
    • “Patient Rights Advocate on Dec. 11 introduced a hospital pricing search tool for the public. The organization pointed to prices for an injection of cancer drug Rituximab at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago that ranged from $899.33 for the Cigna Basic/Premier medical plan for Rush employees administered through Allegiance Benefit Plan Management Inc. by the Cigna Group, to $9,260.13 for the Cigna One Health HMO.
    • “If they’re able to offer it at a tenth of the price, why should one employer pay 10 times more?” Fisher said.
    • “Cigna didn’t respond to a request for comment, and a spokesman for Rush said the hospital wasn’t “in a position to speak to something that specific so rapidly.”
    • “Being able to easily compare prices will protect health plans from billing errors and fraud by hospitals and insurers, Fisher said. “The employers and unions that design health plans will be able to benefit from being well-informed about their choices and decisions to seek the best quality of care at the lowest possible prices,” she said.
  • Beckers Hospital Review identifies the thirteen out of twenty most popular prescription drugs that are in shortage and the 25 largest health systems by number of physicians.
  • Healthcare IT News calls attention to the fact that “Now that telemedicine is mainstream, artificial intelligence is helping healthcare providers with imperatives such as patient triage. Early results are promising.”
  • According to Reuters,
    • “High cost, logistical issues and the prospect of potential treatment advances are holding back adoption of the first gene therapies for hemophilia, experts said this week during the American Society of Hematology’s (ASH) annual meeting.
    • “Experimental options discussed at the San Diego meeting included personalized treatments and next-generation gene therapies, many still in the earliest stages of testing.”
  • Benefits Pro lets us know about a “Cigna report [that] outlines the benefits, challenges of value-based care. The Cigna paper suggests that physicians, patients, and health plans tend to recognize the good aspects of VBC, but that change has been slow nonetheless in the private sector.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Kroger is piloting value-based primary care clinics as it joins a growing list of retailers looking to cash in on the booming sector of senior-focused medical care.
    • “The grocery chain has teamed up with Better Health Group, a provider network, to shift some of its in-store clinics, called The Little Clinic, into primary care centers for seniors, in addition to offering regular services.
    • “Better Health Group is rolling out the value-based model at eight of Kroger’s Altanta-area stores.
    • “The clinics today provide a full range of services from your acute, convenient care to primary care-like functions. About 60% of patients that we see in the clinic don’t have an assigned or designated primary care provider. So, there’s a huge opportunity just in general to serve patients and provide longitudinal care,” said Jim Kirby, chief commercial officer for Kroger Health, in an interview with Fierce Healthcare.”