Weekend update

Happy Easter! Yesterday, the FEHBlog read about a 1964 Italian film called the Gospel According to St. Matthew. The FEHBlog found and watched the film on the Concierge Channel following two UConn basketball victories. The film is available on YouTube.

From Washington, DC,

  • Congress continues it break from Capitol Hill this week.
  • Last Wednesday, OPM’s PBM pharmacy benefits panel at the FEHB carrier conference featured a New Jersey attorney who was warning that plan sponsors can be held liable for PBM contracting mismanagement, pointing to the Lewandowski v. Johnson & Johnson case.   Here is a link to the defense counsel’s letter to the federal district court in New Jersey describing Johnson & Johnson’s strong (in my opinion) defenses in that ERISA case and a link to a related 1st Circuit ERISA opinion from earlier this year.  In any case, as the FEHBlog pointed out at the conference, FEHB plans are exempt from ERISA as governmental plans.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • The Washington Post reports,
    • “More than three-quarters of sudden infant deaths involved multiple unsafe sleep practices, including co-sleeping, a recent analysis suggests.
    • “A study published in the journal Pediatrics looked at 7,595 sudden infant death cases in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention registry between 2011 and 2020. The majority of deaths occurred in babies less than 3 months old.
    • “The statistics revealed that 59.5 percent of the infants who died suddenly were sharing a sleep surface at the time of death, and 75.9 percent were in an adult bed when they died. Though some demographic factors such as sex and length of gestation were not clinically significant, the researchers found that the babies sharing a sleep surface were more likely to be Black and publicly insured than those who didn’t share sleep surfaces. Soft bedding was common among all the infants who died, and 76 percent of the cases involved multiple unsafe practices.
    • “The analysis mirrors known risk factors for sudden infant death. Current recommendations direct parents and other caretakers to provide infants with firm, flat, level sleep surfaces that contain nothing but a fitted sheet. Though room sharing reduces the risk of sudden infant death, CDC officials discourage parents from sharing a sleep surface with their child.”
  • Fortune Well tells us,
    • “Oral health isn’t one of the most exciting self-care practices—but it’s an important one. What’s going on in your mouth is a strong indicator of your overall well-being. So, brushing and flossing every day isn’t just a bid for your dentist’s approval, it’s a win for your overall health. 
    • “Experts say there’s one more way to look after your teeth and gums: rinsing your mouth with water after you eat. * * *
    • “Every time you eat, your saliva breaks food down for digestion which will create an acid byproduct,” explains Lilya Horowitz, DDS, of Domino Dental in Brooklyn, New York. “This leads to more biofilm and plaque buildup, so rinsing with a neutral or basic water can help lower the pH in the mouth.” In an acidic environment or an environment below 4.5 pH, the enamel of the teeth will start to break down.”
  • MedPage Today lets us know,
    • Starting medication for alcohol use disorder (MAUD) at hospital discharge reduced readmission risk, a cohort study suggested.
    • Of nearly 10,000 alcohol-related hospitalizations of Medicare beneficiaries, only 2% (192) involved initiation of MAUD at the time of discharge, Eden Bernstein, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues found.
    • In this small number, MAUD initiation at discharge was linked with a 42% decreased incidence of returning to the hospital within 30 days (incident rate ratio [IRR] 0.58, 95% CI 0.45-0.76, the researchers reported in JAMA Network Open
  • MedTech Dive informs us,
    • “Exact Sciences shared early results of a test it is developing with Mayo Clinic to screen for esophageal cancer and its precursors.
    • “The test, called Oncoguard Esophagus, uses an encapsulated sponge device to collect esophageal cells. DNA is extracted from the cells and processed in a PCR assay. The results from the assay are run through an algorithm, which provides a positive or negative result, Paul Limburg, Exact Sciences’ chief medical officer of screening, wrote in an email. 
    • “The test, which is designed to be less invasive than an endoscopy, detected esophageal adenocarcinoma and Barrett’s esophagus, a known precursor to the cancer, according to results published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. The National Institutes of Health and Exact Sciences funded the study.”
  • Per Medscape,
    • “Artificial intelligence (AI) has identified two plant-based bioactive compounds with potential as glucagon-like-peptide-1 receptor (GLP-1R) agonists for weight loss as possible alternatives to pharmaceutical weight-loss drugs, but with potentially fewer side effects and oral administration.
    • “Using AI, the work aimed to identify novel, natural-derived bioactive compounds that may activate the GLP-1R, which is the site of action of existing weight loss pharmaceutical drugs including semaglutide (Wegovy, Novo Nordisk) and dual agonist tirzepatide (Zepbound, Eli Lilly).
    • “Presenter Elena Murcia, PhD, of the Structural Bioinformatics and High-Performance Computing Research Group & Eating Disorders Research Unit, Catholic University of Murcia, Murcia, Spain, will be sharing her work at the upcoming European Congress on Obesity (ECO 2024) in May.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Beckers Payer Issues relates,
    • “UnitedHealthcare’s Surest is the organization’s fastest growing commercial health plan, boasting no deductibles and a shoppable healthcare experience built around price transparency.
    • “In March, Aon published an analysis of medical and pharmacy spending among Surest members in 2021 and 2022, totaling more than 92,000 and 156,000, respectively. Aon compared the experience of Surest members to that of a control group composed of members from a multi-employer database with matching geography, demographics, and medical and mental health comorbidities during the same time periods.
      • “Surest members had $365 lower total spend per-member per-year in 2021 and $412 lower spend in 2022.
      • “Surest’s total cost of care was 7.5% lower in 2021 and 7.7% lower in 2022.
      • “Results in 2022 were driven by 96.7% lower allowed medical claims and 78.8% lower allowed drug claims.
      • “Key drivers of cost efficiencies in 2022 were 93.1% lower professional spend and 71.5% lower specialty pharmacy spend.”
  • Healthexec and KFF discuss the state of concierge medicine.
    • “Nonprofit hospitals created largely to serve the poor are adding concierge physician practices, charging patients annual membership fees of $2,000 or more for easier access to their doctors.
    • “It’s a trend that began decades ago with physician practices. Thousands of doctors have shifted to the concierge model, in which they can increase their income while decreasing their patient load.”