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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Health accounts can now be used to pay for 23andMe kits

The IRS now allows people to use flexible spending and health care savings accounts to pay for 23andMe’s genetic testing kits, the company shared yesterday. The decision applies to the medical portion of the medical and ancestry kit that the company sells, so people will have to figure out how to separate out the ancestry portion of the combination kit. The company sells FDA-approved tests to identify genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s, and celiac disease. It also has tests for genetic mutations involved in colorectal cancer as well as three variants in BRCA genes — most commonly implicated in breast cancers — in those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Yesterday’s move means that consumers who would have paid $199 for a kit can claim up to $117.74 for tax purposes. 

California pays a lot for health care, not so much for keeping people healthy

California spends a lot on health care to treat its residents, but relatively little to ensure they are healthy, according to a new report. In 2018, for every $1 that California spent on health care services, it spent just $0.68 on other aspects of health, including social and public health services. That “other” figure is down by nearly half — from $1.22 — since 2007. While California’s total health care spending has grown nearly 150% since that year, spending on other services grew by around 40%. The report’s authors say that the state could rein in some of its $119 billion budget by cutting back on wasted costs, including unnecessary medical services. But it could also invest in community aspects of care tied to improved health, including raising the minimum wage and investing in public health, education, and other social programs. 

MLB players have lower mortality rates than the general population

As researchers try to understand the long-term impact of playing professional sports, a new study finds that major league baseball players tended to fare better than the general population. Other studies have found, for instance, that MLB players also tend to have better health outcomes than professional football players, possibly because NFL players also tend to weigh more. Looking at data from nearly 10,500 players from 1906 through 2006, scientists found that compared to the general U.S. male population, MLB players had significantly lower rates of death. A longer career meant lower rates of death from overall causes, but was associated with higher rates of cancer deaths. Playing baseball professionally requires athletes to be in good physical health, but more research is needed to better understand the study's findings.

Inside STAT: Pregnancy tech is ‘the way of the future.’ But do we really want it?


(MOLLY FERGUSON FOR STAT)

From wearables that promise to track contractions to apps that can relay blood pressure readings from the home to a doctor elsewhere, pregnancy care is in the midst of a digital revolution. And while many of the new technologies may be a way to cut down on trips to the hospital or clinic, faulty or confusing information could inadvertently mean more false readings, more anxiety, and ultimately, more doctor visits. But doing away with these apps, wearables, and other technology is no longer an option. Instead, doctors have to figure out a way to blend these devices into prenatal care, experts say. “It’s clearly the way of the future,” Dr. Nathaniel DeNicola, an OB-GYN at George Washington University told STAT’s Megan Thielking. Read more here

Telehealth continues to be a rapidly growing service

Telehealth is booming, based on the claims private insurance companies are seeing. Looking through some 29 billion private insurance claims, analysts found that claims for telehealth grew by more than 620% between 2014 and 2018. Here’s more from the report: 

  • Geography: Although telemedicine is still a small portion of health care, when it came to using telemedicine not associated with a hospital, urban areas saw the biggest growth — over 1,200% — while rural areas saw nearly 900% growth. 

  • Age and sex: Those in the 31-40 age group used telehealth services the most, accounting for more than 20% of the claims. Nearly two-thirds of all claims for telehealth services were submitted for female patients. 

  • Condition: Mirroring the primary care office, acute respiratory infections were also the most common reason for such visits.

Medicare for All unlikely to cause surge in hospital use, study says

“Medicare for All” is a hot topic of discussion these days. Opponents say it would cause an increase in hospital use and, in turn, health costs, but the authors behind a new study write that “such projections are probably incorrect.” Researchers looked at hospital use before and after Medicare and Medicaid went into effect in 1966, as well as when the Affordable Care Act was implemented in 2014. Each led to about 10% more people gaining insurance, which is what experts expect for a Medicare for All plan. The number of hospital stays and the duration of stays changed very little in the years immediately following the plans’ implementation. Elderly people and those from low-income backgrounds used hospital services more, but those gains were offset by younger people and those with higher-income using health care facilities less.  

What to read around the web today

  • Why does an FDA page about abortion pills cite murders and overdoses as 'associated with' the drugs? Pacific Standard
  • Critics of peer review ask how ‘race science’ still manages to slip through. Undark
  • Mysterious Sunflower syndrome is spotlighted at MGH. The Boston Globe
  • The superbug Candida auris is giving rise to warnings — and big questions. STAT
  • The opioid epidemic you haven't heard about. Mosaic

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

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