Wednesday, November 30, 2016

On Call by Casey Ross
Good morning! President-elect Trump's health care team is coming into place, with major implications for hospitals and health care. Here's what you need to know today. For more coverage, follow @statnews on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Fresh take: Four things to know about Trump’s health care ‘dream team’

He calls them his "dream team," the two people president-elect Donald Trump picked to lead federal health policy. Based on what they bring to the table, it looks like major change is coming to American health care.

Republican Rep. Tom Price, a former orthopedic surgeon from Georgia, is a fierce opponent of Obamacare. And Seema Verma, Trump’s pick to helm CMS, is the chief architect of Medicaid reforms that require recipients to pay premiums.

Here are four things to know about their philosophies:

1.) Price argues federal programs are too restrictive and limit treatment options for doctors and patients. Since the election, he has pushed for a Medicare overhaul; look for something in the mold of Speaker Paul Ryan’s push for a voucher system.

2.) One of the House’s original Tea Party members, Price is not a supporter of giving Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices, a proposal he once called a “solution in search of a problem.” It looks like that Trump campaign pledge will die at the White House door. Read more about Price here.

3.) Verma is an architect of what many Republicans view as the gold standard of Medicaid reform — the Healthy Indiana Program. It requires recipients to pay premiums; those who fail to do so can be locked out of coverage for six months.

4.) A national health care consultant, Verma is seen as smart and capable, and her Medicaid proposal in Indiana won support from hospitals. That’s largely because it gives providers a raise in reimbursement — an average of 25 percent for doctors and 20 percent for hospitals. Read more about Verma here.

Just in: A blueprint for saving hospitals that serve vulnerable populations

Nothing undermines access to health care more than the loss of a local hospital.

With as many as 1 in 3 hospitals facing the threat of closure, the American Hospital Association is pushing a new nine-point plan to help institutions that serve vulnerable populations in cities and rural communities.

The plan calls for a push to accelerate the use of global payments — a fixed amount of money that can be used to care for a specific population. The payments generally give hospitals more flexibility to craft their own budgeting solutions.

It also urges development of more emergency and urgent care centers to address immediate health needs on an outpatient basis, while streamlining money-losing inpatient acute care services.

The report, released on a day of high consequence for health care policy in Washington, said implementing those and other strategies require more flexible payment models and regulations from Medicare.

Sponsor content by Boston Scientific

The Boston Scientific Big Data Challenge: Call for submissions!

Boston Scientific invites you to submit your ideas on how to improve patient outcomes, increase efficiency in delivering care, and drive down the cost of care using big data or data analytics. Submissions are open until January 7, and finalists will be honored on March 9 at Google’s Cambridge Headquarters where they will pitch off to win up to $50,000 of in-kind services to further develop or pilot their ideas. Learn more here.

How a little aerobic exercise goes a long way for brain health

Aerobic exercise is almost always a good thing.

But a new study shows it is particularly beneficial for patients with mild cognitive impairment who are at a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Patients who hit the treadmill or a bike four times per week for six months experienced an increase in brain volume, including in the temporal lobe, which supports short-term memory.

The study, presented at the Radiological Society of North America’s meeting in Chicago, relied on high-resolution MR images to track anatomical changes in patients’ brains. It separated patients into two groups – those who performed aerobic activity, and those who only engaged in stretching exercises.

The aerobic group achieved significant gains in brain volume and executive function.

"Even over a short period of time, we saw aerobic exercise lead to a remarkable change in the brain," said the study's lead investigator, Laura D. Baker of the  Wake Forest School of Medicine.

New research from CDC: Fewer people report problems paying medical bills

At least in terms of health care, American families are getting more financially stable.

New research from the CDC shows the percentage of people under 65 who reported trouble paying medical bills dropped to 16.2 percent in the first six months of 2016. That’s down from 21.3 percent in 2011.

The report, by the agency’s National Center of Health Statistics, noted that the improvement in financial health coincided with an expansion of insurance coverage during the last five years, as Obamacare took root.

Nearly 18 million people have gained insurance coverage since 2011.

President-elect Trump is proposing to repeal portions of Obamacare, but he has said he expects to keep some of its most popular aspects, such as a provision that allows children to stay on their parents insurance until they are 26.


  • Another human toll of the opioid epidemic: an increase in human trafficking (Fierce Healthcare)
  • CMS star ratings show bias against hospitals in poorer communities (Modern Healthcare)
  • Poll shows Americans want Obamacare to change (McClatchy)
  • Inside Obama’s "sacred" trips to Walter Reed (NY Times)

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