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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

ACA enrollment extended after technical difficulties affected website

The deadline to sign up for health insurance through was extended following reports that the website wasn’t functioning well enough to allow people to enroll. The previous deadline was Dec 15. The website of the Affordable Care Act allows thousands of people to look through various options for health insurance and subsequently sign up. People reported that the website was facing technical issues, including not loading the login page. The telephone number to get help with the site was also log-jammed due to the high volume of people trying to get help. As the deadline for enrollment drew closer, several prominent figures, including former CMS administrator Andy Slavitt and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D- Mass.) called for current CMS officials to extend the deadline. The new deadline is 3 a.m. E.T. Dec 18. 

A small minority are beneficiaries of a large portion of Canada’s public health spending

Canada’s public drug programs spent more than $14 billion last year, much of it on relatively few people. Unlike other countries with universal health care coverage, Canada’s government doesn’t cover prescription drugs, and people rely on public and private plans instead. Here’s more: 

  • Overall trends: Nearly 40% of the 2018 public drug spending was on only 2% of beneficiaries, suggesting more is being spent on high-cost drugs and those taking multiple drugs.

  • Type of drugs: Drugs for the autoimmune disorders rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease were the top class of drugs. Hepatitis C drugs and those for age-related macular degeneration were also among the top three. 

  • Beneficiaries: 28% of Canadians last year were beneficiaries of public drug spending, including nearly 80% of seniors. Around 25% of those who received $10,000 or more in public spending were taking 15 or more classes of drugs. 

What mice watching Orson Welles movies teaches us about vision 

What can we learn from studying mice watching Orson Welles movies? A lot, according to new research. Scientists had mice view clips of Welles' 1958 noir masterpiece “Touch of Evil” and measured electrical activity in the visual cortex to record how neurons "see" what’s on the screen. Only about three-quarters of the neurons responded, but in some parts of their brains, only a third did. This surprise finding could indicate that a large percentage of visual neurons are doing something apart from vision, which computer recognition software could benefit from emulating. The findings could provide insights into the workings of the visual cortex and could help improve self-driving cars or brain prostheses designed to help the blind see. 

Inside STAT: Purdue quietly splits with PhRMA as it pulls back from lobbying


The latest in a series of high-profile breakups involving Purdue Pharma is between the drug maker and the lobbying group PhRMA. The embattled maker of OxyContin resigned from the organization in October, and the departure comes as the company sorts through its bankruptcy filing and deals with several lawsuits around the country over its marketing of OxyContin. Purdue was under no obligation to sever ties with PhRMA but the lobbying group requires a lot of its members. Members have to pay millions of dollars in dues each year, for example, and they are also expected to spend at least $200 million every year on research and development, both of which might be difficult for Purdue given its ongoing legal and financial troubles. STAT’s Nicholas Florko has more

Male scientists are more likely than female colleagues to positively frame their research 

Men’s historical overconfidence — and women’s shortage of confidence — may extend to the way they describe their scientific work, according to new research. An analysis of more than 100,000 life sciences papers published between 2002 and 2017 finds that men are about 12% more likely to positively describe their work using words like “novel” and “excellent” in abstracts than their female colleagues. When it came to papers published in top-tier journals, that difference grew to more than 20%. Such differences could have ripple effects beyond the pages of a journal: How one’s papers are framed could influence citations by others, and such citations count toward other factors such as research funding, promotions, and salary. One caveat: Researchers only looked at published abstracts, so it’s possible some of these differences emerged during editing and peer review of articles. 

Program that provides hospital-level care at home is more cost-effective

Delivering certain hospital procedures in patients’ homes can be cost-effective, according to new data. Home Hospital is a pilot program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston that brings certain in-patient procedures — like for infections or heart failure — to patients’  homes in an effort to cut down on costs and complications from being in a hospital environment. In the new study, researchers found that the cost of delivering care at home was almost 40% less than an in-hospital stays. Home Hospital patients also had far fewer lab tests, imaging, and consultations with health care providers than their in-hospital counterparts. The study included only a small sampling of patients who had a low risk of serious complications, so the findings may not yet be completely generalizable. 

What to read around the web today

  • Meet Jonathan Strecker, STAT 2019 Wunderkind. STAT
  • The secret to saving the lives of black mothers and babies. Politico
  • Purdue Pharma payments to Sackler family soared amid opioid crisis. The New York Times
  • Bankrupt uBiome preliminarily sells patents for 1% of the poop-testing startup’s original valuation. STAT Plus
  • A preventable malignancy. Knowable Magazine

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, December 17, 2019


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