Health Wonk Review: Nationals Playoff Edition!

Here in Washington, DC, the weather has changed from hot and humid to a brisk and sunny autumn, but many of us locals are still hot, due to catching baseball fever. You heard right: With both the Washington Nationals and the Baltimore Orioles in the playoffs, we at the Wing of Zock have had our minds on ball games, peanuts, and Crackerjack. Just in case you didn’t know, Washington hasn’t had a team in post-season play since 1933, when the Senators lost to the New York Giants 4-1 in the World Series.

Despite our distraction, we hope to hit a home run with this week’s baseball-themed Health Wonk Review (apologies to you Braves and Yankees fans out there).

Jason Shafrin from Healthcare Economist steps to the mound to throw the first pitch, officially starting this week’s series and with a detailed and informative post summarizing a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation on the effect of hospital concentration in a market on prices and quality. Shafrin concludes with saying that the study supports his theory that “Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) promoted by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may not improve quality and are likely to increase the price of health care”—a pitch that could be considered a curveball by some.

Up at bat is David Harlow from Health Blawg, with a post on the tension between data privacy and security standards (honored in the breach, but getting toughened up) and some patients’ interests in sharing data more openly in order to promote better understanding of disease. Harlow recently spoke on this topic at the Medicine 2.0 Conference in Boston and the post includes his informational slidecast from his presentation.

Playing a sharp defense is Kat Haselkorn of Corporate Wellness Insights, who highlights the benefits of organizations that invest time and money in the wellness of their employees, an increasingly popular trend at such companies as Marriot and Google. Looks like Haselkorn is right on base when she says that “office wellness initiatives tend to lead to happier, healthier employees, increased loyalty to the organization, and an impressive ROI.”

Speaking of peanuts and Crackerjack and other sugary snacks, Jared Rhoads from the Center for Objective Health Policy explores the possibility of a higher government tax on beverages containing high fructose corn syrup or caffeine to discourage consumption. While the jury is still out on whether the taxes are a solution to curb consumption of that daily afternoon Mountain Dew, Rhoads notes that while it might be a way to “raise revenues for health care” and decrease obesity rates, a higher tax on these beverages could violate the producers’ rights to choose which products to make and the buyers’ choice in products to buy.

As you rethink that soda purchase between innings, we have bloggers who move to send health care fraud to the dugout. Health Care Renewal (HCR) discusses a Sept. 10 article published online in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Punishing Health Care Fraud — Is the GSK Settlement Sufficient?” Roy Poses, MD, HCR curator, summarizes the article in the NEJM and provides a brief overview of the history of punishing health care fraud in the United States, hoping the article’s publication will lead to a wider discussion of accountability of health care leadership.

Colorado Health Insurance Insider shares the news that the Colorado Attorney General has announced a settlement with Colorado Discount Medical Benefits Plan, a “discount health insurance plan,” which sold mini-health plans to customers without health insurance at a cost. The focus of the lawsuit was how the LLC went about recruiting affiliate salespeople, in that those recruited were charged start-up fees and monthly “hosting” fees but did not receive enough compensation to cover their fees as originally promised by the LLC. Not a winning game for health care fraud: Three strikes and you’re out!

Baseball statistics can be arcane and bewildering; so can medical codes. Joe Paduda of Managed Care Matters makes a double play with two posts on medical coding. The first, “Upcoding for Medical Care—It’s Everywhere,” furnishes an overview of how the Center for Public Integrity’s research indicates that improvements to medical coding appear to be affecting bills. The second, “Medical Coding Driving Costs Up,” provides a deeper explanation of the impact of MS DRGs on coding, and why what Medicare does affects private insurers as well.

Health Affairs has made a great draft pick with Contributing Voices guest poster Michael Saks, Regents’ Professor of Law and Psychology and Faculty Fellow, Center for Law, Science & Innovation, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. In his post, “What Do Polls Really Tell Us about the Public’s View of the Affordable Care Act?” Saks says his research shows that “Obamacare” is far more welcome to most of the public than we have been led to believe.

Over at the Disease Management Care Blog, Jaan Siderov, MD, posits that pay for performance for physicians is way out in left field. In his post, “Pay for Performance and Physicians May Be Like Taking Cats for a Walk,” Siderov notes that the efforts are likely to have little effect on physician behavior.

A unique feature of the Washington Nationals’ games is the Racing Presidents. But for sideline entertainment, you can’t do better than Jon Coppelman’s post at Workers’ Comp Insider, which examines whether exotic dancers are independent contractors or employees. Coppelman gets extra points for a titillating title.

Certainly, baseball officials sometimes make bad calls. (NFL lockout? We’re not going there.) At the blog, Maggie Mahar cites the bad calls made by health reform opponents as they employ scare tactics to convince Americans that health insurance represents a “tax on the middle class.”

Batting cleanup is John Goodman over at his Health Policy Blog. He explores the evolution and benefits of personalized medicine. What do you think of benching Strasburg for the post-season, John?

Thanks for reading… and Go Nats!

EXTRA INNINGS: If you haven’t yet seen it, please check out Dr. Ann Bonham’s articulate and impassioned defense of patient-centered outcomes research on our own site, at

HWR contributor Anthony Wright slides into home with this post from Health Access California, in which he takes on Mitt Romney’s views on ER care.

0 thoughts on “Health Wonk Review: Nationals Playoff Edition!