Health Wonk Review: Polar Vortex Edition, July 2014

Okay, so the vaunted summer polar vortex didn’t exactly bring the expected plummeting temperatures this week, but at least the oppressive humidity is lessened. Along with that refreshing change, some fresh thoughts from our Health Wonkers:

Over at InsureBlog, Henry Stern, LUTCF, CBC, kicks things off with a post on “SexistCare.” Stern reveals that the ACA mandates a whole raft of benefits specifically for women and children, but none for men. He wonders why mammograms are covered as preventive care, for example, but there are no corresponding provisions for prostate cancer screening. “Where’s the hue and cry?” he asks.

While you’re enjoying summer’s relaxed pace, you might want to watch a few policy videos in between episodes of House of Cards. Health Business Blog author David E. Williams discusses highlights of the week in health care business and policy on his YouTube channel. Topics include concierge medicine, premium hikes, provider engagement, HIPAA, and driverless cars.

Things are definitely heating up in India amid widespread allegations of health care corruption, including specific mentions in the British Medical Journal of privatization, kickbacks to physicians from health care providers and facilities for referrals and from pharmaceutical corporations for prescriptions, and huge fees charged to medical students that increase their vulnerability to corruption. Blogger Roy Poses, MD, at Health Care Renewal offers lessons from India for the United States. He notes that 43 percent of US citizens think our health care system is corrupt, and that the maladies of Indian health care affect the U.S. health care system as well. “As long as health care corruption affecting our own health care systems remains a taboo topic, we will not be able to challenge it. True health care reform would start with open discussion of causes of health care dysfunction, starting with health care corruption,” Poses writes.

At Healthcare Lighthouse, blogger Billy Wynne offers “Washington Wakes up to Socioeconomic Status.” A mounting body of evidence shows that socioeconomic status of patients impacts plan and provider performance on quality metrics. The failure of Federal policies to account for these factors may be unintentionally exacerbating health disparities.

More unintentional policy effects are brought to our attention by Bradley Flansbaum at The Hospital Leader. In his post, “PNA, CHF, MI. RInse. Repeat,” he notes, “Reductions in readmissions get outsized attention for reducing health system costs as well as refocusing physician behavior. Not so fast. Providers do not read from the same playbook.”

No wonky carnival this month would be complete without an entry or two on the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision. At Colorado Health Insurance Insider, blogger Louise writes, “I don’t personally have a dog in this fight. We have individual health insurance, and even though we haven’t yet switched to a fully ACA-compliant plan (our pre-2014 plan was allowed to renew at the end of last year, and will do so again at the end of this year), our plan has been complying with the Women’s Preventive Services guidelines for nearly two years (effective August 1, 2012). No third party selects our coverage for us – if we want to change to a new plan during open enrollment, we’re free to choose from among the many options that are available in the individual market in Colorado. As I noted at the top, the SCOTUS decision on Burwell v Hobby Lobby is a good example of how individual insurance (especially now that all of the ACA’s consumer protections are in place) trumps employer-sponsored insurance.” Read more of the post, “Burwell v Hobby Lobby – The Wisdom of Justice Ginsburg.

From the Health Affairs Blog, there’s a Contributing Voices post by Tim Jost, “Implementing Health Reform: The Supreme Court Rules On Contraception Coverage.” Tim analyzes the Supreme Court’s decision and talks about remaining questions; there are also links to other analyses of the decision by Sara Rosenbaum and John Kraemer.

A July edition would also be incomplete without a tie-in to the World Cup. Jonena Relth supplies just the ticket in her post for Healthcare Talent Transformation, “Medicine Can Learn from World Cup Soccer.” When Mario Goetze of Germany helped his team win victory this past weekend, he was wise enough to know that he didn’t win the game all by himself with the one goal. It took more than his skill alone to get the team to the World Cup, let alone win it.  It took people of all walks of life including players, coaches, fans, trainers, medical professionals of all types, etc.  Practicing medicine should be a team sport where the entire team works together for the health of the patient.

At Workers’ Comp Insider, Julie Ferguson posts an update in the criminal proceedings against a UCLA chemistry professor related to the fiery death of research assistant Sheri Sangji in a university science laboratory. The case has reverberated through academic labs nationwide — settings that have all too frequently been noted for lack of adherence to basic worker safety standards.

Is a cancer treatment effective? Who decides? Jason Shafrin, writing at Healthcare Economist, takes a look at how the FDA evaluates cancer drugs.

Finally, the National Center for Policy Analysis Health Policy Blog tees up “Health Spending and First Quarter GDP: What Happened?” by NCPA Senior Fellow John R. Graham. In it, he writes, “ObamaCare is having an effect: It is creating uncertainly and increased government control of society, which holds down economic growth. In turn, that suppresses consumption, including health care.”

Health Wonk Review is a biweekly compendium of the best of the health policy blogs. More than two dozen health policy, infrastructure, insurance, technology, and managed care bloggers participate by contributing their best recent blog postings to a roving digest, with each issue hosted at a different participant’s blog. For participants, it’s a way to network and share ideas, and for those readers who don’t live in this space every day, it’s a way to sample some of the latest thinking and the “best of the best.” Find links to previous editions of Health Wonk Review, as well as a list of upcoming carnival hosts, here.