Healthcare and Insurance News Headline Updated on 31 Mar 2020

The headline on 31 Mar 2020

The Trump administration is trying to provide some regulatory relief on staffing and paperwork as COVID-19 cases surge. Robert King outlines some of the major regulatory changes that could help hospitals. Source: CMS.gov > MEDICARE TELEMEDICINE HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FACT SHEET

Healthcare automation company Olive has scored $51 million in funding amid the coronavirus outbreak. Find out why Olive CEO Sean Lane believes the startup is in a solid position to “weather the storm” during the current economic volatility. Source: Olive > Olive Raises $51M to Accelerate its AI Workforce for Healthcare

More than a third of cardiologists in the U.S. say they are burned out. Find out the biggest factors contributing to their stress. Source: American College of Cardiology > Burnout a Major and Growing Issue Among Nation’s Cardiologists

An Italian doctor shares the heartbreaking story of an elderly woman separated from her dying husband by the coronavirus outbreak, as U.S. doctors worry about the impact of family members being barred from hospitals. Source: Annals of Internal Medicine > Love in the Time of Corona

Cigna and Humana announced that they would waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment, building on waivers to eliminate cost-sharing for telehealth. Source: Humana to Waive Medical Costs Related to Coronavirus Treatment

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina has named an Anthem exec as its new CEO. Here’s more on why they picked him. Source: Dr. Tunde Sotunde elected as Blue Cross NC President, CEO

The headline on 30 Mar 2020

As health systems struggle to figure out how to best stretch the use of their PPEs amid the pandemic, Battelle is preparing to deploy a new decontamination system for N95 respirator masks, FierceBiotech reported. Source: Battelle CCDS Critical Care Decontamination System™ Being Deployed to Meet Urgent Need for Personal Protective Equipment for Nation’s Healthcare Workforce

Medical researchers are using Oura smart rings and Fitbits to study whether data from wearables can identify the early onset of COVID-19 — particularly in frontline healthcare providers, will also be open to Oura users in the general population.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a number of regulatory changes. CMS has relaxed regulations so that ambulatory surgery centers can serve as makeshift hospitals and is allowing providers to start receiving accelerated and advance payments from the Medicare program. CMS said this weekend that it would expand its advance and accelerated Medicare payment program amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Tina Reed has more. Source: FACT SHEET: EXPANSION OF THE ACCELERATED AND ADVANCE PAYMENTS PROGRAM FOR PROVIDERS AND SUPPLIERS DURING COVID-19 EMERGENCY

A new analysis from the Urban Institute argues that the outbreak showcases some of the risks to states in rolling out Medicaid block grants. Source: Medicaid Block Grants and Per Capita Caps: The Coronavirus Highlights Risks to States

A federal health IT advisory group is standing up a COVID-19 task force to address technology barriers for frontline clinicians as they combat the growing outbreak. The task force will likely tackle challenges around privacy, standards, interoperability, and infrastructure. Source: Health Information Technology Advisory Committee (HITAC)

Has the potential for artificial intelligence algorithms to outperform human clinicians been exaggerated? Matt Kuhrt reports on what researchers found when they examined studies comparing the performance of AI against clinicians. Source: thebmj > Artificial intelligence versus clinicians: systematic review of design, reporting standards, and claims of deep learning studies

Need a break from the grim COVID-19 news? Check out this newspaper staffed entirely by kids that tackles lighter topics such birdhouse building instructions and at-home dinner reviews (one kid gave his parents’ linguini with meat sauce dinner three out of five stars). Source: San Francisco Chronicle > This kid-staffed SF newspaper is the coronavirus break we needed. Here’s how it started

The headline on 27 Mar 2020

The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York said in a lawsuit filed late Thursday that Anthem failed to find and delete inaccurate diagnosis codes from 2014 to early 2018 through its “chart review program. Source: lawsuit (PDF)

A new report from Willis Towers Watson warns the employer health costs could rise significantly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on how far the virus spreads and how deadly the outbreak proves to be, employers’ healthcare costs could rise by as much as 7% this year in 2020. Source: Yahoo Finance > U.S. employers face significant health care benefit cost increases from COVID-19, Willis Towers Watson analysis finds

The headline on 26 Mar 2020

Aetna announced that it would waive commercial plan members’ cost-sharing for inpatient admissions related to COVID-19 in its latest effort to address the pandemic. Source: CVS Health announces cost-sharing and co-pay waivers for COVID-19-related treatment for Aetna members

A new study from UnitedHealth Group backs the use of self-administered testing to free up protective equipment while the outbreak continues. Source: UnitedHealth Group Study Clears Path for Self-Administered COVID-19 Test, Improving Testing Efficiency and Protecting Health Care Workers

Ten years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, it appears the law has turned out to be a mixed bag for rural hospitals that have shuttered at a high rate since the law’s passage in 2010. Source: Analysis from the Pittsburgh Morning Sun and Gatehouse Media

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening some physician practices. Doctors say there’s six steps Congress could take to help. Source: American College of Physicians (ACP)

All states are not created equal when it comes to salaries and job opportunities for physicians. Take a look at a new analysis of the best and worst states for doctors. Source: Zippia

Former FDA chief Scott Gottlieb, M.D., and prominent surgeon Robert Pearl, M.D., both agree that now isn’t the time for the U.S. to hit the brakes on public health measures to slow the coronavirus pandemic. Source: Wall Street Journal Health Forum

The headline on 25 Mar 2020

An industry coalition of health systems, tech giants and healthcare vendors — including the likes of Amazon, Mayo Clinic and Epic — are teaming up fight COVID-19.

CMS’ Office of the Actuary released its annual estimates on health spending over the next decade. Dive into the trends they say are set to drive spending growth through 2028. Source: Health Affairs > CMS’ Office of the Actuary released its annual estimates on health spending over the next decade. Dive into the trends they say are set to drive spending growth through 2028.

Mayo Clinic’s John Halamka, M.D. and other industry leaders spearheaded a private industry effort to coordinate COVID-19 solutions. Industry giants Amazon, Epic, Microsoft, HCA Healthcare and others have joined the coalition to focus on increasing COVID-19 testing and accelerating vaccine development. Source: DISPATCH FROM THE DIGITAL HEALTH FRONTIER > Coming Together to Save Lives

Healthcare workers are facing a critical shortage of personal protective equipment. To help address this problem, think tank United States of Care launched a technology platform Project N95 to help connect providers who need PPE with manufacturers who can meet demand.

The headline on 24 Mar 2020

Health IT leaders at hospitals and health systems are fast-tracking major technology projects—some in a matter of days. “We’ve never experienced anything like this,” Geisinger Health System CIO John Kravtiz told Heather Landi.

As more people are confirmed to have the novel coronavirus, many Americans are expressing concern about affording the necessary testing or care. Source: The Commonwealth Fund > What Are Americans’ Views on the Coronavirus Pandemic?

CVS Health says it will hire 50,000 people nationwide as its pharmacies stay open, plus more of the latest headlines in our coronavirus pandemic tracker. Source: Open letter to the American public

With reports of shortages of protective equipment and tests—and concerns about future ventilator shortages—growing experts offered six recommendations to help guide providers through tricky allocation questions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare organizations face shortages of protective equipment and tests and there are concerns about future ventilator shortages. Experts offered six recommendations to help guide providers through tricky allocation questions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Source: The New England Journal of Medicine > Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of Covid-19

A new report from Covered California suggests that premium hikes could be significant in 2021 due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The cost of covering the COVID-19 outbreak could cause major ripple effects for insurers planning for the 2021 coverage year now. Robert King digs into a new analysis about the potential impact of the pandemic on insurance premiums. Source: The Potential National Health Cost Impacts to Consumers, Employers and Insurers Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

It’s not a pretty picture that primary care practices are painting in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Doctors say they are struggling to get a hold of protective equipment or tests for their patients. Source: QUICK COVID-19 PRIMARY CARE SURVEY

If there’s any good news for physicians, it’s that CMS is providing regulatory relief in reporting for MIPS and other value-based programs amid COVID-19. Source: CMS.gov > CMS Announces Relief for Clinicians, Providers, Hospitals and Facilities Participating in Quality Reporting Programs in Response to COVID-19

The headline on 23 Mar 2020

what was the impact of the ACA on rural hospitals? In a word: “underwhelming,” as Robert reports. Source: ‘Leaving billions of dollars on the table‘

Today is the ACA’s tenth birthday and this week — amid all the COVID-19 news — we’ll take some time to reflect on its first decade. Up first: Paige Minemeyer digs into what the past 10 years have meant for the business of insurance. Source: KFF > Key Facts about the Uninsured Population

The headline on 20 Mar 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve, so too does the response from health insurers. Here’s a look at their latest efforts. Source: UnitedHealthcare Expands Access to Care, Support and Resources to Help People and Families Address COVID-19

The headline on 19 Mar 2020

Heather Landi caught up with ONC Chief Donald Rucker and chatted about why he thinks we would be “in a vastly better position” to fight COVID-19 if interoperability rules were already in place. Source: 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program

Blue Shield of California is launching a new digital tool that aims to help hospitals manage the likely onslaught of patients seeking information on COVID-19. Source: Blue Shield of California Offers Digital Hospital-Triage Tool to Network Health Systems to Help Handle Anticipated Surge of COVID-19 Patients

Uber is giving away more than 300,000 meals for healthcare workers and first responders combating the coronavirus. Source: CNBC > Uber is delivering free meals to health-care workers and first responders amid coronavirus crisis

In a move that will have at least a short-term financial impact on hospitals and medical practices, CMS now recommends doctors limit non-essential, elective surgeries and procedures. Source: CMS Adult Elective Surgery and Procedures Recommendations: Limit all non-essential planned surgeries and procedures, including dental, until further notice

They went on what was supposed to be an unconventional medical convention, but now more than 100 Australian doctors, dentists, and medical experts are trapped on a cruise ship off the coast of Chile. Source: The Guardian > Coronavirus ban: more than 100 Australian doctors and dentists stuck on cruise ship off Chile

The headline on 18 Mar 2020

With the number of coronavirus cases on the rise, hospitals aren’t waiting for the national stockpile. Source: CNBC > Connecticut governor: ‘I am worried’ about ventilator availability if coronavirus cases surge

They went on what was supposed to be an unconventional medical convention, but now more than 100 Australian doctors, dentists, and medical experts are trapped on a cruise ship off the coast of Chile. Source: The Guardian > Coronavirus ban: more than 100 Australian doctors and dentists stuck on cruise ship off Chile

ONC chief Donald Rucker, M.D. spoke with FierceHealthcare about a new regulation opening up patient data. Find out why Rucker says the movement to an app economy will put American consumers in control of healthcare and his response to concerns about privacy risks and timelines. Source: 21st Century Cures Act: Interoperability, Information Blocking, and the ONC Health IT Certification Program

Coffee giant Starbucks offers free therapy sessions for its thousands of employees. Read more about the startup Lyra Health working with Starbucks to expand mental health services through apps and virtual care.

The headline on 17 Mar 2020

Cybersecurity experts warn that hackers are likely to exploit the coronavirus pandemic’s disruption. Here’s four ways to mitigate the risks. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, cybersecurity experts are raising the alarm about an increase in cyberattacks as hackers exploit the outbreak’s disruption. Here are four strategies to help mitigate cyber risks. As cybersecurity experts raise the alarm about hackers exploiting the outbreak’s disruption — even attacking HHS over the weekend — check out some of their strategies for fighting the cyber threats. Source: Bloomberg > Cyber-Attack Hits U.S. Health Agency Amid Covid-19 Outbreak

A new study examines just how costly an inpatient stay for coronavirus could be for someone with a high-deductible health plan. With the coronavirus pandemic hitting early in the year and the threat of recession, COVID-19 could become pricey for patients, according to a new analysis. Source: Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker > Potential costs of coronavirus treatment for people with employer coverage

In some non-coronavirus news, where can doctors earn the highest — or lowest — paychecks? Almost a quarter of doctors say they are seeing patients cancel or defer elective procedures as a result of coronavirus. Analysts predict what that could mean for hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers. Source: MarketWatch > Delaying elective procedures at American hospitals has been ‘minimal’ so far as U.S. coronavirus cases rise

A new report ranks the states where doctors are earning the highest, and the lowest, salaries when adjusted for the cost of living. The results might surprise you. Where can doctors earn the highest—or lowest—paychecks? You might be surprised. Source: WalletHub > 2020’s Best & Worst States for Doctors

The headline on 16 Mar 2020

CMS has issued new guidance for ACA exchange plans on how care for coronavirus fits into the mandated essential health beneifts. Source: CMS > FAQs on Essential Health Benefit Coverage and the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In a much needed bright spot in the world of health news, researchers say cancer death rates in the U.S. have continued to drop. Here’s what the report says. Source: NIH > Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer

Payer and provider organizations weren’t thrilled to begin with when it came to HHS’ timelines to implement interoperability regulations. But given the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, they now call them ‘troubling.’ Many payer and provider groups thought the Trump administration’s timelines to implement interoperability regulations were ambitious to begin with. Now many are saying the timelines are “troubling” given the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Source: CMS.gov Newsroom > Interoperability and Patient Access Fact Sheet

Amy Compton Phillips, chief clinical officer for Providence St. Joseph Health, shared how tools like telehealth and chatbots have been valuable as part of the health system’s coronavirus response. Tina Reed has more on Providence’s lessons learned. Source: HIMSS > Faster, Better Together: Health System Lessons Learned in Tackling COVID-19

The headline on 13 Mar 2020

There’s a new startup in town called Vault launching at-home healthcare services for men to challenge the likes of Ro and Hims — and it’s led by a former Amazon Prime exec. Startup Vault joins a growing list of companies targeting men’s health. The company says it differs from any service currently on the market by offering at-home medical care and not just prescription delivery.

Blue Cross NC has added another provider to its Blue Premier value-based care program. Find out who. Source: Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (Blue Cross NC) > FirstHealth of the Carolinas Joins Blue Cross NC’s Blue Premier Value-Based Care Program

The headline on 11 Mar 2020

New federal rules around data-sharing aim to give patients unprecedented access to their healthcare information much the way they already manage their finances or travel information. Find out how the rules could shake up the healthcare market. Source: ONC’s Cures Act Final Rule > Empowering Patients with Their Health Record in a Modern Health IT Economy

Though many health plans have waived cost-sharing for coronavirus tests, high deductibles may still prevent patients from seeking care. Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation > Too Much Skin in the Game: Out-of-Pocket Costs May Limit Testing and Treatment of Covid-19

CVS announced that it will add new tools to its platform that aims to make it easier for PBM clients to manage relationships with digital health companies. Find out more on the five companies that made the cut. Source: CVS Health Introduces New Service to Help PBM Clients Manage Health and Wellness Benefit Solutions

AHIP went to the White House and the new CPT code to bill for coronavirus tests is expected soon. Read about those and more of the latest COVID-19 headlines on our tracker. The American College of Physicians (ACP) has canceled the annual scientific meeting, Internal Medicine Meeting 2020, which was scheduled to take place in Los Angeles, April 23-25.

The headline on 10 Mar 2020

The world’s attention is focused on the coronavirus. Stay tuned as a new CPT code is expected this week to allow doctors to bill for COVID-19 testing. And the NIH’s Anthony Fauci, M.D., has updated advice for clinicians. Source: CPT fast tracking code development for novel coronavirus test

While the world’s attention has been focused on fighting the coronavirus, CNBC reports Amazon has been quietly working on a vaccine against the common cold. Source: CNBC > Amazon is secretly working on a cure for the common cold

The Trump administration Monday released widely-anticipated rules that will change how providers, insurers, and patients exchange health data. Read about the ONC’s information blocking rule and CMS’ rule aimed at advancing interoperability. CMS and ONC released the final version of their hotly-anticipated rules on interoperability. The new regulations will require payers to adapt in a number of areas. Here’s what you need to know. Source: CMS.gov > Interoperability and Patient Access Fact Sheet

The headline on 09 Mar 2020

The spread of COVID-19 is leading to a decline in blood donations. Source: KHN > Blood Drives — And Donors — Fall Off As Coronavirus Worries Grow

The headline on 06 Mar 2020

New study finds that flu vaccinations may not protect seniors from hospitalization or death, Joanne Finnegan reports. Source: The Effect of Influenza Vaccination for the Elderly on Hospitalization and Mortality: An Observational Study With a Regression Discontinuity Design

With the massive HIMSS conference off the books amid fears of the virus’ spread, other health conferences are weighing their options. Robert King has more. Even as HIMSS announced Thursday it would cancel its global conference due to coronavirus concerns, other healthcare gatherings scheduled to start in the next few weeks are still pegged to continue as planned. Source: CVS Health announces additional COVID-19 resources focused on patient access

AHIP’s board of directors has committed to easing the cost burdens associated with testing for coronavirus. Cigna is the first plan to agree to waive copays and cost-sharing. Top insurers committed Thursday to mitigate the costs associated with testing for and treatment of the novel coronavirus that has begun spreading in the U.S. Cigna is the first plan to agree to waive copays and cost-sharing. Source: Statement by the AHIP Board of Directors: Taking Action to Address Coronavirus COVID-19

For the third consecutive time, New York-based fertility benefits company Progyny more than doubled its annual revenue. Source: PROGYNY, INC. ANNOUNCES FOURTH QUARTER AND FULL YEAR 2019 RESULTS

The headline on 05 Mar 2020

Humana is bringing its value-based care know-how together with its experience on the social determinants to launch a new payment model. Here’s more on what that looks like, and who’s the first provider to sign on. Source: Humana Launches Innovative Value-Based Program to Address Social Determinants of Health

The CDC is promising to make more information on the coronavirus available to clinicians, Joanne Finnegan reports. The CDC plans to hold a call for clinicians today from 2 to 3 p.m. on what they need to know to prepare for COVID-19 and guidance on treating patients with coronavirus. Source: CDC > Interim Clinical Guidance for Management of Patients with Confirmed Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)

Flu vaccines have long been recommended for seniors to prevent severe health outcomes. A new study finds this strategy may not be effective and suggests focusing on a different demographic. Source: The Effect of Influenza Vaccination for the Elderly on Hospitalization and Mortality: An Observational Study With a Regression Discontinuity Design

The COVID-19 Effect

With COVID-19 becoming a genuine global concern, the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine has published The COVID-19 Chronicles. The comics are perfect for those with short attention spans and offer invaluable tips when it comes to handshakes, mouthwash, disinfection and everything else you need to know.

Don’t believe everything you read
While the NUS publications are simple comics, they’re probably more trustworthy than the majority of COVID-19 news being shared. Coronavirus misinformation on social platforms has an engagement rate 142 times higher than legitimate sources of information. The definitive sources for virus information — the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — are simply being swamped by fake news.

Counting the costs
The virus itself is real — and the economic costs are mounting, especially in China. The country’s outbound travel market is the largest in the world, with 150 million trips being made in a single year. 400 million Chinese were expected to travel domestically and internationally during the New Year’s holidays — this figure dropped by 41% with the outbreak of COVID-19. Consumer confidence is vital in recouping these financial losses, something fake news doesn’t help.

The headline on 04 Mar 2020

Health insurers are stepping in as a resource for their members in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Here’s more on why that’s a natural fit. Source: AHIP > Keeping Americans Safe from Coronavirus (COVID 19)

Health insurers are stepping in as a resource for their members in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Health insurers are stepping in as a resource for their members in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

In more coronavirus-related news, New York has mandated that insurers eliminate cost-sharing related to testing, including for office visits. Source: Business Insider Singapore > A US resident racked up a $3,200 hospital bill for suspected coronavirus treatment, and his insurance only covered part of it. Here’s how the costs broke down.

The Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) officials detailed their plans for reducing the chance of coronavirus spread at their upcoming conference even as top sponsors have begun to back out. HIMSS officials detailed their plans to combat the potential spread of coronavirus at their upcoming conference even as top exhibitors have begun to back out. Source: Cisco and HIMSS 2020

Uber Health is rolling out new features for its medical transportation service designed to reduce friction for patients and pain points for providers, the company said. Source: Uber Health

And … health groups are pushing Congress to lift telehealth reimbursement restrictions in its coronavirus emergency funding deal. A provision included in a House funding bill that allows HHS to waive Medicare telehealth restrictions would cost an estimated $500 million, Morning Consult reported. Source: Morning Consult > Health Groups Push Congress on Telehealth Restrictions in Coronavirus Response

The headline on 03 Mar 2020

While the company is still not profitable, Livongo Health continued to exceed sales expectations. Take a look at the company’s latest financial performance. Source: StreetInsider.com > Livongo Health (LVGO) Tops Q4 EPS by 7c, Revenues Beat; Offers Q1 & FY20 Revenue Guidance Above Consensus

Not everyone lost money in last week’s epic stock market wipeout. Even as a tide of anxiety over the fast-spreading coronavirus vaporized more than $6 trillion from global equity markets, a select few in healthcare and tech grew richer. Source: Bloomberg > Pandemic Panic Fattens Fortunes in Health Care and Tech

In other coronavirus-related news, a commentary in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests doctors begin treating travel history as a fifth “vital sign.”. Coronavirus updates: As the virus spreads in the U.S., two infectious disease doctors say it’s time to make a patient’s travel history the fifth vital sign. And, yes, there’s now a code for COVID-19. Source: Annals of Internal Medicine > Managing Emerging Infectious Diseases: Should Travel Be the Fifth Vital Sign? and DCD Announcement > New ICD-10-CM code for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), October 1, 2020

The pervasive gender pay gap among doctors extends to the highest levels of academic medicine, a new study found. Researchers didn’t expect to find it, but there’s a big gender pay gap even at the highest levels of academic medicine. How large is the salary gap? Source: JAMA Internal Medicine > Sex Differences in Salaries of Department Chairs at Public Medical Schools

With the landmark Affordable Care Act turning 10 this month, a new study looks back at its impact on the individual insurance market and the lessons policymakers can learn. In more ACA news, with the landmark law turning 10 this month, a new study looks back at its impact on the individual insurance market and the lessons policymakers can learn. Source: HealthAffairs > The ACA’s Effect On The Individual Insurance Market

It’s Super Tuesday. Moderate Democrats have coalesced around Joe Biden, but is it enough to blunt Bernie Sanders’ momentum? Source: The New York Times > Joe Biden Accepts Endorsements at Dallas Rally the Night Before Super Tuesday

The headline on 02 Mar 2020

It’s been almost 10 years since the Affordable Care Act became law, and U.S. physicians are still divided about its future. Source: How Best to Fix the US Healthcare System? For Physicians, It Starts with Affordability and Access, Says InCrowd Data

Accolade, which provides a health benefits platform for employers, filed Friday to raise as much as $100 million in an initial public offering. Here are five key things to know from the company’s IPO. Source: S-1 filing

The majority of healthcare executives (75%) think HHS’ impending interoperability rules will have a positive impact, a new survey finds. Epic users are more in favor than others, which flies in the face of Epic CEO Judy Faulkner’s public campaign against the rules. Source: HHS Interoperability Mandate