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News

Last 50 News Postings

 (Click on title to be directed to posting, most recent listed first)

Pulmonary Disease Linked to Vaping
CEO Compensation-One Reason Healthcare Costs So Much
Doctor or Money Shortage in California?
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Resigns
Physicians Generate an Average $2.4 Million a Year Per Hospital
Drug Prices Continue to Rise
New Center for Physician Rights
CMS Decreases Clinic Visit Payments to Hospital-Employed Physicians
   and Expands Decreases in Drug Payments 340B Cuts
Big Pharma Gives Millions to Congress
Gilbert Hospital and Florence Hospital at Anthem Closed
CMS’ Star Ratings Miscalculated
VA Announces Aggressive New Approach to Produce Rapid Improvements
   in VA Medical Centers
Healthcare Payments Under the Budget Deal: Mostly Good News
   for Physicians
Hospitals Plan to Start Their Own Generic Drug Company
Flu Season and Trehalose
MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS
CMS Announces New Payment Model
Varenicline (Chantix®) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events
Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians
Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary
Arizona Averages Over 25 Opioid Overdoses Per Day
Maryvale Hospital to Close
California Enacts Drug Pricing Transparency Bill
Senate Health Bill Lacks 50 Votes Needed to Proceed
Medi-Cal Blamed for Poor Care in Lawsuit
Senate Republican Leadership Releases Revised ACA Repeal and Replace Bill
Mortality Rate Will Likely Increase Under Senate Healthcare Bill
University of Arizona-Phoenix Receives Full Accreditation
Limited Choice of Obamacare Insurers in Some Parts of the Southwest
Gottlieb, the FDA and Dumbing Down Medicine
Salary Surveys Report Declines in Pulmonologist, Allergist and Nurse 
   Incomes
CDC Releases Ventilator-Associated Events Criteria
Medicare Bundled Payment Initiative Did Not Reduce COPD Readmissions
Younger Smokers Continue to Smoke as Adults: Implications for Raising the
   Smoking Age to 21
Most Drug Overdose Deaths from Nonprescription Opioids
Lawsuits Allege Price Fixing by Generic Drug Makers
Knox Named Phoenix Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs
Rating the VA Hospitals
Garcia Resigns as Arizona University VP
Combination Influenza Therapy with Clarithromycin-Naproxen-Oseltamivir
   Superior to Oseltamivir Alone
VAP Rates Unchanged
ABIM Overhauling MOC
Substitution of Assistants for Nurses Increases Mortality, Decreases Quality
CMS Releases Data on Drug Spending
Trump Proposes Initial Healthcare Agenda
Election Results of Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
Southwest Ballot Measures Affecting Healthcare
ACGME Proposes Dropping the 16 Hour Resident Shift Limit

 

For an excel file with complete news listings click here.

A report from Heartwire described a letter written by Peter Wilmshurst to the AHA asking for full disclosure of conflicts of interest in the MIST trial. Wilmshurst was portrayed in SWJPCC on April 27, 2012 in our Profiles of Medical Courage series. We felt the report of the letter might be of interest to the readership of SWJPCC but there was no good section to pass along the Heartwire article. For this reason, a new Section entitled “News” has been started to report developments outside the usual medical journal purview or from other sources which might interest our readers. We encourage bringing news-worthy articles to our attention and would welcome submission of written reports of such articles.

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Saturday
Jan132018

MedPAC Votes to Scrap MIPS

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) voted 14 to 2 on January 11th in favor of telling Congress to do away with Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) (1). Instead they favor moving to what the panel termed a voluntary value program (2). Lawmakers mandated MIPS as part of the bipartisan 2015 Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) ending the sustainable growth rate formula that had repeatedly threatened to cause deep cuts in Medicare payments to doctors.

On a slide presentation before the vote, the MedPAC staff said MIPS cannot succeed. The cited the following reasons for MIPS’ probable failure (3):

  • Replicates flaws of prior value-based purchasing programs
  • Burdensome and complex
  • Much of the reported information is not meaningful
  • Scores not comparable across clinicians
  • MIPS payment adjustments will be minimal in the first two years, large and arbitrary in later years
  • MIPS will not succeed in helping beneficiaries choose clinicians, helping clinicians change practice patters to improve value, or helping the Medicare program to reward clinicians based on value

Supporters of the MedPAC approach argued for fast action. It will be difficult to dismantle MIPS if it becomes entrenched, said MedPAC panelist Rita Redberg MD (1).

One of the four physician members of the committee, Alice Coombs MD, an anesthesiologist and critical care specialist, dissented. "We have not seen one specialty physician group yet say, 'You know what, I like getting rid of MIPS and I like this [Voluntary Value Program], let's go with it.' " The American Medical Association (AMA) protested the MedPAC vote arguing to keep MIPS in place (1). "Where we are is that we'd like to fix it rather than kill it," Sharon McIlrath, assistant director of federal affairs at the AMA, told the MedPAC panelists during the public comment period. The AMA separately issued a statement from its president, David O. Barbe MD (1). "The best remedy is to fix MIPS rather than jumping into another sweeping change that has not been fleshed out and would have many of the same methodological issues as MIPS," Barbe said.

It's unclear how Congress and CMS will greet the MedPAC recommendation on MIPS. Congress in recent months has struggled with healthcare legislation, for example, reauthorization of the Children's Health Insurance Program. Routine appropriations have not yet been completed for fiscal 2018, The AMA's McIlrath told MedPAC that it doesn't appear "politically viable to think that you are going to go up there and think that you are going to get the Hill to kill MIPS (1)."

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Young KD. MedPAC backs bid to scrap MIPS Medicare pay system amid dissent. Medscape. January 11, 2018. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/891240 (accessed 1/13/18).
  2. Robbins RA. CMS announces new payment model. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;16(1):29-30. Available at: http://www.swjpcc.com/news/2018/1/11/cms-announces-new-payment-model.html (accessed 1/13/18).
  3. Bloniarz K, Winter A, Glass D. Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments. Available at: http://www.medpac.gov/docs/default-source/default-document-library/jan-2018-phys-mips-public.pdf?sfvrsn=0 (accessed 1/13/18).

Cite as: Robbins RA. MedPAC votes to scrap MIPS. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;16(1):42-3. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc010-18 PDF 

Thursday
Jan112018

CMS Announces New Payment Model

On Tuesday, 1/9/18, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) announced a new voluntary bundled-payment model that will be considered an advanced alternative payment model under Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) (1). The new model is the first advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) to be introduced by the Trump administration. The Trump administration has been a vocal advocate of reducing administrative burden for clinicians and has touted voluntary models as a solution (2). The new, voluntary model comes less than two months after the CMS officially decided to eliminate two mandatory bundled-payment models created during the Obama administration.

Under the model, clinician payment will be based on quality measures during a 90-day episode of care. Participants must select at least one of the 32 clinical episodes to apply to the model. The inpatient clinical episodes are listed in Table 1 (3).

Table 1. Clinical inpatient episodes under proposed payment model.

  • Acute myocardial infarction
  • Back & neck except spinal fusion
  • Cardiac arrhythmia
  • Cardiac defibrillator
  • Cardiac valve
  • Cellulitis
  • Cervical spinal fusion
  • COPD, bronchitis, asthma
  • Combined anterior posterior spinal fusion
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Coronary artery bypass graft
  • Double joint replacement of the lower extremity
  • Fractures of the femur and hip or pelvis
  • Gastrointestinal hemorrhage
  • Gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Hip & femur procedures except major joint
  • Lower extremity/humerus procedure except hip, foot, femur
  • Major bowel procedure
  • Major joint replacement of the lower extremity
  • Major joint replacement of the upper extremity
  • Pacemaker
  • Percutaneous coronary intervention
  • Renal failure
  • Sepsis
  • Simple pneumonia and respiratory infections
  • Spinal fusion (non-cervical)
  • Stroke
  • Urinary tract infection

Providers will be eligible for bonuses based on their performance. For more information about the model and its requirements, or to download a Request for Applications document (RFA), the application template, and the necessary attachments, please visit: https://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/bpci-advanced. Applications must be submitted via the Application Portal, which will close on 11:59 pm EST on March 12, 2018. Applications submitted via email will not be accepted.

The CMS Innovation Center will hold a Q&A Open Forum on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 from 12 pm – 1 pm EDT. This event is open to those who are interested in learning more about the model and how to apply. Please register in advance here - https://preaward.adobeconnect.com/e3cdwg6hgx9f/event/registration.html.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. CMS announces new payment model to improve quality, coordination, and cost-effectiveness for both inpatient and outpatient care. January 9, 2018. Available at: https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2018-Press-releases-items/2018-01-09.html (accessed 1/10/18).
  2. Castellucci M. CMS launches new voluntary bundled-payment model. Modern Healthcare. January 9, 2018. http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20180109/NEWS/180109905 (accessed 1/10/18).
  3. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. BPCI Advanced. January 9, 2018. Available at: https://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/bpci-advanced (accessed 1/10/18).

Cite as: Robbins RA. CMS announces new payment model. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;16(1):29-30. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc006-18 PDF 

Wednesday
Jan032018

Varenicline (Chantix┬«) Associated with Increased Cardiovascular Events

Researchers from Canada published on-line a study linking varenicline with increased cardiovascular events on December 20, 2017 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine (1). They found new varenicline users had a statistically significant 34% increased incidence of cardiovascular hospitalizations and emergency department visits while taking the medication.

This finding was consistent in numerous subgroup and sensitivity analyses with different types of patients, different outcome definitions and different risk and control intervals. They also observed a questionably clinically significant 6% increase in the incidence of neuropsychiatric hospitalizations. The cardiovascular findings are in contrast to previous studies which reported no difference or a decrease in cardiovascular events (2,3). The authors advise weighing the health benefits of smoking cessation against any potential cardiovascular events related to varenicline.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Gershon AS, Campitelli MA, Hawken S, Victor C, Sproule BA, Kurdyak P, Selby P. Cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric events following varenicline use for smoking cessation. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 Dec 20. [Epub ahead of print]. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  2. Kotz D, Viechtbauer W, Simpson C, van Schayck OC, West R, Sheikh A. Cardiovascular and neuropsychiatric risks of varenicline: a retrospective cohort study. Lancet Respir Med. 2015; 3(10):761-8. [CrossRef] [PubMed]
  3. Sterling LH, Windle SB, Filion KB, Touma L, Eisenberg MJ. Varenicline and adverse cardiovascular events: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016; 5(2). pii: e002849. [CrossRef] [PubMed]

Cite as: Robbins RA. Varenicline (Chantix®) associated with increased cardiovascular events. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2018;16(1):15. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc003-18 PDF 

Wednesday
Dec132017

Tax Cuts Could Threaten Physicians

Today (December 13) members of the House and Senate will meet to reconcile differences between their two tax reform proposals. Congress is expected to complete work on the bill before the Christmas recess. Although many are overjoyed by a tax cut, there are potential pitfalls to the tax cut that might adversely affect physicians.

Under a rule in the Senate known as Pay as You Go (PAYGO), legislation that increases the deficit results in automatic spending cuts. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that tax cuts could lead to automatic cuts of $136 billion in fiscal 2018, $25 billion of which would come from Medicare. PAYGO cuts would reduce Medicare payments to physicians by 4% in 2018 according to the American College of Physicians (ACP) (1). PAYGO would also lead to cuts to graduate medical education, lab fees, and hospital payments and would cut or entirely eliminate hundreds of other federal programs, including programs within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Health Resources and Services Administration, and the Prevention and Public Health Fund, according to the ACP.

Senate Republicans want to essentially repeal the penalty that accompanies the mandate that all Americans buy health insurance. It seems likely that House Republicans will go along. The CBO estimates that this would decrease the number of people with health insurance by 4 million by 2019 and premiums in the nongroup market by about 10% in almost each year for the next 10 years. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) says that 64-year-olds could see their premiums increase by an average of $1490 a year (2).

The medical expense tax deduction has been targeted for elimination by the House. The Senate version, however, would keep the deduction. The AARP says that in 2015, 8.8 million Americans used the deduction and that more than half were older than 65 (2). Nearly three quarters are 50 years old or older and live with a chronic condition or illness, and 70% of those who claimed the medical expense deduction have income below $75,000, according to the AARP. However, the tax deduction seems likely to survive. Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX) who heads the reconciliation said he's willing to consider scrapping the proposal to eliminate the deduction (3).

The House is proposing to eliminate a tax credit that has been used as an incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop therapies for orphan diseases. The Senate is reducing that credit. Not surprisingly, the National Organization for Rare Disorders and 160 other organizations representing patients with rare conditions oppose any reduction (4). They argue that eliminating the tax cut would deincentivize pharmaceutical companies to develop therapies for orphan diseases where the market is usually small.

Hospitals are alarmed about the House proposal to eliminate tax-exempt private activity bonds used by nonprofit hospitals and academic medical centers. The Senate bill would continue to allow that tax-exempt financing. This is opposed by both the Association of American Medical Colleges and the American Hospital Association (5,6).  The AHA’s Thomas P. Nickels states, "The ability to obtain tax-exempt financing is a key benefit of hospital tax-exemption that works to make access to vital hospital services available in communities large and small across America." (6).  Locally several medical centers have large bonds and loss of the exemption might have significant consequences.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Ende J. Letter to Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer. November 30,2017. Available at: https://www.acponline.org/acp_policy/letters/senate_tax_cuts_and_jobs_act_2017.pdf (accessed 12/13/17).
  2. Strauss G. AARP opposes senate tax bill. November 30, 2017. Available at: https://www.aarp.org/politics-society/advocacy/info-2017/senate-letter-tax-fd.html?intcmp=AE-HP-FLXSLDR-SLIDE1?intcmp=AE-HP-FLXSLDR-SLIDE1-RL1 (accessed 12/13/17).
  3. Ault A. Five things in the GOP tax plan that threaten medicine. Medscape. December 12, 2017. Available at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/889947?nlid=119526_4502&src=wnl_dne_171213_mscpedit&uac=9273DT&impID=1507630&faf=1#vp_2 (accessed 12/13/17).
  4. Letter to Congress. December 7, 2017. Available at: https://rarediseases.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Orphan-Drug-Tax-Credit-Conferee-Letter-Final.pdf (accessed 12/13/17).
  5. AAMC. AAMC statement on house tax reform legislation. https://news.aamc.org/press-releases/article/house_tax_reform_11092017/ (accessed 12/13/17).
  6. Nickels TP. Letter to Rep. Kevin Brady. December 8, 2017. Available at: http://www.aha.org/advocacy-issues/letter/2017/171208-letter-taxbill-conferees.pdf (accessed 12/13/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Tax cuts could threaten physicians. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;15(6):280-1. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc153-17 PDF 

Tuesday
Nov142017

Trump Nominates Former Pharmaceutical Executive as HHS Secretary

President Trump on Monday announced Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, as his choice to succeed Dr. Tom Price as secretary of Health & Human Services (HHS) (1). HHS is an 80,000-employee federal agency that oversees the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Price resigned in September following reports of his extensive use of government and charter air travel.

Azar, a lawyer, formerly headed Eli Lilly & Co.'s U.S. division. Before that, he served as HHS general counsel and deputy secretary during the George W. Bush administration. During that stint, he received praise for his management competence. Azar "will be a star for better healthcare and lower drug prices!" Trump tweeted.

Andy Slavitt, CMS administrator under the Obama administration, also a lawyer and former United Healthcare executive, offered cautious praise for Azar. "I have reason to hope he would make a good HHS secretary," Slavitt said in a written statement. "He ... has real-world experience enough to be pragmatic, and will hopefully avoid repeating the mistakes of his predecessor in over-politicizing Americans' access to healthcare."

If confirmed, Azar would inherit an agency currently torn by political and policy divisions in the wake of Price's departure (2). He will have to make key decisions to avoid further disruption in the individual health insurance market; how much leeway to give states to make big changes in their Medicaid expansion program; and face pressure to address rising prescription drug costs. One management issue Azar would quickly face is how to deal with Price's ambitious Reimagine HHS initiative to streamline the department's operations and with the White House’s proposal to slash the HHS' budget for 2018 by 18%.

Azar has been a sharp critic of the Affordable Care Act, saying in May that the ACA is "fundamentally broken" and "circling the drain." In June, he envisioned the Trump administration shifting the ACA in a more conservative direction even without repeal and replacement of the law. He also has opposed reducing prescription drug prices or allowing purchasing drugs from other countries where prices are lower.

If confirmed, Azar will represent a return to the recent tradition of selecting Secretaries of HHS with no medical background. Before, Price, only Dr. Otis Bowen (1985-9) and Dr. Louis Sullivan (1989-93) were physicians of the 11 non-interim Secretaries.

Richard A. Robbins, MD

Editor, SWJPCC

References

  1. Meyer H. Can Trump's pick to lead HHS navigate the churning political waters of healthcare? Modern Healthcare. November 13, 2017. Available at: http://www.modernhealthcare.com/article/20171113/NEWS/171119968?utm_source=modernhealthcare&utm_medium=email&utm_content=20171113-NEWS-171119968&utm_campaign=am (accessed 11/14/17).
  2. Pradhan R, Diamond D. Price investigation continues to roil HHS. Politico. November 13, 2017. Available at: https://www.politico.com/story/2017/11/13/tom-price-private-jets-probe-hhs-244793 (accessed 11/14/17).

Cite as: Robbins RA. Trump nominates former pharmaceutical executive as HHS secretary. Southwest J Pulm Crit Care. 2017;15(5):221-2. doi: https://doi.org/10.13175/swjpcc140-17 PDF