What your patients must know about direct-to-consumer lab tests

More than 12 million people have had their DNA analyzed with direct-to-consumer genetic genealogy tests, according to estimates from the industry, with use of tests from companies such as AncestryDNA doubling in 2017. These and other DTC laboratory tests—often conducted without the involvement of a physician, with results reported directly to the patient—may lead patients to potentially harmful misunderstandings.

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

How physicians should approach hard calls involving child patients

Some of the most difficult medical decisions involve pediatric patients who may be unable to have a say in their own care. The AMA House of Delegates has adopted new ethical guidance for physicians to help parents and their children.

In its report presented at the 2018 AMA Interim Meeting, the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs lays out some questions for parents and physicians to consider.

Those considerations include: overall goals for care, what the child’s likely developmental course will be with and without immediate intervention, and whether interventions can reasonably be staged developmentally to allow the patient and family time to gain experience in living with a condition that is not immediately life-threatening.

My lede at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

10 ways the new opioids bill could help address the epidemic

Congress has sent to the president’s desk a massive bipartisan bill that aims to take on the opioid epidemic that kills about 130 Americans daily, according to the latest provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The bill—the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act—was passed with sweeping majorities of 393–8 in the House and 98–1 in the Senate. President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.

The legislation touches on almost every aspect of the epidemic. It includes numerous provisions, supported by the AMA, that will expand access to substance-use disorder (SUD) prevention and treatment programs. The AMA strongly urges removing all barriers to treatment for SUD.

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

5 reasons to read the surgeon general’s opioid epidemic report

Whether you are a medical student, resident, academic or physician in clinical practice, time is precious. That is part of the reason why U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams, MD—an AMA member—has provided a brief, 40-page report that puts a spotlight on the opioid epidemic and what the nation must do to end it.

Here are five things that physicians and other health professionals should know about Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Spotlight on Opioids and why it is a must-read.

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

Avoid these missteps to slash your medical coding audit risk

Whether you are dealing with a commercial payer, Medicare, or Medicaid, there are certain types of improper claims that should be avoided if you want to reduce your risk of a medical coding audit. That bit of wisdom comes from an entity that ought to know: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG has released a roadmap to help new physicians avoid medical billing fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. But this advice also broadly applies to how you approach reimbursement from commercial payers, and can also serve as a helpful reminder for physicians with years of experience in practice.

My latest in AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

HHS should withdraw proposed family-planning gag rule

The AMA is urging Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex M. Azar II to withdraw a proposed rule that that would significantly revise the regulations governing the federal Title X family planning program.

“We are very concerned that the proposed changes, if implemented, would undermine patients’ access to high-quality medical care and information, dangerously interfere with the patient-physician relationship and conflict with physicians’ ethical obligations, exclude qualified providers and jeopardize public health,”  AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, wrote in a letter to Azar.

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

DOJ should block CVS-Aetna merger: Calif. insurance regulator

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones has concluded that the proposed merger of CVS and insurance giant Aetna would have major anticompetitive effects and should be blocked. Following a recent public hearing featuring testimony from many experts, including the AMA, Jones is formally asking the U.S. Department of Justice to sue to block the proposed merger.

My latest AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

The top 3 questions residents ask about buying a home

Buying a home is the single largest financial transaction most Americans engage in during their lifetimes, and the joy of signing on the dotted line is often mixed with confusion, dread and plain-old exhaustion with the process. The questions over the what, when, where and why of the matter take on even greater weight for medical residents, who face unusual financial circumstances that complicate an already overwhelming process.

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

Anticompetitive CVS-Aetna merger should be blocked

The proposed merger of the pharmacy chain CVS and insurance company Aetna would harm competition, lead to higher drug spending and out-of-pocket spending, and should be blocked, AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, MD, said yesterday in testimony at a California Department of Insurance hearing.

“After very careful consideration over the past months, the AMA has come to the conclusion that this merger would likely substantially lessen competition in many health care markets, to the detriment of patients,” Dr. McAneny said at the hearing called for by California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “The AMA is now convinced that the proposed CVS-Aetna merger should be blocked.”

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

My stories from the 2018 AMA Annual Meeting

This was one of the busiest meetings of the American Medical Association’s policymaking body, the House of Delegates, that I can recall.  And I’ve been covering these meetings on and off since 2005. As a result, I had plenty to write about for AMA Wire. You can check out the articles below.