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 them out the articles below.

JAMA Network launches open-access journal

The inaugural issue of JAMA Network Open has been published, with articles exemplifying the breadth of areas that readers should come to expect to see covered in the new journal—oncology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, pediatrics and cardiology.

The open-access journal, announced last year, is the 13th journal in the JAMA Network and the third journal launched by the AMA in the last three years. JAMA Oncology was launched in 2015, followed by JAMA Cardiology in 2016.

My lede. The whole shebang.

Directory-related mishaps affect patients monthly, say doctors

More than half of physicians who responded to a recent survey (52 percent) noted they have a patient who encounters coverage issues because of inaccurate payer directories every single month.

The inaccuracies have prompted a regulatory response. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and state legislative bodies have issued regulations to ensure physician directory accuracy across the industry. Additionally, there is substantial variability among state rules.

My latest at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

Charter calls for comprehensive efforts on physician burnout

A group of experts on doctor burnout from leading medical centers and organizations—including the AMA—has developed a charter on physician well-being that lays out the societal, organizational, interpersonal and individual commitments that must be honored to properly restore joy in medicine for an overburdened workforce.

Physician well-being is increasingly recognized as the fourth goal that joins the vaunted “triple aim” of improving care quality and patient experience while lowering health costs. Health systems have a strong reason to pay attention to the issue: their bottom lines. It has been estimated that burnout accounts for one-third of the cost of physician turnover, according to data cited in a JAMA Viewpoint describing the new charter.

The lede to my latest article in AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

Surgeon general: Naloxone should be widely prescribed, carried

Nearly 80 percent of opioid-overdose deaths happen outside of a medical setting, meaning that—in addition to first responders—family members and friends are commonly the ones  to find a loved one who has overdosed. When they make that discovery, a quickly administered dose of naloxone can be lifesaving, yet too few Americans know about the opioid-overdose antidote, how to get it or how to use it.

Read the whole shebang.

AMA, Anthem try new tack: Working together to improve health care

Two major health care organizations announced today they are working together to figure out mutually agreeable ways to improve patients’ access to health care that is timely, high quality and affordable. This year, the AMA and Anthem—whose health plans cover more than 40 million people—will pursue collaboration in four key areas to:

  • Enhance consumer and patient health care literacy.
  • Develop and implement value-based payment models for primary and specialty care physicians.
  • Improve access to timely, actionable data to enhance patient care.
  • Streamline or eliminate low-value prior-authorization requirements.

“Physicians caring for patients across the country have many ideas about how we can reduce health care costs and administrative burdens while improving clinical outcomes, and we need the collaboration of Anthem and all health plans to implement those strategies,” AMA Board Chair Gerald E. Harmon, MD, said. “The AMA looks forward to finding common ground on ways to improve the delivery of affordable, high-quality, patient-centered care.”

My lede at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

Concussion-like symptoms found in U.S. personnel in Cuba

A case series published by JAMA this week is shedding light on the medical mystery of U.S. government personnel working on assignment in Havana, Cuba, who have reported neurological symptoms they associated with very loud sounds and air pressure changes.

Physicians and other specialists at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain and Injury Repair examined 21 of the 24 workers identified by the State Department as being injured. They did so about 200 days after the workers reported being exposed to high-volume buzzing and grinding-type noises and vibrations similar to the way air rolls into a moving car with the windows partially rolled down.

My lede. The whole shebang.

1 in 3 physicians has been sued; by age 55, 1 in 2 hit with suit

New research details how the threat of medical liability litigation hovers over physicians like a cloud and imposes rising costs on the nation’s health system.

More than one in three physicians, 34 percent, have had a medical liability lawsuit filed against them at some point in their careers, says one of three trend reports published by the AMA’s Division of Economic and Health Policy Research. The longer physicians are in practice, the likelier it is that they will have experienced a lawsuit.

My latest at AMA Wire. Read the whole shebang.

Patients and politics: What the AMA “Code of Medical Ethics” says

With the dawn of a midterm election year and major issues affecting the nation’s health system on the agenda, questions arise about the role physicians should play in discussing political topics with patients.

In a recent JAMA opinion essay, Harvard Medical School Professor Jerry Avorn, MD, argued that “a strong case can be made that rather than being a taboo subject, discussing transformational changes in health care coverage with patients could be seen as a core responsibility of all clinicians—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, therapists.”

Such communications are “necessary to ensure the capacity of health care professionals to continue to provide patients with the health care they seek from us,” he added. “The intimate connection between coverage and clinical care also offers a direct and unassailable way to communicate this information.”

The AMA Code of Medical Ethics has guidance for physicians on this sensitive issue.

My lede at AMA Wire. The whole shebang.

10 New Year’s resolutions for your health and your family’s

The waning months of 2017 probably began with gobbling a few unclaimed Halloween treats, might have continued with the Thanksgiving coma and may yet conclude with a headache on New Year’s Day. However you may have fared during the holiday season, the new year offers everyone another opportunity to make healthier choices for themselves and their loved ones.

The lede to my latest story in AMA Wire. The whole shebang.