MEDICAL POLICY NEWS
The new budget has blown the top off the old budget, and this, from conservative lawmakers. It exceed prior spending caps, and suspended the debt limit for a year. As part of the package it did refund CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) for four years.
CMS is the Center for Medicaid Services. According to their actuaries, health spending in the nation will increase by about 5.5%per year to $ 5.5 trillion dollars, nearly a fifth of the economy. The fastest growing sector of health spending is prescription drugs, estimated to grow by over 6% per year in the next decade. Due to the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) personal spending for health care has been at historic lows, though it is projected to increase, even under the ACA, at over 2.2% per year, which is over the cost of inflation which is 1.9%. Whether or not this is good, bad or indifferent, I cannot say. As a mother and as a physician, I feel we undervalue our health care and its costs. We spend on electronics, vehicles and vacations, which are important, but forget that health is at the foundation of it all.
The Trump Administration is disinclined to regulate drug prices. However, they propose “easing government regulations (read: protections) to “spur innovation” to “lower drug prices”. They also proposed expanding drug coverage and placing a cap on out of pocket spending for Medicare recipients. While the federal government will not regulate drug prices, it will allow up to five states to band together to negotiate drug prices.
The ACA has a dependent provision saying that children up through the age of 26 may stay on their parent’s health insurance policies. A study recently published in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, has revealed that this provision resulted in increased rates of prenatal care, early prenatal care, and reductions in preterm birth. As an Ob/Gyn I can tell you that one of our holy grails is finding a successful approach to preterm birth. Looks like having health insurance might help.
Maternal Mortality is four times higher for black women than white women in our country. Access to prenatal care is believed to be part of this. A recent New York Times editorial featured a free Obstetrics clinic in Florida who accepted clients regardless of ability to pay. They were able to document a 40% reduction in preterm labor and low birth weight in this group.
I reported earlier on the Utah bill which will provide for the use of Medicaid funds to provide family planing services to low income women. Part of the genius of this is that these are not just any poor women. These are women who are below the poverty level, but who are not so poor that they qualify for Medicaid. They are the so called women in the gap. Lawmakers would save everyone money if they gathered data about the lowest income at which one can reasonably afford private insurance, and made that the same level at which one qualifies for the Affordable Care Act. From there, the ACA should cover straight down to incomes which qualify for Medicaid. Then there would be no gaps. Rocket Science.
Health care is a case of pay now or pay later. By now, everyone including consumers and lawmakers should understand that attending to health and paying for it up front saves both money, productivity and suffering in the long run. This is the single most important message I can tell you.
Planned Parenthood has been under scrutiny, defunded in parts, and under continuing threat of more defunding. Planned parenthood provides many primary health care services at very low cost, not just family planning services. Their services disproportionately benefit women. Many associate their defunding in certain states like Texas, with increased rates of Maternal Morbidity and Mortality. This last week, leadership of Planned Parenthood announced they will begin a campaign of legislative action in key states.
West Virginia is attempting to supercede Federal Law. Their Senate has passed the “no constitutional right to abortion” amendment, and it now heads to their House. All this is despite the federal law Roe Versus Wade which guaruntees the right to abortion within various age parameters. One opposing Democratic senator, a physician, simply read ACOG’s (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) statement of opposition to the measure as his response.
The Trump Administration has developed a “Conscience and Freedom” division of the Department of Health and Human Services. Since when did a Government office dealing with health care need a “ Conscience and Freedom” division ? It sounds very "morality police" to me. Encompassed in this type of approach would be protections for physicians who withheld certain treatments, and punishments for physicians who administered them. This move has also raised concerns in the hallowed halls of academic medicine. Professors from the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UCSF (University of California San Francisco) have written an op ed against the formation of this committee and its enforcers. They have asked the Administration “to stop politicizing medicine and interfering in the judgement of medical professionals.”
Think all this sounds implausible ? Think again. The Iowa Senate has approved a bill to ban abortion after a heartbeat is detected. We routinely detect heartbeats at 5.5 to 6 weeks after the last menstrual period. The bill includes a provision to charge physicians who do such procedures non-emergently with a Class D felony. Opponents of the measure are many. The University of Iowa would lose it’s accreditation of it’s residency program in Obstetrics and Gynecology if this were to be the case. This is because,to comply with the state law, the Program's policies have to comply with medical science and recommendations. This would worsen the problem of the shortage of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
In the recent past, Betamethasone steroids were only given to women expected to deliver before 34 weeks. More recently, the recommendation is to expand the use up through just before 37 weeks., the so-called late preterm period. Steroid given in this way decreases pulmonary (Lung) problems in the premature newborn. New research presented at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine has concluded that up to $200 million in savings could be realized by following this new recommendation.
Increasing evidence shows that ovary cancer starts in the tubes rather than the ovaries. You might know this already if you have recently been counseled about a tubal sterilization procedure. In the past, we performed sterilization by tying, clipping, or cauterizing the tubes. However now we offer patients removal of the tubes to confer additional cancer prevention.
American “fertility rates” are falling. This could be misconstrued as meaning more American women are infertile. However, this is not what it means. It does mean our birth rate is decreasing. Researchers believe this is explained by later marriage, smaller families, better adoption of birth control and fewer births among the unmarried. Their are varying assessments of this trend. Some people believe economic prosperity is dependent upon ever increasing birth rate, but this is an outdated and flawed analysis. Some believe that decreased birth rate alone will rescue the environment. I wish it were that simple. Data shows that income, educational attainment, and savings all increase with smaller families.
HPV vaccine rates are still low. They are rising, but are still low. It is effective and has nothing to do with the choice to become sexually active. It prevents cervical cancer and genital warts. The side effects are limited to the side effects of an injection. What’s not to like ?
Juice is out. Juice has been out for some time but many people seemed to have missed the memo. Many people still think that drinking 100% pure (even organic) fruit juice is a healthy thing to do. It is not. It is too much fruit sugar, in too broken down a form, for people to metabolize without spiking their blood sugar and risking fat deposition. A calorie is not a calorie. The RATE at which sugar enters your bloodstream is key. The rate with juice is just higher than our physiology can handle. It is far better to eat the whole fruit itself. The fruit has structure, even once chewed or blended in a smoothie, and it will enter the bloodstream in a slow release fashion. New research has shown that postmenopausal women who have a single 6 ounce serving of fruit juice per day persistently gain weight over the years. Of course many factors probably go into this, but the juice drinking may be a marker for misconceptions they have about nutrition.
New research shows that who who meet criteria for and get MRI for breast cancer screening get more “invasive” (meaning with a needle or some other sharp object) biopsies. They say it like its a bad thing. Of course they get more biopsies. We see more detail and raise more concerns. The research goes on… fewer of these biopsies result in a cancer diagnosis”. AGAIN they say this like its a bad thing ! It is good to have no cancer diagnosis. What we are seeing here is a natural expectation of increased sensitivity and decreased specificity in the testing. There are more false positives, which we as a society have decided to accept as the “cost” of earlier diagnosis and better cures. So we as a group trade more pokes with a big needle for many women in exchange for greater years of life for a few. Sounds like a bargain to me ! Read these sensational headlines with care people, and don’t be afraid of needles. Sharp objects are your friend. And by the way, they talk about “invasive biopsies” like there is even such a thing as non-invasive biopsies. Spin the headlines much ?
It is still meaningful to get your flu vaccine. If it does not prevent flu, it still will decrease the severity. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the unwell, elderly, children or pregnant women about whom you care. They are especially vulnerable and the death toll nationwide is appalling. Anti-vaxxers, take notice. There is cost to what you say.
Stay tuned next week for more intense news from the world of Obstetrics and Gynecology.