Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Adrianna McIntyre 

If I told you that things happened in health policy news besides the employer mandate delay, would you believe me?

  1. The amazing—and amazingly expensive—race.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so the world of cholesterol-reducing drugs has proven extraordinarily lucrative. The latest development on that front involves exploiting a rare mutation that causes drastically low cholesterol (the mutation has only ever been known to exist in two individuals). Researchers hope to pharmaceutically mimic the mutations, and three companies are racing to win FDA approval on experimental versions of such drugs. At the moment, these biologic drugs face hurdles in affordability, but I think the article overlooks the real kicker when it comes to cost: under current law, more affordable generic versions of biologic drugs may never enter the market.
  2. “Fifteen minutes and 750 calories.” Click the link and read the story—read all of it. It  captures a haunting portrait of our nation’s child (and adult) hunger problem in rural Tennessee. Here, two-thirds of children qualify for free meals, something that gets harder to deliver dring the summer months when school’s not in session.
  3. The acute care paradox. Reducing preventable emergency department visits and hospitalizations might be harder than we think, because a recent qualitative study in Health Affairs finds that low-SES patients perceive this low-value care as less expensive, more accessible, and of higher quality than ambulatory care. Some efforts to reduce hospital readmissions focus on quality improvement; this might have the paradoxical effect of making the care more attractive to populations that prefer it. These findings are preliminary and provide useful direction for future research. That said, given the small sample size—40 low-SES patients were surveyed—the results cannot be readily generalized. The full article is, regrettably, gated.
  4. New levels of transparency in Oklahoma City. For the past four years, Surgery Center of Oklahoma has been posting guaranteed, all-inclusive price quotes on their website, and they seem to be undercutting competition by a wide margin. A number of local hospitals have followed suit, resulting in a price war that’s attracted patients from across the nation and Canada. With veritable “menus” publicly available, patients are reportedly demanding price-matching from other institutions. Is this the future of medical consumerism?
  5. Well, we've only really settled the question of ghosts that emit or reflect visible light. Or move objects around. Or make any kind of sound. But that covers all the ones that appear in Ghostbusters, so I think we're good.


Adrianna is a graduate student in public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.
Follow her on Twitter @onceuponA or subscribe to the blog.


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