Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Karan Chhabra

This weekend, thank the 21st century for air conditioning and free online news roundups:

  1. The other repealLate last night, a bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Burgess (a Texas Republican) to repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate formula, which for years has threatened physicians with massive pay decreases that are always repealed at Congress at the last possible minute. This bill would replace the SGR with five years of 0.5% physician pay increases followed by a pay-for-performance plan with a maximum 1.5% bonus. Interestingly, according to this plan, physicians who don’t opt-in to P4P or another new payment model would face a 5% pay cut. The bill looks like it’ll get passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where it originated, and the good news is that it has bipartisan support. But we know better than to get too excited just yet.
  2. Actually, maybe, yes: A thought-provoking opinion piece by Clifton Leaf made the rounds this week for asking a big, controversial question—do clinical trials work? The alternatives Leaf explores are fascinating, but you should read the read the letters that streamed to the Times in response to his piece, including one by the editors of several major medical journals.
  3. Show me the money (please?): A pay raise to primary care doctors participating in Medicaid–slated for January–is has not actually been happening due to implementation delays. But 48 states are getting ready to start paying those higher rates, which may be crucial to ensuring Medicaid’s effectiveness given how little it has paid relative to commercial insurance and Medicare.
  4. A silver lining: Awful as they were, at least something positive is coming out of the Boston Marathon bombings–researchers all across Boston are trying to see what can be learned from the tragedy. Topics include the role of social media in disaster response as well as recovery from hearing loss caused by the blasts. (I’m already waxing nostalgic for my summer fellowship at Mass Eye and Ear, so forgive me if this seems like a shameless plug.)
  5. Big Data goes fecal: “Poop Scale (1 = Dijon mustard, 5 = pâté, 10 = tar): 5”—yes, that just happened. No comments. Go read.

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Karan is a student at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and Duke graduate who previously worked in strategic research for hospital executives.

Follow him on Twitter @KRChhabra or subscribe to the blog.

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