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5 posts from February 2018

02/22/2018

The Trump Administration's Decision to Require Employment as a Medicaid Coverage Prerequisite: An Interview with Prof. Sara Rosenbaum (February 21st)

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In a letter last March to state Medicaid directors by then DHHS Secretary Tom Price and CMS Administrator Seema Verma telegraph the administration's intent to radically redefine the Medicaid program.  Believing the ACA's expansion of the Medicaid program was, per the March letter, a "clear departure from the core, historical mission of the program,"  administration officials telegraphed they were preparing to reinvent the program by, in part, requiring work or community engagement for abled-body adults as a precondition for Medicaid coverage.  Historically, the Medicaid program was intended to strengthen and increase coverage for the poor.  In a nine-page, January 11 letter to state Medicaid directors, Ms. Verma announced, "a new policy to assist states in their efforts to improve Medicaid enrollee health and well-being through incentivizing work and community engagement."  That there is no evidence that work improves health status, the January 11th letter stated "work . . may improve health outcomes," on January 12th CMS approved a Kentucky waiver to require employment as a prerequisite for Medicaid coverage despite state officials recognizing through the course of the waiver's implementation 15 percent of abled-body Kentuckians would lose coverage.    

During this 20 minute interview, Professor Sara Rosenbaum briefly explains Medicaid 1115 waivers, the administration's intent to, in addition to requiring employment, refashion the Medicaid program to more resemble commercial insurance, what evidence the administration posits to justify the policy change, the details of the Kentucky waiver (the first of likely several, if not many work requirement waivers), the anticipated effects of the Kentucky waiver and the legal bases for litigation already filed to challenge the Kentucky waiver. 

Professor Sara Rosenbaum is the Harold and Jane Hirsh Professor of Health Law and Policy at the Milken Institute School of Public Heath at George Washington University.  She also holds professorships at GWU's Law and Medical Schoold and at the Sara%20Rosenbaum%20Color%20Pic[1]Trachtenberg Schoolf of Public Policy and Public Administration.  Professor Rosenberg worked in the Clinton Administration where she directed and drafted the Health Security Act and designed the Medicaid's Vaccines for Children program.  She currently advises states, foundations and others on health policy and has served as a testifying expert in landmark litigation to enforce children's rights under Medicaid.  She is the lead author of Law and the American Health Care System.  Professor Rosenbaum is the Past Chair of AcademyHealth and a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  She also has served on the CDC's Director's Advisory Committee and Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice.  She was the founding Commissioner of the Congress's Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) and served as its Chair from January 2016 through April 2017.

Recent related writings by Professor Rosenbaum, i.e., "The Trump Administration Re-Imagines Section 1115 Medicaid Demonstration - and Medicaid" (Health Affairs Blog, 11/9/17) and "Experimenting on The Health of the Poor: Inside Stewart v. Azar (Health Affairs Blog, 2/5/18) are at: https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20171109.297738/full/  and https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20180204.524941/full/.

02/16/2018

Misuse of Antipsychotics Continues to Harm and Kill Thousands of Nursing Facility Residents: An Interview With Ms. Hannah Flamm (February 15th)

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In early February the Human Rights Watch (HRW) published, "'They Want Docile': How Nursing Homes in the US Over-medicate People with Dementia."  The inappropriate or misuse of antipsychotics, e.g., Haldol, Seroquel and Risperdal, in nursing facilities to chemically restrain nursing home patients, moreover frail and elderly seniors, has been practiced for decades.  The HRW report found in 2016-2017 "massive use" or abuse, i.e., the report estimated in an average week over 179,000 long-stay nursing facility patients were administered antipsychotic drugs without a diagnosis for which the drugs are indicated or approved.  Despite efforts to reduce the abuse of these medications, in part via a CMS voluntary initiative (a link to which his provided below), the practice persists, in part, because the federal government has nominally enforced regulations and enforcement measures to remedy the problem.  The use of these drugs can and does cause serious patient harm.  In testimony before the Congress in 2007, the FDA's Dr. David Graham stated, "15,000 elderly people in nursing homes [are] dying each year form the off-label use of antipsychotic medications for an indication that the FDA knows the drug doesn't work."  Listeners may recall I initially discussed this topic in December 2012 with Diana Zuckerman.   

During this 36 minute discussion Ms. Flamm explains what prompted the HRW study, the study's methodology, how widespread is the practice of misuse of antipsychotics in nursing facilities, how and why they are used inappropriately, that includes the the failure to obtain free and informed consent, the federal government's inadequate enforcement of federal laws and regulations to police the problem and how this practice violates not just US laws but international human rights agreements. 

Ms. Hannah Flamm is currently an immigration lawyer at The Door's Legal Services Center in New York. FlammIn 2016-2017, Ms. Flamm was New York University's School of Law Fellow at Human Rights Watch where she researched and wrote, "They Want Docile."  She interned with the Southern Poverty Law Center, South Brooklyn Legal Services and Schonbrun DeSimone, an international human rights and civil rights firm.  She is a graduate of NYU's School of Law and the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government.  As a student she participated in NYU's Family Defense Clinic and the Harvard International Human Rights Clinic.  Prior to attending law school, Ms. Flamm worked for the International Rescue Committee in Haiti. 

The Human Rights Watch report is at: https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/02/05/they-want-docile/how-nursing-homes-united-states-overmedicate-people-dementia.

Two related 2012 and 2011 DHHS Office of the Inspector General reports are at: https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-08-00151.pdf and https://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-07-08-00150.pdf.
 

 

02/11/2018

Mitigating the Opioid Crisis Via Abuse Deterrent Prescribing Practices: An Interview with Dr. Steven Passik (February 9th)

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Fatalities related opioid use now account for over two-thirds of all drug overdoses annually, over 60,000, in the US.  Approximately 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.  This number represents a five-time increase over the past two decades.  Opioid-related fatalities have become so prevalent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, they have caused a decrease in US life expectancy for the past two consecutive years.  (The last time life expectancy dropped was in 1993 due to the AIDS epidemic.)  While the amount of prescription opioids sold to pharmacies, hospitals and doctors has quadrupled in the recent past, Americans are reporting on reduction in the amount of pain they suffer.  (Ironically, we are over prescribed and under treated.)  To date the federal government's response to the epidemic has been poor although this past week, the Congress appropriated $6 billion, an amount experts believe beyond inadequate, over a two year period to address the crisis.   

During this 28 minute interview Dr. Passik discusses the numerous causes contributing to the opioid epidemic, policies and practices in pharmacology that may be contributing to the problem, strategies used in pharmaceutical prescribing, or in the use of abuse deterrent formulations, to reduce addiction or abuse and the role other reforms in the clinical practice setting and in reimbursement can play in reducing harm and opioid-related fatalities.  

Since 2017 Dr. Steven Passki is currently the Vice President of Scientific Affairs, Education and Policy at Collegium PassikPharmaceuticals.  Prior to joining Collegium, Dr. Passik was Director of Clinical Addiction and Education at Millennium Laboratories.  Prior still, he spent 25 years in academia and clinical care at Memorial Sloan Cancer Center, at the University of Kentucky and at Vanderbilt University.  His research has focused on the psychiatric aspects of cancer and non-cancer pain and symptom management and the interface of pain management and addiction.  He has served as on the editorial board of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and as a reviewer for multiple journals including The Clinical Journal of Pain.  He has been a member of several scientific and medical societies including the American Psychological Association and the American Society of Psychiatric Oncology/AIDS.  He has written extensively on the interface of pain management and addiction. He is a clinical psychologist and has areas of expertise include the general psychological aspects of cancer including palliative care and symptom management with an emphasis on pain, depression, nausea and fatigue.  Dr. Passki was named a fellow of Division 28 of the American Psychological Association (Psychopharmacology & Substance Abuse) and awarded a Mayday Fund Fellowship in Pain and Society. An author of more than 120 journal articles, 60 book chapters and 59 abstracts, he speaks nationally and internationally on pain, addiction and the pain/addiction interface.  Dr. Passik received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the New School of Social Research in New York City.

I noted during the interview Dr. Passik will be keynoting a DC-area abuse deterrent formulations meeting in March, information on the meeting is at: http://www.cbinet.com/conference/pc18298.

02/07/2018

"Global Risks Report: Davos, Trump and Climate Change," (February 6th)

President Trump again denied the reality of climate change while attending the recent Davos, Switzerland, confab.  He said, in part, ice caps are now "setting records."  In reality, Arctic Ocean ice hit a record low in 2017 and is declining faster than any time in over the past 1,500 years.  Since climate change was on the Davos agenda, the problem was discussed in the accompanying World Economic Forum's 2018 "Global Risks Report."   Beyond what the report found, it's worth noting, as I stated in this essay, ocean temperatures set a record in 2017.  (Oceans absorb over 90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gasses.)  Ocean temperatures, measured in Joules, substantially exceeded 2015, the previous record year, by 1.51 x 10^22 Joules, or the amount of electrical energy China produces annually.

My essay, under the above title, summarizes what the report found and, again, notes the professional medical communities indifference to the ever increasing catastrophic consequences of global warming. 

The World Economic Forum's "Global Risks Report" is at: https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2018.  

My essay is at: http://thehealthcareblog.com/blog/2018/02/06/global-risk-report-davos-trump-and-climate-change/.

Please see also or again my November 13th essay titled, "As the World Burns" at: http://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2017/11/as-the-world-burns-.html

02/05/2018

Three Upcoming Podcasts in February and Early March

Three upcoming podcast interviews in the queue: 

2/26: Medicare Bundled Payments: Back to bundled payments, CMS recently announced the agency's BPCI (Bundled Payment for Care Improvement) Advanced demonstration.  I'll speak with Archway Health's Dave Terry about this new Medicare bundled payment arrangement that will begin October 1 and run through 2023.

3/9: Recent Publication: I'll speak with Professor Jonathan Engel, author of the just published, Unaffordable, American Healthcare from Johnson to Trump.  

3/14: Recent Publication: I'll speak with Professor Timothy Hoff, author of the just published, Next in Line: Lowered Care Expectations in the Age of Retail- and Value-Based Health.