Weekly Dose of Health News

In this summary, you’ll find information on how the healthcare industry is dealing with effects of Superstorm Sandy, the fate of the Affordable Care Act following the presidential election, new promising medicines to treat high cholesterol and more!

 Superstorm Sandy Aftermath (Health Edition)

As efforts continue to provide health care to individuals impacted by Hurricane Sandy, New York State  has submitted a waiver request to the Department of Health and Human Services that would assist health care providers to expedite the delivery of health care. CMS approved the waiver which relaxes certain administrative and record keeping rules, including documentation, patient relocation, and billing requirements. The waiver is available here.

The NYS Office of Mental Health is holding a webinar to update providers on the status of Medicaid waiver requests submitted to CMS for providers in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy. The webinar is today, Nov. 9 at 3pm. Here is the call-in information: 1 (646) 558-2120; Access Code: 246-237-433; Audio PIN: Shown after joining the Webinar. To register, please go here.

Affordable Care Act

The Wall Street Journal  writes that the fate of the Affordable Care Act is much clearer following the re-election of President Obama this week.  The election removed the last major obstacle to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and a number of new regulations will start flowing from Washington to provide guidance to the states on a number of pieces of health care reform.  Rules are expected for how states and the federal government will operate new health-insurance exchanges, how insurers will have to accept all customers regardless of their medical history, rules governing how insurers can vary premiums based on age and more information about new requirements on employers and individuals to buy insurance (Radnofsky and Mathews, 11/7).

However, the Washington Post  has a story that highlights some of the regulatory and budget obstacles that remain for the successful implementation of Affordable Care Act (Aizenman, 11/7).

The Wall Street Journal profiles some large employers’ efforts to skirt the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that they provide employers with health insurance coverage. It seems some businesses are moving towards hiring part-time workers or limiting employee schedules to below 30 hours per week in order to avoid the insurance mandate. Starting in 2014 employers would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty of $2,000 for each employee ( Jargon, Radnofsky, & Berzon, 11/4).

New Medicines in Development

The New York Times reports that a new class of cholesterol-reducing drugs is showing promising results in early drug trials. At an American Heart Association conference this week, several drug companies presented findings that showed the use of experimental drugs reduced bad cholesterol in trial participants by 40-70 percent in just a few weeks. These drugs could be administered in conjunction with traditional statins to achieve even lower cholesterol levels for patients. While these drugs are several years away from the marketplace, heart specialists are excited by the promise of this new class of drugs (Pollack, 11/5).


A study in the November issue of Health Affairs , examined ten risk factors that drive employer health insurance costs for employees. The authors of the study matched health spending for 92,000 employees with at seven organizations over three years with a list of ten common risk factors. They discovered that 22.4 percent of the $366 million spent annually by the seven employers and their employees was attributed to the ten risk factors, all of which could be addressed by a combination of the appropriate health care and behavioral interventions. Depression led the list of factors that increase health care costs followed by high blood pressure, obesity and physical inactivity.

ABC News reports that researchers working with stems cells to repair heart tissue have discovered that stem cells donated by strangers are as safe and effective as patients’ own cells for restoring heart tissue. A study involving 30 patients who had heart failure because of scarring from an earlier heart attack used cells that were harvested from subjects’ bone marrow for the treatment. Half of the study’s participants received their own marrow and the others received cells from strangers. After a year the scar tissue had been reduced by about one-third and quality of life had improved for all participants (Marchione, 11/5).

-Jaime Venditti, 11/9/12