Weekly Dose of Health News

NYS Budget Update: The Governor and legislative leaders have reached a conceptual agreement on the state spending plan but we are still awaiting final language on the health provisions in the 2013-14 NYS Budget. We hope to have information soon. Stay tuned!

In this week’s summary, you’ll find additional information on the Affordable Care Act, a follow-up to the Alzheimer’s Association big report and much, much more.

Affordable Care Act

As implementation of the Affordable Care Act continues, state legislatures are wrestling with all kinds of “scope-of-practice” issues —fights over who can provide what kind of health care, under whose supervision and for what kind of payment. Politico  writes that with the ACA coverage expansion going into effect in 2014, the battles over these scope issues are heating up particularly regarding primary care. There is a growing consensus that there is a primary care shortage in underserved areas. However, there is less agreement on the role of other practitioners — like physicians’ assistants and nurse practitioners— in providing primary care where there is a shortage of physicians (Smith and Cheney, 3/20).

The New York Times profiles the west coast based Kaiser Permanente as a model for the kind of health system the Affordable Care Act is supposed to encourage (Abelson, 3/20). The organization, which combines a nonprofit insurance plan with its own hospitals and clinics, also has sophisticated electronic records and computer systems that have led to better-coordinated patient care. The payment model used by Kaiser is one that pays a fixed amount for medical care per member which is designed to create a strong financial incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital.

Employer Health Plans

The Wall Street Journal examines an effort by two large employers to take on a new approach to employee health benefits. Last fall, Sears Holdings Corporation and Draden Restaurants Inc., offered workers a sum of money and allowed them to choose their health plans using an online marketplace. Now, the first results are in: Many workers were willing to choose lower-priced plans that required them to pay more out of their pockets for health care (Mathews, 3/17).


USA Today highlights a new report from the Alzheimer’s Association that shows the disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., and figures released this week by the Alzheimer’s Association show that deaths from the disease increased by 68 percent between 2000 and 2010. Meanwhile, deaths from heart disease, HIV/AIDS and stroke have declined. There are still no effective treatments for Alzheimer’s, and people who have the disease face a greatly increased risk of dying within 10 years, according to an analysis by the Alzheimer’s Association of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Lloyd, 3/19).

A treatment that genetically alters a patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer has, for the first time, produced remissions in adults with an acute leukemia that is usually lethal. The treatment is experimental, has been used in only a small number of patients and did not work in all of them. But experts consider it a highly promising approach for a variety of malignancies, including other blood cancers and tumors in organs like the prostate gland. The new study, in five adults with acute leukemia in whom chemotherapy had failed, was published this week in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

The federal government, facing a court-imposed deadline and opposition from the tobacco industry, has decided to abandon its legal fight to require cigarette makers to place large, graphic labels on their products warning of the dangers of smoking. The decision is a setback for the Food and Drug Administration, which two years ago announced that it would require tobacco manufacturers to include ghastly images on all cigarette packages (Washington Post, Dennis, 3/19).