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This Week in Managed Care: March 20, 2020


This week, the top managed care news included the COVID-19 crisis bringing changes to telehealth and testing; presentations of science in virtual formats; the Affordable Care Act turns 10.

The COVID-19 crisis brings changes to telehealth and testing, AJMC presents science in virtual formats, and the Affordable Care Act turns 10.

Welcome to This Week in Managed Care, I’m Christina Mattina.

COVID-19 Spurs Changes in Telehealth Rules

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced CMS to relax rules in telehealth, allowing methods like FaceTime and Skype that will protect older patients and their doctors from being exposed to the novel coronavirus.

The policy, which was retroactive to March 6, will allow Medicare to pay the same rate for telehealth as for in-person visits.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the change will expand telehealth beyond rural areas and make it available in a broader range of facilities, such as nursing homes. Said Verma: “These changes allow seniors to communicate with their doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility so that they can limit the risk of exposure and spread of this virus. Clinicians on the front lines will now have greater flexibility to safely treat our beneficiaries.”

The change came during a remarkable week when the death toll from COVID-19 soared, schools and businesses closed, Ohio suspended its presidential primary, and American streets emptied as the country embraced a policy of “social distancing” to avoid spreading the deadly virus.

FDA said Monday it would allow states to approve diagnostic tests for the virus, and President Trump called for the military to build hospitals in tents.

The administration’s mood shifted after it heard a modeling study from the Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team which found that if the pandemic went unchecked it could cause 2.2 million deaths in the United States.

For full coverage, continue to visit ajmc.com.

Virtual Conference Coverage Continues

Because of COVID-19, scientific and industry meetings across the country and around the world have been canceled, but here at AJMC we are bringing you remote coverage through interviews with scientists and abstract presentations.

Highlights from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology are available on ajmc.com and include:

Show bullets

  • The first US patients with peanut allergy have been treated with Aimmune Therapeutics’s Palforzia oral immunotherapy, which was approved in January.
  • Phase 4 data show that Hizentra was well-tolerated by most patients taking the subcutaneous therapy for primary immunodeficiency disorder.
  • A study found that it was only cost-effective to prescribe the most at-risk children a self-injected epinephrine pen at current prices, but giving a pen to every child on allergen immunotherapy became cost-effective when a 2-pack cost $24.

For full coverage of the science from AAAAI, visit ajmc.com.

Early coverage of the American College of Cardiology’s virtual meeting will begin this weekend with its consumer-friendly abstracts, and full coverage will come next weekend.

You can register for our conference emails at ajmc.com.

ACA Turns 10

Monday marks the 10th anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, sometimes called Obamacare.

Some like the law and some do not, but there’s no arguing that it’s permanently changed healthcare in the United States.

As part of our 25th anniversary series, we asked Congressman Frank Pallone of New Jersey, who played a key role in the law’s passage, to discuss the law’s importance.

Pallone said the law led to fewer hospital readmissions and the rise of accountable care organizations, but there’s more to do. Said Pallone: “There is no silver bullet. It will likely take a series of incremental changes throughout our healthcare system that add up to meaningful reform. We will also have to look at the prices we pay for healthcare, which are much higher than in other parts of the world.”

For the full commentary, visit ajmc.com.

Increasing Numbers at Risk for Vision Loss

More adults are at high risk for vision loss, according to a look at 15 years’ worth of data.

The study in JAMA Ophthalmology examined nearly 31,000 responses to a 2002 National Health Interview survey and compared them with 32,800 responses gathered in 2017.

Findings showed:

  • In 2017, more than 93 million US adults were at high risk for vision loss, compared with 65 million in 2002.
  • An aging population could account for the difference.
  • More people receive eyecare services, but more report that eyeglasses are unaffordable.

For more, visit ajmc.com.

Paper of the Week

And now, we bring you Paper of the Week, which looks back at research and commentary of the past 25 years in The American Journal of Managed Care® and why it matters today.

As coronavirus dominates the airwaves and the internet, it’s worth knowing that back in 2006, authors in The American Journal of Managed Care® found that local television news had become the number one source of medical information for most Americans.

The study, “Medical News for the Public to Use? What’s on Local TV News?” found that 76% of all stories in a representative sample of the top 50 markets involved a medical condition. However, the stories were short: only about 33 seconds.

The two most popular topics? Breast cancer, and the West Nile Virus.

For the full paper, visit ajmc.com.

For all of us at AJMC®, I’m Christina Mattina. Thanks for joining us.

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