Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.
HHS Announces Short-Term Insurance Proposal
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a proposed rule that expands the availability of short-term, limited-duration health insurance by allowing consumers to buy plans providing coverage for any period of less than 12 months, rather than the current maximum period of less than three months. Newly installed HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement: "The status quo is failing too many Americans who face skyrocketing costs and fewer and fewer choices. The Trump Administration is taking action so individuals and families have access to quality, affordable healthcare that works for them."
The new rule has some groups, both on the provider and payer side, concerned the price of health premiums will rise. The American College of Physicians (ACP) released a statement saying the proposal will harm patients by destabilizing the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) individual insurance market and undermining essential patient protections. This, the ACP says, will result in higher premiums and increased medical costs for those most in need of care. For their part, the Trump administration would have "virtually no impact" on the individual market.
California Launches Probe into Aetna
California's insurance commissioner has launched a probe into the actions of health insurance giant Aetna, after a medical director for the company admitted he didn't look at patients' records when approving or denying care. CNN reports that the commissioner, Dave Jones, expressed outrage when shown transcript of the testimony where the medical director, Jay Ken Iinuma, MD, disclosed his laissez-faire attitude. Dr. Iinuma, who served as medical director for Aetna Southern California, said he was following orders and letting nurses review records. For its part, Aetna is disputing the report and said Iinuma's testimony was taken out of context.
Community Health Centers Have Housing Problems
According to a new study from researchers at Mass General Hospital, many of the patients treated at community health centers struggle with getting housing. Forty percent of patients at community health centers, a federal program that provides primary-care services to underserved patients, have a history of housing problems, researchers found. "Stable housing is essential for health," senior author, Jessie Gaeta, MD, Chief Medical Officer at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) said in a statement. "We've seen time and again in our research and clinical practice that when people lack that basic need, their health and well-being suffer."
Quote of the Week
"There is an overwhelming number of apps in the mobile health space with no real sense of which ones are up to snuff from a clinical perspective."
Joseph Kvedar, MD, founder and vice president of Connected Health, an initiative from Partners HealthCare system in Boston.
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