The “Shake the Winter Blahs” Edition of Health Wonk Review


It’s the middle of winter. Feeling blah? Need some stimulation? You’ve come to the right place!

Welcome to The “Shake the Winter Blahs” Edition of the Health Wonk review. For the second time, it’s my honor to host HWR — providing you summaries and links to the best recent writing in the health blogosphere. Let’s go!

Federal Health Policy

At the Health Affairs Blog, Princeton professor Uwe Reinhardt jumps off from the recent controversy about Jonathan Gruber’s remarks describing the American public as “stupid”. He writes that Gruber’s apologies were appropriate. The post is descriptively titled Rethinking The Gruber Controversy: Americans Aren’t Stupid, But They’re Often Ignorant — And Why.

As an American, (I think) I’m relieved to know that I’m not stupid, just ignorant.

At Healthblawg, David Harlow shares an interview about how changes in Medicare ACOs will work — Farzad Mostashari on the Proposed ACO Regulation: The future of the Medicare Shared Savings Program examined in an interview with David Harlow. In a fascinating and thought provoking discussion, David and the always exuberant Farzad (former National Coordinator for Health IT) talk about what it will take to make Medicare ACOs successful. The MSSP is at an inflection point, and changes are needed in order to keep participants in the program as the initial 3-year contracts expire.

At The Hospital Leader, Brad Flansbaum opines about recent commentary from CDC agency director Thomas Frieden. He cites the examples of CDC “missteps” relating to the Ebola virus and a recent drug approval. He concludes that The CDC Must Do Better.

Medicaid Expansion

At Health Access, Anthony Wright comments positively on Medicaid expansion in California. In Inauguration Day! he references California Governor Brown’s description of the Medi-Cal expansion as “the right thing to do,” preventing medical bankruptcies and helping low-income families. He believes however that Brown overstates the costs to the state…and that there’s more work to do.

At Colorado Health Insurance Insider, Louise comments positively on Medicaid expansion in Colorado. In her post Expanding Medicaid was the right move in the 80s and still is today, she cites evidence from a recent NBER study and predicts: “the people who are Medicaid eligible will pay more in taxes over the next decade.”

Health Insurance Quirks

At InsureBlog, Hank Stern chides how the Much Vaunted National Health Service (MVNHS)© failed to protect a pregnant world traveler. It’s an interesting story — a UK couple vacationed in Hawaii and racked up a $200 K medical bill when their child was born prematurely. Read Hank’s take in More Unintended Medical Tourism.

At Healthcare Economist, Jason Shafrin investigates disability benefits in the U.S. How generous are these benefits compared to the rest of the world? The answers are at Disability Benefits Around the World.

At Managed Care Matters, Joe Paduda writes that Harvard protests health insurance costs – for a couple of very good reasons. He poses that lost in the blather about the changes in Harvard’s health plan are two key takeaways: 1) cost sharing does affect care decisions, good and bad; and 2) deductibles and copays are archaic and should be replaced by much more precise and targeted economic incentives.

Hepatitis C Drugs

At Health Business Blog, David Williams discusses recent developments around Hepatitis C drugs. In his post Hepatitis C drug battle. What’s going on?, he asks “What are we to make of the fighting over reimbursement for expensive Hepatitis C drugs? Is it a special case or the start of a new trend in specialty drug price and access negotiations?”

At Health Care Renewal, Roy Poses pulls the covers off recent media coverage of Hepatitis C drugs. He argues that while most are stunned by the amazingly high prices, the discussion seems based on the assumption that these new drugs are near miraculous, curing nearly every case of the disease. He believes the discussion misses the lack of good evidence that these drugs provide any clinical benefits, much less benefits that outweigh their harms. Read Roy’s thoughtful analysis, Hepatitis C Marketing Frenzy Continues, a Reminder Not to Ignore the Evidence.

Digital Health and EHRs

In the National Center for Policy Analysis’ Health Policy Blog, John R. Graham explores the rapid rise and impact of digital health. He breaks down the numbers and describes two of the hottest companies, Oscar and Zenefits. John’s article is Digital Health Venture Funding Doubled in 2014.

At Health System Ed, Peggy Salvatore suggests that Today’s Electronic Patient Record Systems are Tomorrow’s Horse and Buggies.  She summarizes a key take away point: “When leadership guru Tony Robbins dedicates part of a chapter in his new book on money management to the technological advances in healthcare, it’s time to take notice. Health tech is a game-changer.”

…and then in e-CareManagement blog, there’s me (Vince Kuraitis) offering perspectives on the evolving Patient Digital Health Platform ecosystem. Have you noticed the splurge of tech company announcements about healthcare platforms — Apple, Samsung, Salesforce/Philips, Google… what are these companies doing in healthcare? I share slides from my keynote at the recent Healthcare Unbound conference in 7 Questions Shaping the Patient Digital Health Platform (PDHP) Ecosystem.

In a Category All By Herself

Allow me to explain the double meaning here. First, it’s a tribute to the hard working Julie Ferguson, the behind-the-scenes organizer of Health Wonk Review. Thanks, Julie! Second, Julie’s post just didn’t fit in any other category.

At Workers’ Comp Insider, Julie Ferguson blogs about a new study conducted among nurses that offers further evidence that working the night shift poses an increase in mortality risk: Graveyard shift may be living up to its name: shift work & nursing health risks. The study suggests that all-cause mortality is as much as 11% higher.

That’s it!  Winter’s not so bad after all. The next issue of the Health Wonk Review will be hosted by Jason Shafrin at Healthcare Economist.


medium_2224254201photo credit #1: Pixel rhythm via photopin cc

photo credit#2: kisses are a better fate than wisdom via photopin cc

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