In just five years, hepatitis C has changed from a difficult-to-treat chronic condition to one that is readily cured by a short course of medication. Medical breakthroughs have now created the possibility of eliminating the transmission of HCV, but also bring a new challenge for the health system—how to identify individuals carrying the hepatitis C virus (HCV), and how to pay for life-saving treatments. This Issue Brief reviews recent evidence on the cost-effectiveness of screening and treatment strategies, and makes the case for universal, one-time HCV screening for all US adults.
National Variation in Opioid Prescribing and Risk of Prolonged Use for Opioid-Naive Patients Treated in the Emergency Department for Ankle Sprains
Between 2011 and 2015, nearly one in four patients with ankle sprains were prescribed opioids in the emergency department. The overall prescribing rate declined during the study period, but varied significantly by state, ranging from 2.8% in North Dakota to 40% in Arkansas. Patients prescribed the largest amounts of opioid were nearly five times more likely to transition to continued use as those prescribed lesser amounts.
In a trial examining five approaches to smoking cessation among over 6,000 U.S. employees, financial incentives combined with free cessation aids were more effective at getting employees to stop smoking than free cessation aids alone. Specifically, the most effective intervention (free cessation aids plus $600 in redeemable funds) helped 2.9% of participants stop smoking through six months after their target quit date; this rate jumped to 12.7% among participants who actively engaged in the trial and were more motivated to quit. For employees with access to usual care (information and a free motivational text messaging service), offering free cessation aids or electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) did not help them quit smoking.
Trends in P2Y12 Receptor Inhibitor Use and Adherence After Percutaneous Coronary Intervention, 2008-2016
Post-angioplasty, patient adherence to recommended antiplatelet therapy decreased when newer, more expensive drugs were introduced. From 2008-2016, as the use of newer agents increased, the proportion of patients not filling any antiplatelet prescription within 30 days of discharge increased from 6.4% to 19.1%. In the subsequent 12 months, the newer drugs were associated with higher patient costs and lower adherence to recommended therapy.
A survey of state legislators revealed clear partisan differences in Medicaid reform priorities and policy preferences that states are pursuing in Section 1115 waiver applications. While there was some agreement across parties on broad goals for the Medicaid program, such as reducing health care spending and increasing affordability of health care, there was little consensus on specific policy changes needed to meet these goals.
In this study of more than 43,000 home health episodes following a hospitalization, handoffs between skilled nursing providers—a marker of discontinuity of care—substantially increased hospital readmissions, and were more detrimental for sicker patients. The estimates imply that a single handoff increases the likelihood of 30-day hospital readmission by 16% and that one in four hospitalizations during home health care could be avoided if handoffs were eliminated.
Reducing preventable and unplanned emergency department visits and hospitalizations is a major challenge in cancer care. In this review of best practices and supporting evidence, the authors identified five strategies that health systems and cancer programs can use to reduce acute care: (1) identify patients at high risk of unplanned acute care; (2) enhance access and care coordination; (3) standardize clinical pathways for symptom management; (4) develop new sites for urgent cancer care, and; (5) use early palliative care.
Surgical patients age 65 and over with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) were more likely to die within 30 days of admission and to die after a complication than those without ADRD. Having better-educated nurses in the hospital improved the likelihood of good outcomes for all surgical patients, but had a much greater effect in individuals with ADRD. Specifically, a 10% increase in the proportion of nurses with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or higher was associated with 10% lower odds of death and 10% lower odds of dying after a complication for surgical patients with ADRD.
Prior Authorization Requirements for Proprotein Convertase Subtilisin/Kexin Type 9 Inhibitors Across US Private and Public Payers
A comprehensive review of prior authorization (PA) requirements for a new class of expensive cholesterol-lowering drugs known as proprotein convertase subtilisin/kexin type 9 (PCSK9) inhibitors has found unusually complex and burdensome demands across public and private insurance plans in the United States. These findings raise concerns that current policies may create undue barriers to care even in medically appropriate patients, particularly since requirements were just as stringent for patients with a genetic condition that creates more clear-cut eligibility for PCSK9 inhibitor treatment.
In response to regulatory changes at the federal level, states that run their own marketplaces have taken steps to stabilize their individual markets. In this comparison of state-based and federally-facilitated marketplaces from 2016-2018, we find that SBMs had slower premium increases (43% vs. 75%), and fewer carrier exits, than FFMs. The total population participating in FFMs declined by 10%, while the enrolled population in SBMs remained largely stable, increasing by 2%. We find that the performance of the ACA marketplaces varies by state and appears to cluster around marketplace types.
State Firearm Laws and Interstate Firearm Deaths From Homicide and Suicide in the United States: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of Data by County
In a cross-sectional analysis of deaths from 2010 through 2014, states with stricter gun laws had lower rates of firearm-related homicide and suicide than states with less regulation. Counties in states with less restrictive firearms laws had relatively lower rates of firearm-related homicide when they bordered states with strict gun laws. In contrast, rates of gun violence in areas with strict gun laws were unaffected by lenient laws in neighboring states. Restrictions on the sale and ownership of firearms may have measurable effects on rates of firearm deaths, with potential spillover across state lines.
The Effect of Integration of Hospitals and Post-Acute Care Providers on Medicare Payment and Patient Outcomes
Vertical integration between hospitals and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) increases Medicare payments for the ﬁrst 60 days of care by $2,424 (17%), compared to hospital-SNF pairs that are not vertically integrated. These integrated hospital–SNF pairs also experience a decline in 30-day rates of rehospitalization or death of 5 percentage points on a base rate of 31.3%. Vertical integration between hospitals and home health agencies (HHAs) has little effect on Medicare payments and patient outcomes, nor does informal integration in either setting.
Association of Rideshare-Based Transportation Services and Missed Primary Care Appointments: A Clinical Trial
In a pragmatic trial, offering complimentary ridesharing services broadly to Medicaid patients did not reduce rates of missed primary care appointments. The uptake of free rides was low, and rates of missed appointments remained unchanged at 36%. Efforts to reduce missed appointments due to transportation barriers may require more targeted approaches.
This review examines prominent state efforts to expand health coverage to the remaining uninsured. It analyzes and compares efforts in Massachusetts, Vermont, Colorado, California, and Nevada and highlights insights and themes that emerge. It explores the context and climate for reform within the state, stakeholder involvement, political coalitions, financing, and possible opposition. As such, it serves as a case study in how different states build, or fail to build, the popular and political will towards health care coverage for all residents. This is the first in a series of reports that will monitor and analyze developments at the state level to expand coverage and improve access to care.
Association between Electronic Medical Record Implementation of Default Opioid Prescription Quantities and Prescribing Behavior in Two Emergency Departments
Setting a low quantity of opioid tablets as the default option in electronic medical record prescribing orders may “nudge” clinicians to prescribe fewer opioids. When two emergency departments implemented a 10-tablet default instead of a manual entry, the proportion of 10-tablet prescriptions written more than doubled, from 20.6% to 43.3%. Conversely, 20-tablet prescriptions decreased from 22.8% to 16.1%, and prescriptions for 11-19 tablets decreased from 33.5% to 20.1%.