Rising drug prices have spurred some companies to come up with new solutions to make health care and treatment more affordable for Americans. The Mark Cuban Cost Plus Drug Co. buys generic medications directly from pharmaceutical makers and sells them near cost; BetterMed makes zero-interest loans to help consumers pay for drugs and medical needs; and GoodRx offers discounts on prescriptions and care.
Patients' ability to connect to the Internet and use digital health tools a "sixth vital sign" that health professionals should be alert to, as it may affect whether patients can receive needed care, according to a commentary in the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. Digital health technologies can make a major difference in patient outcomes across a wide range of medical conditions, write Dr. David Klonoff of the Diabetes Research Institute at Mills-Peninsula Medical Center and colleagues.
New York City is making it mandatory for all workers in city-run health care facilities to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested once a week. The city is responding to an increase in cases caused by the highly contagious Delta variant.
Participants in dental continuing education programs accepted the need for virtual events because of the COVID-19 pandemic but still preferred an in-person format, Gordon Christensen, D.D.S., Ph.D., wrote in a Dental Economics report. Dr. Christensen, who has done more than 100 virtual CE programs during the pandemic, noted that virtual events should last from one to three hours for best results, and while a hands-on experience can be achieved using webcams, it is expensive, more difficult and not as effective as an in-person event. "The cost to produce a high-quality, effective virtual educational program is many times higher than for a high-quality live program," Dr. Christensen wrote.
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., said there has been no change to the agency's masking guidance amid increasing COVID-19 cases and the spread of the Delta variant, but the agency is "always looking at the data as the data come in," CNN and The Hill reported. According to the CDC, over 91 million Americans reside in counties considered to have high COVID-19 transmission rates, while the seven-day average for new cases is up at least 10% in 48 states. Less than half of the US population is fully vaccinated.
The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has been reviewing data from small studies examining the value of a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine for immunocompromised people, but no official recommendation has been made. Experts expressed concern that some immunocompromised patients may be seeking a third dose even without recommendations that they do so. The CDC continues to recommend that immunocompromised people who have been fully vaccinated continue to wear masks and practice physical distancing, according to The Hill.
ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., and Executive Director Kathleen T. O'Loughlin, D.M.D., sent a letter to the CMS urging the agency to increase reimbursement, accelerate payment and ease credentialing and audit protocols to increase the number of dentists who participate in the Medicaid program, ADA News reports. Drs. Klemmedson and O'Loughlin advocated for clear standards for dental audits and training of auditors, consistent adult benefits across programs and setting baseline payment for dental care at the 75th percentile of regional dental fees based on ADA data, among other measures.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock reported that the state has submitted a waiver application to the CMS to revamp its Medicaid expansion program, changing the name from Arkansas Works to the Arkansas Health and Opportunity for Me program. The state said it would run the program from Jan. 1, 2022, through Dec. 31, 2026, with the federal government paying 90% of costs. Arkansas has not enforced a work requirement in its Medicaid program since a federal judge halted it in 2019 but said in the waiver application it would seek to reinstate the provision if federal law or regulations allow it in the future.
The House Appropriations Committee is urging the CMS to reexamine the Appropriate Use Criteria Program after imaging groups requested its indefinite postponement. "While the committee recognizes the value of encouraging physicians and other healthcare professionals to consult [appropriate use criteria] and clinical guidelines to support medical decision making, more than seven years have passed since Congress created the AUC program, which has not advanced beyond educational and operations testing," according to the committee's report. Committee members also cited concerns over increases in lung cancer mortality and morbidity rates, and the ACR stated in a Thursday update that it is still "highly engaged" in the promotion and establishment of lung cancer screening programs.
SNMMI and its coalition of patient advocacy partners support The Facilitating Innovative Nuclear Diagnostics Act of 2021, which would change the CMS policy of bundling diagnostic PET radiopharmaceuticals in hospital outpatient procedures. "Innovative radiopharmaceuticals are revolutionizing the diagnosis and treatment of a wide variety of diseases, but under current CMS payment policies, these remarkable agents often are not available to Medicare beneficiaries, resulting in inequities in health care," said SNMMI President Dr. Richard Wahl