Aetna is splitting up with 11 of its 15 Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges. These cuts come after other major insurers — UnitedHealth and Humana —announced similar plans. Insurers leaving the marketplace reduces competition, which, according to your high school Econ teacher, is bad news for consumers. Additionally, fewer insurers could undo some of the progress the ACA has made (Think: better access to care, lower out-of-pocket costs, and higher quality care). So why the pull-back? Some are hinting that it’s simple retribution but Aetna reported a $200 million loss from its individual insurance, citing lack of healthy people to balance out high-cost customers. And why aren’t healthy people buying on the exchanges? Ask your 20-something, self-employed cousin about premiums vs. the penalty fee. (Hint: one is *much* lower).
Jeopardy champ slash chess master slash oncologist? In several Asian countries, Watson, the often anthropomorphized computer, is taking in the characteristics of specific oncology patients and recommending specific courses of treatment. After consuming (we refuse to say “reading”) millions of pages of medical text books and journal articles, Watson now advises on effective courses of cancer treatment for real live patients. Not that Watson’s advice is necessarily followed by the oncologists on staff but apparently they often agree. Can you imagine the argument that follows a disagreement between those two massive egos? One is a robot-like being, forged through years of hard work in a lab and the other is… well… a computer. Yeah, we went there.
Longest and shortest life expectancies at birth:
Source: World Health Organization
Should the FDA allow the import or production of drugs from facilities with known quality issues in times of drug shortages?
Galvani Bioelectronics. No, it is not Italian club music. It’s the new company formed by Verily Life Sciences and pharma giant, GSK. Over the next few years they will invest nearly $700M USD to spearhead the bioelectronic medicine field. That’s a lot of money for a device projected to be smaller than a grain of rice. These miniature, implantable devices are designed to attach to individual nerves to first interpret then correct the irregular electrical signals caused by many chronic diseases. We’re not sure which will hurt more, the arthritis that caused you to get it or the shock you’ll feel every time it kicks in. Ok, we have no idea if it shocks you. Or if it hurts. But it probably does.
MedCity, in southeast London, is a collaboration between the mayor and the capital’s three academic health science centers – Imperial College Academic Health Science Centre, King’s Health Partners, and UCL Partners – and it just might be the future of healthcare. Significant changes to an industry typically come from the outside. The Dollar Shave Club was not started by Gillette, Uber was not a spin-off from a taxi company, and Kim Kardashian was…you get the point. MedCity is a collaboration, not a disruption. It is meeting in the middle and tackling clinical trial recruitment, bench research, market access, workspace/equipment, and fundraising/investment opportunities. The three most important words in healthcare might be: location, location, location.
Great news for individuals suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and not so great news for pharma companies holding patents on the monoclonal antibody-based biologics currently used to treat RA. An Australian biotech, Mesoblast, completed Phase II clinical trials on its stem cell treatment for rheumatoid arthritis to astounding results (some have inserted the word “cure” here). In a test designed to identify whether the stem cell treatment is efficient—by achieving 20% relief of signs and symptoms—researchers instead saw a 70% improvement among more than one-third of the patients who received MPC-300-IV. Since some RA patients are unable to take biologics, a stem cell therapy could benefit wider audiences.
Leaving an unencrypted laptop containing more than 2,230 patient records in an unlocked vehicle overnight might be a bad idea. Even more so when it turns up stolen and your company is facing its third major security breach in a single year. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), “Demographic information, clinical information, health insurance information, patient names, addresses, credit card numbers and their expiration dates, and dates of birth” are some of the data stolen during three incidents for Advocate Health Care Network in 2013. Those mishaps have resulted in a $5.5 million settlement with the HHS, the largest data breach settlement ever. Advocate, however, reports that there have been no indications that the information has been misused… Yet. Yay?