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Payment And Delivery Reform Case Study: Cancer Care


July 3rd, 2014

Editor’s note: In addition to Darshak Sanghavi, Mark McClellan, and Kavita Patel, this post is also authored by Kate Samuels, project manager at Brookings. It is adapted from a forthcoming full-length case study, the second in a series from the Engelberg Center’s Merkin Initiative on Physician Payment Reform and Clinical Leadership designed to support clinician leadership of health care delivery, payment, and financing reform. The case study will be presented during the Merkin Initiative’s “MEDTalk” event on July 9 from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM EDT, featuring live story-telling and knowledge-sharing from patients, providers, and policymakers.

Oncology practices and hospitals across the nation struggle with providing sustainable, comprehensive, and coordinated cancer care. Clinical leaders with strategies and models to improve the quality and value of health care often don’t know how to navigate the landscape of payment and delivery reform options to sustain their innovations.

We use a case study approach to investigate and tell the story of the New Mexico Cancer Center (NMCC), an independent cancer center that is experimenting with innovative ways to improve patient-centered oncology care. We identify challenges for creating sustainable and supportive payments models, and we share the broader strategic and policy lessons for adopting alternative payment models.

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Family Caregiving And Palliative Care: Closing The Policy Gap


July 2nd, 2014

Editor’s note: Carol O’Shaughnessy also coauthored this post. This post is part of a periodic Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

Family caregivers — what would we do without them?  So why can’t we do more for and with them?

Many studies have demonstrated that family caregivers provide a wide range of essential care to people with serious chronic illnesses or disabilities — the same people who can benefit from palliative care applied as an ongoing approach to care, not just a hospital-based intervention.

It is family caregivers who are responsible for much of the complex care at home, including managing pain and other medications, monitoring equipment, and communicating with the palliative care team.  To say that most family caregivers are not prepared to take on this demanding role is an understatement.

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Call For Papers: Care Of Older Adults


June 27th, 2014

Health Affairs encourages submissions from authors on topics surrounding the care of older adults, including new models of care and the management of multiple chronic conditions among this population. We are interested in work that spans the full range of care settings, including primary care and specialty practices, hospitals, nursing homes and other long-term care settings.

In addition to exploring topics that are directly related to the provision of care, we also welcome papers on a broad array of related dimensions that affect care, access, and affordability, such as financing models, coverage, and size and composition of the workforce. We are grateful to The John A. Hartford Foundation for providing support for our ongoing coverage of these topics.

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Palliative Care: A New Direction For Education And Training


May 28th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post is part of a periodic Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

If the needs of older adults with serious illness are to be met in ways that are different from today, then the education and training of physicians and nurses will need to be different.

The fundamental approach to decision-making for the older adult with serious illness needs to change from the standard approach to the palliative care approach. In the latter, overall goals of care are established for the patient in the context of his or her family. These goals take into account what is known about the illness, what is inevitable versus what is modifiable, the prognosis, and patient and family preferences. Then, plans to achieve these goals are established.

In contrast, the standard approach is to first, identify all of the problems through diagnostic testing and then to solve each of the biological problems. This approach has guided American medicine since the 1970s and assumes that a person’s health is the sum of the component biological parts.

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Narrative Matters, The Next Chapter: Amy Berman Reflects On ‘Living Life In My Own Way’


May 22nd, 2014

Almost four years ago I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. And yet, as devastating as the diagnosis was, I have a great story to share, a success in every sense. I did something so simple yet so rarely done. I chose the road less taken, and it led to better health, better care, and significantly lower cost.

In October 2010 I was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer, a rare and incurable cancer. I saw the red spot on my right breast and immediately went to my doctor. Unfortunately, this type of cancer typically spreads before it appears on the skin. In my case it spread to my lower spine before it was ever noticed. I felt fine. I did everything right. But my prognosis was bleak and devastating; only 11-20 percent of people like me survive five years.

In April 2012 I wrote about my treatment decisions in the Narrative Matters section of Health Affairs, in the essay “Living Life in My Own Way—and Dying That Way as Well.”

Most people react to a cancer diagnosis with a familiar knee jerk response. Get the cancer out. Opt for full-bore treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation. When one treatment fails, they search for another. Fight. Fight. Fight.

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Exhibit Of The Month: Effects Of Dementia On Hospitalization


April 29th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post is part of a new “Exhibit of the Month” series. Readers who’d like to highlight other noteworthy exhibits from the same issue are encouraged to make their pitch in the comments section below.

This month’s exhibit, published in the April issue of Health Affairs, looks at the effects of dementia on hospitalization and emergency department use among fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries from 2000-2008.

These findings are consistent with previous research that looked at rates of hospital and avoidable hospital use among community residents with dementia and those without, according to authors Zhanlian Feng, Laura Coots, Yevgeniya Kaganova, and Joshua Wiener in “Hospital And ED Use Among Medicare Beneficiaries With Dementia Varies By Setting And Proximity To Death.” But, as demonstrated in this month’s exhibit of the month, Feng and coauthors are the first to compare community residents and nursing home residents.

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The Latest Health Wonk Review


April 28th, 2014

This week’s edition of the Health Wonk Review comes to us from Louise Norris at Colorado Health Insurance Insider. In her “Ways the ACA Could Be Improved” edition, Norris offers an insightful read and mentions the Health Affairs Blog post by Ellen Goodman on her sister’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease and the importance of having a conversation about end-of-life wishes.

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Narrative Matters: Lost In Translation: To Our Chinese Patient, Alzheimer’s Meant ‘Crazy And Catatonic’


April 28th, 2014

In the April Health Affairs Narrative Matters essay, when cultural perceptions get in the way, a Chinese geriatrician and his colleagues find a way to care for a patient newly diagnosed with dementia. Xinqi Dong and E-Shien Chang’s article is freely available to all readers, or you can listen to the podcast.

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When Less Is More: Issues Of Overuse In Health Care


April 25th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

About 18 months ago, Daniel Wolfson, president of the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) Foundation began asking audiences of clinicians if any of them had ever seen a patient subjected to unnecessary medical care. As one of the architects of the Choosing Wisely campaign, an initiative of the ABIM Foundation intended to reduce overuse of medical services, Wolfson had a particular interest in the answer to this question. He was surprised to find that in some of his audiences, a majority of clinicians have personal experience with overuse.

Clinicians’ newfound willingness to concede that overuse is a problem comes as good news for people who have long labored to increase awareness of this aspect of medicine in America, including the authors of this blog and many of the readers of Health Affairs.

Overuse is costly, pervasive, and causes harm to patients, yet it has been remarkably difficult to get the medical profession, health care industry, and general public to take note of it, much less take steps to reduce it. Today, however, there are multiple efforts underway that offer hope for real change, including Choosing Wisely, the growth of palliative care, and the Lown Institute’s Right Care Alliance; but until now, the most difficult step has been the first: for patients, payers, physicians and policymakers to acknowledge the scope of the problem.

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Families Under Stress: Reflections On April’s Narrative Matters Essay On Dementia


April 16th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post responds to the April Narrative Matters essay by Gary Epstein-Lubow, a geriatric psychiatrist, which recounts the life-changing stress experienced by relatives who care for loved ones with dementia. Epstein-Lubow’s essay is freely available to all readers, or you can listen to him read it. You can also read an abridged version of the essay published April 15 in the Washington Post.

When my daughters were five and six years old, I took them to visit my grandmother in the Rosa Coplon Home in Buffalo, New York.

“Bubbie,” I said, “These are my little girls. Do you remember when I was this age?”

She looked at me and at them and finally held out her arms to embrace us and said (in Yiddish), “I don’t know who you are, but I know you belong to me.”

That experience so affected my elder daughter that when she was a teenager she undertook a project interviewing older people and creating a radio program from the tapes.

I thought of this moment when I read Gary Epstein-Lubow’s Narrative Matters essay, “A Family Disease: Witnessing Firsthand The Toll That Dementia Takes on Caregivers,” published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

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Companies Must Approach Advanced Health Events As A Business Issue


April 16th, 2014

Editor’s note: In addition to J. Brent Pawlecki, this post is also coauthored by Dan Morhaim. For more on this topic, see the April issue of Health Affairs, which features a series of articles on Alzheimer’s disease.

In the corporate world, every company has a chief financial officer charged with ensuring that the organization meets all tax and accounting mandates and to report the data to officers of the company, shareholders, employees and the general public.

Yet, while organizations expend great effort addressing these matters, many miss another opportunity to protect their employees’ well-being by failing to talk about end-of-life care.  Most companies consider advanced illness to be a private matter. But in fact, this hands-off approach most assuredly affects the financial health of any organization – and the emotional well-being of its workforce.

Beyond its direct impact on individuals’ health and well-being, advanced illness can take a heavy economic toll, including its effects on productivity, health and benefits costs, employee potential and engagement.  According to the MetLife Mature Market Institute study, the total estimated cost to employers for all full-time employed caregivers is a staggering $33.6 billion.  The average cost per employee for caregiving responsibilities ranges from $2,100 to $2,400.

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It’s Always Too Soon Until It’s Too Late: Advance Care Planning With Alzheimer’s


April 10th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post is published in conjunction with the April issue of Health Affairs, which features a series of articles on Alzheimer’s disease.

I cannot write about Alzheimer’s disease without writing about my sister. For that matter, it is probably best to begin with the building where the word was first said to her. After all, my sister Jane was an architecture critic and buildings mattered to her, as did the urbanscape, and her whole vision of a people-centered city.

The building where she’d been diagnosed with “mild cognitive impairment” was a former military base now recycled into a labyrinth of medical offices, including the department where the people who clocked and studied—but could not curtail—the decline of her memory were lodged with their pencils and papers.

To get to the office, we had to drive into the imposing parking garage, take an elevator to the only floor where there was a bridge to the medical building, cross that bridge, then take a second elevator downstairs to register, get an electronic key, then ride upstairs again and find our way through a mysterious series of halls to the right door and unlock it.

This elaborate rite of passage never failed to strike me as a bizarre test in itself. Who designed this? What memory-impaired patient could remotely navigate this journey? Was this some sort of black humor, a way to triage those with or without the “executive function” to get there? Those with or without a caregiver who could lead her?

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New Health Affairs: Implications Of Alzheimer’s And The State Of Research


April 7th, 2014

Health Affairs’ April issue addresses the litany of public and personal ramifications of Alzheimer’s disease—the most expensive condition in the United States both in terms of real costs and the immeasurable toll on loved ones. Articles examine best practices and models of care; a global view of the disease; the effects on caregivers; and what may lie ahead for a disproportionately underfunded research community.

Unnecessary hospital and emergency department (ED) visits are particularly difficult on people with Alzheimer’s—and costly to the health care system—but they experience them more often than their counterparts without dementia. Zhanlian Feng of RTI International and colleagues examined Medicare claims data linked to the Health and Retirement Study to determine hospital and ED use among older people with and without dementia across community and institutional settings. They found that in the community older people with dementia were more likely to have a hospitalization or ED visit than those without dementia, and that both groups had a marked increase in health care usage near the end of life.

Specifically, they found significant differences in hospitalizations and ED visits among community-dwelling residents, with 26.7 percent of dementia patients versus 18.7 percent of non-dementia residents experiencing hospitalization, and 34.5 percent versus 25.4 percent experiencing an ED visit. Differences were less pronounced among nursing home residents and tended to even out among all groups in the last year of life. The researchers suggest that policy makers consider promoting the use of alternative end-of-life options such as hospice care and providing supportive services and advance care planning to Medicare beneficiaries that can help reduce avoidable hospital-based care.

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Health Affairs Briefing Reminder: Long Reach Of Alzheimer’s Disease


April 4th, 2014

Despite decades of effort, finding breakthrough treatments or a cure for Alzheimer’s has eluded researchers. In the April 2014 issue of Health AffairsThe Long Reach Of Alzheimer’s Disease, we explore the many subjects raised by the disease: the optimal care patients receive and the testing of new models, international comparisons of how the disease is treated, families’ end-of-life dilemmas, a new public-private research collaboration designed to produce improved treatments, and others.

Please join us on Wednesday, April 9, at W Hotel in Washington, DC, for a Health Affairs briefing where we will unveil the issue.  We are delighted to welcome Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health to deliver the Keynote. Read the full briefing agenda.

WHEN:
Wednesday, April 9, 2014
8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

WHERE:
W Hotel Washington
515 15th Street NW, Washington, DC (Metro Center)
Great Room, Lower Level

 REGISTER ONLINE

Follow live Tweets from the briefing @HA_Events, and join in the conversation with the hashtag #HA_Alzheimers.

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The Manifest Destinies Of Managed Care And Palliative Care


April 2nd, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post is also coauthored by Karol DiBello and is the sixth in a periodic Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

Two unremitting forces are shaping changes in the U.S. health care system: (1) the graying of America or “silver tsunami,” in which 10,000 individuals are now turning age 65 each day and (2) the cost trends associated with caring for seniors and those with multiple chronic and often life-limiting conditions. Health care experts have identified palliative care and managed care as essential ways to address the special needs of an aging population and for providing care that can lower the rate of national health expenditures.

The complex set of clinical demands of this growing wave of Medicare members includes multimorbidity, frailty as well as functional and cognitive decline.  To effectively and cost-efficiently manage the needs of this population, Managed Care Organizations (MCOs) as well as other risk assuming entities must address the quality and cost of the most expensive segment of this group of seniors.

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Ethical Dilemmas In Prison And Jail Health Care


March 10th, 2014

Editor’s note: This post is published in conjunction with the March issue of Health Affairs, which features a cluster of articles on jails and health.

Prison and jail health care, despite occasional pockets of inspiration, provided by programs affiliated with academic institutions, is an arena of endless ethical conflict in which health care providers must negotiate relentlessly with prison officials to provide necessary and decent care.  The “right to health care” articulated by the Supreme Court pre-ordained these ongoing tensions.  The court reasoned that to place persons in prison or jail, where they could not secure their own care, and then to fail to provide that care, could result in precisely the pain and suffering prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

Good reasoning was followed by a deeply flawed articulation of the “right” that defines the medical care entitlement as care provided to inmates without “deliberate indifference to their serious medical needs.” By forging a standard which was, and remains, unique in medicine and health care delivery — designed to avoid intruding on state malpractice litigation regarding adequacy of practice and standards of care — the court guaranteed that dispute would surround delivery.  That first framing, which did not establish a right to “standard of care” or to care delivered according to a “community standard,” set the stage for endless ethical and legal conflict.

The Eighth Amendment’s deliberate indifference standard, forbidding cruel and unusual punishment, presents a relatively demanding standard for proving liabil­ity.  The Eighth Amendment, as interpreted by the federal courts, does not render prison officials or staff liable in federal cases for malpractice or accidents, nor does it resolve inter-professional disputes — or patient-professional disputes — about the best choice of treatment. It does require, however, that sufficient resources be made available to implement three basic rights: the right to access to care, the right to care that is ordered, and the right to a professional medical judgment.

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Good Palliative Care Requires Good Long-Term Care: A Medicare Strategy To Strengthen Both


March 10th, 2014

Editor’s NoteThis post is also coauthored by Robert Berenson, an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute. 

This post is the fifth in a periodic Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

Alongside the challenge of improving insurance coverage for palliative care, caregivers and practitioners face a continuing challenge in mobilizing long-term services and supports (LTSS), that is, personal assistance to those unable to perform basic tasks of daily living.  These services are an essential part of palliative care.  Whatever a patient’s wishes, unless LTSS are available to support patients and caregivers at home, the emergency department and the hospital become the only option when a symptom or caregiver exhaustion crisis occurs.

But identifying, accessing and coordinating long-term care services are not easy.  Further, financing to support these services is beyond the scope of standard insurance. Few people have private long-term care insurance, and Medicare’s coverage of nursing homes and home health is contingent on the need for skilled nursing or therapy care. MedPac reports that in 2011, Medicare-covered nursing home stays averaged only about 27 days and home health aide (personal care) visits averaged only about five per home health user.  Although a recent legal settlement has required CMS to clarify that coverage is not contingent on evidence of patient improvement, the skilled care requirement remains intact.

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New Health Affairs: ACA’s Impact On Americans With HIV/AIDS And Jail-Involved Individuals


March 3rd, 2014

Health Affairs’ March issue, released today, explores how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could affect two key sectors of the population with unique public health needs—those living with HIV/AIDS and people who have recently cycled through local jails.

When it comes to HIV treatment, timing is everything. Dana Goldman of the University of Southern California and coauthors modeled HIV transmission and prevention based on when HIV-positive individuals started combination antiretroviral treatment (cART). They estimate that from 1996-2009, early treatment initiation in the US prevented 188,700 HIV cases and avoided $128 billion in life expectancy losses.

The authors highlight treatment at “very early” stages (when CD4 white blood cell counts are greater than 500, consistent with current treatment guidelines in the US) as responsible for four-fifths of prevented cases. Early treatment both reduces morbidity and mortality in people living with HIV/AIDS, and decreases the transmission of the disease to the uninfected. Goldman and coauthors conclude that early treatment has clear value for both HIV-positive and HIV-negative populations in the US.

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Implementing Health Reform: Medicaid Asset Rules And The Affordable Care Act


February 24th, 2014

On February 23, 2014, the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services released a State Medicaid Directors Letter analyzing the application of Medicaid liens, estate recoveries, transfer-of-asset rules, and post-eligibility income rules to individuals who become eligible for Medicaid because of their modified-adjusted gross income (MAGI).

Background

Contrary to the flat-earth concept of Medicaid espoused by Chief Justice Roberts in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius, Medicaid has never been a single program but rather a cluster of programs with quite different purposes and rules. One of its more controversial and problematic roles has been to serve as our nation’s default program for financing long-term care services. Nursing home care, and even community-based long term care, is very costly, and long-term care can easily overwhelm the income and resources of people who are otherwise comfortably middle income. From its inception, Medicaid has been available to pay for long-term care for people who are unable to afford it after they have effectively become impoverished by “spending down” their own assets and income.

From very early in the Medicaid program’s history, however, there has been a concern that people who could otherwise afford to pay for at least some long-term care services would voluntarily impoverish themselves, transferring assets to their children or to others to make themselves eligible for Medicaid. Congress and the states have therefore adopted laws and regulations to limit asset transfers by Medicaid recipients. These prohibitions were initially evaded through the use of trusts and other financial devices, resulting in the enactment of additional laws to bar these evasions.

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Care Delivery And Coordination In The Accountable Care Environment


February 19th, 2014

Editor’s Note: This post is the fourth in a periodic Health Affairs Blog series on palliative care, health policy, and health reform. The series features essays adapted from and drawing on an upcoming volume, Meeting the Needs of Older Adults with Serious Illness: Challenges and Opportunities in the Age of Health Care Reform, in which clinicians, researchers and policy leaders address 16 key areas where real-world policy options to improve access to quality palliative care could have a substantial role in improving value.

As we enter the world of accountable care, palliative care programs bring tremendous assets to our health care system. Accountable care organizations (ACOs) seek to improve quality and reduce costs for a defined population of patients, and palliative care offers value on both the quality and cost sides of the equation.

Palliative care improves quality

Patients facing a serious illness value survival, quality of life, and minimization of suffering for themselves and their families. For patients with far-advanced disease, hospice care is the “gold standard” of care in meeting these goals. Palliative care achieves these goals for patients who are living with a serious illness but may not be at the end of life. Many studies demonstrate a panoply of improved outcomes for patients receiving palliative care: improved quality of life, reduced symptoms, enhanced emotional support, improved communication with physicians, earlier and more frequent use of hospice, reductions in family distress, improved survival, and greater satisfaction with care.

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