The CMS has unveiled its draft Medicare physician fee schedule and Quality Payment Program rule for 2021, and it includes proposals to broaden the list of telehealth services Medicare can cover, simplify billing and coding requirements for office-based and outpatient evaluation and management visits, and boost payment cuts for certain specialty care providers. The agency also recommends changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program's quality reporting requirements and quality performance standards, raising the Merit-based Incentive Payment System's performance threshold and postponing implementation of the MIPS Value Pathways program until 2022.
WellCare Health Plans, a unit of Centene, has partnered with delivery service Shipt to offer free home delivery of groceries and other essential items to around 200,000 Medicare Advantage members across 23 states for the remainder of this year. "We look forward to offering this new benefit as one more way to simplify access to everyday essentials, ensure continuity of care, and help our members stay safe and healthy during this challenging time," said Centene senior vice president Michael Polen.
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A study in JAMA Network Open shows that 59.3% of older men and 56.2% of older women were overscreened for colorectal cancer, while 74.1% of older women were overscreened for breast cancer and 45.8% for cervical cancer. Overscreening refers to screening of patients who fall beyond the recommended age ranges for screening, and the findings highlight "the need for additional research to identify risks and benefits of screening in older adults and to determine who may benefit from screening after the recommended upper age limits," researchers wrote.
About 5% of Medicare patients surveyed had received home-based care from 2011 to 2017, and 75% of beneficiaries in that group were homebound, researchers reported in Health Affairs. "The significant unmet needs of this high-need, high-cost population and the known health and cost benefits of home-based medical care should spur stakeholders to expand the availability of this care," the researchers wrote.
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order directing the HHS to issue rules within 60 days ensuring that certain telehealth regulatory changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in place once the public health emergency ends. The order directs the HHS to develop a payment model that permits rural health care providers to waive some existing Medicare policies and ensure more predictable financial payments, and also directs the HHS, the USDA and the Federal Communications Commission to establish a task force focused on developing broadband infrastructure to support rural telehealth services.
Research fellow Ananya Malhotra and her colleagues have developed an artificial intelligence program to identify people at high risk for pancreatic cancer based on symptoms previously associated with pancreatic cancer as well as others that occurred frequently in pancreatic cancer patients' health records. The algorithm predicted pancreatic cancer up to 20 months before diagnosis in a pilot study involving people younger than 60, and it could be used to refine screening protocols.
A machine learning tool developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzes and classifies chest X-rays for signs of lung collapse, an enlarged heart and other conditions and decides whether certain tasks can be handled by the tool or should be handled by an expert. The system was less expensive and more accurate than baselines, but it has not been tested using actual experts.
Research published in Health Affairs found 49% of communities that have a median income less than $35,000 did not have any ICU beds, compared with 3% of communities with a median income of greater than $90,000. Researchers said scarce critical care availability in low-income areas may worsen disparities seen in COVID-19 deaths.
Researchers found that Alzheimer's disease and dementia incidence rates in the US and Europe dropped by 16% and 13% per decade over the past 25 years, respectively, which may be due to better cardiovascular risk factor control and higher educational attainment. However, the findings in Neurology didn't show reduced Alzheimer's and dementia prevalence in Asia, Africa and South America, which may be caused by elevated smoking rates in those continents.
The coronavirus pandemic has worsened problems caused by health illiteracy in the US, experts say. Nearly 30% of patients in a study found health care providers' instructions difficult to understand, numerous studies have linked low health literacy to negative health outcomes and higher health care usage, and a disproportionate share of patients from groups with notoriously low health literacy are dying of COVID-19.
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