Insurance plan

UnitedHealthcare launches insurance plan focused on telehealth care

UnitedHealthcare is the nation’s largest insurer, and the goal is to make telemedicine more affordable and accessible – but a survey reported by NPR notes that “most” people still prefer in-person medical services, even if telehealth works “OK”. Medicaid, Amazon and many others are also in the news.

Stat: UnitedHealthcare launches first virtual health insurance plan

The pandemic has sparked a frantic race to figure out how to deliver healthcare virtually. As the dust settles, UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest insurer, is laying the groundwork for the future with a health plan built primarily around telemedicine services designed to be more affordable and accessible. (Aguilar, 10/18)

NPR: Telehealth is OK, patients say, but most prefer in-person appointments

New Yorker Charlie Freyre’s sinuses had been bothering him for weeks last winter, during an outbreak of COVID-19 in the city. This was before vaccines were widely available. “I was just trying to stay in my apartment as much as possible,” Freyre says, so seeing her doctor via an online appointment “seemed like a more convenient option. And you know, it was very simple and very easy. The $20 co-pay was well worth it for the 26-year-old ad salesman, whose girlfriend also regularly relies on telehealth to see her nutritionist. “It’s a really easy way to get expert advice without necessarily having to leave your apartment,” filling out forms or spending free time in waiting rooms, Freyre says. “We all know what going to the doctor can be like.” (Noguchi, 10/18)

In Medicare and Medicaid news —

Modern healthcare: Insurers want CMS to launch rule on breakthrough tech coverage

Insurers back Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ plan to repeal a Trump-era rule allowing Medicare to cover medical devices designated as “breakthrough” technology by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, comments say of the public on the proposed rule. Payers, patient safety advocates and independent experts had recommended that President Joe Biden’s administration reverse the rule, citing concerns about patient safety and questions about the value of automatically providing Medicare coverage for unproven technologies. Had the original rule taken effect, CMS would have lost its ability to withdraw approval of devices later found to be harmful to people on Medicare. (Brady, 10/18)

In other healthcare industry news –

Stat: Amazon is stepping up its healthcare lobbying operation

Amazon is stepping up its efforts to influence health care policy at the federal and state levels. The tech giant recently hired Claire Winiarek, a senior policy official with the professional association of pharmacy benefit managers, as director of health policy. And Amazon has launched a search for three other health policy advocates who will focus on federal health policy, health devices and services, and state-level health policy, according to LinkedIn posts this month. -this. (Cohr, 10/19)

Philadelphia Inquirer: Tower Health Denied Property Tax Exemption for Three Chester County Hospitals

A Chester County judge has rejected Tower Health’s offer of property tax exemptions for hospitals in Brandywine, Jennersville and Phoenixville, saying these operations have become too similar to for-profit businesses and do not deserve to be exempt from property taxes. The decision is a further blow to Tower, which has pledged to appeal as it strives to reverse significant losses. This represents a rare loss for any nonprofit hospital. The decision also shows how health care is becoming more complicated and removed from its philanthropic roots, at least according to one judge. (Brubaker, 10/19)

Stat: Doctor On Demand, Grand Rounds Venture Begins To Take Shape

In May, two private health technology startups – Doctor on Demand and Grand Rounds – announced that they would merge, creating a new company focused both on managing how patients receive healthcare and on providing that care, virtually. On Monday, the combined company unveiled a new name: Inclusive Health. (Herper, 10/18)

Detroit Free Press: CVS Health Appoints Khaldun Its First Director of Health Equity

Dr. Joneigh Khaldhun, who led Michigan through the first 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic as the state’s medical director, has been named vice president and chief health equity officer for CVS Health, announced the company on Monday. “His expertise in creating solutions to help improve health outcomes will help us continue to address health inequities for the clients and communities we serve,” said Dr. Kyu Rhee, Vice -senior chairman of CVS and Aetna CMO, in a statement. (Jordan Shamus, Butcher and Hall, 10/18)

Modern healthcare: expect a permanent increase in salaries in the healthcare sector, experts say

Labor costs for healthcare personnel will remain above pre-pandemic levels, which has prompted new recruitment and retention strategies. Nearly all of the 73 health system administrators surveyed have struggled to fill vacancies as more clinical staff burn out, according to a new Kaufman Hall poll. Nearly three-quarters of executives increased clinician salaries as a result, while about 90% increased support staff salaries. (Kacik, 10/18)

KHN: Hygienists brace for pitched battles with dentists in battles over practice laws

This year, the Illinois legislature was considering steps to expand oral health treatment in a state where millions of people live in dental care deserts. But when the Illinois State Dental Society met virtually with key lawmakers for its annual lobby day in the spring, proposals to allow dental hygienists to clean the teeth of some disadvantaged patients without a dentist seemed doomed. (Bruce, 10/19)

And in the news about the spread of MRSA —

CIDRAP: Elbows can transmit MRSA as much as punches

Cleveland VA Medical Center researchers have reported that punching and elbowing are associated with frequent transfer of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Elbows have increasingly been used as greetings over fists and handshakes with the idea that they reduce the potential for transfer of pathogenic microorganisms. To test this hypothesis, the researchers recruited 40 patients isolated for MRSA colonization and matched them with a research staff member wearing sterile gloves and a piece of cotton cloth on their elbows. Each patient colonized with MRSA performed a salute with a staff member using their right fist or elbow, and a salute using their left fist or elbow, with the order of the salutations alternating between consecutive participants. The researchers then analyzed the fists and elbows of patients colonized with MRSA, as well as the gloves and elbow pads of staff members, for the presence of MRSA. (10/18)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage by major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.