18-17 Segment 1: Medicare Tackles the Opioid Epidemic

Copyright: backyardproduction / 123RF Stock Photo

 

With the opioid epidemic continuing to take many lives every year, people are concerned with how to stop it. In order to help counter this epidemic, Medicare has taken steps to implement limits on the prescriptions of opioids. However, the Medicare proposal has left doctors wondering if these new limits will do more harm than good for patients.

Currently, the United States is experiencing the second wave of the opioid epidemic. Dr. Anna Lembke, Associate Professor and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that opioid addiction arises from the prescription of these medications as a go-to for doctors even if the medical condition does not necessarily call for it. Furthermore, Dr. Sally Satel, an addiction psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine and Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute, states that another issue is not just the prescribing of opioid medications, but the over-prescribing. In many cases, a doctor will prescribe a patient an unnecessary amount of opioids, but this often leads to leftover medication that tends to get into the hands of people who are likely to abuse it. So, one way that Medicare is working to counteract this is by regulating the quantity and overall dose of opioids that are allowed to be prescribed to a patient. Dr. Satel explains that by limiting the number of pills allowed when refilling a prescription, not only will it decrease the number of leftover pills, but it will also guarantee that those who benefit from opioids continue to take them appropriately. Along with this, Dr. Lembke states that this limit on the number allowed to be prescribed is important because doctors most likely would not limit their prescriptions enough to a point that would allow for a decrease in the epidemic. With this regulation, the number of leftover pills being circulated outside of who they were prescribed to will decrease which will allow for a drop in the number of people addicted to prescription opioids.

The proposed Medicare regulations also came with a second leg to it. This other guideline would cut-off any doctor from prescribing a high-dose of opioid medications. However, Dr. Satel explains that many pain physicians had problems with this regulation because it would make it extremely difficult for patients who do benefit from these prescriptions, and use them properly, to have access to them. So, when the final Medicare proposal was released, this second guideline was altered to allow physicians to prescribe high-doses of opioid medications, but it gave pharmacists the power to override a high-dose request that seemed unnecessary.

While these Medicare limits are a step in the right direction for managing the opioid epidemic, there is still much that can be done to improve it. For instance, other medical treatments should be made more accessible through Medicare, explains Dr. Lembke. It’s important to reduce the access to opioids. However, it is also important to facilitate the use of other medical treatments to help with pain. Improvements are being made in the healthcare system to stop the opioid epidemic, but those who benefit from opioid prescriptions should not have to suffer.

Guests:

  • Dr. Anna Lembke, Associate Professor and Chief of Addiction Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Dr. Sally Satel, addiction psychiatrist and lecturer at Yale University School of Medicine, and Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute

Links for more information:

Share this:

Stay in the loop! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook! Subscribe and review on iTunes!

18-14 Segment 1: The Price Consequences of Doctor Consolidation

Copyright: vadimgozhda / 123RF Stock Photo

 

In some areas, it has become almost impossible to find independent physician practices. Many of these smaller practices have opted into being bought by hospitals and other large medical groups. So, what has prompted the increase of consolidation in the medical field? And what does this mean for patients?

The incentives of consolidation have been researched, but the results do not point to one reason. Dr. Laurence Baker, Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine, explains that physicians running smaller practices might benefit from no longer having their own business. Another possibility, Dr. Christopher Ody, Research Assistant Professor at Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, explains, is that some hospitals may view consolidation as a way to improve the quality of healthcare and decrease the costs to help physicians and their patients. However, data has indicated that the factor with the largest role in consolidation has to do with increasing the amount that hospitals are getting paid, and decreasing the amount paid to pharmaceutical companies. Even though research has not provided an overarching incentive that drives consolidation, the data seems to point to increasing income for hospitals rather than providing patients with better care. Furthermore, hospital consolidation has not been shown to benefit the patient. Dr. Baker explains that data indicates that the cost of healthcare has not gone down for patients with consolidation. Since the cost of healthcare has increased for patients, many have started to wonder how consolidation has been able to continue and what is being done to control it.

In the medical field, it is important to maintain consistency in market concentration and ensure that the markets are still competitive. One way in which authorities in the medical field work to maintain market concentration is by regulating transactions that reach a price threshold. However, Dr. Ody explains that hospitals have been able to avoid these regulations by partaking in multiple smaller transactions that invest in a small number of physicians at a time in order to ensure that the cost is below the threshold for evaluation. By avoiding regulations, hospitals have been able to grow into much larger entities that generate a lot of power and income from smaller practices. Since consolidation has prompted increased healthcare costs, it currently appears to be detrimental to the medical field rather than helpful. Yet, it could be worth it if hospitals were able to determine a method of consolidation that decreases healthcare costs and improves the quality of care that is provided to patients.

Guests:

  • Dr. Laurence Baker, Professor of Health Research and Policy at Stanford University School of Medicine
  • Dr. Christopher Ody, Research Assistant Professor at Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

Links for more information:

Share this:

Stay in the loop! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook! Subscribe and review on iTunes!

16-29 Segment 1: Conversations with Babies

Reading interesting story with my mom

Scientists have discovered that the way parents talk to their infants has a huge effect on their intellectual development and later success. Experts discuss why and how parents should hold “conversations” with their babies.

Stay in the loop! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook!

Subscribe and review on iTunes!

Click here for guest information and the transcript

15-19 Story 1: Lung cancer, no smoking

 

Synopsis: Lung cancer is the world’s #1 cancer killer, but its association with smoking has created a stigma that often stuns patients who never smoked and results in much less research money for lung cancer than for other less lethal diseases. Still, new treatments provide hope. Experts discuss these issues.

Host: Reed Pence. Guests: Dr. Andrea McKee, Chairman, radiation oncology, Leahy Hospital & Medical Center, Burlington, MA; Dr. Heather Wakelee, Associate Professor of Medicine, Stanford University and Stanford Cancer Institute; Dr. Joan Schiller, Deputy Director, Simmons Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and President, Free to Breathe advocacy organization

Links for more information:

 

Click here for the transcript.

15-15 Story 1: Correcting Color Blindness

 
Synopsis: Color blindness (or color vision deficiency) affects up to eight percent of men. Until recently, doctors could do nothing to treat it. Now high-tech glasses can make colors come alive for many people with the most common form of color blindness.

Experts explain color blindness and the glasses that can treat it. Host: Reed Pence. Guests: Sean Reynolds, color blind patient; Dr. Michael Marmor Professor of Ophthalmology, Stanford University School of Medicine and Byers Eye Institute; Dr. Don McPherson, Vice President of Products, Enchroma, Inc.

Links for more information:

Click here for the transcript.

15-12 Story 1: Women and Work

 

Synopsis: The US once led the world in proportion of women in the workplace, but that number has declined the last 15 years. Experts explain the social, economic, and governmental factors that are leading women to quit their jobs–often unwillingly–and stay home.

Host: Reed Pence. Guests: Dr. Pamela Stone, Visiting Scholar, Stanford University Clayman Institute for Gender Research, Professor of Sociology, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author, Opting Out: Why Women Really Quit Careers and Head Home; Dr. Claudia Goldin, Professor of Economics, Harvard University

Links for more information:

Click here for the transcript.