In brief: Health spending ‘on right track,’ Medicare Advantage enrollment to grow

Friday, September 20, 2013

WASHINGTON – Growth in U.S. healthcare spending over the next 10 years will be modest in comparison to historical trends, according to a Sept. 18 report from the CMS Office of the Actuary. The report credits the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and decreased spending on prescription drugs and physician services with moderating health spending, even as health care becomes more accessible and more baby boomers enter the Medicare program. Among the report’s key findings: Growth in healthcare spending is estimated to have slowed to 4.6% in 2012, down from 6.2% in 2011, for a total of $579.9 billion. “We are on the right track to controlling health care costs, thanks in part to the Affordable Care Act,” stated CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner in a release. “More Americans will have the ability to get the health care they need, and that is a good thing. We have identified several areas where our reforms to control costs are making progress and we must build on those efforts in the years ahead.” The report is available online and will be published in the October issue of the journal Health Affairs.

HHS on Medicare Advantage: Enrollment high, premiums low

WASHINGTON – Enrollment in Medicare Advantage (MA) plans is expected to increase for the fourth year in a row in 2014, with only slight increases in premiums expected. Premiums are expected to be, on average, $1.64 more, or $32.60, according to a Sept. 19 press release from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). “As a result of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans remain strong and continue to provide improved benefits and low premiums for beneficiaries,” said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in the release. HHS noted that the average MA premium is down 9.8% since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, with spending per Medicare beneficiary growing only 1.7% annually between 2010 and 2012.

Pride Mobility to distribute Autochair lifts

EXETER, Pa. – As part of a new partnership with U.K.-based Autochair, Pride Mobility Products will be the exclusive North American distributor of the Milford Person Lift and Olympian AutoLift, the companies announced Sept. 19. “Pride Mobility is excited and honored to partner with Autochair in delivering these highly-adaptable, consumer-friendly products to a larger market segment,” said Andrew Pyrih, senior vice president of domestic sales for Pride Mobility. The Milford lift is a wheelchair-to-vehicle transfer mechanism capable of lifting 330 pounds; the remote-controlled Olympian AutoLift moves wheelchairs and scooters into and out of most vehicles. Both products will be on display at Pride Mobility’s booth during Medtrade, Oct. 8-10 in Orlando, Fla. Pride Mobility will begin shipping both lift products Nov. 1.

DMEevalumate adds respiratory program

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – now offers a web-based program to help medical practitioners document a patient’s need for respiratory equipment. The program uses an electronic template to help a user document and produce medical justification for oxygen, CPAP and BiPAP devices. “The question-and-answer process takes less than 10 minutes and DME providers and practitioners no longer have to spend hours researching and second-guessing what information is required,” stated Jaime Loper, company co-founder, in a press release. “ generates the Medicare-required outputs related to the piece of equipment a practitioner prescribes. Upon receiving this paperwork for vended equipment, DME providers can file accordingly in preparation for prepayment audits.” DMEevalumate already has a similar program for power mobility devices (PMDs).

Ottobock teams up with Made for Movement

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Ottobock is now the exclusive North American distributor of Innowalk, a motorized device for patients with conditions such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, paraplegia and muscle disorders, the company announced Sept. 17. Innowalk, which helps the legs move as in normal walking, allows flexion of lower joints, increasing circulation, pulse rate and gastrointestinal function. It is produced by Norway’s Made for Movement, which develops products to aid those with a limited ability to stand or walk on their own. This is Ottobock’s third such partnership this year. “The new partnerships are the latest in what has been an ongoing strategy by Ottobock to identify what is lacking in the North American market and to bring those aids to families who might not otherwise benefit from these one-of-a-kind devices,” stated Matt Swiggum, Ottobock vice president of mobility solutions, in a press release.

Report: Roche nixes plans to sell diabetes business

NEW YORK – Drugmaker Roche Holding AG is pulling back from plans to sell its blood glucose meter business, Reuters reports. In recent months, the Swiss company explored selling that segment of its business in the face of greater competition and lower reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. But that lower reimbursement has precluded a profitable sale, leading the company to hold onto the business, according to the news agency. Roche’s decision follows a similar one by Bayer, which was unable to attract enough interest to sell its blood glucose meter business earlier this year.

Global insulin market to hit $40.2B by 2018, report says

WELLESLEY, Mass. – The market for insulin and insulin delivery devices, which was $24 billion last year and should reach $25.7 billion this year, will grow significant in the next five years, according to a recent report from BCC Research. By 2018, the market should hit $40.2 billion, the research group believes. The market for insulin drug and delivery technology is dynamic and develops quickly, with new advancements, increased awareness and early detection contributing to growth, according to the report.

Non-smokers have fewer symptoms, milder COPD

COPENHAGEN – People who have never smoked can develop COPD, but they experience fewer symptoms, less inflammation and a milder form of the disease than do former and current smokers with the condition, according to a recent study. Researchers from Copenhagen University Hospital discovered COPD displays different characteristics in non-smokers, producing less severe outcomes. Patients who had never smoked were hospitalized fewer times and had decreased risk of associated cardiovascular disease, but they still suffered substantial morbidity because of lung-related hospital admissions, according to the study, which was published recently in The Lancet: Respiratory Medicine.

CPAP therapy makes patients look better, study says

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – For people suffering from sleep apnea, sticking with CPAP treatment can yield a nice fringe benefit—a more alert, youthful and attractive appearance, according to a new study published Sept. 13. As part of a small study, researchers at the University of Michigan employed a face-mapping technique on 20 middle-aged sleep apnea patients within a few months of the start of CPAP use to compare before and after photographs. “The common lore, that people ‘look sleepy’ because they are sleepy, and that they have puffy eyes with dark circles under them, drives people to spend untold dollars on home remedies,” said lead researcher Ronald Chervin, a professor at the University of Michigan. “We perceived that our CPAP patients often looked better or reported that they’d been told they looked better after treatment. But no one has ever actually studied this.” Facial mapping found less puffiness in the foreheads and less redness in the face of patients who used CPAP therapy. Researchers also perceived fewer forehead wrinkles. They were surprised, however, to see no improvement in dark circles or undereye puffiness. 

Short takes

The New Product Pavilion at Medtrade will showcase at least 60 new vendors and products, show organizers have announced. The show takes place Oct. 8-10 in Orlando…Members of The VGM Group and U.S. Rehab can now pick up consultant Richard Fuller’s labor guide at a lower rate, the companies announced Sept. 17…Tim Drumhiller, president of Amigo Mobility, will run the BMW Berlin Marathon on Sept. 29 in support of The Rooprai Spinal Trust, founded in 2006 by Marrianne Rooprai. This will be Drumhiller’s 20th marathon and his second in support of the trust…Wheelchair manufacturer Convaid has formalized its alliance with United Cerebral Palsy of Los Angeles (UCPLA). As part of the alliance, Convaid and UCPLA will participate in joint marketing efforts, speaking engagements, parent conferences and panels to educate families living with children with special needs, they announced Sept. 18.