Here are some of the latest health and medical news
developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Insurers Trying to Reduce Cancer Care Costs: Report
Insurers are trying to get cancer specialists to follow
standardized treatment guidelines in an effort to control spending
on cancer care.
Some experts say that variations in how doctors treat cancer can
be wasteful and don't always benefit patients. This has led to
efforts to develop treatment guidelines that are supposed to
include the best and most efficient approaches. Doctors are then
paid according to how well they comply with these guidelines, the
Wall Street Journalreported.
While these moves by insurers could change the way doctors
practice medicine, some cancer experts are concerned that
standardized treatment could lead to problems as they increasingly
move toward personalized, genetic-based treatments for
In addition, there's a lack of widespread agreement about the
precise protocols that should be used or how such programs should
The latest and largest such effort will soon be implemented by
WellPoint Inc., the second largest insurer in the United States. It
will offer oncologists a $350-a-month payment for each patient who
is on one of the company's recommended protocols.
The new program will be introduced in six states on July 1 and
will be in effect throughout WellPoint's entire network by the
middle of next year. The program will initially focus on breast,
lung and colorectal cancer, and will then be expanded to include
other types of cancer,
Cancer treatment costs in the United States are more than $100
billion a year and rising steadily, according to the National
Last year, the United States spent more on cancer drugs -- $37
billion -- than any other category, and spending on cancer drugs
has increased 19 percent in five years, according to the IMS
Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Some newer cancer drugs can
cost more than $100,000 for a single treatment,
"Oncologist reimbursement at the moment is a broken system," Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, told WSJ. The society has its own proposal for Medicare payment reform.
Schilsky said the WellPoint program includes "many of the
important elements you'd like to see" in a standardized treatment
system. But, he also noted that while this type of program is meant
to "drive toward everyone getting the same treatment, precision
medicine wants to drive toward everyone getting unique
Other insurers are also looking for ways to control costs. In
2010, UnitedHealth Group Inc. launched a project with five oncology
practices that paid them a set amount of money upfront for each
treatment regimen, rather than fees tied to prices of the drugs.
The insurer plans to expand that project, but it will remain a
Cigna Corp. has starting changing payments for drugs that are
similar in their uses but have major price differences. The
objective is to ensure doctors earn about the same amount whether
they use a cheaper or more expensive drug, the newspaper
More Cases of Salmonella Linked to Foster Farms Chicken: CDC
Salmonella poisoning linked to Foster Farms chicken has been
confirmed in 50 more people, bringing the total to 574 cases in 27
states since March 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention said Tuesday.
Since the last agency update in April, there have been an
average of eight new cases a week. While there appears to be a
decline in the number of new cases reported each week, the outbreak
isn't over, said Dr. Rob Tauxe, the CDC's director of foodborne,
waterborne and environmental diseases,
He added that the new cases appear to be linked to fresh, retail
chicken and not chicken that had been kept in home freezers for
The CDC said that nearly 40 percent of people who became sick
during the outbreak have been hospitalized, and 13 percent have
developed life-threatening blood infections, which is triple the
rate in typical salmonella outbreaks,
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