The Daily Rise: Monday, March 21

Patients & Cybersecurity

As more health care providers turn towards technology to reduce costs, patients must make cyber-security a top priority. Over at FierceHealthIT.com, Katie Dvorak shares the news on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Care Industry Cybersecurity Task Force.

“The members represent myriad parts of the industry, including hospitals, insurers, patient advocates, security researchers and more, according to an announcement,” Dvorak reports.

Some of the members include:

  • Theresa Meadows, Senior VP and CIO of Cook Children’s Health Care System
  • Roy Mellinger, VP of IT Security and CISO of Anthem, Inc
  • Jacki Monson, chief privacy and information security officer of Sutter Health

“Our vision for this health care system is one where a patient can easily check their own medical record, where a patient’s different clinicians, from pharmacists to nurses to physicians, can more seamlessly work together to keep that patient healthy, and where treatment can easily be tailored to a specific patient’s needs,” Mary K. Wakefield, Ph.D., RN, HHS Acting Deputy Secretary, writes on the department’s website.

The task force is open to the public.

High Health Costs: Who Do the Presidential Candidates Blame?

Physician and behavioral scientist Peter Ubel looks into who the major presidential candidates are blaming for the problems in health care. The conclusions aren’t surprising.

  • Republicans blame Obamacare for high healthcare costs.
  • Democrats blame pharmaceutical companies, insurers, and large corporations.

Ubel argues that both scapegoating is off-base.

Obamacare: “Obamacare cannot hold the brunt of blame for high healthcare costs in the U.S. for the simple reason that those high costs long preceded the law. In fact, since the ACA became law, healthcare costs have risen more slowly than expected in the U.S. Much of this slowdown has nothing to do with the law.”

Big Companies: “Pharmaceutical companies, for example, cannot bear the majority of the blame for high healthcare expenditures because medications do not make up the majority of healthcare expenses. Pharmaceutical companies make an easy target for politicians, of course, because many Americans pay out-of-pocket for a significant portion of their drug costs.”

Low Co-op Enrollment

Although Obamacare might not shoulder all of the blame for rising health care costs, it’s not to say that there aren’t problems.

We point to Stephanie Armour’s latest story in the Wall Street Journal on how co-ops have struggled with low enrollment despite more than $1 billion in federal loans.

“Four of the 11 remaining health cooperatives set up under the Affordable Care Act are still seeing tepid enrollment, according to a report by federal investigators, in another sign such insurance startups are on shaky footing despite more than $1 billion in federal loans,” Armour reports.  “The cooperatives were launched under the health law to provide affordable insurance and infuse competition into the market. Twelve of the 23 co-ops that got off the ground have closed as a result of financial troubles. The Obama administration is seeking to recoup about $1.2 billion in federal loans to the co-ops that have closed.”

Patient Leading the Cancer Moonshot

Vice President Joe Biden, the administration’s lead on its “cancer moonshot” initiative, has named cancer patient Greg Simon as the project’s executive director, the New York Times’ Gardiner Harris reports.

A former aide to Vice President Al Gore, Simon spent time as a lobbyist before spearheading FasterCures, a charity intended to speed the translation between basic research and lifesaving medicines. In June 2014, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He’s healthy after his first round of chemotherapy.

“There are so many things in the cure process that take too long,” Simon said. “And if we can create new approaches that are a step away from the road scientists have long been traveling, in a year or two it will be a different road.”

In the past, we’ve been critical of the panacea terminology of the cancer moonshot metaphor — there will be many cures – not a single cure. We’re glad to see a patient at the helm, who understands the value of innovation and getting the right treatment to the right patient.

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