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July 2016
News Archive

Pa. health insurers plead for rate increases July 28, 2016 
Pennsylvania health insurers are asking for double-digit rate hikes for individual policies. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports the requests before the Insurance Department are as high as 48.1 percent for Highmark companies. More than 500,000 Pennsylvanians are covered through individual plans. 
Do APRNs need physician oversight? July 27, 2016 
Medscape special report explores whether advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) need physician oversight. Among the topics discussed is proposed rule allowing the Dept. of Veterans Affairs to grant full practice authority to APRNs. The PAFP opposes; tell the VA to keep physician-led health care teams. 
CDC issues new Zika testing guidelines July 26, 2016 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has adjusted its Zika testing guidelines for pregnant women. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports pregnant women may undergo a blood test for the virus 14 days after symptoms appear. By July, 14,400 pregnant women in the continental U.S. showed signs of Zika. 
Stay safe in the summer heat July 25, 2016 
It's going to be oppressively hot this week, and some Pennsylvania back yards could even see triple-digit temperatures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says people should drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids, stay indoors, find air conditioning if possible, and check on older or at-risk neighbors. 
What physicians need to know about Safe Harbor letter July 21, 2016 
Pennsylvanians can now apply for a Safe Harbor Letter that will allow medical marijuana to be obtained out of state and administered to minors by parents, legal guardians, and caregivers. One component of the letter is a form that must be completed by a Pennsylvania-licensed physician to verify the medical condition. 
Pa. boards of medicine, pharmacy approve opioid guidelines July 20, 2016 
The Pennsylvania Board of Pharmacy and Board of Medicine have agreed to adopt new guidelines on the prescribing and distribution of opioids, reports The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Physician General Rachel Levine said the new guidelines are meant to reduce a pattern of overprescribing painkillers. 
Dept. of Health provides medical marijuana update July 19, 2016 
The Pennsylvania Dept. of Health has announced the participants of its first Medical Marijuana Physician Workgroup, including the Pennsylvania Academy of Family Physicians and several health networks. The department also reports it will soon release a survey asking for physicians' feedback on regulations.
Doctors should pay attention to patients' self-rating: study July 18, 2016 
Even when tests show nothing out of the ordinary with patient health, UPI reports a new study suggests patient concerns could indicate future illness. The research, published in Psychoneuroendocrinology, showed patients with concerns about how they felt had higher virus and inflammation levels. 
Physicians put pressure on CMS over MACRA July 15, 2016 
Lawmakers and physicians are asking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to move quickly on rules easing federal requirements under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The Hill reports the agency is waiting until next year to issue rules on virtual groups. 
Former Pa. prisoners to get quicker health benefits July 14, 2016 
A new rule in the Human Services code and part of Pennsylvania's new spending plan means former prisoners will get quicker access to health care. According to Newsworks, medical assistance has traditionally been canceled for those entering prison; now, former prisoners' eligibility will be put on hold instead. 
Drug overdose deaths rise nearly 24 percent in Pa. July 13, 2016 
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), nearly 3,400 people died of a drug overdose in Pennsylvania last year. WITF reports that's an increase of nearly 24 percent from 2014, an increase of more than 600 deaths. Heroin - often mixed with other powerful drugs like fentanyl - is the main culprit. 
Tell the VA to keep physician-lead health care teams July 12, 2016 
The Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) has published a proposed rule allowing the VA to grant full practice authority to advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), disregarding scope of practice laws in states like Pennsylvania. Use the AAFP's Speak Out tool to tell the VA to keep physician-lead health care teams.  
Pa. releases prescription drug monitoring info July 11, 2016 
Pennsylvania's Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions (ABC-MAP) program is scheduled to be up and running this summer. The Pa. Dept of Health has released information on this prescription drug monitoring program, including frequently asked questions and need-to-know details for prescribers. 
Hep-C cost assistance coming for Pa. Medicaid plans July 8, 2016 
In an effort to reduce the burden of high-cost hepatitis C drugs on Medicaid insurers, Pennsylvania regulators have launched a risk-sharing plan to assist its Medicaid contractors. reports under the program, the state assumes a larger percentage of the drugs’ cost and rewards plans based on quality. 
Wolf administration holds town hall on Zika July 7, 2016 
Gov. Tom Wolf's administration hosted a live town hall meeting on Facebook on July 6 to respond to Pennsylvanians' questions about the Zika virus. The administration has also assembled a list of what Pennsylvanians need to know about the mosquito-borne illness and has drafted a Zika Response Plan. 
Medical marijuana Safe Harbor Letter application online July 6, 2016 
Applications for the medical marijuana Safe Harbor Letter - which allows medical marijuana to be administered to Pennsylvania minors - are now available online. The letter must always accompany individuals whenever medical marijuana is being transported and used outside of the home. 
Sunshine Act didn't deter industry pay to docs: report July 5, 2016 
The Physician Payments Sunshine Act hasn't stopped the flow of cash from drug and device makers to clinicians. Medscape reports a recent study shows whether or not professional conflicts of interest have lessened, the industry gave $7.52 billion in cash, food, and other interests to doctors and hospitals in 2015. 
Stay safe during your July 4 celebration July 1, 2016 
Barbecues and fireworks are hallmarks of Independence Day celebrations, but enjoy the holiday responsibly. The National Fire Protection Association has assembled a list of grilling fire safety tips, and the National Council on Fireworks Safety has advice on how to properly and safely use fireworks and sparklers.
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