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New Client

DeBrunner & Associates is pleased to welcome our newest client:  the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

As Pennsylvania’s largest non-governmental employer, with more than 87,000 employees, UPMC consists of more than 30 hospitals, more than 700 doctors’ offices and outpatient sites, an international division, and an enterprises division.


Healthier Behavior Could Yield Sweet News

Improved behavior could save lives and money, two recent studies show.

A report published by the JAMA Network found that if just one percent of Medicaid recipients stopped smoking, Medicaid would save $2.6 billion a year, with a median annual state savings of $25 million.

Another study, posted by AHA Journals, concludes that improved nutrition labeling that better highlights products’ sugar content could change behavior in ways that would save more than $30 billion in health care costs over the next 20 years – and as much as nearly $60 billion if manufacturers respond to improved sugar labeling by re-engineering some of their products to have less sugar.

Learn more about the financial benefits of reduced smoking in the JAMA Network article “Estimation of 1-Year Changes in Medicaid Expenditures Associated With Reducing Cigarette Smoking Prevalence by 1%” and about the potential cost savings associated with better labeling of the sugar content in processed foods in the AHA Journals report “Cost-Effectiveness of the US Food and Drug Administration Added Sugar Labeling Policy for Improving Diet and Health.”

Groups Work to Create New Codes for Social Determinants

Social determinants of health could have their own ICD-10 codes if a new initiative from the American Medical Association and United Healthcare succeeds.

The two are working together to develop new ICD-10 codes that would take into consideration social determinants of health such as housing and food security, access to transportation, and ability to pay for medicine.

The project launches at a time when research suggests that social determinants of health can affect nearly 80 percent of health care outcomes.

Learn more in the Health Analytics IT article “AMA, UnitedHealth Partner for Social Determinants ICD-10 Project.”


Moody’s: Challenging Times Ahead for Academic Medical Centers

Academic medical centers will struggle in the near future, according to Moody’s Investor Services.

While academic medical centers still have a number of strengths – offering higher-end services, high demand for their inpatient services, and generally strong cash flow margins – they also face a number of challenges that make life more difficult for them in a value-based payment world.  Among those challenges, most notably, are higher costs associated with teaching and research, higher-acuity patients, and payment pressure from insurers.  Another challenge:  the shrinking gap between academic medical center hospitals and others as more care is delivered on an outpatient basis.

As a result, when Moody’s recently reviewed 43 academic health centers, it saw positive outlooks for just two, negative forecasts for nine, and deemed 32 stable.

Learn more in the Healthcare Dive article “Academic medical centers face headwinds in shift to value-based care, Moody’s says.”


Bill Would Enable Foreign-Born Docs to Work in Underserved U.S. Areas

More foreign-born, U.S.-trained doctors would be permitted to remain in the U.S. if they practice in medically underserved areas under a bill unveiled last week in Congress.

Introduced with bipartisan support, the legislation would extend for two years the current “Conrad 30” program that allocates 30 slots to each state so foreign-born doctors can work in medically underserved areas under J-1 visas.  The program, which already exists but will soon expire, permits such physicians to remain in the U.S. for three years after their training ends to work in underserved areas.  The legislation also would establish criteria under which more than 30 such physicians can be employed in a given state.

To learn more, see the Senate news release from the bill’s sponsors describing their proposal and why they are offering it or see the bill itself.