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Employers to emulate Medicare by buying quality care

Employers and labor organizations will follow Medicare’s lead in paying physicians and hospitals based on the value of their care, agreeing to purchase health plans for workers that reward health professionals for care quality and efficiency. A coalition of 18 large employers and unions has agreed to align with Medicare’s value-based purchasing programs, such as an initiative to share savings from lowered health spending, through a collaborative called Buying Value. The project offers employers guidance for how to purchase the best health plans that reward quality. The private purchasers will have an active voice in health coverage instead of just paying the bills, said Gerald Shea, assistant to the president of AFL-CIO, one of the participating groups. Although many insurers already have their own quality initiatives, the participants and the Medicare program will establish common measures for purchasing value. “When we started talking about it, everyone thought we shou ...

FDA approves in-home HIV test that gives results within an hour

It takes between 20 and 40 minutes for the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test to deliver results on whether a person is HIV positive, but it took seven years for the test to win Food and Drug Administration approval for over-the-counter sales to patients. FDA officials required the product’s manufacturer, OraSure Technologies, to conduct studies to prove that patients could reliably follow written instructions to use the test, interpret the results and access follow-up care. In July, OraSure won FDA approval. The OraQuick In-Home HIV test, which can detect HIV antibodies, is administered by swabbing the gums and inserting the vial into a solution. Test results will need to be confirmed through laboratory testing. One in every 12 OraQuick tests yields a false negative. Also, the test does not reliably detect HIV until at least three months after the infection. “Knowing your status is an important factor in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV,” said Karen Midthun, MD, director ...

2 major health organizations give nod to noncaloric sweeteners

Physicians should consider encouraging overweight patients to swap their sugary beverages and foods for products that contain non-nutritive sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin, a report said. Doing so could help people reach and maintain a healthy weight by reducing their calorie consumption, said a scientific statement by the American Heart Assn. and American Diabetes Assn. However, data show that this approach is effective only if people continue to regulate the amount of sugars and calories they consume throughout the day, according to the statement published online July 9 in the journals Circulation and Diabetes Care. “If you choose a beverage sweetened with non-nutritive sweeteners instead of a 150-calorie soft drink but then reward yourself with a 300-calorie slice of cake or cookies later in the day, non-nutritive sweeteners are not going to help you control your weight because you added more calories to your day than you subtracted,” said Christopher Gardner, P ...