Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] Journalist explains what to expect from new mental health parity rules

From the 27 January 2014 post at Covering Health – Monitoring the pulse of health care journalism

by | January 27, 2014

Joseph Burns

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Michelle AndrewsMichelle Andrews

Later this year, health plans will be under new mental health parity rules affecting how insurers should cover patients with mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Michelle Andrews, a health policy reporter and columnist for Kaiser Health News, explains the issue in a new tip sheet,  “Mental health parity rule clarifies standards for treatment limits, coverage of intermediate care.”

These rules, governing the limits that health insurers can place on coverage for patients needing mental health and substance abuse care, will be important to consumers for several reasons. One reason involves what services health plans must provide when covering mental health benefits –keep in mind that health plans do not need to offer mental health care. But if they do, they need to cover inpatient and outpatient services, emergency room care and prescription drugs, Andrews reports. Also, the rules prohibit health insurers from setting limits on treatment that are more restrictive than the limits set on a plan’s medical-surgical coverage, she adds.

In addition, intermediate-level mental health services, such as residential treatment and intensive outpatient services for patients needing substance abuse treatment or mental health care, should be covered at the same level as the insurer covers residential and intensive outpatient services for medical-surgical patients, Andrews adds. Often patients needing mental health and substance abuse care require residential or intensive outpatient treatment.

The new parity rules also do not allow health insurers to charge higher co-payments, deductibles, or out-of-pocket maximums for mental health and substance abuse treatment without setting similar co-payment, deductibles, and out-of-pocket limits for medical-surgical coverage.

 

 

Read the entire article here

January 28, 2014 Posted by | health care | , , , , | Leave a comment

[Reblog] Misleading BMJ news releases may be one reason journalists report on more observational studies

From the 24 January 2014 post at TheHealthNewsReview Blog  by Gary Schwitzer

[At least 16 comments on this post, click on the link above to read them]

Just a few days ago, a paper in the journal PLoS One, “Media Coverage of Medical Journals: Do the Best Articles Make the News?” showed how journalists are more likely to report on observational studies than on randomized clinical trials.  The authors suggest this shows a systematic bias to report on weaker evidence.

And here’s one reason why that may happen.

This week the BMJ sent out a news release on a paper from the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, one of the specialist journals it publishes. And I’ve been waiting for days to address it – waiting for the journal’s embargo time to pass so that I’m not violating that sacred trust.

The headline of the news release:  HRT cuts risk of repeat knee/hip replacement surgery by 40%.

 

Nope.  Sorry, BMJ news release writers.  That’s an overstatement, to be kind.  An inaccuracy, to be accurate. That’s not what the study showed, because it wasn’t equipped to show that anything “cut risk.”  Proof of cutting risk would be proof of cause and effect.  And the observational study in question can’t do that.

Don’t blame the authors of the journal article. They didn’t use cause-and-effect language.  They concluded: “HRT is associated with an almost 40% reduction.”  (My emphasis added.) That’s the way you describe the results of an observational study. That’s what we try to teach journalists and the public with a primer that’s been on our site for years. Maybe the BMJ should have its news release writers read it.

The researchers went even further, for any writer – journal news release writers included – who bothered to read the study.  The research team wrote: “The main limitation of this study is its observational nature.”

To be clear, this was a large study with long followup.  This could be a head-turner in medical circles.

But it still is what it is – a study that can only show statistical association.

And association ≠ causation.

We’ve written about this problem with BMJ news releases in the past, and will continue to do so until they get it right.  Past examples:

As I wrote in one of these posts:  Journals could help lift all ships – or they can (and sometimes do) help us all drown in a daily tsunami of global miscommunication about health news.

 

 

 

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January 28, 2014 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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