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Florida Pharmacy Association sues state health department over HMO contracts

BY Michael Johnsen

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Pharmacy Association, together with a group of Medicaid patients, independent pharmacies and pharmacists from all over Florida, filed a lawsuit Thursday in Leon County Circuit Court against the Agency for Health Care Administration to seek to restore patient access to qualified Medicaid pharmacy providers.

The lawsuit seeks to stop the Agency from continuing to enter and enforce contracts with for-profit Health Management Organizations and other for-profit managed care organizations that have forced Medicaid patients, according to the complaint, "to use only out-of-state pharmacy conglomerates and their affiliated mandatory mail-order pharmacies."


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Study: Men with prostate cancer more likely to die from other causes

BY Allison Cerra

BOSTON — Men diagnosed with prostate cancer are less likely to die from the disease than from such preventable conditions as heart disease, according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health.

Published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers examined causes of death among prostate cancer cases recorded in the U.S. Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results program (which includes more than 490,000 men from 1973 to 2008) and the nationwide Swedish Cancer and Cause of Death registries (which included more than 210,000 men from 1961 to 2008). They found that among men diagnosed with the disease, prostate cancer accounted for 52% and 30% of all reported deaths in Sweden and in the United States, respectively; however, only 35% of Swedish men and 16% of U.S. men diagnosed with prostate cancer died from this disease.

The researchers also noted that in both populations, the risk of prostate cancer-specific death declined, while the risk of death from heart disease and non-prostate cancer remained constant. The five-year cumulative incidence of death from prostate cancer was 29% in Sweden and 11% in the United States.

"Our results are relevant for several million men living with prostate cancer in the United States," said first author Mara Epstein, a postdoctoral researcher at HSPH. "We hope this study will encourage physicians to use a prostate cancer diagnosis as a teachable moment to encourage a healthier lifestyle, which could improve the overall health of men with prostate cancer, increasing both the duration and quality of their life."


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Harvard study: Increased Medicaid coverage reduces mortality rates

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — A new study from Harvard School of Public Health found that expanding Medicaid to low-income adults led to improved health and reduced mortality. It is the first published study to look specifically at the effect of recent state Medicaid expansions on mortality among low-income adults.

“The recent Supreme Court decision on the [Patient Protection and the Affordable Care Act] ruled that states could decide whether or not they wanted to participate in the health care law’s Medicaid expansion. Our study provides evidence suggesting that expanding Medicaid has a major positive effect on people’s health,” stated Benjamin Sommers, assistant professor of health policy and economics at HSPH and the study’s lead author.

The study was published online July 25 and will appear in the Sept. 13 print issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The HSPH researchers analyzed data from three states — Arizona, Maine and New York — that had expanded their Medicaid programs to childless adults (ages 20 to 64 years) between 2000 and 2005. They selected four neighboring states without major Medicaid expansions — New Hampshire (for Maine), Pennsylvania (for New York) and Nevada and New Mexico (for Arizona) — as controls. The researchers analyzed data from five years before and after each state’s expansion.

The results showed that Medicaid expansions in three states were associated with a significant reduction in mortality of 6.1%, compared with neighboring states that did not expand Medicaid, which corresponds to 2,840 deaths prevented per year for each 500,000 adults gaining Medicaid coverage. Expansions also were associated with increased Medicaid coverage, decreased uninsurance, decreased rates of deferring care due to costs, and increased rates of “excellent” or “very good” self-reported health.


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