In The News

Telehealth Continues


Telehealth emerged as a strong care delivery system during the pandemic. The US Department of Health and Human Services shared new insights on how telehealth programs could be strengthened. Congress expanded COVID-era telehealth flexibilities through 2024.

Resources & Initiatives:


Gut Microbes May Affect Motivation to Exercise

National Institutes of Health

Exercise provides many health benefits, including protection from many diseases. Some people seem to enjoy physical activity more than others. But the mechanisms affecting people’s motivation to exercise are not well understood.

An NIH-funded team of researchers, led by Dr. Christoph Thaiss at the University of Pennsylvania, set out to identify factors affecting exercise performance in mice. Their study appeared in Nature on December 14, 2022.

The researchers first measured how long mice running on a treadmill took to exhaust themselves and how much the mice voluntarily ran on a wheel. They found that the makeup of the gut microbiome—the trillions of microbes living in the gut—predicted these values better than genetic, metabolic, or behavioral traits. When the researchers used antibiotics to eliminate gut microbes, the mice got exhausted earlier and ran less on the wheel.

Motivation is controlled in part by a region of the brain known as the striatum. Neurons in the striatum are activated by the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine activation provides a feeling of reward. The team found that dopamine levels in the striatum increased after exercise in normal mice, but not in microbiome-depleted mice. Treating mice with a drug that blocks dopamine signaling had the same effect on exercise as depleting the microbiome. Conversely, a drug that activates dopamine signaling restored exercise capacity in microbiome-depleted mice.

Read Full Article


Explainer: What do we Know About COVID Variant XBB.1.5?

Reuters: By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Jennifer Rigby

The Omicron subvariant, XBB.1.5, is causing concern among scientists after its rapid spread in the United States in December.

Here is what we know so far:


The World Health Organization's senior epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible Omicron sub-variant that has been detected so far. It spreads rapidly because of the mutations it contains, allowing it to adhere to cells and replicate easily.

"Our concern is how transmissible it is," Van Kerkhove said in a news briefing on Wednesday.

XBB and XBB.1.5 were estimated to account for 44.1% of COVID-19 cases in the United States in the week of Dec. 31, up from 25.9% in the previous week, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It has also been detected in 28 other countries worldwide, the WHO said.

XBB.1.5 is yet another descendant of Omicron, the most contagious variant of the virus causing COVID-19 that is now globally dominant. It is an offshoot of XBB, first detected in October, which is itself a recombinant of two other Omicron sub-variants.


The WHO said it does not have any data on severity yet, or a clinical picture on its impact. It said that it saw no indication that its severity had changed but that increased transmissibility is always a concern.

"We do expect further waves of infection around the world, but that doesn't have to translate into further waves of death because our countermeasures continue to work," said Van Kerkhove, referring to vaccines and treatments.

She said the WHO was unable to currently attribute the increase in hospitalizations in the northeastern United States to the variant, given that many other respiratory viruses were also in circulation.

Virologists agree that the emergence of the new subvariant does not mean there is a new crisis in the pandemic. New variants are to be expected as the virus continues to spread.

XBB.1.5 is likely to spread globally, but it remains unclear if it will cause its own wave of infections around the world. Current vaccines continue to protect against severe symptoms, hospitalisation and death, the experts say.

Read Full Article


Rate of Beneficiaries Switching From Traditional Medicare to Medicare Advantage Is Growing 

MedCity News | Marissa Plescia
More beneficiaries are switching to Medicare Advantage plans from traditional Medicare plans, partially leading to higher enrollment in Medicare Advantage (MA), new research shows.
This is a reversal from several years ago, the study published in JAMA Health Forum found. From 2015 to 2016, the switching rate from MA to traditional Medicare was 4.6%, compared to 4.1% for traditional Medicare to MA. This shifted during the 2016 to 2017 period, when the switching rate from MA to traditional Medicare was 3.7%, and 5.3% for traditional Medicare to MA. The gap became wider as years went on: in the 2019 to 2020 period, the switching rate from MA to traditional Medicare was 2%, compared to 6.8% the other way around.
The researchers, from KNG Health Consulting, relied on the 2014 to 2020 Master Beneficiary Summary File Limited Data Sets from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to conduct the study. They examined switching by demographic groups, Medicare-Medicaid enrollment status and mortality status.
MA enrollment has grown drastically in the last several years, accounting for 46% of the overall Medicare population in 2021, compared to 19% in 2007. In 2023, it is expected to cross the 50% threshold, the report stated. This increase is both because of more traditional Medicare beneficiaries switching to MA plans and new enrollees choosing MA plans, according to the report.
“Medicare switching behavior has changed over time, with switching into MA accounting for a larger portion of MA enrollment growth,” the researchers wrote.
Differences in switching rates were higher when broken out by dual-eligibility status, the researchers found. In the 2019 to 2020 period, MA to traditional Medicare was 1.6%, compared to 6.1% the other way around. For Medicare-Medicaid beneficiaries, the switching rate was 4.5% for MA to traditional Medicare and 11.2% for traditional to MA.

Read Full Article


Now Available: Telehealth Indicator for Doctors and Clinicians on Care Compare

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) added a new telehealth indicator on clinician profile pages on Medicare Care Compare and in the Provider Data Catalog (PDC). The new indicator helps beneficiaries and caregivers more easily find clinicians who provide telehealth services.

Telemedicine services expanded in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency to improve patients’ access to care. Last year, CMS reported a 30-fold increase in telehealth services, with more than half of Medicare beneficiaries utilizing them between March 1, 2020 and February 28, 2021. The telehealth indicator is the latest example of CMS’s efforts to ensure Care Compare provides beneficiaries and caregivers meaningful information about services they value as they search for clinicians.

For more information, access the Telehealth Indicator on Medicare Care Compare fact sheet.

If you have any questions about the telehealth indicator or public reporting for doctors and clinicians on Care Compare, contact the QPP Service Center at 1-866-288-8292 (Monday-Friday 8 a.m. - 8 p.m. ET) or by e-mail at [email protected]. To receive assistance more quickly, consider calling during non-peak hours (before 10 a.m. and after 2 p.m. ET). Customers who are hard of hearing can dial 711 to be connected to a TRS Communications Assistant.  

<< first < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > last >>

Page 4 of 151