While warmer weather is enough reason for most of us to look forward to summer at the present moment, today Google gave us another reason. Google announced the dates for its annual IO conference today, essentially letting us know when we can expect the company to reveal the next version of Android. Though Google doesn’t really delve into what we can expect from the show, we can still look to past ones to guess at what we might see. Indeed, it seems like Google is still working out what it wants to show off at IO 2018. In a post to the Google Developers Twitter account, Google merely says that “plans are coming along for IO18,” sharing a binary message that merely directs you to the to the Google IO website. It’s there that you’re invited to go behind the scenes of Google IO 2018, exploring the Google Developers building through Street View. There are a few hints scattered around that tour of the Google Developers campus, including a conspicuously placed pineapple cake that might hint at the name of next version of Android. That’s the extent of the details that Google has shared about IO 2018 thus far. We’re not likely to find out much more until the event itself is underway, but at the very least, we can expect Google to name and launch a beta for the next version of Android. There’s always the potential of seeing Google reveal new hardware during the show, but don’t expect a new Pixel – the company tends to reveal those at separate events.Beyond Android, most of the focus will likely be on new apps and platforms. For instance, Google IO 2016 gave us the reveal of platforms like Daydream and Tango and apps like Allo and Duo. Last year’s event, on the other hand, focused on improvements to Google Assistant and introduced services like Flutter and Treble.AdChoices广告Ultimately, we’re just going to have to wait for Google IO to roll around before we discover what the company has in store. Google IO 2018 will run from May 8 to May 10 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, which is the same location Google has held the two previous IO conferences. We’ll have full coverage of Google IO 2018 here at SlashGear once the show is underway, so stay tuned for that. Story TimelineWhat I want most from Google IO 2016 is…Everything you need to know from Google IO 2016Google IO 2017 ticket details released, schedule incomingGoogle IO 2017: what to watch for and how
A new wave is coming. #EssentialPhone pic.twitter.com/YPFgzusFhb— Essential (@essential) February 13, 2018 The release of this watery deep color for the Essential Phone PH-1 serves to show the company in a good light: one in which the future of the brand is extended beyond one-and-done products. The same is true of each of the other products the company’s released over the past several weeks and months, each new accessory serving to show the brand’s dedication to their one hero smartphone. This release was announced directly in the face of less than great news on sales numbers from earlier today. Essential announced today their intention to release the Essential Phone PH-1 in its Ocean Depths color combination later this week. Essential said they’d release the device on the 15th of February, 2018 – just one day after Valentine’s Day. So, for those that have had enough of the red hearts and flowers and candy for one day, they’ll release the opposite in a phone: blue/green, aka Ocean Depths.AdChoices广告SEE: Our Essential Phone ReviewAbove you’ll see the standard Pure White and Black Moon – next up is Ocean Depths, a combination of a dark green on the bluey side and gold accents. After that, there’ll be a Stellar Gray. Eventually, that’ll be – hopefully. Then we wait to see if the company releases a new phone every year, every other year, or multiple phones a year. You never can tell these days. Have a peek at our full review at the link above, and let us know if there’s anything else about this device that you’d like us to test! This week the folks at Essential will finally release their device in its most unique color: Ocean Depths. This version of the Essential Phone PH-1 promises to be the one version of the phone that’s far more elite than the rest – as far as color tone goes. This version of the phone was introduced with the rest back at the device’s initial reveal, but remained unavailable until now. Story TimelineEssential Phone Review: The Impossible ChallengeEssential Phone price just dropped againEssential Phone: fixing the slippery backsideEssential Phone sales report suggests it’s definitely misnamed
It’s not easy being a smartphone maker these days. Jump on the latest fad and you’d be called a copycat. Hold off and you’re branded as a dinosaur. So what’s an OEM gotta do? Follow what makes sense. For OPPO, that means giving the OPPOR R15 and R15 Pro an admittedly somewhat useful notch. Of course, that does run the risk of most media coverage simply being about that notch, so we take a deep dive into the higher end OPPO R15 Pro to see if it’s more than just its rabbit screen. And you’ll probably be surprised at what we found. That curved back also has a subtle aesthetic change. For this generation, OPPO applied a slightly new gradient design that plays tricks on your eyes, emphasizing both light and shadows being reflected by the glass. On our Ruby Red review unity, it almost gave the OPPO R15 Pro a dual tone theme, with the back gradients getting cut off at the edges and flowing into a different shade of red. OPPO’s great glass design, however, does have one drawback. It easily slips from our hands. You’d probably want a case around this, but a transparent one to still show off those colors.And now for the elephant in the room. The notch these days is inescapable. Truth be told, it’s pretty easy to make a case for the notch in terms of adding more screen space. But it’s still not going to sit well with people, no matter which way you turn it. OPPO tried to minimize how much that dead space occupies. It also added some software touches to utilize that space in landscape mode. Sadly, no option to disguise it, at least not yet.SoftwareThe OPPO R15 Pro surprisingly runs the latest Android 8.1, though overlaid with the company’s custom ColorOS experience. OPPO has learned its lesson, though, and has tried to minimize the impact of its changes. In our tests, the UI felt responsive enough. It wasn’t as cluttered as older iterations and stuck closer to established Android UI standards.Of course, it wouldn’t be a custom Android ROM without customizations. There is, for example, a Safety Box that lets you protect files with a password. There’s also a Full Screen Multitasking feature that uses the “rabbit ears”, the two screen areas beside the notch to have shortcuts to three frequently used operations on one side and three frequently used apps on the other. The catch is that this mode is only available in landscape mode and only for a select number of apps.There are also Full Screen Gestures that take advantage of the nearly bezel-less bottom edge of the screen. If you swipe up from the bottom to the middle of the screen, you immediately jump Home. swipe all the way up and you get the control center. If you swipe up from the bottom right side, you go Back. If you swipe up from the bottom left, you get the recent apps/multi-tasking list. In short, you can pretty much hide the standard Android navigation panel and reclaim even more space than you lost to the notch.CamerasOPPO bills itself as a selfie expert, so it’s no surprise that it has put a 20 megapixel f/2.0 sensor in front. It did away with the flash though, both for space constraints and because those harsh lights often do more harm than good. On the back, you get a 20 megapixel f/1.7 sensor paired with a 16 megapixel f/1.7 sensor. Those are pretty large apertures that give the camera more light data to work with, even in dark shots.These result in photos with vibrant and vivid colors. The camera is quite fast, which isn’t surprising given OPPO used the latest Sony IMX519 there. It’s also not perfect, mind, and sometimes gets white balance wrong. Its biggest noticeable mark, however, is the “creaminess” of the images, especially with faces. That might be less because of the camera hardware and more because of the post-processing that OPPO’s software applies.Like many smartphone makers these days, OPPO advertises the use of AI in the R15 Pro. In this case, however, it’s mostly focused on camera functions. There’s AI-powered scene recognition, for example, which identified objects like food and selects the best camera settings for those. Then there’s AI Beautification, a.k.a. Beauty Camera 2.0, that “retouches” and corrects blemishes on faces, sometimes, as we found out, a bit too much. DesignDisregarding just one small aspect of the phone, the OPPO R15 Pro is admittedly a looker. Especially if you have a thing for iPhones. Let’s be honest, people will easily mistake the OPPO R15 for an iPhone, whichever side you look at it. From the front, its notch will make people think of the iPhone X. Flip it over and cover the branding and fingerprint scanner and it’s like the iPhone 8 Plus.But to be fair to OPPO, there are also differences, though subtle. Of course, there’s the fingerprint scanner on the back and a headphone jack at the bottom edge, things Apple will never give any iPhone. The back is also more curved than any iPhone, which helps the phone nestle on the natural curve of your hand. And, of course, there are AR (not AI-powered) Stickers, though not as sophisticated as Samsung’s or Apple’s. You can take as many of these fun selfies and let the AI-powered intelligent photo album system sort and categorize them for you. SpecsThe OPPO R15 Pro isn’t the company’s flagship. That’s pretty much clear by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 inside, or a MediaTek Helio P60 in the non-Pro model, both the latest mid-range mobile processors from both chip makers. If, however, you simply judge a smartphone by its processor, then you’re way off mark and out of touch with the times.The OPPO R15 Pro gets 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage. That memory configuration, mind, is only available on “pro” or “plus” models of some bigger brands. And while the 6.28-inch 2280×1080 19:9 “Full HD+” screen sounds lacking, most users of QHD screen smartphones will probably admit they run theirs on lower resolutions anyway. Few people can really make out the difference between the two. Fewer even care. The screen is OLED as well, adding crisp colors, dark blacks, and battery efficiency.What that means in practice is that the OPPO R15 Pro is a well-rounded mobile device that balances power, battery life, and, most importantly, price. It doesn’t have the number-crunching abilities of high-end phones and barely matches flagships launched way back in 2016. But it’s going to do you good for all but the most hardware-intensive use cases. And for those cases, depending on the market, OPPO provides a “game acceleration mode” that adjusts system resources for a more responsive experience.AdChoices广告 The OPPO R15 Pro is capable of 720p not-super slow-mo capture and AI-enhanced portrait mode, a.k.a. bokeh effect. The front camera’s large sensor collects 128 facial feature points for a fast, 0.8-second face unlock. OPPO makes no guarantees about using face recognition for authorizing payments, however.BatteryA powerful phone is rendered useless when it runs out of juice in the middle of the day. There is almost a certain advantage to hardware that is labeled as more “power efficient”. While the OPPO R15 Pro is no slacker, it’s mid-range processors practically impose a limit on activities that will eat up your battery like there’s no tomorrow.To some extent, the R15 Pro’s 3,400 mAh battery is a bit of a disappointing, even falling just a wee bit lower than its non-Pro sibling. Other phones in its range would boast large packs of 4,000 mAh or more. Of course, it comes at the price of size and heft and OPPO decided which battles it would fight. Our tests left us with 15% of battery left after 4 hours of active video binging and 3 hours of continues browsing and general use. That’s barely half a day, but most users will often let their phones rest unused in between. And when the meter does turn read, OPPO boasts of its VOOC Super Charge technology that promises a two-hour extension for just 5 minutes of charging. Provided you use the proprietary, OPPO-only VOOC charger, of course.Wrap-upAlthough US availability is still unknown, the OPPO R15 Pro retails in China for 3,299 RMB, roughly $520. That’s for the Ruby Red model while the Infinity Black color is strangely more expensive at 3,499 RMB ($555). Given that price tag, you are surprisingly getting a solid performer that looks good and takes great, though creamy, photos.Actually, that shouldn’t be a surprise anymore. Chinese manufacturers have long shed the image of being cheap but underwhelming knockoffs. Now they’re gaining a reputation for being cheap but also powerful. And while the OPPO R15 Pro may be faulted for riding the rabbit screen train, it definitely has enough going for it to prove that it’s more than just a pretty face.Note: Aki Ukita contributed to this review.
Back at the start of 2017, Intel’s CEO Brian Krzanich was promising 10nm production within twelve months. The system builds on the Tri-Gate technology that Intel began using back when it rolled out 22nm production, but proved to be troublesome when it came to actually hitting the sort of manufacturing yields required for commercialization. Indeed, Intel first started promising 10nm all the way back in 2015. In its earnings this week, an even further delay was tagged onto the end of Cannon Lake. “Intel is currently shipping low-volume 10 nm product and now expects 10 nm volume production to shift to 2019,” the company says, declining to specify exactly when next year that might actually be. Intel also won’t say exactly which of its customers it’s shipping those “low-volume” Cannon Lake chips to, or what, indeed, “low-volume” actually means in terms of specific numbers. Speaking on the company’s financial results call, Tom’s Hardware reports, Krzanich conceded that Intel had “bit off a little too much” with its aggressive push for 10nm. The challenge the company had set itself, he explained, was to increase density 2.7x over its current 14nm chips. AdChoices广告That, the chief exec argued, was well in excess of the sub-2x most industry transitions achieve for density between generations. At the same time, Krzanich also blamed the photolithography technique used to make the chips for partly being responsible for disappointing yields. Intel, he said, has figured out what to do to address that, but actually implementing those changes is going to take some time. Until that happens, it means Intel will be sticking with 14nm for its production range. That means Whiskey Lake for consumers, which is believed to be another revamp of Intel’s Kaby Lake architecture. Intel has a narrowing gap to nail 10nm if it wants to stay competitive. Both TSMC and Samsung are each producing 10nm chips, for instance, though Intel has argued that they’re not directly comparable. Earlier this week, the chip-maker announced that it had poached legendary microarchitecture expert Jim Keller from Tesla, where he had been working on dedicated Autopilot and AI hardware for the automaker. Before Tesla, Keller was responsible for chip design at AMD and P.A. Semi, the company which was acquired by Apple. Intel’s much-anticipated “Cannon Lake” processors have been delayed, with the chip-maker confirming that its next-generation CPUs now won’t be hitting volume production this year. The new chips rely on Intel’s equally-new 10 nanometer production process, which the company has been particularly upbeat about, but which itself has experienced some significant delays.
Despite having a laudable app and pioneering stylus, FiftyThree’s name probably wouldn’t have had the same impact had it not been linked to Microsoft’s stillborn project, the Courier. A number of the startup’s founders came from that axed project and aimed to bring a semblance of that creativity and productivity to the platform that would welcome them and make them money. While a far cry from what Courier would have been, Paper still managed to endear itself to iPad and later iPhone users over the years.In a way, it was probably better than FiftyThree completely shutting down. Ever since its hit products, the iPad world has been flooded with note-taking and painting apps, even those that used just your finger, as well as Bluetooth-powered pressure sensitive styluses like those from Adonit. Needless to say, Paper and Pencil had some tough competition but the biggest blow came from the very same company that gave it an award.In 2015, not only did Apple launch the iPad Pro, it also launched its own Jobs-defying stylus, the Apple Pencil. By 2016, FiftyThree had stopped making and selling its own Pencil. The impact on the company was not trivial. Speaking to WIRED, co-founder and CEO George Petschnigg admitted that “FiftyThree was not profitable at the time of the acquisition.”AdChoices广告Still, it’s odd that FiftyThree would sell to WeTransfer. The two couldn’t be farther apart in terms of audiences. Petschnigg explains it more as a similarity in business culture and vision, giving creatives the space and tools to get their job done and offering privacy-respecting freemium versions of apps. For now, the FiftyThree team will stay on board and both Paper and relatively new slideshow-centric Paste apps will be available as normal. How long that will last remains to be seen. Years before Apple came out with the iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil, very few companies dared to oppose what the late Steve Jobs said about styluses, that nobody would want them. In 2012, a startup named FiftyThree launched not only an award-winning Paper sketchbook app exclusively for the iPad then nascent but also a popular Pencil stylus. Now six years later, the company is no more, having been acquired by someone you least expected: cloud-based file transfer company WeTransfer.
The result is a camera that looks, at first glance, like a modern digital rangefinder. Pixii supports Leica M lenses and, courtesy of adapters, other – more affordable – lenses too. Zeiss and Voigtlander both make compatible glass, the company points out. Not all of the specifications have been pinned down yet. The CMOS sensor has a 5.5 um pixel pitch, 12-bit sampling rate, and supports ISO 100 to 6400. However Pixii isn’t talking about a specific number of megapixels yet.What you don’t get is a screen on the back by which you can frame shots or indeed review them afterwards. There’s a viewfinder, but unlike most modern implementations it’s not digital: instead it’s a good old-fashioned optical one. Within that, there are LED backlit frame lines with exposure indicators. AdChoices广告The only display that Pixii actually has, in fact, is a small OLED panel on the top that shows settings like ISO and white balance. A manual shutter speed selector is included, too, but many of the settings are designed to be accessed via the companion smartphone app. It’s that which shows your photos, stored either on the 8 GB or 32 GB of fixed internal storage the camera has, or synchronized automatically to your handset via WiFi b/g/n or Bluetooth. “The digital camera hasn’t changed much since the 90s,” David Barth, Pixii’s creator, argues. “But now the new generation is learning photography with a smartphone: who understands why a camera still needs to bother with a screen or an SD card?”Barth’s suggestion is that while good lenses stand the test of time, camera software and supplementary hardware like displays are more transient. Better, then, to hand those over to a smartphone, which is more likely to get regular upgrades. Meanwhile, Pixii itself keeps on taking RAW shots. It’s not the first time we’ve seen attempts to reinvent the standalone camera for the smartphone era. Relonch, for instance, tried to put the cloud to the forefront with its tradition-bucking camera, doing away with any sort of local review of the images captured in favor of uploading them, post-processing them, and then spitting the best of the results back the next day through the company’s app. After a flashy trial preview, however, Relonch seemingly settled on pushing its editing AI in other ways. If Pixii is to succeed, it’ll need to be priced right. That’s another detail the company is yet to confirm, saying that price and availability will be confirmed “in the coming weeks.” If it can significantly undercut a Leica camera while still offering lens compatibility and anywhere close to overall image quality, that could still make it a success. The rangefinder camera might not be the first device you’d think was in need of a smartphone upgrade, but Pixii believes it’s overdue. The French startup says that not only does the phone in your pocket make your standalone camera’s screen surplus to requirements, but its storage, too.
This afternoon the OnePlus 6T leaked in press images and details before its official release date and reveal date. If you like to feel surprised and delighted when you watch a OnePlus event livestream, turn around now. This is about to get kinda spoiler-filled. It begins with two colors, both of them black, both of them black on the front and the back. Story TimelineOnePlus 6T launch event date set for later this monthOnePlus 6T OxygenOS teased with some significant changesApple Event and OnePlus 6T day: which will you watch?OnePlus 6T event date changed to steer clear of Apple The OnePlus 6T was revealed by WinFuture from all angels in a number of press renderings that are almost certainly the official, real deal. According to WinFuture’s Roland Quandt, the OnePlus 6T will roll with a 6.4-inch AMOLED display and Gorilla Glass 5 up front. This device appears in two kinds of black: “Midnight Black” and “Mirror Black.” If what we’re seeing today is true, what we saw back on September 19th was exceedingly accurate. There we saw the slight differences between the OnePlus 6 and the OnePlus 6T – especially regarding its fingerprint sensor. Get ready to press up front.• Display: 6.4 inches, 2340 x 1080 px, AMOLED, 402 ppi• Operating System: Android 9.0 Pie with OxygenOS 9• RAM: 8 GB• Internal Storage: 128 GB UFS 2.1• Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 OctaCore 2.8 GHz• SIM: Nano SIM, dual sim support• Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, NFC, WLAN AC, USB 3.1 Type C• Back Cameras: 16 MP + 20 MP, HDR, Sony sensor• Front Camera: 16 MP• Video (back facing): 4K (UltraHD), DivX, Xvid, Mp4, H.265• Sensors: Accelerometer, gyroscope, fingerprint sensor, proximity sensor, brightness sensor, compass• Battery: 3700 mAh, LiPo, non-removable• Dimensions (HxWxD): 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm• Weight: 185 gAdChoices广告The OnePlus 6T was originally scheduled to be revealed October 16th, then October 30th. Then after an Apple event was revealed that same day, OnePlus re-scheduled again, moving the event to October 29th. We’re expecting that’s the date that’ll stick. We’re expecting the OnePlus 6T to be released around one week after reveal, and for the price to be at or around that of the OnePlus 6. The OnePlus 6 was originally released for a price of $579 at launch.And what seems to be missing? That third back-facing camera lens. Chances are OnePlus decided to keep that innovation until their next big release in OnePlus 7. But we shall see!
This afternoon the OnePlus 7 was leaked in full by a retailer online – or so it would seem. This retailer has done the same thing in the past – apparently leaking devices well in advance of actual launch. What separates this situation from the rest is the subject matter – and the fact that it’s reflecting some of the analysis we’ve done in the recent past. If you’ll look at the specifications leaked by Giztop (at Giztop dot com slash OP7 dot HTML if you want to look at it in real life), you’ll see a set of phone details. These specs are very similar to those that we’ve reported in a post earlier this month. This information is pretty much listed here, more or less.As mentioned by GSMArena earlier today, one part of the Giztop listing seems to mention one sort of charging, while another part mentions something different. The listing was likely created using templates – of the phones that are likely leading up to this device, as we’ve outlined in our most recent analysis of the OPPO F11, R series, and OnePlus 7. One tips the other.In this case, it’s a matter of branding charging types. OPPO tends to use a fast charging brand name “VOOC”, while OnePlus uses their own brand “Dash Charging”. In one part of the listing on Giztop we see Dash Charging, on another we see VOOC. For more VOOC, have a peek at the OPPO F11 Pro, aka “the perfume bottle.”The listing also mentions things like a “Waterdrop Notch” – which is what the most recent already-released OnePlus 6T has. So the whole listing is pretty mixed up, and there’s no real reason to believe any of it more than any other source. I wouldn’t be shocked to find that Giztop knows no more than your average everyday citizen.In the real world, this is far more likely a purposeful listing done by the retailer to garner attention from blogs like… well, us. Instead of taking this information without question, though, we’re going to go ahead and report it as it is: copy-pasted.At the moment it would seem that we’re still able to trust the sources used by OnLeaks. That’s another leaker who’s made it his business to attain CAD drawings of the devices well before release – for a variety of different phones over the past few years. He’s pretty accurate when it comes to going ahead and rendering these devices on his own using said drawings. Above you’ll see what’s pretty likely to be the OnePlus 7 – in effect. This isn’t a rendering done by OnePlus. It’s made by OnLeaks. So it’ll be SORTA like this – if not basically identical to this. Story TimelineOnePlus 7 specs leaked: 48MP, 5G in effectOnePlus 7 wireless charging still won’t be happeningOnePlus 7 renders show popup front camera, triple rear cameras
When Apple unveiled the iPhone XR, it offered its fans a chance to own a similar-looking and nearly equal premium smartphone at a lower price point. Of course, there have been some compromises along the way, like having only one camera on its back. Rumors now abound that the next iPhone XR, be it the iPhone XR 2 or iPhone XI R, will finally bump that number up to three. Unfortunately, some might not like how it will look. Based on Japanese blog Mac Otakara’s sources, it seems that Apple is focusing on keeping build costs down. That mostly involves reusing the same design and some of the same components across all two or three iPhone models this year. That means, for better or for worse, they will all look the same, regardless of size, price, or specs.The iPhone XI R, for example, will share the same wide-angle and telephoto lens as the other two iPhone XIs expected later this year. However you look at it, and some might not want too, it’s a considerable step up from last year’s single camera, especially in the Portrait Mode department. The telephoto camera will supposedly offer only 2x optical zoom.Apple will use the same triangular formation, or “trinocular” if you wish, that has been leaked for the iPhone XI. The LED flash seems to take the spot of what would have been the third camera, leaving the fourth hole a mystery.The similarities don’t end there though. The iPhone XI R will reportedly also make use of the same 3D molded single sheet of glass that has also been recently leaked for the iPhone XI. This pretty much means that it will look exactly like its more expensive siblings, with their sizes being their only immediately visible differences.
Longer Looks: Too Many Pills For Dad; Genetic Secrets; A Supermarket’s Dietitian This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Every week Shefali S. Kulkarni selects interesting reading from around the Web.ABC: New Study Highlights Dangers Of Over-Medicated SeniorsMy father was a great doctor, a fine magician and a mean saxophone player. But around the time he turned 77 years old, he started slurring his words and spending long periods of time sitting and staring into space. I suspected he had begun a gradual slide into dementia. … Then I happened to take a glance at his medicine cabinet. There were over 100 bottles of pills, in an astounding array of shapes, colors and sizes. … I sorted the pills into more than a dozen unique prescriptions ordered by four separate doctors. Then I cross referenced each drug against all the others as well as with his various supplements and medical conditions. After that, I called his doctors and demanded they walk me through his entire drug regimen. In the end, I was able to trim his daily medication list in half, and within a few days my father came back to us. … This is such a common occurrence that it even has a name: Polypharmia. That’s the shorthand used to describe older patients who take more drugs than they actually need. Now a new study shows just how much of a problem it really is (Liz Neporent, 8/23).Time: Is Your Doctor Burned Out? Job burnout can strike workers in nearly any field, but a new study finds that doctors are at special risk. Nearly 1 in 2 U.S. physicians report at least one symptom of burnout, with doctors at the front line of care particularly vulnerable, the study found — a significantly higher rate than among the general working population. Overtaxed doctors are not only at risk for personal problems, like relationship issues and alcohol misuse, but their job-related fatigue can also erode professionalism, compromise quality of care, increase medical errors and encourage early retirement — a potentially critical problem as an aging population demands more medical care (Alexandra Sifferlin, 8/23).The New York Times: Employing Dietitians Pays Off For SupermarketsLois E. Florence recently left her doctor’s office with a diagnosis of colitis, an intestinal disorder, and a complicated set of instructions for changing her diet. After several setbacks she had a chance conversation with the pharmacist at her local Hy-Vee grocery store here that changed everything. He referred her to the store’s dietitian, Dawn Blocklinger, and on a recent sunny morning, the two of them spent almost an hour compiling a list of the foods Mrs. Florence, 79, could eat and alternatives for the ones she couldn’t, like rye bread to replace wheat and Tofutti instead of ice cream. Then they went shopping. Hy-Vee is the only grocery chain in the country that posts a registered dietitian in almost every one of its 235 stores. In rural areas, some of its more than 190 dietitians serve a cluster of stores. That puts it at the forefront of a phenomenon sweeping the grocery business as it tries both to capitalize on growing consumer awareness of the role food plays in health and wellness and to find new ways to fend off competition from specialty markets like Whole Foods and big-box stores like Walmart (Stephanie Strom, 8/24).The New York Times: Genes Now Tell Doctors Secrets They Can’t UtterDr. Arul Chinnaiyan stared at a printout of gene sequences from a man with cancer, a subject in one of his studies. There, along with the man’s cancer genes, was something unexpected — genes of the virus that causes AIDS. It could have been a sign that the man was infected with H.I.V.; the only way to tell was further testing. But Dr. Chinnaiyan, who leads the Center for Translational Pathology at the University of Michigan, was not able to suggest that to the patient, who had donated his cells on the condition that he remain anonymous. In laboratories around the world, genetic researchers using tools that are ever more sophisticated to peer into the DNA of cells are increasingly finding things they were not looking for, including information that could make a big difference to an anonymous donor. The question of how, when and whether to return genetic results to study subjects or their families “is one of the thorniest current challenges in clinical research,” said Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health. “We are living in an awkward interval where our ability to capture the information often exceeds our ability to know what to do with it” (Gina Kolata, 8/25).The Atlantic: Increased Access To Health Care May Decrease AbortionsAs the controversy over Missouri Rep. Todd Akin continues to burn, it seems we won’t have a resolution to our national abortion debate any time soon. From Massachusetts, though, comes growing evidence that the quest for lower abortion rates may not be at a standstill — and the key may be better insurance coverage. As the number of insured has gone up in Massachusetts, new state data show a corresponding decline in the number of abortions performed there since 2006 (Brian Fung, 8/24).WBUR: A Checkup On One Of America’s Most Expensive PatientsSue Beder is 66 and has had multiple sclerosis since she was 18. She sees half a dozen doctors, takes 21 prescribed medications, and is typically in and out of the hospital twice a year. … Beder is one of the 5 percent of patients we often hear about who account for half of all health care dollars in the United States. As one of the most expensive patients, Beder is at the epicenter of Massachusetts’ efforts to save money while improving her care. Late last year, Beder signed up with an agency, Senior Whole Health, that receives the money Medicare and Medicaid expect to spend on Beder and pools that into one budget. It’s an approach the state plans to expand to 110,000 disabled patients across Massachusetts. Senior Whole Health pledges to spend less than the government would spend and, in exchange, the agency gets to decide how best to spend the money to keep Beder healthy. Beder couldn’t have been happier with the move. The agency put handrails in her bathroom and started buying all her vitamins and lotions. It supplied adult diapers so that she wouldn’t get out of bed at night and risk a fall. The agency is doing all this to help Beder stay home. That’s where she wants to be, and it’s cheaper than moving her into a nursing home (Martha Bebinger, 8/24).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. News outlets report on various medical research and treatment developments. The New York Times: Obama Seeking To Boost Study Of Human BrainThe Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics (Markoff, 2/17).Medpage Today: Obama Plans $3 Billion ‘Brain Map’The Obama administration wants to put its stamp on a major scientific initiative — mapping the human brain to understand how it functions and malfunctions. The initiative is dubbed the “Brain Activity Map,” according to the New York Times, which reported the administration’s plan. The newspaper said the proposal will be delivered to Congress as part of the president’s budget package, and will carry a price tag of roughly $300 million a year over 10 years. The effort would be a collaboration between federal agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation and private organizations. The federal government, including the NIH and White House, weren’t available for comment Monday on the Presidents Day holiday (Pittman, 2/18).The New York Times: DNA Test For Rare Disorders Becomes RoutineEven if there is no treatment, there is almost always some benefit to diagnosis, geneticists say. It can give patients and their families the certainty of knowing what is wrong and even a prognosis. It can also ease the processing of medical claims, qualifying for special education services, and learning whether subsequent children might be at risk (Kolata, 2/18).Kaiser Health News: Cancer Rehab Begins To Bridge A Gap For PatientsIt was her own experience with debilitating side effects after cancer treatment that led Dr. Julie Silver to realize there is a huge gap in care that keeps cancer patients from getting rehabilitation services (Gotbaum, 2/18). Surveying The Landscape From Bench To Bedside
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Viewpoints: Despite Website Woes, Administration Should Be Given More Time; Health Law Credibility ‘Going Up In Smoke’ The Washington Post’s Plum Line: What The Obamacare Enrollment Numbers Really Tell Us The enrollment numbers are in, and as expected, they are well short of projections. Around 106,000 enrolled in new plans during October — with approximately 27,000 coming from states where the federal government is running the exchange (with its extensive problems), and another 79,000 coming through the state exchanges. Republicans are gleefully pointing to the numbers as proof Obamacare needs to be scrapped entirely. That confirms two things we’ve long known to be true: the website is a disaster, and short term enrollment figures are a serious political problem for the White House and Democrats (Greg Sargent, 11/13).Los Angeles Times: Obamacare’s Dismal Stats The Obama administration made it official Wednesday: The number of people who signed up for health coverage through new state and federal insurance exchanges last month was dwarfed by the number whose policies have been canceled as a result of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The figures were disappointing but not surprising, considering how badly the federally run exchanges’ website, HealthCare.gov, has malfunctioned. Yet as tempting as it may be for lawmakers to delay or reverse some of the changes set in motion by the law, they should give the administration more time to get HealthCare.gov back on track and consumers more time to learn about their options (11/14). The Wall Street Journal: The Affordable Care Act 26,794 The White House briefly lifted its Affordable Care Act information embargo on Wednesday, sort of, and now we know why the political pros imposed the blackout. The millions of Americans who are losing their private health insurance greatly exceed the handful who signed up for an ObamaCare plan. … But don’t make too much of the numbers because they’re deliberately inflated through junk accounting. A technical footnote in the HHS release explains that the agency is only reporting people who “selected a plan.” That means they may or not have paid for it as required (11/13).USA Today: Obamacare Credibility Going Up In Smoke: Our View Administration troubleshooter Jeffrey Zients promised the website would be working smoothly for most users by the end of this month. Even if the exchanges begin to work well by then — a big if — that will leave people whose insurance policies run out at the end of the year little time to sign up for insurance that kicks in on New Year’s Day. … That’s frightening for two reasons. One is that the White House has next to no credibility left when it comes to promises about its website. The other is that the administration’s disastrous incompetence is panicking Democrats, emboldening Republicans and threatening to unravel health reform. That would be a sickening outcome, but with each passing day, there is more to do and less time to do it (11/13). The Washington Post: Obamacare Is In Much More Trouble Than It Was One Week Ago The Affordable Care Act’s political position has deteriorated dramatically over the last week. President Bill Clinton’s statement that the law should be reopened to ensure everyone who likes their health plans can keep them was a signal event. It gives congressional Democrats cover to begin breaking with the Obama administration. The most serious manifestation of that break is Sen. Mary Landrieu’s “Keeping the Affordable Care Act Promise Act.” It’s co-sponsored not just by the usual moderate Democrats … but also by Oregon liberal Jeff Merkley. It’s worth noting that Merkley is up for reelection in 2014 (Ezra Klein, 11/13).The New York Times: Obamacare And Character The president’s job approval numbers have hit new lows. That’s actually not the worst news in a new round of polling. The worst news — or what the White House should find most worrisome — is that the president’s character has taken a hit (Charles M. Blow, 11/13). The Washington Post: Obama Needs His Friends Back In situations of this sort, there is always a search for an instant repair. “Fix the Web site” is the most obvious, and it’s certainly necessary. But a tech problem has been compounded by the reality of health-care reform itself. The small but highly visible individual-insurance market was volatile before Obamacare. It’s hardly surprising that some who are in it are angry when plans are canceled and premiums rise. The very purpose of insurance reform is to create a broad market in which the less healthy will be able to get coverage at affordable prices (E.J. Dionne Jr., 11/13). Bloomberg: Congress Shouldn’t Repeat Obama’s Mistake The idea is deceptively simple: Because President Barack Obama promised Americans they could keep their existing insurance under his new health-care-reform law, Congress should pass a law guaranteeing that they can. In reality, though, Obama was wrong to have made that promise — and Congress would be compounding his foolishness by forcing insurance companies to keep it. The primary goal of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is to make the health-care system more efficient and comprehensive. It has never been to preserve individual insurance plans (11/13).The New York Times’ Evaluations: Does Individual Insurance Work? Amid this week’s hints that the federal exchange still won’t be anywhere close to functional on December 1st, Matt Yglesias offers the latest noble attempt to explain to Americans losing their individual-market coverage why they’re actually better off paying higher premiums for new, Obamacare-era plans. Instead of focusing on the more comprehensive benefits that the new plans offer, he takes a different tack — suggesting that most people with cheapish individual-market coverage didn’t really have insurance at all (Ross Douthat, 11/13). The Wall Street Journal: Escape From ObamaCare The Affordable Care Act appears to be misfiring in every imaginable way, and Democrats are having second thoughts about serving as human shields for White House ineptitude. If they really want to make amends, they’ll join Republicans in trying to repair some of the damage they caused. The first act of penance is modest legislation the House will vote on Friday that would try to honor President Obama’s promise that people who liked their insurance could keep it (11/13). The Wall Street Journal: Voters May Cancel Democratic Coverage in 2014 The mounting cancellations of people’s health plans is not a result of faulty implementation. The Affordable Care Act was designed to make unavailable health-insurance policies that didn’t include its extensive, expensive and often unnecessary provisions (Karl Rove, 11/13). The Wall Street Journal: A Conservative Alternative To ObamaCare As ObamaCare’s failures and victims mount by the day, Republicans have so far mostly been watching in amazement. … What Republicans can and should do is offer the public something better. Now is the time to advance a conservative reform that can solve the serious, discrete problems of the health-care system in place before ObamaCare, but without needlessly upending people’s arrangements or threatening what works in American medicine (Ramesh Ponnuru and Yuval Levin, 11/13). The Washington Post: Darrell Issa’s Obamacare Kangaroo Court No human makes leaps quite like Darrell Issa. He leaps to conclusions. He makes huge leaps of logic. He leaps before he looks. And he invariably leaps right into the White House, alleging high-level political misbehavior and administration corruption for just about everything that goes wrong. On Wednesday, the topic was Obamacare, but the California Republican followed the script he used when investigating “Fast and Furious” gun-running, the Benghazi attack, and IRS targeting: make inflammatory allegations of high-level skullduggery, release selective information that appears to support the case while withholding exculpatory details, then use his chairman’s privileges to turn hearings into episodes of “The Darrell Issa Show” (Dana Milbank, 11/13). Politico: The Obamacare Lie That Can’t Be Fixed Who knew that the day would come when Bill Clinton would be in a position to lecture President Barack Obama about honoring his word? In an interview with Ozy.com, the former president addressed those millions of Americans getting cancellation notices from their insurance companies, even though Obama had infamously promised that they could keep their plans. “I personally believe,” Clinton said, “even if it takes a change in the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to these people and let them keep what they got.” Clinton has a black belt in verbal escape hatches and has never been one to let a strict adherence to truthfulness become an obstacle, so his statement hit with extra force (Rich Lowry, 11/14). Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Protecting Patients Central To Physical, Behavioral Health ReformsAll this hostility obscures the fact that at the core of these reforms are the health and health care of all Americans — almost half of whom will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. … More to the point, given recent announcements by insurance companies that they are canceling policies held by hundreds of thousands in Colorado alone, it is vital to understand how this landmark legislation protects all of us by extending and strengthening parity for mental health and substance use disorder services (Michael Lott-Manier, 11/13).The Fiscal Times: Beyond Healthcare.Gov: Testing The Private Market One of the numerous “proof’s in the pudding” tests for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will be if the plans offered on state and federal online exchanges are competitive with similar plans on the private market. To test this idea on a practical basis – I’m looking for a plan for my family of four – I sampled some policy quotes on ehealthinsurance.com, a privately run site I’ve used many times in the past. It’s a practical model for how online exchanges can work. It’s fast, efficient and easy to contact a live person. The site claims to offer 13,000 plans from more than 150 carriers (John F. Wasik, 11/14). In other health issues -The American Prospect: The Supply-Side Economics Of AbortionLast June, Ohio Republicans quietly slipped a handful of abortion restrictions into the state’s budget, alongside provisions to invest in Ohio’s highway system and a new funding model for the state’s colleges and universities. Eight states, including Ohio, already require clinics that perform or induce abortion to have a “transfer agreement” with a local hospital so that patients can be transported quickly to a more sophisticated medical center in case of an emergency. The budget, which Republican Governor John Kasich signed into law with the abortion provisions intact, included an innovative new rule, making Ohio the first state to prohibit abortion clinics from entering into transfer agreements with public hospitals (Thomson-Deveaux, 11/13).The New York Times: Don’t Give Patients More Statins On Tuesday, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new cholesterol guidelines that essentially declared, in one fell swoop, that millions of healthy Americans should immediately start taking pills — namely statins — for undefined health “benefits.” This announcement is not a result of a sudden epidemic of heart disease, nor is it based on new data showing the benefits of lower cholesterol. Instead, it is a consequence of simply expanding the definition of who should take the drugs — a decision that will benefit the pharmaceutical industry more than anyone else (John D. Abramson and Rita F. Redberg, 11/13). Health Policy Solutions (a Colo. news service): Providers Who Address Social Determinants Maximize Patient OutcomesThese social determinants of health, such as income, education, access to quality food and housing, and race or ethnicity, exert powerful influences in our patient’s lives before they ever set foot into our office. It is our responsibility as providers to appreciate each patient’s unique situation and ability to follow through on a treatment plan or access necessary resources (Dr. Paul Melinkovich, 11/13).The Star Tribune: Rosenblum: Program Sheds Light On Mental Illness IssuesWhile most individual and small-group policies remain exempt, our state’s new online health insurance exchange, called MNsure, will follow parity in coverage of mental health and substance-abuse issues. “Even more people will get covered,” said a buoyed Sue Abderholden, executive director of NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota. But mental health parity is only part of the healing (Gail Rosenblum, 11/13).
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. The New York Times’ The Upshot: Good News And Gloom For Medicare, Wrapped In A Mystery Medicare got some good news Monday, when the trustees who oversee its finances announced that the fund that pays for hospital care will remain solvent until 2030, four years longer than its forecast from last year. But that good news came wrapped up in the usual long-term bad news: The aging of baby boomers means that Medicare’s long-term finances are in trouble, even if the next decade is looking much better (Margot Sanger-Katz, 7/28). Los Angeles Times: Good News And Warnings In The Social Security And Medicare Reports The release of the annual trustees reports for Social Security and Medicare customarily give rise to an outburst of disinformation from the enemies of these social insurance programs — that comes with the territory when you’re putting out documents of hundreds of pages densely packed with graphs, charts and statistics. There may be less of that with the release of both reports Monday (months after the statutory deadline). That’s because “the news is essentially that there is no news” in the reports, as Kathy Ruffing of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a leading expert on Social Security, said during a conference call Monday on the Social Security report (Michael Hiltzik, 7/28). The Wall Street Journal: A Promising Deal On Reforming Veterans Affairs Veterans across the nation are waiting too long for the care they need, and some of them are dying while awaiting treatment. Far-reaching efforts to establish public-private partnerships are needed to meet the challenges facing the Department of Veterans Affairs. On Monday, the chairmen of House and Senate committees announced a deal to provide $10 billion in emergency funding for veterans to obtain care outside the VA system. The draft bill is a step in the right direction and should be approved by the joint conference committee and passed by Congress before the August recess (Robert Morgenthau, 7/28). The Wall Street Journal’s Political Diary: The Veterans Affairs Deal House and Senate negotiators haven’t released all the details of a plan to overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. But we’re happy to see that a draft bill leaked over the weekend does include a provision that would allow veterans to receive care from a non-VA facility. News earlier this year that patient wait lists at VA facilities were being doctored to reflect shorter wait times and enable managers to earn performance bonuses produced a national outcry and cost Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki his job. Never mind that at least three inspector general reports between 2005 and 2012 highlighted the very same waitlist problems, as did a Government Accountability Office report released way back in 2000 (Jason L. Riley, 7/28).Los Angeles Times: The Genesis Of Obamacare’s Disputed Provision On Insurance Subsidies The Times ran multiple opinion pieces last week — by me, by the editorial board and by op-ed contributors — arguing that, contrary to what the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for D.C. ruled, the 2010 healthcare law makes insurance subsidies available in every state, not just the 14 that established their own insurance exchanges. To which some readers have asked, reasonably enough, why does the text of the law seem so clearly to say otherwise? For example, Michael Robertson, a tech entrepreneur who’s no fan of Obamacare, asked via Twitter, “Why mention ‘state exchanges’ in the context of subsidies if everyone gets them? That’s highly illogical” (Jon Healey, 7/28). Politico: The Flip-Flopping Architect Of The ACA The administration’s defenders responded to the Halbig case by insisting that Congress never intended to withhold subsidies from residents of states that did not establish exchanges. Like the Obama administration, [Jonathan] Gruber told the D.C. Circuit that this idea is “implausible.” … Gruber then became part of the story on Thursday when a video surfaced in which he espouses the very interpretation of the law he now publicly derides …. When the chief architect of the PPACA admits it withholds tax credits in uncooperative states, that establishes that the plaintiffs’ interpretation of the statute in Halbig was not only plausible but that it had currency among the law’s authors (Michael Cannon, 7/28). Los Angeles Times: Here’s The Single Best Analysis Of The Halbig Anti-Obamacare Ruling Northwestern University law and political science professor Andrew Koppelman moves past the absurd legal theory underlying the Halbig ruling on the Affordable Care Act — in which a federal appeals court invalidated subsidies provided to insurance buyers on federal, as opposed to state, insurance exchanges — to ask why the lawsuit’s backers brought the case in the first place (Michael Hiltzik, 7/28).The Washington Post: North Carolina Republicans Put Ideology Above Lives On July 1, the hospital in rural Belhaven, N.C., closed — a victim, in part, of the decision by the state’s governor and legislature to reject the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare. Six days later, 48-year-old Portia Gibbs, a local resident, had a heart attack. The medevac to take her to the next-nearest hospital (as many as 84 miles away, depending on where you live) didn’t get there in time (Dana Milbank, 7/28). The Washington Post: Texas’s War On Abortion Is Shuttering Clinics Throughout The Lone Star State Abortion remains legal in the United States, but states such as Texas are erecting legal impediments before clinics that perform the procedure. In effect, 40 years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade established the right to first-trimester abortion, pro-life groups and lawmakers are negating its effects. Last year, lawmakers in Texas forced through legislation that amounts to a frontal assault on the state’s abortion providers. More than 40 clinics around the state performed the procedure legally and safely when the law took effect a year ago. Today fewer than half of those clinics are still in business in a state where the population has more than doubled over four decades (7/28). The New York Times’ The Upshot: The Problem With ‘Pay for Performance’ In Medicine “Pay for performance” is one of those slogans that seem to upset no one. To most people it’s a no-brainer that we should pay for quality and not quantity. … So it’s no surprise that pay for performance has been an important part of recent reform efforts. But in reality we’re seeing disappointingly mixed results. Sometimes it’s because providers don’t change the way they practice medicine; sometimes it’s because even when they do, outcomes don’t really improve (Aaron E. Carroll, 7/28). The Washington Post: Sick? Now You Can Stay Home. Something strange is about to happen [in New York] on Thursday: Lots of workers who’ve never done so before are probably going to call in sick. And that’s a good thing. The Big Apple, you see, is joining a handful of other trailblazing cities such as Washington, San Francisco and Newark in guaranteeing workers what Congress has not: mandatory sick days. Thursday will represent the first day that the newly covered workers can use the sick leave hours they have legally accrued (Catherine Rampell, 7/28). Reuters: Want To Avoid A Pandemic? Here’s A Good Way To Start Over the past two months, a series of mishaps at the CDC and NIH — involving mishandled anthrax, mislabeled influenza and misplaced smallpox — has alarmed the scientific community. The common theme surrounding all of them is human error. … These mishaps show why we need to stop conducting certain types of research on strains of flu virus that could cause worldwide epidemics, or pandemics. In these types of research — which involve live, intact viruses that can spread from person to person — the risks outweigh the benefits (Carlos Moreno, 7/28). Journal of the American Medical Association: Quantifying A Nonnotifiable Disease In The United States In the United States, public health surveillance has evolved from a focus on monitoring infectious diseases to also tracking injuries, chronic diseases, birth defects, environmental and occupational exposures, and risk factors. Despite this evolution of surveillance topics, many conditions still are not notifiable to federal public health officials nor are there surveillance systems in place to capture such conditions. The lack of morbidity data for nonnotifiable conditions makes it difficult to access accurately the populations at greatest risk and the true economic and societal burden of such diseases. New approaches are needed to more accurately quantify nonnotifiable conditions of interest in the United States, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) (D. Kevin Horton, Paul Mehta and Vinicius C. Antao, 7/24). Viewpoints: Medicare’s Future Finances; ‘Promising Deal’ On VA; Texas ‘War On Abortion’
The road to medical understanding is pitted with confounding news headlines. Take one last week warning that women exposed to too much of the ubiquitous vitamins folate and B-12 during pregnancy face an increased risk of having an autistic child. The research, out of Johns Hopkins University, is part of a quest to unravel the causes of autism. The provocative folate finding is a valuable clue, but the way the university publicized it was not useful and potentially dangerous. (Faye Flam, 5/20) The Wall Street Journal: Will Health Insurance Premium Increases Related To Obamacare Sway Voters? Bloomberg: Another Cry Of Wolf On Autism Bloomberg: Doctors Have The Right To Perform Abortions Here’s some excellent news on inequality: Measured from birth, the gap in life expectancy between rich and poor in the U.S. has been rapidly narrowing. It appears that a variety of policy initiatives, including those designed to promote children’s health and cut smoking, are actually working. These findings run counter to the widespread view that the economic gap increasingly means that the rich live longer while the poor don’t. That view has some solid research behind it: By some measures, rich people are indeed showing longevity gains, but in many parts of the country, poor people aren’t. (Cass Sunstein, 5/21) Cleveland Plain Dealer: Ohio Has Opportunity To Remove Barrier To Addiction Treatment “This … is the end … of my life.” These would be my patient’s only words — an economy of phrasing made necessary by an all-consuming air hunger. She had just arrived in the emergency room, Code 3 critical, after a lights-and-sirens ambulance transport from her nursing home. Awake, alert and intensely focused, every effort of her frail, 90-year-old body was concentrated on the simple act of breathing. Her weak heart and failed kidneys had caused her lungs to fill with fluid, every breath becoming a mixture of water and air. The analogy to drowning is inevitable. As her physician, I was going to have to make some big decisions quickly, including this one: How much should I do to save her life? (Eric Snoey, 5/22) Miami Herald: Money Doesn’t Buy As Long A Life As It Used To Everyone cautions people not to carry their Social Security cards with them, yet Medicare cards prominently display a beneficiary’s Social Security number. … In April of last year, President Barack Obama signed MACRA, Section 501 of which prohibits the inclusion of Social Security account numbers on Medicare cards. MACRA stands for the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. The CMS Social Security Number Removal Initiative is now underway. (Julie Jason, 5/23) Last month in this space, we suggested that Obamacare is working, at least with regards to its goals of slowing health care costs and bringing insurance coverage to millions more Americans. Our readers, however, were quick to point out that insurance providers are not nearly as enthusiastic. That’s true. One of the nation’s larger insurers, UnitedHealth, announced last month that it would pull out of several Obamacare markets, including North Carolina. Another N.C. provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, might stop selling ACA policies in 2017, CEO Brad Wilson said in February. (5/22) New proposals are being considered in Tennessee and neighboring states to reform Medicaid programs using cost-sharing. These ideas may be novel to legislators, but they mirror years-long commercial insurance trends. … The big question for these proposals, whether they apply to Medicaid recipients, marketplace consumers or those with job-based health coverage, is if they are effective in slowing spending, and at what cost to consumers. (Alex Tolbert, 5/20) Ohio Governor John Kasich has said frequently that among those Ohioans benefiting most from Medicaid expansion in Ohio were those with a severe and persistent mental illness and or an addiction. During a Republican presidential debate last October, he told Fox News’ Megyn Kelly, “I had the opportunity to bring resources back to Ohio. To do what? To treat the mentally ill.” (John Corlett, 5/22) Modern Healthcare: What’s A New Cancer Drug Worth? The Charlotte Observer: An Insurer’s Obamacare Grade: Passing, But Barely St. Louis Post Dispatch: Fighting The Growing Epidemic Of Overdoses On Friday, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin vetoed a bill that would have effectively banned abortion in the state. The bill, which would have made performing the procedure a felony, was certainly unconstitutional. But it was unlawful in a very interesting way, because it raised the question of whether the right to abortion belongs to a woman or to her doctor. As it turns out, that question has been an important one ever since Roe v. Wade, a decision that actually emphasizes the rights of the physician. (Noah Feldman, 5/22) The latest cancer drugs emerging from drug and biotechnology company labs come with hefty price tags. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration approved Roche/Genentech’s application for a new bladder cancer drug—the fourth in the hot new class of immunotherapy drugs. Its cost will be $12,500 a month, despite clinicians and patients not knowing how well Tecentriq (generic name atezolizumab) works. The clinical trial showed the drug shrank tumors in only 14.8% of the 310 patients in the trial. That’s a 1-in-7 response rate, which lasted from two to 14 months, according to the FDA analysis. (Merrill Goozner, 5/21) Los Angeles Times: ‘The Patient Is Code 3 Critical. Her Frail, 90-Year-Old Body Is Failing. How Much Should I Do To Save Her Life?’ Houston Chronicle: Replacing Social Security Numbers On Medicare Cards As candidates in both parties focus on the general election campaign, some Republicans wonder if large premium increases related to the Affordable Care Act could be an “October surprise” that helps propel them to victory in November. The causes of the approaching premium increases vary, but some are rooted in a 2013 Obama administration proposal. In reporting on premium increases by one Iowa insurer, the Des Moines Register noted that individuals who bought new plans that complied with Affordable Care Act regulations could face premium increases of 38% to 43% next year. “Another 90,000 Wellmark customers who hold older individual insurance plans are expected to face smaller increases, which will be announced in June,” the paper said. (Chris Jacobs, 5/22) Federal bureaucrats announced earlier this year that they plan to upend the way Medicare Part B pays for drugs. The goal? To save money by getting doctors to alter their treatment choices. That’s bad medicine, flawed economics and destructive public policy—and Congress should pass legislation to stop this ill-conceived experiment. Medicare plays a crucial role in the lives of more than 55 million Americans. It is the only way some seniors can get access to the drugs that keep them alive. The new policy from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will jeopardize this access by inserting the government between doctors and patients in an unprecedented way. (Jeffrey L. Vacirca, 5/22) The Tennessean: Health Care Consumers Put More ‘Skin In The Game’ The Wall Street Journal: A Medicare Experiment With A Grim Prognosis This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription. Over the past seven years, more than 2,700 residents of St. Louis County have died as a result of heroin or opioid overdose. A sad, stark truth, but deaths related to heroin and prescription drug overdoses have surpassed car accidents as the number one cause of injury-related deaths nationwide. Between 2004 and 2015, hospital utilization for opioid abuse increased 137 percent in Missouri, with the highest rates reported in St. Louis. (Rep. Ann Wagner, 5/23) The Washington Post: Zika Is Coming, But We’re Far From Ready Viewpoints: Zika Readiness Falls Short; A Lack Of Obamacare Enthusiasm? A selection of opinions on health care from around the country. The good news is that both the House and Senate have finally passed bills that would provide some funding to combat the Zika virus. The bad news is that this action comes more than three months after President Obama requested the aid. Moreover, the House bill provides only one-third of the response needed; pays for this limited, ineffective response by diverting money allocated to fight other infectious diseases; and necessitates a conference committee to resolve differences with the Senate bill, meaning we still do not know when any money will finally get through Congress to fund the response. (Ronald A. Klain, 5/22)
Reddit National Bank CEO Louis Vachon says the job market in Canada remains positive.Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press Sponsored By: National Bank of Canada Chief Executive Officer Louis Vachon doesn’t see much prospect of a Canadian recession in the next six to 12 months — barring unforeseen circumstances.“There needs to be another shoe to drop somewhere,” Vachon said Wednesday during a conference his bank hosted in Montreal. “There has to be further tightening by the central banks in North America, which appears to be unlikely at this stage, or some kind of macro-economic or geopolitical accident, which as you know is almost impossible to predict.”While financial-market indicators of recessions are beginning to flash red and Canadian economic growth nearly stalled at the end of 2018, signs of strength remain. The nation’s labour market, for example, is off to a roaring start this year. ‘The yield curve is the best economist out there’: What Canada’s first inverted curve in 12 years tells us Persistent deficits and higher spending raising Canada’s economic ‘vulnerability’: Fitch ‘They would be incorrect’: Bill Morneau shoots down speculation that Canada is on cusp of recession “I don’t have a forecasting machine,” he said. “All I can say is when I look specifically at Canada and in Quebec, where we have even better visibility, the job market remains very, very positive.”Vachon also sees Quebec’s economy as faring better than the rest of Canada, helping justify the Montreal-based lender’s focus on the largely French-speaking province.“Consumer sentiment in Quebec is the strongest in the country right now,” the chief executive said, adding that National Bank’s economists are forecasting growth in the province to be “slightly better” than the Canadian average in the near term.He said the “slightly expansionary” debut budget last week from Premier Francois Legault’s finance minister means consumers in the province “will have a little bit more money in their pockets” and that the government has room to react with fiscal stimulus in the event of a recession.Bloomberg.com No quick exit to our economy’s slow patch seen as today’s retail sales and inflation numbers disappoint Join the conversation → ‘The yield curve is the best economist out there’: What Canada’s first inverted curve in 12 years tells us March 27, 201912:46 PM EDT Filed under News Economy Featured Stories Canada’s prospects of being plunged into recession are dim, unless ‘another shoe’ drops, National Bank CEO says While recession indicators are beginning to flash red and economic growth nearly stalled at the end of 2018, signs of strength remain Doug Alexander Email Bloomberg News Share this storyCanada’s prospects of being plunged into recession are dim, unless ‘another shoe’ drops, National Bank CEO says Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn More ‘They would be incorrect’: Bill Morneau shoots down speculation that Canada is on cusp of recession Comment advertisement Twitter Facebook 1 Comments Related Stories What you need to know about passing the family cottage to the next generation ← Previous Next →
A review of the Renault Zoë from an extensive test drive and charging session by two old dinosaursSource: CleanTechnica Car Reviews RSS Feed
More E Bikes Indian Startup Ultraviolette Announces E-Bike for 2019 Source: Electric Vehicle News The Mysterious Rumble is an E-Bike With Engine Noises Arc Vector E-Bike To Debut At EICMA 2018 The model doesn’t have a name in the proper sense of the word—unless you want to consider “Tarform Production Unit” to be it. The company unveiled its first model in New York: a combination of modern technologies with a vintage, almost steampunk-looking design. The bike frame rests on what could probably be described as a massive engine cylinder-shaped battery block, complete with what looks like an arc reactor-esque logo on the side.The silhouette is reminiscent of a café racer with a flat, stitched saddle and pillion cover. The retro elements are combined with more modern ones, such as the hexagonal handlebar and copper-colored gauge, as well as 3D-printed side panels.The “Production Unit” is powered by a battery pack rated at an average of 75 miles combined range city-highway and gets a full charge within 4 hours (or 2h50 for 80 percent if you don’t have the extra hour to get to 100). Power is sent to the back wheel using a standard, exposed chain. Technology-wise, the model also integrates a certain level of artificial intelligence. For instance, the system will provide information on the bike’s status and raise a flag when maintenance is required and it will keep the rider informed of the presence of vehicles around him.The bike is available for pre-orders with production scheduled to being in June 2019. Future owners will also be able to customize their Tarform unit, including swapping the original battery pack for a bigger one. Old meets new in funky-looking Tarform e-bikeWe’re getting really cool electric motorcycles designs—companies kind of have to stand out from an increasingly crowded market of startups who want to make the world a little better and need our money to do it. American company Tarform Motorcycles is the latest addition to the local e-builders family and the product it offers seems to have what it takes to take its share of the electric pie. Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on October 17, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle News
A better choice is to have an electrician install a dedicated 240-volt line in your garage, like those used to power large electric appliances. Depending on local labor rates and how much work is involved, the job can cost a couple hundred dollars or more. It’s worth the expense, however, as the higher-voltage service enables what’s known as Level 2 charging that can replenish a drained EV battery in as little as four hours. Make sure you have the 240-volt plug located within the closest proximity to your vehicle’s charging port when it’s parked in the garage, however.You’ll also want to buy a dedicated Level 2 wall charging station for added safety and convenience. This is a bit of a misnomer, however, in that the actual charging station that converts AC house current into DC electricity is built into the vehicle itself. Home charging units are officially referred to as Electric Vehicle Service Equipment (EVSE).ESVEs are available at home center stores, electrical supply houses, and other sources from companies like Bosch, ClipperCreek, ChargePoint, GE, and Siemens. A given unit will cost around $500 to $700 or more depending on its configuration and features. That doesn’t include the cost of installation or permits if required.Here’s what to look for when shopping for an EV charging unit:PICK THE PROPER POWERExperts suggest buying an ESVE with at least 30 amps of power, and it should be connected to a circuit breaker that can handle at least 40 amps. That should be sufficient to add 30 miles of range in about an hour. Some EVs can get along with fewer amps, but buying more capability than you may need today makes the installation “future proof” should you eventually trade in the vehicle for a model that can handle the added capacity. Less expensive chargers deliver 15 amps, and while this will save a few bucks up front, it’s a fool’s bargain if your EV can handle more power. That’s because it effectively limits charging to around 15 miles of range per hour.CONSIDER THE CORDAll chargers use a standard plug to connect to 240-volt outlets, but the cord used to tether the car to the power grid will vary in length from one model to another. Make sure any charger you choose comes with enough cord to reach your car’s charging port easily. Lengths of 15 feet are common among less-costly models, but that may not be sufficient if the car’s port is located on the opposite end of the garage from the available power source. A 25-foot cord is better in this regard. Look for a unit that either comes with a reel to spool up the cord for storage or uses one that’s coiled to avoid having to wind and unwind the cord manually.PONDER PORTABILITYThough a hard-wired and permanently-mounted charger is more elegant, you can often get by with a portable unit that simply plugs into a 240-volt receptacle and hangs on the wall. Aside from not having to pay an electrician to hook it up, the advantage here is portability. You can easily take the charger with you if you change houses, have a second home, or need to move it to a different location within the garage. You can also pack it in the trunk if you’ll be taking a road trip to visit friends or relatives with a 240-volt line available at your destination. However, if you’ll be charging an EV outdoors, you’ll likely need to purchase a specific unit for that purpose and have it professionally hard-wired to meet local building codes.CONTEMPLATE CONNECTIVITYLike so many products these days, higher-end “smart” ESVE units are Wi-Fi enabled and allow an EV owner to monitor and control the charging process via a smartphone. Some smart chargers can communicate with your power company to only charge at off-peak times for discounted rates (where available), and a few can even receive commands via Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. Such units usually include onboard displays that are more advanced than the simple charge-indicator lights you’ll find on basic chargers. Some can also keep track of your car’s electricity consumption, which can be handy if you use the car for business.INVESTIGATE INCENTIVESDepending on where you live, you may be able to take advantage of state and/or local incentives that can help soften the financial blow of buying and having a charger installed. For example, residents of Anaheim, California who install Level 2 chargers are eligible for rebates of up to $500 per unit, with applicable permit fees waived. Individuals in Iowa are likewise eligible for a rebate as large as $500, as are customers of the Reading Municipal Light Department in Pennsylvania.Be aware that many states and localities, however, limit charging station incentives to public or workplace installations. A comprehensive database of incentives for buying and installing a Level 2 charger can be accessed via this link on the ChargePoint website.Finally, to help make choosing and buying a home charging station easier, you can purchase either of three popular ClipperCreek units directly from MYEV.com. Coming in both portable and hard-wired configurations, they’re priced between $379 and $565. You can check them out via a link embedded in any of our used EV listings under the “Home Charging Options” section. Best Home Chargers For Your Money Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on March 13, 2019Categories Electric Vehicle News Source: Electric Vehicle News LEVEL 2 CHARGING IS THE QUICKEST WAY TO AMP UP AN EV’S BATTERY AT HOME, PROVIDED YOUR GARAGE’S ELECTRICAL SERVICE IS UP TO THE TASK.While an electric car owner can simply plug the vehicle into a standard 110-volt wall outlet for charging, it’s a tortuously slow process. Also called Level 1 charging, it can take anywhere from eight to nearly 24 hours to bring its power cells up to a full charge, depending on the vehicle and its battery capacity.More Charging Info Here’s What You Need To Charge Your Electric Car At Home The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide To Home EV Chargers: Plus Top 5 Picks
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