Morning CheckUp: October 5, 2011

Advanced directives save money: “In areas of the country that have high Medicare expenditures, end-of-life Medicare spending decreases significantly for patients who have advance directives in place that limit treatment, a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes.” [Modern Healthcare]

Health departments are cutting programs: “About 55% of all local health departments reduced or cut at least one program between July 2010 and June 2011, according to a survey from the National Association of County and City Health Officials.” [Modern Healthcare]

What essential health benefits will look like: The Institute of Medicine will release recommendations about what factors the government should consider in drawing up the essential health benefits on Friday and will likely have to find a balancing act between recommending too much care and being too restrictive. [Kaiser Health News]

The regulations are essential for the health industry: Any plan that wants to sell on the new insurance marketplace will have to cover the benefits. The benefit package is also a crucial benchmark that regulators will use to determine how valuable an insurance plan is. Any plan that pays, on average, 60 percent of the benefit package’s cost is ranked bronze. Cover 90 percent, though, and you’re up at “platinum.” [Sarah Kliff]

Seniors are surprised by Medicare changes: “Nearly two-thirds of seniors don’t know that the Medicare enrollment period is early this year, a survey shows, and that could cost them.” [Health News Florida]

HPV-related throat cancer on the rise: “A new study by researchers at Ohio University found that throat cancers caused by HPV increased significantly in the United States in recent years. According to an article in the New York Times, researchers tested tumor samples from 271 patients diagnosed with certain types of throat cancer between 1984 and 2004. HPV was found in only 16 percent of the samples from the 1980s but in 72 percent of those collected after 2000.” [RH Reality Check]

Hospitals reaching out to immigrant populations: “Language barriers and the fear of running into trouble because they lack proper documentation are among the many reasons that some immigrants avoid the health care system. Now hospitals seeking to connect with these hard-to-reach populations are turning to a trusted institution: the church.” [Kaiser Health News]

Nebraska will wait for SCOTUS decision: “Nebraska will not enact a health care exchange mandated by the federal health care overhaul until officials know for sure whether the measure is constitutional, Gov. Dave Heineman said Monday.” [Bloomberg Businessweek]