What's New in Health Care Reform provides an overview of the past week’s news, updates, and commentary in health care reform and utilization management.
Trump Seeks Delay of Ruling on Health Law Subsidies, Prolonging Uncertainty
The Trump administration asked a federal appeals court to delay ruling on a lawsuit that could determine whether the government will continue paying subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to health insurance companies for the benefit of low-income people—effectively prolonging uncertainty that is already rattling the health law. The request could further destabilize insurance markets as insurers are developing rates and deciding whether to participate in 2018. Via NY Times.
Nearly 20 Million Have Gained Health Insurance Since 2010
The number of Americans without health insurance has fallen drastically in recent years, according to new data from the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2016, there were 28.6 million Americans without health insurance, down from more than 48 million in 2010. Some 12.4% of adults aged 18 to 24 were uninsured, 69.2% were covered by private plans, and 20% had public coverage. Among children under 18, 5.1% were uninsured, 43% had public insurance, and 53.8% had private plans. Via NY Times.
Trump Budget Seeks Huge Cuts to Disease Prevention and Medical Research Departments
President Trump's 2018 budget request to Congress seeks massive cuts in spending on health programs, including medical research, disease prevention programs and health insurance for children of the working poor. The National Cancer Institute would be hit with a $1 billion cut compared to its 2017 budget. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute would see a $575 million cut, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would see a reduction of $838 million. The administration would cut the overall National Institutes of Health budget from $31.8 billion to $26 billion. Via Washington Post.
Trump Administration, House Set to Update Court in Obamacare Payments Case
The White House and the House of Representatives are set to give a status update to a U.S. Court of Appeals in an Obamacare-related lawsuit, but it’s unclear whether any developments would be good news for insurers. The update is an important step in the case, in which a district judge ruled the Obama administration unconstitutionally paid the Affordable Care Act’s cost-sharing reduction payments. It comes roughly a month before insurers must file their 2018 premium requests, and could offer more certainty for insurers about whether they would receive that crucial government funding. Via Morning Consult.
Nearly 700 Vacancies at CDC because of Trump Administration’s Hiring Freeze
Nearly 700 positions are vacant at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention because of a continuing freeze on hiring that officials and researchers say affects programs supporting local and state public health emergency readiness, infectious disease control, and chronic disease prevention. The same restriction remains in place throughout the Health and Human Services Department despite the lifting of a government-wide hiring freeze last month. At the National Institutes of Health, staff say clinical work, patient care, and recruitment are suffering. Via Washington Post.
Senate Panel Approves Bill Revamping Medicare for Chronically Ill Patients
The Senate Finance Committee unanimously advanced legislation aimed at improving care for people with chronic illnesses, part of a bipartisan effort that has advanced even as Republicans and Democrats fight over the future of the Affordable Care Act. The bill, which is backed by the American Heart Association and dozens of other industry groups, would revamp how Medicare works for patients who have chronic medical conditions. Specifically, the bill is aimed at reducing costs associated with chronic illness by giving people greater access to telehealth services, promoting care coordination between providers, and expanding value-based payment models. Via Morning Consult.
Trump's $5.8 Billion Cut to NIH Encounters Swift Opposition
The House Republican overseeing the purse strings for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is pushing back on President Trump's proposed funding cuts for the agency. Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said he didn’t think the decrease in funding would survive in Congress, saying, “I don’t think it’s a wise choice." "I certainly understand wanting to plus up defense, but you have to remember part of defending the American people is protecting them from pandemics,” said Cole, the chairman of the House health appropriations subcommittee. “Part of getting hold of the long-term expenses of the federal government is dealing with things like Alzheimer's.” Via The Hill.
Obama’s Science Projects Would Survive Trump’s Huge Cuts to Research Funding
Trump wants to carve a whopping $5.8 billion out of the National Institutes of Health’s budget next year. But he’s handcuffed in one regard: He can’t touch the big science projects that President Obama launched. That’s because Congress last year overwhelmingly passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which guarantees NIH $4.8 billion over the next 10 years. The vast majority of that money is earmarked for a trio of Obama’s signature initiatives—and Congress has shown no signs of backing away from those appropriations. Via STAT.
FDA Commissioner Gottlieb Calls for "More Forceful Steps" to Curb Opioid Epidemic
Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb called on his staff to explore “more forceful” efforts to curb the epidemic, including requiring training for doctors and ensuring patients aren't prescribed the medications for unnecessarily long periods that increase the risk of addiction. “Opioid prescriptions should be written only for appropriate patients and for appropriate durations,” Gottlieb said in his first interview since becoming commissioner. “No more 30-day supplies for tooth extractions” or uncomplicated hernia repairs. Via Washington Post.
Trump Drops Plan to Gut Drug Czar’s Office Budget
Following a bipartisan outcry in Congress, the Trump administration has backtracked on a plan to gut funding for the Office of National Drug Control Policy. The administration’s final budget proposal continues funding for the office, which oversees two key national anti-drug programs. A document leaked earlier this month proposed cutting funding for the program by 95%. The proposal was criticized by lawmakers of both parties who have been involved in efforts to curb drug addiction. Last year, one of Congress’ few bipartisan legislative achievements was passing legislation to address the nation’s opioid crisis. Via Morning Consult.