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.
Drug Prices become Target for FDA as Chief Expands Purview
The head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is considering using the agency’s powers to bring more price competition to the market for generic drugs, targeting high-priced products by prioritizing the approval of additional competing treatments. FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in an interview that the agency is looking at how to push applications to the front of the line in cases where there are fewer than three competing generic manufacturers. The policy would target cases where there are few or no competing versions of drugs, which has led to high prices in some situations. Via Bloomberg.
Feds to Waive Penalties for Some Who Signed up Late for Medicare
Each year, thousands of Americans miss their deadline to enroll in Medicare, and federal officials and consumer advocates worry that many of them mistakenly think they don't need to sign up because they have purchased insurance on the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces. That failure to enroll on time can leave them facing a lifetime of penalties. Now Medicare has temporarily changed its rules to offer a reprieve from those late-enrollment penalties for anyone who kept the ACA policy after becoming eligible for Medicare Part B. For those 65 and older and for people with disabilities, Medicare Part B covers doctor visits and outpatient care. Via NPR.
Insurance Companies Duck Obamacare Repeal Fight
The once-powerful health insurance lobby—the same one that killed Hillarycare a generation ago and helped usher in Obamacare—can't pick a side in the latest battle over America's health care system. Some major members of the sprawling trillion-dollar industry, like Humana and Cigna, have little at stake in the fight. Other insurers heavily invested in the Obamacare markets, like the regional Blue Cross Blue Shield plans, are urging Congress to fix the 2010 health law instead of shredding it. And then there’s Anthem, a rare industry voice supporting repeal. The result is the lobby has lost influence and is now struggling to mount a unified front against Republican efforts to push through an Obamacare replacement. Via Politico.
As Government-Funded Cancer Research Sags, Scientists Fear U.S. Is "Losing Its Edge"
Less and less of the research presented at a prominent cancer conference is supported by the National Institutes of Health, a development that some of the country’s top scientists see as a worrisome trend. The number of studies fully funded by the NIH at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology—the world’s largest gathering of cancer researchers—has fallen 75% in the past decade, from 575 papers in 2008 to 144 this year, according to the society. Via Kaiser Health News.
Community Health Centers Venture into Value-Based Care to Increase Access, Decrease Costs
The 1,400 federally qualified health centers across the U.S. are an essential source of primary-care services for approximately 24.3 million low-income individuals. Yet they are limited by a volume-based reimbursement model that prevents them from participating in outcomes-based care approaches. Via Modern Healthcare.
Poll: Americans Increasingly Think Their Health Care Will Get Worse
When it comes to health care, Americans may be having buyer's remorse. More adults approve of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, than the alternative health care bill passed this month by House Republicans, according to a poll published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The numbers come just as members of the Senate are hammering out details of their own health care plan. Republicans are looking to fulfill their years-long campaign promises to repeal Obamacare. It's just not clear that voters want them to do so. Via NPR.
Health Officials Vow to Develop Drugs to Curb the Opioid Epidemic
Top federal health officials said that they will launch a joint effort with pharmaceuticals companies to accelerate the development of drugs aimed at helping to curb the U.S. opioid epidemic. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, and Nora D. Volkow, who heads one its components, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, announced a public-private partnership aimed at cutting in half the time ordinarily needed to develop new therapies. Via Washington Post.
Lawmakers See Progress on Health Care Bill but Details Remain Scarce
Senate Republicans are feeling pressure to pass a health care bill to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, and leaders say they are getting closer. Senate leaders laid out several concepts for Republican senators at a closed-door policy lunch meeting that they say could help build consensus. But they warned that an agreement remains elusive and specific legislation isn’t ready yet. Via Morning Consult.
GOP Senators’ Medicaid Clash Jeopardizes Health Deal
Republican senators left their first decision-making meeting on overhauling the nation’s health-care system deeply divided over the fate of Medicaid, a fissure that threatens to thwart their ambitions to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. The divide among Senate Republicans over Medicaid was wide enough that some GOP lawmakers and aides said they now believe it may be impossible to broker a deal to unwind the health law known as Obamacare. Some senators are already preparing to move to another goal, an overhaul of the tax code. Via Wall Street Journal.
Lawmakers Consider Tough New Penalties for Opioid Crimes, Bucking Trend
For nearly four years now, an unusual coalition of Republicans and Democrats has worked to reduce mandatory prison terms for many federal drug crimes. But that bipartisan movement may be shallower than it appears. Indeed, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who both supported a cut-back on some drug punishments, are preparing a bill that would create tough new penalties for people caught with synthetic opioid drugs. Grassley chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Feinstein is the panel's ranking member. Via NPR.