What’s New in Health Care Reform: Jan. 3

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.

Tax on Medical Devices To Resume After 2-Year Suspension

While much of corporate America will enjoy a tax cut in the new year, one industry is getting a tax increase it has fought hard but so far unsuccessfully to avoid. A 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers went back into effect after a two-year hiatus. It was originally imposed in 2013 as one of several taxes and fees in the Affordable Care Act that pay for expanded health insurance under the law. Via AP.

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Researchers Gather Health Data For 'All Of Us'

Federal taxpayers are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into a quest for blood samples, medical information, and fitness readouts from a million Americans. It's called the All of Us precision medicine initiative, and it's the biggest push ever mounted to create a huge public pool of data that scientists—and anybody else who is interested—can mine for clues about health and disease. Via NPR.

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New Drug Approvals Hit 21-Year High In 2017

U.S. drug approvals hit a 21-year high in 2017, with 46 novel medicines winning a green light—more than double the previous year—while the figure also rose in the European Union. Via Reuters.

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Cuts to 340B Hospital Payments to Proceed After Judge Dismisses Lawsuit

A federal judge has declined to block a $1.6 billion cut to hospital payments under Medicare’s so-called 340B program, which lets some facilities buy discounted drugs. The cut takes effect Jan. 1. The ruling came in response to a Trump administration motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the American Hospital Association and some not-for-profit and public hospitals earlier this year. Judge Rudolph Contreras said that his court doesn’t have jurisdiction to rule on the issue because the plaintiffs did not first exhaust the Department of Health and Human Services review process for their complaint, as Medicare statute requires. Via STAT.

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Minnesota's 'One-Stop Shopping' Model Attracts Thousands of Mental Health Patients

A year ago, Minnesota became one of just eight states selected by federal officials to develop a statewide network of clinics that would provide “one-stop shopping” for mental health care. Since then, the model has taken flight. Nearly 5,000 people with a range of disorders, including mental illnesses and chemical addictions, enrolled in the program in just the first three months. State officials estimate that, if current trends continue, the program will be serving more than 15,000 patients by July, making it one of the broadest expansions of Minnesota’s community mental health system in years. The allure of the program is its simplicity. Via Star Tribune.

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About $100 Million In Unused Health Premium Rebates Headed Back To State

Roughly one-third of the money set aside by lawmakers for a premium rebate program in 2017 will be returned to the state budget, according to a report from the state’s nonprofit health insurers. The rebates were meant to help cushion individual market consumers against spiking premiums, but the job didn’t require the full $312 million set aside by the Legislature. Via Star Tribune.

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HHS Relaxes Rules on Sharing Substance Abuse Patients' Information

HHS has finalized a rule that aims to make it easier for insurers and providers to share substance abuse patients' data with other parties that are involved in providing and paying for that person's care. Under the current rules, insurance companies and providers would need to obtain consent forms from patients to share their information with every company involved in their care. That red tape sometimes slowed access to care or reimbursement. Via Modern Healthcare

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House Gears Up For 340B Oversight Push

Pressure over the status of a federal drug discount program has intensified on Capitol Hill as Medicare reimbursement cuts for 340B hospitals have officially gone into effect. On Friday, a federal court dismissed several hospital associations' suit that sought to block the cuts and lawmakers geared up for a legislative battle that has grown increasingly convoluted now that financial cuts have become conflated with a push for program transparency. The problem? No one knows what a legislative fix of 340B should look like. Via Modern Healthcare.

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Pharma, Under Attack For Drug Prices, Started an Industry War

With national and state advertising campaigns, white papers, and cartoon infographics, the powerful and well-funded drug-industry lobby spent 2017 working to redirect public anger about drug prices to pharmacy benefits managers (or PBMs): links in the supply chain that sits invisibly between the patient and the drugmaker — in the process bringing a long-simmering feud between two big health-industry players into the open. Via Washington Post.

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Pharmacists Slow To Dispense Lifesaving Overdose Drug

In 48 states and Washington, D.C., pharmacists have flexibility in supplying the drug without a prescription to patients, or to their friends or relatives, according to the National Alliance of State Pharmacy Associations. But as in California, pharmacists in many states, including Wisconsin and Kentucky, have divergent opinions about whether to dispense naloxone. Via Kaiser Health News.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Medical Laboratories. He leads strategies for corporate communications, public relations, and new media innovations. Andy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2003. Outside of work, Andy can be found running, hiking, snapping photos, and most importantly, spending time with his family.