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Health Care Edge

Burwell, Round Two - Health Care Edge

May 14, 2014

Burwell, Round Two

By Sam Baker, Sophie Novack and Clara Ritger

BURWELL BACK ON THE HILL: The Senate Finance Committee will get its chance today to question Sylvia Mathews Burwell. Her last confirmation hearing, before the Senate HELP Committee, was a breeze, and she's already attracted some bipartisan support. Expect to see at least the same cordial tone, if not outright endorsements, today. "The are still some questions that are outstanding that have to be answered, but … I've met with her, and she's clearly a very good candidate. Whether in the end everything fits together or not, I don't know," Sen. Orrin Hatch, the Finance Committee's top Republican, told National Journal yesterday.

 

Top Health Care News

DOUBTS RAISED ABOUT OFF-LABEL USE OF SUBSYS, A STRONG PAINKILLER: The FDA approved the drug--a narcotic that's often used when morphine fails to relieve pain--for cancer patients. Aggressive marketing of the drug to doctors who don't treat cancer patients may explain why just one percent of prescriptions of the drug are written by oncologists. (Katie Thomas, New York Times)

HOW IS YOUR MEDICINE CABINET FUELING A HEROIN BOOM? The nation is in the middle of a prescription drug abuse epidemic. Senators and federal health officials are gathering Wednesday to talk about how to turn things around. (Clara Ritger, National Journal)

OBAMACARE BRINGS EXPANDED COVERAGE AND HIGHER COSTS TO CALIFORNIA: While the federal government is covering the cost of providing health care to Americans who are newly eligible for Medicaid, the cost of care for residents who were previously eligible but hadn't yet signed up falls on the states. For some states, such as California, that cost could be enormous. California anticipates its Medicaid program (Medi-Cal) to grow upwards of 11.5 million people -- roughly one-third of the state's population -- with as much as 60 percent growth among the population that signed up from the "woodwork effect." The price tag? State officials now estimate that Obamacare will cost $1.2 billion more than originally expected. (Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times)

Implementation

EMPLOYERS MAY START PAYING YOU TO BUY HEALTH INSURANCE: Instead of offering employer sponsored care, companies are eyeing sending workers to the health insurance exchanges with some money to shop. (Michelle Andrews, National Public Radio, Kaiser Health News)

WHY SOME INSURERS WANT TO CUT PREMIUMS AND OTHERS SAY RATES ARE GOING UP: Determining what the cost of providing health coverage will be in 2015 is difficult for insurance companies, largely due to the fact that they haven't had much experience with the new pool of Obamacare enrollees. Companies are issuing projections--and they're winding up all over the board. (Jason Millman, Washington Post)

LOTS OF PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE THEY'RE ELIGIBLE FOR SUBSIDIES FOR HEALTH COVERAGE: According to a new McKinsey report, among those who didn't end up buying insurance, two-thirds didn't know they could get financial assistance. (Jonathan Cohn, New Republic)

WHY SOME BUSINESSES ARE WORRIED ABOUT HIGHER PREMIUMS: Obamacare adds a lot of new costs to plans, in part because patients are getting more health benefits, but also because of the new taxes and fees on insurance companies that get passed down to employers and employees in the form of rate increases. (Sarah Jane Tribble, National Public Radio)

Congress

SENATE VOTES CONTINUE ON OBAMACARE TWEAK TO BOOST VETERAN EMPLOYMENT: The Senate invoked cloture on the motion to proceed to the Hire More Heroes Act of 2014 on a 96-3 vote Tuesday. Supporters of the bill say it will encourage hiring of veterans by allowing employers to not count them in the 50-employee threshold for the health law's employer mandate, as long as they receive federal health coverage. The bill has passed in the House, and is currently the vehicle for the tax extenders legislation in the Senate. Following the Tuesday vote, there are up to 30 hours of debate followed by a vote on the motion to proceed at about 5:15 Wednesday evening, according to a Senate Dem aide. "That will be adopted," the aide wrote in an email. "We're hoping for Republican cooperation to move us toward passage of the bill." Read here for more information on the legislation.

Medicaid

MEDICAID ENROLLMENT IS INCREASING IN SOME STATES THAT OPTED OUT OF EXPANSION: In 17 of the 26 states that did not expand Medicaid, enrollment grew by more than 550,000 patients, according to a new analysis from Avalere Health. (Jason Millman, Washington Post)

HOW REPUBLICAN-LED ARKANSAS AND MICHIGAN MODIFIED MEDICAID: Arkansas is putting Medicaid beneficiaries on private insurance in an attempt to improve access and quality and Michigan is encouraging healthy behavior and smart spending. Both states were granted federal waivers to modify how they went about Obamacare's Medicaid expansion. (Adrianna McIntyre, Vox Media)

Studies & Research

STUDY: CONSUMERS SAY FDA'S PROPOSED NUTRITION LABEL CHANGES ARE HELPFUL: Researchers at Georgetown University evaluated whether the proposed changes to food nutrition labels--pushed by the Food and Drug Administration and First Lady Michelle Obama--will affect consumer choice. According to their findings, when the consumers viewed labels depicting larger serving sizes, they perceived foods to be less healthy. (Christopher Hydock and Anne Wilson, Georgetown University)

DRUGS TO AID ALCOHOLICS SEE LITTLE USE, STUDY FINDS: "Two medications could help tens of thousands of alcoholics quit drinking, yet the drugs are rarely prescribed to patients, researchers reported on Tuesday." (Anahad O'Connor, New York Times)

Illness & Disease

SECOND CASE OF MERS VIRUS REPORTED IN THE U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed a case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome in a Florida patient who is a health care provider working in Saudi Arabia. The first U.S. case of the virus was reported earlier this month in Indiana, in a man who is also a health provider in Saudi Arabia. The cases are not believed to be linked. (Ashley Hayes, CNN)

TOO YOUNG TO SMOKE, BUT NOT TO PICK TOBACCO: "'We found that the overwhelming majority of kids we interviewed got sick while they were working in tobacco fields with nausea, headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness,' says Human Rights Watch researcher Margaret Wurth. 'And many of the symptoms they reported are consistent with acute nicotine poisoning, which happens when workers absorb nicotine through their skin.'" (Debbie Elliott, National Public Radio)

Happening Today

HEALTH INSURANCE EXCHANGE SUMMIT: Global Health Care, LLC hosts the Health Insurance Exchange Summit from Wednesday, May 14- Friday, May 16 at the Capital Hilton. The conference agenda includes sessions on states' experiences and insurers' experiences with the first year of Affordable Care Act enrollment.

AMERICA'S ADDICTION TO OPIOIDS HEARING: The Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control holds a hearing on the federal government's role in combatting heroin and prescription drug abuse at 2:30 p.m. in 192 Dirksen. Representatives from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the Drug Enforcement Administration are among those scheduled to testify.

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