E&C Tackles Drug Shortages
TODAY IN ONE PARAGRAPH: The House Energy and Commerce Committee holds a hearing today on prescription drug shortages and federal efforts to combat them. A bipartisan Food and Drug Administration bill signed into law in 2012 included steps to combat drug shortages, and today's hearing will include the findings from a GAO report on the law's effectiveness. Meanwhile, lawmakers are still looking for offsets for a permanent "doc fix," after coming to an agreement last week on a new policy for paying doctors who accept Medicare. The policy agreement was a big step, but the pay-for is the hardest part.
Top Health Care News
ADMINISTRATION WILL ALLOW SOME TO SWITCH OBAMACARE HEALTH PLANS: Officials say individuals who are dissatisfied with their plan may choose a different one before the end of March, as long as they keep the same insurer and level of coverage. (Amy Goldstein, Washington Post)
AOL REVERSES CHANGE IN EMPLOYEE BENEFITS PROGRAM: Amid public outcry, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong walked back an unpopular change to the company's 401(k) program, which he attributed to soaring health costs. Murphy apologized for publicly singling out two families and their "distressed babies" as the reason for the initial change. (Leslie Kaufman, New York Times)
THAT 'DISTRESSED BABY' WHO TIM ARMSTRONG BLAMED FOR BENEFIT CUTS?: "She's my daughter." (Deanne Fei, Slate)
AIDS PATIENTS MAY LOSE COVERAGE AS INSURERS REJECT CHECKS: Hundreds of Louisiana residents with HIV/AIDS could lose the plan they selected under the ACA, as Blue Cross Blue Shield in the state says it will not accept payments from the Ryan White program to help pay premiums. Health advocates say the move is an effort by insurance companies to keep AIDS patients off their plans. (Sharon Begley and Julie Steenhuysen, Reuters)
NEARLY 5 MILLION FALL INTO COVERAGE GAP IN STATES NOT EXPANDING MEDICAID: "Eugene Steuerle, an Urban Institute economist and former Treasury Department official who served under presidents in both parties, said he couldn't recall a social program that excluded beneficiaries because they earn too little." (Christopher Weaver, Wall Street Journal)
ARKANSAS 'PRIVATE OPTION' FOR MEDICAID EXPANSION IN JEOPARDY: "Arkansas' experiment could end June 30 unless its Republican controlled legislature--which reconvenes Monday--renews its support. And that is looking increasingly uncertain. Last month's election of a Republican state senator who opposes the deal and the about-face of another GOP supporter may have tipped the political balance." (Phil Galewitz, Kaiser Health News)
Obamacare and Jobs
Yes, we're still talking about that Congressional Budget Office report.
BOTH SIDES CONTINUE TO SPIN CBO REPORT:What do you get when you combine politicians and a report that mentions "Obamacare" and "jobs"? A whole lot of cherry-picking. (David Nather, Politico)
THEY QUIT THEIR JOBS, THANKS TO OBAMACARE: CBO estimated the equivalent of 2.5 million Americans will quit their jobs, cut their hours, or cease looking for work, because it will no longer be necessary for affordable health coverage. Here are two examples. (Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post)
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CIGNA EXPECTS OBAMACARE LOSSES THIS YEAR: "Cigna became the latest insurer to say it expected to lose money on the health-law marketplaces this year, citing smaller-than-expected enrollment and a skew toward older enrollees." (Anna Wilde Mathews, Wall Street Journal)
Last week, Humana reported that its enrollees were skewing younger than expected. (Bruce Japsen, Forbes)
NEW YORK INSURER TO OFFER THREE WEEKS OF FREE COVERAGE FOLLOWING ISSUES: Empire BlueCross BlueShield will give checks for the equivalent of three weeks of premiums to about 15,000 to 20,000 consumers who signed up for insurance on the NY state exchange to begin Jan. 1 but did not receive care because of enrollment problems. Empire enrolled the highest percentage of customers on the NY exchange--21 percent--and has had issues since the Jan. 1 start of coverage. (Ridgely Ochs, Newsday)
WHY 'AFFORDABLE' CARE MAY NOT BE FOR SOME: About 3 million people earning three to four times the federal poverty rate may have to pay up to 9.5 percent of their income towards their insurance premium before federal subsidies kick in. (Julie Appleby, Kaiser Health News/USA Today)
Reproduction and Contraception
NUVARING SETTLEMENT LEAVES WOMEN WEIGHING BIRTH CONTROL RISKS: The creator of the NuvaRing contraceptive, drug company Merck, will pay $100 million to settle thousands of liability lawsuits from women who say they were not sufficiently warned of the greater risk of developing life-threatening blood clots due to the product. (Dana Farrington, National Public Radio)
FAMILY PLANNING SQUEEZED BY OBAMACARE IN CALIFORNIA: Medicaid expansion will dramatically shift the revenue streams for clinics, from the robust Family PACT state program, to Medicaid. However, while Family PACT covers the cost of family planning services for nearly 2 million uninsured individuals with no cap on spending, accounting for nearly 60 percent of Planned Parenthood's income, California Medicaid reimbursement rates are the third lowest in the country, and were cut another 10 percent last month. (April Dembosky, National Public Radio/KQED/Kaiser Health News)
Treatment and Vaccination
REPORT: NOT ENOUGH CHILDREN GET HPV VACCINE: "In 2012, only about a third of girls ages 13 to 15 and less than 7 percent of boys in the United States had received the shots." (Denise Grady, New York Times)
SUPPORT FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA GAINS MOMENTUM IN THE SOUTH: Twenty states plus D.C. have legalized medical marijuana, and powerful Republican lawmakers in Georgia and Alabama are supporting bills that would allow limited use of cannabis oil for specific medical conditions. "I'm an unlikely champion for this cause," said Georgia Rep. Allen Peake. "Once people realize it's not a 6-year-old smoking a joint, most folks realize this is the compassionate thing to do." (Associated Press)
ONE HUNDRED AMERICANS DIE OF DRUG OVERDOSES EACH DAY: Overdosing is now the leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. How do we stop that? (Harold Pollack, Washington Post)
WHITE HOUSE LEANS ON MAYORS TO PROMOTE OBAMACARE: "The biggest cities tend to skew Democratic, making mayors in those cities natural allies to carry the Obama administration's message, even in more conservative states. The White House has also reached out to local media and state officials to get the message beyond the Beltway." (Kyle Cheney, Politico)
A LOOK AT THE NEW OBAMACARE CONTRACTOR'S PAST PROJECTS: "Accenture, the contractor urgently tapped to help fix the federal health-insurance Web site, is a favorite of corporate America but has a record that includes troubled projects and allegations of ethical lapses, a review of the consulting giant's history shows." (Jerry Markon and Alice Crites, Washington Post)
Happening This Week
HOUSE ENERGY AND COMMERCE HEALTH SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING: At 2 p.m., Marcia Crosse from the Government Accountability Office and Douglas Throckmorton of the Food and Drug Administration are scheduled to testify about drug shortages and recent efforts to address them.
FORMER SENATORS LAUNCH ALLIANCE FOR CONNECTED CARE: Tom Daschle, Trent Lott, and John Breaux join Farzad Mostashari of the Brookings Institution at 8:30 a.m. to advocate for doctor compensation for telehealth services.
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Health Care Edge is one of my top resources."
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