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HEALTH CARE HIGHLIGHTS
Virginia Votes to Expand Medicaid
Both chambers of the Virginia Legislature moved a budget bill Wednesday that would expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The bill would make Virginia the 33rd state to expand Medicaid under Obamacare and could lead to as many as 400,000 people being newly covered. "As a doctor, I'm so proud of the significant step we've taken together to help Virginians get quality, affordable care," said Gov. Ralph Northam.
New Jersey Signs Law Protecting ACA
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed a law that requires all state residents to have health insurance or pay a penalty. Democratic legislators in the state had drafted the legislation after the ACA’s individual mandate penalty was removed as part of Congress' tax reform package. Experts predict ending the mandate would destabilize the health insurance market because it would be dominated by sick or older policy holders whose costs would drive up premiums.
President Says Drug Makers Will Voluntarily Lower Drug Prices
President Trump earlier this week said that some pharmaceutical companies will announce in the coming weeks that they will voluntarily lower drug prices. Pres. Trump’s remarks came during a signing ceremony for the national Right to Try law: “Some of the big drug companies in two weeks…they are going to announce—because of what we did—they are going to announce voluntary massive drops in prices,” he said. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has encouraged drug companies to self-regulate their prices and has threatened to take action if companies aren't responsive.
Colorectal Cancer Screening: New Recommendations From ACS
The American Cancer Society this week announced a recommendation for colorectal cancer screening to begin at age 45 for those of average risk. The ACS press release states:
The new recommended starting age is based on colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence rates, results from microsimulation modeling that demonstrate a favorable benefit-to-burden balance of screening beginning at age 45, and the expectation that screening will perform similarly in adults ages 45 to 49 as it does in adults for whom screening is currently recommended (50 and older).
See the American Cancer Society website for the full text of the new recommendation, a recommendation summary chart, and other information.
CHART OF THE WEEK
The March Kaiser Health Tracking Poll finds that more than a year into President Trump’s presidency, half of the public (52 percent) say passing legislation to bring down the price of prescription drugs should be a “top priority” for President Trump and Congress. Yet, less than half of the public (39 percent) say they are confident that President Trump and his administration will be able to deliver on the promise that Americans will pay less for prescription drugs than they pay now.
Trump's new insurance rules are panned by nearly every healthcare group that submitted formal comments
Via LA Times
This article points out that more than 300 patient, consumer, and health care provider groups commented on the Trump administration’s proposed rule to expand the use of short-term health plans, and 95% of the comments criticized or opposed the proposal. Sandy Praeger, a former Republican state insurance regulator from Kansas, is quoted as saying, “Basically anybody who knows anything about healthcare is opposed to these proposals. It’s amazing.” NCCS submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in opposition to the proposed rule and hosted a webinar encouraging advocates to submit their own comments.
Read the LA Times article »
In this eye-opening piece, ProPublica and NPR examine the “bewildering, sometimes enraging ways the health insurance industry works, by taking an inside look at the games, deals and incentives that often result in higher costs, delays in care or denials of treatment.” Read More »
Via Kaiser Health News
This piece describes new “copay accumulator” programs that limit the protections copay assistance programs provide to consumers with expensive cost-sharing. “Drug copay assistance programs have long been controversial. Proponents say that in an age of increasingly high deductibles and coinsurance charges, such help is the only way some patients can afford crucial medications. But opponents say the programs increase drug spending on expensive brand-name drugs by discouraging people from using more cost-effective alternatives.” Read More »