Headlines in the News

‘Medicare For All’ Emerges as Early Divide in First Democratic Debate

June 27, 2019

During Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate — the first in a two-night event viewed as the de facto launch of the primary season — health policies, ranging from “Medicare for All” to efforts to curb skyrocketing drug prices, were among the key issues the 10 hopeful candidates onstage used to help differentiate themselves from the pack.

Health care dominated early, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) using questions about the economy to take aim at pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) emphasized the difficulties many Americans face in paying premiums.

During Wednesday night’s Democratic presidential primary debate — the first in a two-night event viewed as the de facto launch of the primary season — health policies, ranging from “Medicare for All” to efforts to curb skyrocketing drug prices, were among the key issues the 10 hopeful candidates onstage used to help differentiate themselves from the pack.

Health care dominated early, with Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Cory Booker (N.J.) using questions about the economy to take aim at pharmaceutical and insurance companies. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) emphasized the difficulties many Americans face in paying premiums.

But the candidates broke ranks on the details and not all of their claims stayed strictly within the lines.

Only two candidates — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Warren — raised their hands in favor of banishing private insurance to install a government-sponsored Medicare for All approach….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Appellate Court Raises Potential New Threat to ACA

June 26, 2019

A federal appeals court on Wednesday questioned whether more than a dozen Democratic states and the U.S. House of Representatives have the right to appeal a lower-court decision that struck down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, throwing the law’s future into question.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of the law on July 9, said it needed more information as to whether the House and Democratic states had standing to intervene in the lawsuit and whether their interventions were timely. Some legal experts said the request did not bode well for the future of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

A federal appeals court on Wednesday questioned whether more than a dozen Democratic states and the U.S. House of Representatives have the right to appeal a lower-court decision that struck down the entirety of the Affordable Care Act, throwing the law’s future into question.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, which is scheduled to begin hearing oral arguments about the constitutionality of the law on July 9, said it needed more information as to whether the House and Democratic states had standing to intervene in the lawsuit and whether their interventions were timely. Some legal experts said the request did not bode well for the future of President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.

“More generally, this order suggests that the Fifth Circuit panel may be hostile to the ACA and inclined to support the red states,” Nicholas Bagley, a University of Michigan law professor, wrote on Twitter. “The odds that the Fifth Circuit does something nasty to the health-reform law have gone up….”

Read the full The Washington Post article

Botox Maker Allergan Is Sold to AbbVie in $63 Billion Deal

June 25, 2019

The drugmaker AbbVie said on Tuesday that it planned to buy Allergan, the maker of Botox, for about $63 billion, in one of the biggest mergers in the health care industry this year.

The deal represents a classic response to a perennial drug industry challenge: how to recover when a blockbuster drug is losing its patent protection. In acquiring Allergan, AbbVie gets to bypass the risky process of research and development by buying a portfolio of popular products as it faces the loss of patent protection for Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that is the world’s top-selling drug.

The drugmaker AbbVie said on Tuesday that it planned to buy Allergan, the maker of Botox, for about $63 billion, in one of the biggest mergers in the health care industry this year.

The deal represents a classic response to a perennial drug industry challenge: how to recover when a blockbuster drug is losing its patent protection. In acquiring Allergan, AbbVie gets to bypass the risky process of research and development by buying a portfolio of popular products as it faces the loss of patent protection for Humira, a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis that is the world’s top-selling drug.

“This is the age of blockbusters,” said David Maris, an analyst for Wells Fargo who follows the drug industry. “And when blockbusters start to go away, companies don’t have too many things they can do….”

Read the full The New York Times article

‘They’re All Fighting Him’: Trump Aides Spar With Health Secretary

June 19, 2019

White House officials have soured on HHS Secretary Alex Azar, a deepening quarrel that threatens to derail President Donald Trump’s health care agenda as he gears up for his 2020 reelection campaign.

The divide has led to stalled projects, disputes over Medicaid and fetal tissue research, duplicated work on Trump’s drug pricing priorities — and bitter personal attacks, say a dozen current and former White House and HHS officials as well as multiple other people familiar with the conversations.

White House officials have soured on HHS Secretary Alex Azar, a deepening quarrel that threatens to derail President Donald Trump’s health care agenda as he gears up for his 2020 reelection campaign.

The divide has led to stalled projects, disputes over Medicaid and fetal tissue research, duplicated work on Trump’s drug pricing priorities — and bitter personal attacks, say a dozen current and former White House and HHS officials as well as multiple other people familiar with the conversations.

The stakes are further heightened because health care is expected to play a crucial role in the 2020 election, and Trump has repeatedly pledged to soon unveil a plan that is higher quality and less expensive than Obamacare — an ambitious promise that his team of rivals is not ready to deliver on….

Read the full Politico article

Study: Arkansas Medicaid Work Requirement Hits Those Already Employed

June 19, 2019

The Medicaid work requirement plan devised by Arkansas and approved by the Trump administration backfired because it caused thousands of poor adults to lose coverage without any evidence the target population gained jobs, a new study finds.

In fact, the requirement had only a limited chance for success as nearly 97% of Arkansas residents ages 30-49 who were eligible for Medicaid — those subject to the mandate — were already employed or should have been exempt from the new law, according to the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Medicaid work requirement plan devised by Arkansas and approved by the Trump administration backfired because it caused thousands of poor adults to lose coverage without any evidence the target population gained jobs, a new study finds.

In fact, the requirement had only a limited chance for success as nearly 97% of Arkansas residents ages 30-49 who were eligible for Medicaid — those subject to the mandate — were already employed or should have been exempt from the new law, according to the study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Yet the state’s mandate — the first of its kind in the nation — resulted in 18,000 of the 100,000 targeted people falling off the Medicaid rolls. And despite administration officials’ statements that many of them may have found jobs, the study by researchers at Harvard found no evidence they secured either jobs or other insurance coverage. In fact, it noted a dip in the employment rate among those eligible for Medicaid….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Low Prices of Some Lifesaving Drugs Make Them Impossible to Get

June 18, 2019

When Andrew Archuleta’s bladder cancer returned two years ago, his doctor prescribed periodic treatments of a powerful immunotherapy designed to stave off another recurrence. But the latest round, scheduled for May, was abruptly canceled because of a severe shortage of the drug.

“I keep calling the clinic and saying, ‘Is my treatment still canceled?’ and they say, ‘Yes,’ ” said the 65-year-old Colorado resident. Now he fears the cancer might come back in an even more aggressive form, endangering his bladder — or even his life, if the disease were to spread. With his anxiety and blood pressure rising, he temporarily took Prozac.

When Andrew Archuleta’s bladder cancer returned two years ago, his doctor prescribed periodic treatments of a powerful immunotherapy designed to stave off another recurrence. But the latest round, scheduled for May, was abruptly canceled because of a severe shortage of the drug.

“I keep calling the clinic and saying, ‘Is my treatment still canceled?’ and they say, ‘Yes,’ ” said the 65-year-old Colorado resident. Now he fears the cancer might come back in an even more aggressive form, endangering his bladder — or even his life, if the disease were to spread. With his anxiety and blood pressure rising, he temporarily took Prozac.

“My doctor says he feels really bad about it, but I keep wondering: How could this happen in this day and age?” he said.

Archuleta is one of tens of thousands of people across the country affected by a shortage of the gold-standard treatment, called BCG, for early-stage bladder cancer, with potentially life-changing consequences….

Read the full The Washington Post article