From Kaiser Health News

Distrusting Trump, States Plan to Vet COVID Vaccines Themselves. Bad Idea, Say Experts.

October 7, 2020

As trust in the Food and Drug Administration wavers, several states have vowed to conduct independent reviews of any COVID-19 vaccine the federal agency authorizes.

But top health experts say such vetting may be misguided, even if it reflects a well-founded lack of confidence in the Trump administration — especially now that the FDA has held firm with rules that make a risky preelection vaccine release highly unlikely.

As trust in the Food and Drug Administration wavers, several states have vowed to conduct independent reviews of any COVID-19 vaccine the federal agency authorizes.

But top health experts say such vetting may be misguided, even if it reflects a well-founded lack of confidence in the Trump administration — especially now that the FDA has held firm with rules that make a risky preelection vaccine release highly unlikely.

At least six states and the District of Columbia have indicated they intend to review the scientific data for any vaccine approved to fight COVID-19, with some citing concern over political interference by President Donald Trump and his appointees. Officials in New York and California said they are convening expert panels expressly for that purpose….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Sky-High Drug Prices Driven by Pharma Profits, House Dems Charge

September 30, 2020

Enormous drug company profits are the primary driver of soaring prescription drug prices in America, according to a damning investigation that Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began releasing Wednesday.

The first two reports in the investigation focus on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007.

Enormous drug company profits are the primary driver of soaring prescription drug prices in America, according to a damning investigation that Democrats on the House Oversight Committee began releasing Wednesday.

The first two reports in the investigation focus on Celgene and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Revlimid cancer treatment, which saw its price hiked 23 times since 2005, and Teva’s multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone, which went up in price 27 times since 2007.

Those costs have little to do with research and development or industry efforts to help people afford medication, as drug companies often claim, according to the probe….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

These Secret Safety Panels Will Pick the COVID Vaccine Winners

September 24, 2020

Most Americans have never heard of Dr. Richard Whitley, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Yet as the coronavirus pandemic drags on and the public eagerly awaits a vaccine, he may well be among the most powerful people in the country.

Most Americans have never heard of Dr. Richard Whitley, an expert in pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

Yet as the coronavirus pandemic drags on and the public eagerly awaits a vaccine, he may well be among the most powerful people in the country.

Whitley leads a small, secret panel of experts tasked with reviewing crucial data on the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines that U.S. taxpayers have helped fund, including products from Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and others. The data and safety monitoring board — known as a DSMB — is supposed to make sure the medicine is safe and it works. It has the power to halt a clinical trial or fast-track it….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Obamacare Co-Ops Down From 23 to Final ‘3 Little Miracles’

September 9, 2020

New Mexico Health Connections’ decision to close at year’s end will leave just three of the 23 nonprofit health insurance co-ops that sprang from the Affordable Care Act.

One co-op serves customers in Maine, another in Wisconsin, and the third operates in Idaho and Montana and will move into Wyoming next year. All made money in 2019 after having survived several rocky years, according to data filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

New Mexico Health Connections’ decision to close at year’s end will leave just three of the 23 nonprofit health insurance co-ops that sprang from the Affordable Care Act.

One co-op serves customers in Maine, another in Wisconsin, and the third operates in Idaho and Montana and will move into Wyoming next year. All made money in 2019 after having survived several rocky years, according to data filed with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

They are also all in line to receive tens of millions of dollars from the federal government under an April Supreme Court ruling that said the government inappropriately withheld billions from insurers meant to help cushion losses from 2014 through 2016, the first three years of the ACA marketplaces. While those payments were intended to help any insurers losing money, it was vitally important to the co-ops because they had the least financial backing….

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Primary Care Doctors Look at Payment Overhaul After Pandemic Disruption

August 12, 2020

For Dr. Gabe Charbonneau, a primary care doctor in Stevensville, Montana, the coronavirus pandemic is an existential threat.

Charbonneau, 43, his two partners and 10 staff members are struggling to keep their rural practice alive. Patient volume is slowly returning to pre-COVID levels. But the large Seattle-area company that owns his practice is reassessing its operations as it adjusts to the new reality in health care.

For Dr. Gabe Charbonneau, a primary care doctor in Stevensville, Montana, the coronavirus pandemic is an existential threat.

Charbonneau, 43, his two partners and 10 staff members are struggling to keep their rural practice alive. Patient volume is slowly returning to pre-COVID levels. But the large Seattle-area company that owns his practice is reassessing its operations as it adjusts to the new reality in health care.

Charbonneau has been given until September to demonstrate that his practice, Lifespan Family Medicine, is financially viable — or face possible sale or closure.

“We think we’re going to be OK,” said Charbonneau. “But it’s stressful and pushes us to cut costs and bring in more revenue. If the virus surges in the fall … well, that will significantly add to the challenge….”

Read the full Kaiser Health News article