From Kaiser Health 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….

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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….

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FDA Overlooked Red Flags In Drugmaker’s Testing of New Depression Medicine

June 11, 2019

Ketamine is a darling of combat medics and clubgoers, an anesthetic that can quiet your pain without suppressing breathing and a hallucinogenic that can get you high with little risk of a fatal overdose.

For some patients, it also has dwelled in the shadows of conventional medicine as a depression treatment — prescribed by their doctors, but not approved for that purpose by the federal agency responsible for determining which treatments are “safe and effective.”

Ketamine is a darling of combat medics and clubgoers, an anesthetic that can quiet your pain without suppressing breathing and a hallucinogenic that can get you high with little risk of a fatal overdose.

For some patients, it also has dwelled in the shadows of conventional medicine as a depression treatment — prescribed by their doctors, but not approved for that purpose by the federal agency responsible for determining which treatments are “safe and effective.”

That effectively changed in March, when the Food and Drug Administration approved a ketamine cousin called esketamine, taken as a nasal spray, for patients with intractable depression. With that, the esketamine nasal spray, under the brand name Spravato, was introduced as a miracle drug — announced in press releases, celebrated on the evening news and embraced by major health care providers like the Department of Veterans Affairs….

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Are Surprises Ahead For Legislation To Curb Surprise Medical Bills?

May 22, 2019

Surprise medical bills — those unexpected and often pricey bills patients face when they get care from a doctor or hospital that isn’t in their insurance network — are the health care problem du jour in Washington, with congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the White House calling for action.

These policymakers agree on the need to take patients out of the middle of the fight over charges, but crafting a legislative solution will not be easy.

Surprise medical bills — those unexpected and often pricey bills patients face when they get care from a doctor or hospital that isn’t in their insurance network — are the health care problem du jour in Washington, with congressional lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and the White House calling for action.

These policymakers agree on the need to take patients out of the middle of the fight over charges, but crafting a legislative solution will not be easy.

A hearing of the House Ways and Means health subcommittee Tuesday, for example, quickly devolved into finger-pointing as providers’ and insurers’ testimony showed how much they don’t see eye to eye.

“I’m disappointed that all participants that are going to be here from critical sectors of our economy could not come to find a way to work together to protect patients from these huge surprise bills,” Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, said in his opening statement….

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The Money and Politics of Prescription Drugs: What You Need to Know

May 8, 2019

If there’s one area of health care where Republicans and Democrats might strike a deal, it’s prescription drugs.

President Donald Trump has floated a plan to cut drug prices. Democratic and Republican ideas abound in Congress, where lawmakers have put more than 40 bills on the table. In 2018, 39 states passed 94 laws targeting pricing and costs. Florida’s House recently approved a move backed by the state’s Republican governor to allow imports from Canada. So far, Vermont is the only state to take that step.

If there’s one area of health care where Republicans and Democrats might strike a deal, it’s prescription drugs.

President Donald Trump has floated a plan to cut drug prices. Democratic and Republican ideas abound in Congress, where lawmakers have put more than 40 bills on the table. In 2018, 39 states passed 94 laws targeting pricing and costs. Florida’s House recently approved a move backed by the state’s Republican governor to allow imports from Canada. So far, Vermont is the only state to take that step.

Why do prescription drugs draw so much attention? Because millions of Americans rely on them, and 8 out of 10 say the cost is “unreasonable.”

America spends about $460 billion a year on these drugs, roughly as much as the combined revenues of the top three car makers….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article