Today's News and Commentary

About insurance

In Blow to Trump, Judge Blocks Health Care Law ‘End Run’: Like yesterday, today’s top story is about a judicial decision concerning insurance. The Trump administration issued a rule allowing formation of “association health plans,” which consist of employers from many types of businesses. The purpose of those plans was to avoid laws that the administration said were too constraining. In his ruling in the case of New York v. United States Department of Labor (filed by New York, 10 other states and D.C), Judge John D. Bates, of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia said that the rule was: “clearly an end-run around the A.C.A.” Further, it violates ERISA provisions that define what an employer group is.

As an aside, when the ACA was passed, I confirmed with the Department of Labor that the law applies to ERISA plans.

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Trump: Group of GOP senators writing 'spectacular' ObamaCare replacement: The President is bragging that healthcare will be a “Republican issue” in the coming election. But he is counting on Republican senators to come up with something to make good on this promise.

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About pharma

New York accuses six drugmakers including Johnson & Johnson, Purdue of deceptive opioid marketing: After Purdue’s settlement in Oklahoma, this round will have more players and bigger liabilities.

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National pharmacare to make prescription drugs more accessible and affordable: On the subject of controlling pharma costs, it is instructive to see what Canada is doing. You should understand that, for the most part, Canadians do not have drug coverage unless it is privately purchased- usually through the individual’s employer. The main three aims of the program, called “national pharmacare”, are:

-Creating a Canadian Drug Agency to assess the effectiveness of new prescription drugs and negotiate drug prices on behalf of Canada's drug plans. The goal is to lower costs by up to $3 billion per year in the long term.
-Developing a national formulary – a comprehensive, evidence-based list of prescription drugs – which would help promote coverage that is more consistent across the country.
-Establishing a national strategy for high-cost drugs for rare diseases.

Anything there sound familiar? The difference is they will do it!

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About the public’s health

“Prescribing” fruits and veggies would save $100 billion in medical costs: An economic study the looked at providing subsides for healthy food found that such a plan could save $100 billion in medical costs. The proposed interventions included a: “(1) 30% subsidy on fruits and vegetables (“F&V incentive”) and (2) 30% subsidy on broader healthful foods including F&V, whole grains, nuts/seeds, seafood, and plant oils (‘healthy food incentive’).” This approach is the opposite of suggestions to raise prices on foods that are unhealthy, like sugary drinks. What if we imposed the latter plan to pay for the former initiative?

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Read the original research

Disney bans smoking at U.S. theme parks: For a “family-experience” company, what took them so long? By the way, e-cigarettes and vape pens are included in the ban.

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EPA Science Panel Considering Guidelines That Upend Basic Air Pollution Science: Last year, the EPA disbanded its 20-person subcommittee called the Particulate Matter Review Panel, which recommended targets for air pollution control. Since then, the task has fallen to  the agency’s science panel. At a hearing yesterday, several members of this panel expressed their doubts about “the long-established scientific consensus that air pollution can cause premature death.” One of their arguments echoed the past defense of tobacco use- lack of randomized controlled studies. Obviously there is no ethical or economically feasible way to conduct such trials. More “experts” will be called in before policy changes are made, but this hearing provides another example of the actual or attempted dismantling of environmental safety protections.

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