Today's News and Commentary

About pharma

Pharma Lobby Nears Spending Records With Drug Prices Under Fire: With all the governmental talk about lowering drug prices, the pharma lobby is spending record amounts on lobbying ($9.91 million in the first quarter).

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About the public’s health

Hospitals sue over new national liver transplant policy: The United Network for Organ Sharing, a non profit organization that works with the federal government to fairly allocate organs for transplant, announced new criteria would be starting April 30. The criteria change the geographic distribution currently in place. Several hospitals and patients have sued, claiming the new system is unfair, particularly to those in rural areas and in some states (like Georgia and Alabama).

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Federal judge will enjoin family-planning physician gag rule: ”U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane said Tuesday he will issue a temporary injunction against the Trump administration’s gag rule dictating what physicians can and cannot say about family planning to their patients in the Title X program.”
The gag rule would prohibit family planning funds from going to organizations that provide abortions or refer patients to organizations who do.

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Scientists Dig Into Hard Questions About The Fluorinated Pollutants Known As PFAS:This story from NPR concerns one of those ubiquitous classes of chemicals about which scientists know relatively little about the health effects.

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WHO recommends one-hour maximum screen time per day for under-5s: And no time for those under one year!

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The Forgotten Middle: Many Middle-Income Seniors Will Have Insufficient Resources For Housing And Health Care: This article from Health Affairs has limited access; but the message in the abstract is clear: “We project that by 2029 there will be 14.4 million middle-income seniors, 60 percent of whom will have mobility limitations and 20 percent of whom will have high health care and functional needs. While many of these seniors will likely need the level of care provided in seniors housing, we project that 54 percent of seniors will not have sufficient financial resources to pay for it. This gap suggests a role for public policy and the private sector in meeting future long-term care and housing needs for middle-income seniors.”

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Walgreens, Rite Aid set minimum age to sell tobacco products at 21 years: This action is an improvement but still not as good as CVS, which does not sell tobacco products.

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Popular e-cigarette products contaminated with bacterial and fungal toxins, study finds: In another tobacco-related story, the headline provides another reason not to smoke.

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Trump poised to roll back transgender health protections: “A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that’s expected in the coming days would make it easier for doctors, hospitals and insurance companies to deny care or coverage to transgender patients, as well as women who have had abortions.” The ACLU says it will challenge the rule if it is issued.

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New Findings Confirm Predictions on Physician Shortage: This latest study continues other recent ones that document physician shortages. Many reasons exist including, physician retirements, growing populations and geographic maldistribution of providers.

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About healthcare IT

Telehealth initiatives are expanding at the state, as well as national level, with laws and programs to enable this technology. Here are two examples in Arizona and South Carolina.

About health insurance

Verma Seeks to Clarify Commitment to Preexisting Condition Protections: Short term health plans are meant to provide a cheaper alternative to ACA exchange plans by limiting benefits. The concern is whether they would also exclude preexisting conditions. CMS administrator Verma offered reassurances that federal waivers for these types of plans would not be granted unless they guaranteed “that people with pre-existing conditions continue to have access to coverage that is at least as comprehensive and as affordable as it is today.” This position is stricter than that of the White House, so we will still need to see how it all plays out.

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About healthcare financing

Global Healthcare Private Equity and Corporate M&A Report 2019: This report from Bain & Co. reports that “disclosed deal values surged almost 50%, to $63.1 billion, topping last year’s level of $42.6 billion, and deal count rose to 316 in 2018 from 265 in 2017. “ Activity was all across the healthcare sector.

“Corporate buyers also jumped in with enthusiasm, pushing corporate M&A in healthcare to a record $435 billion in 2018, surpassing the previous high of $432 billion in 2015.”

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