Today's News and Commentary

About the public’s health

U.S. health agency finalizes conscience and religious freedom rule: Today’s top story, carried by almost all news media, is HHS finalizing a rule that allows “health providers and entities to opt out of providing, participating in, paying for or referring for healthcare services that they have personal or religious objections to.” In addition to abortion and birth control (including sterilization), this rule could affect treatment of gay, lesbian and transgender people. The rule has been strongly opposed by organizations such as the AMA.

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About pharma

PhRMA Says ‘Status Quo Must Change’ on Diabetes Prices: PhRMA President and CEO Stephen J. Ubl announced: “America’s biopharmaceutical companies are committed to addressing patient affordability challenges and to changing the incentives in the supply chain so that more of the $166 billion on rebates and discounts given to middlemen help lower patients’ costs at the pharmacy counter.” We will see…

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Budget office: $177B in added costs from Trump drug plan: The Congressional Budget Office  estimates that giving medication rebates to patients instead of insurers (or pharmaceutical benefits managers) will cost taxpayers $177 billion over 10 years. The reason is that insurance premiums include expectations of the rebates; without them, the premiums would go up. Some individuals will come out ahead- their rebates will be more than their premium increases. But since 75% of Part D premiums are federally subsidized, the public will end up footing most of the bill.

Read about the analysis

About health insurance

CBO: 7 million more uninsured after ObamaCare mandate repeal: The Congressional Budget Office estimates that in 10 years the number of uninsured people will be 35 million, or 13 percent of people under age 65. 

“The CBO said the increase in the uninsured is the result of the elimination of the mandate penalty, rising health insurance premiums and more people enrolling in plans that don’t meet the CBO’s definition of health insurance, such as short-term plans.”

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Kaiser Family Foundation / LA Times Survey Of Adults With Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance: This survey found that overall, “most people with employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) are generally satisfied with their health plans;” however,  40% report that “their family has had either problems paying medical bills or difficulty affording premiums or out-of-pocket medical costs, and about half say someone in their household skipped or postponed some type of medical care or prescription drugs in the past year because of the cost. Seventeen percent say they’ve had to make what they feel are difficult sacrifices in order to pay health care or insurance costs; for some, the sacrifices they report making are extreme.”

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About healthcare technology

Speech: Remarks by [CMS] Administrator Seema Verma at the Medical Device Manufacturers Association Annual MeetingAdministrator Seema Verma at the Medical Device Manufacturers Association Annual Meeting:  In her address to the trade group for medical devices, Verma outlined several initiatives to help speed innovative technologies to market. The one measure that was new was a more frequent coding change cycle for technology. Since codes are needed for payment, increasing their issuance to quarterly from annually would enable sooner technology introduction.

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