The price of insulin keeps going up. For people with Type 1 diabetes, high prices can be a life-or-death issue. Now a grass-roots movement is pushing for change. (Bram Sable-Smith, Side Effects Public Media, 12/12)
Part of the reason so many people are eligible for plans under which they would pay $0 in premiums is because President Donald Trump eliminated key health law payments last year. This had the unintended effect of increasing financial assistance to many Americans. Meanwhile, although the enrollment numbers have been dragging this year, the federal health law site did experience a surge after former President Barack Obama encouraged people to sign up.
The Hill: Study: 4.2 Million Uninsured People Eligible For Free ObamaCare CoverageÂ A new analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that 4.2 million uninsured people are eligible for ObamaCare coverage at no cost at all. The study, published Tuesday,Â finds that those people can find an ObamaCare plan for $0 in premiumsÂ due to the financial assistance under the health-care lawÂ being high enoughÂ to completely cover the cost of the cheapest ObamaCare options, known as bronze plans. (Sulliban, 12/11)
Des Moines Register: 34,000 Iowans Could Get Free Health Insurance Under Obamacare Nearly 34,000 Iowans who lack health insurance could get free policies under Obamacare, a new report estimates. Nearly half of all uninsured Iowans could qualify for no-premium insurance, according to the study from the Kaiser Family Foundation. But the IowansÂ would need to act fast: Saturday is the sign-up deadline for 2019 health insurance policies that qualify for federal subsidies. (Leys, 12/11)
The Hill: ObamaCare Signups Spike On Same Day Obama Tweeted Support The ObamaCare signup website healthcare.gov received its highest traffic on Monday, the same day former President Obama recorded a message urging people to sign up. A spokesperson from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services did not say what drove the spike, but noted the website always sees spikes closer to the Dec. 15 deadline to sign up for insurance coverage. (Weixel, 12/11)
Concord Monitor: Health Insurance Deadline Looms For Those Seeking Federal Subsidies The shortened signup period for Affordable Care Act health insurance ends Saturday, with the number of New Hampshire residents enrolling through the federal marketplace currently about 20 percent lower than at this time last year. As of Dec. 6, a total of 15,255 state residents had enrolled through Healthcare.gov, roughly 4,000 fewer than at this time last year, according to federal data. (Brooks, 12/11)
And in other health law newsÂ â
The Hill: Judge Sides With Religious Groups In ObamaCare Birth Control Mandate FightÂ A federal judge this week sided with three religious colleges and three Christian organizations in their challenge to the Affordable Care Actâs birth control mandate. Judge Philip Brimmer, a George W. Bush appointee on the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, issuedÂ an orderÂ that permanently blocks the federal government from forcing the plaintiffs to cover sterilization drugs or contraception drugs devices, procedures, and related education and counseling in their health care plans. (Wheeler, 12/11)
Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), the expected incoming House Ways and Means chairman, signaled his willingness to hold hearings on “Medicare for all,” a popular priority for many progressive lawmakers in the party. Elsewhere on Capitol Hill, health care costs are in the spotlight, as well as a bill aimed at reversing the country’s maternal mortality rates.
The Hill: Incoming Dem Chairman Open To Hearing On ‘Medicare For All’Â The incoming chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), said Tuesday that he is open to holding hearings on “Medicare for all” next year. … The comments, while not a firm commitment, are some of the most encouraging toward Medicare for all supporters from a top House Democrat to date. Democratic leaders and key committee chairmen have so far not given support to Medicare for all, despite a push from the progressive wing of the party. (Sullivan, 12/11)
Modern Healthcare: How Can We Lower Healthcare Costs? Key GOP Senator Seeks IdeasÂ Senate health committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) plans to have his panel next year work on legislation to address high healthcare costs. On Tuesday, the senator asked hospitals, insurers, patient groups, state regulators and think tanks to submit proposals for solutions by March 1, 2019. He sent a letter to the Brookings Institution, American Enterprise Institute and others he wants to hear from. (Luthi, 12/11)
CQ: Alexander Seeks Proposals For Health Costs Legislation Alexander said he is also seeking input from the health care industry and state officials who handle health issues, which could help shape legislation next year. In the letter, Alexander asked AEIâs James Capretta and the Brookings Institutionâs Paul Ginsburg to suggest specific ways Congress could âlower health care costs, incentivize care that improves the health and outcomes of patients, and increase the ability for patients to access information about their care to make informed decisions,â as well as how those would work and what Congress or the administration needs to do to implement such steps. He also asked about what shortcomings such steps could have, and why it may be worthwhile to implement them, anyway. (McIntire, 12/11)
The Hill: House Passes Bipartisan Bill Aimed At Reversing Rising Maternal Mortality RatesÂ The House on Tuesday passed a bipartisan bill aimed at reversing the maternal mortality crisisÂ in the U.S. in what supporters say is the strongest action yet that Congress has taken on the issue. The bill from Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) would support state-level efforts to track and investigate pregnancy-related deaths, and then look for ways to prevent future deaths from occurring. (Hellmann, 12/11)
Modern Healthcare: Congress Likely To Revive Earmarks, Signaling A Boon For HospitalsÂ A Democratic House leader on Tuesday predicted Congress will bring back earmarks early next year, raising the prospect of a windfall in targeted funding for hospitals with not-for-profit tax designation as well as university medical centers. The policy change could be especially significant for hospitals in states that did not expand Medicaid as they look for to fill in the revenue gaps stemming from uncompensated care. HHS has traditionally scored the second-highest amount of earmarks after the Defense Department, according to a former Senate appropriations staffer who worked on Capitol Hill when earmarks were the modus operandi. (Luthi, 12/11)
Politico Pro: Juul Tries To Make Friends In Washington As Regulators Circle The San Francisco company thatâs become synonymous with vaping â âjuulingâ is now a verb â has hired political hands in Washington and started a political action committee that has donated to members of Congress and state attorney-general candidates.Twenty years after four big tobacco companies reached a massive settlement with 46 states over smoking-related health problems and marketing issues â which was followed by a series of tighter restrictions and led to the rapid decline of the industry in the United States â Juul is frantically trying to avoid a similar fate. (Woellert and Owemohle, 12/7)
Hundreds of thousands of public opinions poured in about the policy during the open comment period, which closed Monday. The “public charge” rule would allow federal immigration officials to consider legal immigrants’ use of Medicaid, nutrition, housing and other programs as a strongly negative factor in their applications for legal permanent residency. Many health groups wrote in to say the policy would take both a financial and public health toll on vulnerable populations.
Modern Healthcare: Healthcare Groups Rip Trump Proposal Penalizing Legal Immigrants For Using Medicaid In a rare moment of consensus, healthcare industry groups uniformly blasted the Trump administration’s proposal to penalize legal immigrants for using Medicaid and other public benefit programs, warning it would have broad negative effects on the healthcare system, government budgets and public health. The Department of Homeland Security received 210,889 comments on its proposed “inadmissibility on public charge grounds” rule, issued in October, when the comment period ended Monday. Healthcare stakeholder groups, including hospitals, physicians, insurers and public health advocates, urged DHS to withdraw the rule entirely. (Meyer, 12/11)
Other health news from the administration comes from the VA and the Justice DepartmentÂ â
The Washington Post: Trump Loyalist At VA Forced Out After Collecting Pay But Doing Little Work The Trump administration has forced out a senior White House political appointee at the Department of Veterans Affairs who spent months on the federal payroll doing little to no work. Peter OâRourkeâs departure marks an unceremonious fall for a Trump loyalist once seen as a rising star at VA, where he nonetheless had a rocky tenure, first leading a high-profile office handling whistleblower complaints, next as chief of staff and then, for two months, as the agencyâs acting secretary. (Rein and Dawsey, 12/11)
Seattle Times: Justice Department Sues Washington State Over Law To Compensate Sick Hanford WorkersÂ The U.S. Justice Department sued Washington state Monday, alleging that a law approved by the Legislature to make it easier for ill Hanford workers to get compensation discriminates against the federal government and its Energy Department contractors. The lawsuit filed against the state in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington asks a federal judge to declare the law invalid and prevent enforcement. (Bernton, 12/11)
One trend that’s emerged in the opioid epidemic is both the public and police departments releasing footage or photos of people who are experiencing some of the bleakest moments in their lives. The views on such videos can total in the millions, and some argue it’s beneficial, but for those in the videos it can change their lives forever–not necessarily for the better. Meanwhile, experts wonder if fentanyl could become a weapon of mass destruction to be used against the United States, and the maker of an anti-overdose drug overs a generic of a fraction of the price.
The New York Times: How Do You Recover After Millions Have Watched You Overdose? The first time Kelmae Hemphill watched herself overdose, she sobbed. There she was in a shaky video filmed by her own heroin dealer, sprawled out on a New Jersey road while a stranger pounded on her chest. âCome on, girl,â someone pleaded. Ms. Hemphillâs 11-year drug addiction, her criminal record, her struggles as a mother â they were now everybodyâs business, splashed across the news and social media with a new genre of American horror film: the overdose video. As opioid deaths have soared in recent years, police departments and strangers with cameras have started posting raw, uncensored images of drug users passed out with needles in their arms and babies in the back seats of their cars. The videos rack up millions of views and unleash avalanches of outrage. Then some other viral moment comes along, and the country clicks away. (Seelye, Turkewitz, Healy and Blinder, 12/11)
Bloomberg: Killer Opioid Fentanyl Could Be A Weapon Of Mass DestructionÂ Fentanyl has emerged as the most dangerous of a group of drugs blamed for creating a U.S. public health crisis. American deaths linked to fentanyl grew more than 50 percent to 29,406 last year, from 19,413 in 2016, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Relatively easy to manufacture, the drug is turning up more on the streets as dealers strive to meet still-enormous demand for opioids in the U.S.Fentanyl is ever-evolving as suppliers try to avoid detection and still boost the potency of the drug using what are called analogues â essentially chemical cousins. (Edney, 12/12)
Stat: Kaleo, Maker Of $4,100 Overdose Antidote, To Offer Generic For $178Â A month after the drug maker Kaleo came under fire from lawmakers and public-health advocates for charging $4,100 for a device that reverses overdoses, the company has announced it will introduce a generic version for a small fraction of the price. The company announced Wednesday it has authorized its subsidiary IJ Therapeutics to produce a largely identical version of its automated naloxone injector for a retail price of $178 for a kit, which, like the $4,100 brand-name version, contains two doses. First responder groups and health departments will be offered the brand-name product Evzio at the same price. (Facher, 12/12)