In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
Sutter Health, with dominant market share in Northern California, is insisting that employers sign arbitration agreements or face sharply higher out-of-network rates. (Chad Terhune, 4/7)
A survey conducted by the Leapfrog Group finds that though many hospitals have computer-based medication systems in place to protect against errors, many still fall short in highlighting possible problems. (Shefali Luthra, 4/7)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Limitless'" by J.C. Duffy.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
RACIAL CARE CAP
White doctors blind to Black pain?
Painful to accept.
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Summaries Of The News:
The Obama administration ended a stalemate with Congress by transferring about $510 million in leftover Ebola funds and $79 million from other accounts to Zika efforts. But officials say it won't be enough.
The Wall Street Journal: White House To Shift About $500 Million For Fighting Ebola To Combating Zika
The White House will shift about $500 million designated for fighting Ebola to combating the Zika virus, saying the step is necessary because Congress hasn’t acted on the administration’s request for emergency funding to tackle the mosquito-borne disease. The $510 million in existing Ebola funding, plus almost $80 million from other sources, will be redirected to allow for an immediate Zika response, Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said Wednesday. (Armour, 4/6)
The New York Times: Obama Administration To Transfer Ebola Funds To Zika Fight
In an effort to break the two-month deadlock over funding to fight the encroaching Zika virus, Obama administration officials announced on Wednesday that, as congressional Republicans had demanded, they would transfer $510 million originally intended to protect against Ebola to the Zika battle. Officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the State Department said they would move a total of $589 million to efforts to contain Zika. In addition to funds moved from the Ebola budget, an additional $79 million would come from several other accounts, including money previously allotted to the national strategic stockpile of vaccines and other emergency supplies for epidemics, said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. (McNeil, 4/6)
NPR: White House Says It Will Cut Ebola Funding To Address Zika
The redirected funds will go to mosquito control and surveillance; education about how to prevent transmission; supporting states and territories in their own Zika virus responses; and developing vaccines and better diagnostic tests. (Bichell, 4/6)
The Associated Press: White House: $589M To Go To Fight Zika Virus
While the administration has acknowledged that substantial Ebola funding is left over, it has already committed much of it to helping at least 30 other countries prevent, detect and respond to future outbreaks and epidemics. It also wants to preserve money to keep fighting Ebola should it flare up again. (4/6)
Bloomberg: White House Criticizes Congress For Inaction On Zika Money
The White House announced Wednesday it will shift $589 million in government spending to combat the Zika virus, and warned Congress that it would regret ignoring the Obama administration’s request for $1.9 billion to increase research and defenses against the disease. (Sink, 4/6)
Reuters: Zika Mystery Deepens With Evidence Of Nerve Cell Infections
Top Zika investigators now believe that the birth defect microcephaly and the paralyzing Guillain-Barre syndrome may be just the most obvious maladies caused by the mosquito-borne virus. Fueling that suspicion are recent discoveries of serious brain and spinal cord infections - including encephalitis, meningitis and myelitis - in people exposed to Zika. (Steenhuysen, 4/6)
The Obama administration announced the new regulations aimed at companies shedding their U.S. corporate citizenship for lower taxes on Monday, derailing a proposed $152 billion deal between Pfizer and Allergan.
The Wall Street Journal: Allergan CEO Saunders Criticizes Treasury Rules That Scuttled Pfizer Deal
Allergan Chief Executive Brent Saunders criticized as “un-American” and “capricious” the new Treasury Department rules that scuttled the drug company’s $150 billion tie-up with Pfizer Inc. “The rules are focused on the wrong thing: Our government should be focused on making America competitive on a global stage, not building a wall locking companies into an uncompetitive tax situation,” Mr. Saunders said in an interview. (Rockoff, 4/6)
The Hill: Allergan CEO Blasts Treasury Action On Inversions
Allergan CEO Brent Saunders said Wednesday that the Treasury Department actions that led his pharmaceutical company and Pfizer to terminate their proposed merger are “a bit un-American.” “We built this deal around the law, regulations, all the notices that were put out by the Treasury, and it was a highly legal construct. We followed the rules that Congress had set for companies looking to move to a foreign domicile,” Saunders said in an interview on CNBC. (Jagoda, 4/6)
The Wall Street Journal: New Tax Rules On Inversion Deals Are Met With Protest
A day after the Obama administration limited the ability of U.S. companies to do international deals to lighten their tax burdens, Pfizer Inc. and Allergan PLC terminated their planned $150 billion merger and other companies around the globe raced to assess the impact of the new rules. The new Treasury Department rules—the third such attempt to rein in a spate of so-called tax-inversion deals—drew swift condemnation from Allergan Chief Executive Brent Saunders, who criticized them as “un-American” and “capricious.” (Rubin and Rockoff, 4/6)
Reuters: Tax Rules That Killed Allergan-Pfizer Deal May Be Hard To Challenge
U.S. tax rules are more difficult to sue over than other regulations that emanate from Washington, presenting a challenge to anyone considering a lawsuit over an Obama administration plan to discourage deals known as inversions, tax lawyers say. Business trade groups have frequently gone to court since President Barack Obama took office in 2009 to try to block rules about the environment, health or labor unions, but taxes are different because of a law that generally bars suits until a tax is assessed, the lawyers said in interviews this week. (Ingram, 4/6)
The Associated Press: Experts Expect Corporate Tax Inversions To Survive New Rules
President Barack Obama scored a victory this week when Pfizer scrapped a $160 billion overseas deal that would have kept a chunk of the drugmaker's profits beyond the U.S. tax man's reach. But recent, aggressive federal actions that discouraged Pfizer Inc.'s combination with another drugmaker, Allergan PLC, won't stop all so-called inversions, or deals that end with a company relocating to another country — at least on paper — and trimming its U.S. tax bill in the process. Tax and legal experts say these deals, which have come under growing criticism from politicians, will remain attractive to some companies until the U.S. pursues a massive tax law overhaul. ... Inversions have become particularly popular in health care. (4/6)
The New York Times: Pfizer Faces Limited Options After Its Dead Deal With Allergan
Pfizer needs a Plan C. Two years ago, the pharmaceutical giant tried — and failed — to take over the British rival AstraZeneca in a bid to become the world’s largest drug company and lower its tax bill in the process. On Wednesday, Pfizer said another big overseas merger had failed, this time a $152 billion merger with Allergan, after the Obama administration introduced rules that would make the deal much less attractive. Now, Pfizer finds itself at yet another crossroads. (Thomas and Bray, 4/6)
Bloomberg: Three Pfizer Presidents Still Get $1 Million After Failed Deal
Three Pfizer Inc. executives will each receive $1 million cash awards tied to the drugmaker’s combination with Allergan Plc even after that $160 billion deal was terminated. (Ritcey and Melby, 4/6)
Bloomberg: Allergan Weighs Return To Deals With $34 Billion From Teva Sale
The end of the health-care industry’s biggest ever merger may also be the beginning of another round of deal-making for Allergan Plc. (Gokhale and Hallam, 4/6)
Reuters: Biotech Shares Rally As Pfizer-Allergan Deal Collapses
The collapse of one pharmaceutical mega-merger could beget many smaller deals - at least that is the hope of biotech investors. Shares of the beaten-up biotech sector rallied on Wednesday as U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc and Ireland-based Allergan Plc called off their $160 billion merger after new U.S. Treasury rules aimed at curbing tax-cutting inversion deals. (Krauskopf, 4/6)