In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
Although many people thought the federal health law would nip the need for free clinics, they are still booming. (Michelle Andrews, 4/19)
A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis released Monday, a day ahead of UnitedHealth’s expected announcement, finds 1.1 million consumers would have no choice in health insurance plans if the giant insurer drops out of Obamacare marketplaces as threatened. (Phil Galewitz, 4/18)
Doctor visits and hospital stays were more likely for low-income adults in states after they expanded Medicaid under Obamacare, researchers reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine Monday. (Phil Galewitz, 4/18)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Election Infection'" by Mike Smith, Las Vegas Sun.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
ADDRESS THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM
Affect public health.
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
Summaries Of The News:
The investigations, revealed in a letter from the company to its outside partners, are just the latest setback for the blood-testing startup.
The New York Times: Theranos Under Federal Criminal Investigation, Adding To Its Woes
Theranos, the embattled blood-testing laboratory, said on Monday that federal officials were conducting a criminal investigation into the company, adding to a series of questions from officials about its inner workings. In a note to outside partners, the company said that the Justice Department had requested documents and that the investigation was active. The note also said that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the company. (Abelson and Pollack, 4/18)
USA Today: Blood Lab Theranos Under Federal Investigation
"The investigations by the SEC and the U.S. Attorney's Office, which began following the publication of certain news articles, are focused on requesting documents and ongoing," the statement read. "The company continues to work closely with regulators and is cooperating fully with all investigations." (della Cava, 4/18)
The Wall Street Journal: Theranos Is Subject Of Criminal Probe By U.S.
People familiar with the matter said the subpoenas seek broad information about how Theranos described its technologies and the progress it was making developing those technologies. Investigators are also examining whether Theranos misled government officials, which can be a crime under federal law, some of the people said. Such subpoenas don’t necessarily mean prosecutors are actively seeking an indictment. People familiar with the matter said the investigation is at an early stage. (Weaver, Carreyrou and Siconolfi, 4/18)
Bloomberg: Theranos Under Investigation By SEC, U.S. Attorney's Office
The criminal and civil investigations are among several probes described in a company memo provided to Bloomberg on Monday by closely held Theranos. The memo was sent to Theranos’s “partners,” which include Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and others. “The company continues to work closely with regulators and is cooperating fully with all investigations,” Theranos said. It has also been probed by the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, and state health departments in Pennsylvania and California. Theranos said the FDA and state inquiries are closed. (Kohlhatkar and Chen, 4/18)
STAT: Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes Says She's 'Devastated' By Setbacks
Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of the embattled blood-testing company Theranos, has tried more than a few approaches in recent months to head off the waves of bad news that just keep coming. She’s gone to bat for her company at an industry conference, posted a 6,000-word defense on its website, and this month assembled a group of respected medical advisors. On Monday morning, Holmes tried a new tack: an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show. (Robbins, 4/18)
KQED: Elizabeth Holmes To Present Theranos Data At Scientific Conference
In what is sure to be a hot ticket this summer, Elizabeth Holmes is going to present data on Theranos’ technology at a meeting of scientists well-equipped to judge its validity. The American Association for Clinical Chemistry said today that Holmes will speak at a plenary session of its annual meeting in Philadelphia on Aug. 1. Theranos spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan confirmed the presentation, saying, “We’re really excited about the opportunity to share our technology with the world.” (Brooks, 4/18)
But the insurer's anticipated further retreat from the health law's marketplaces could pose difficulties for consumers.
Bloomberg: UnitedHealth Profit Beats Estimates, Fueled By Optum Unit
UnitedHealth Group Inc., the biggest U.S. health insurer, posted first-quarter profit that beat analysts’ estimates as results from its Optum technology and consulting business helped overcome losses on Affordable Care Act plans. (Tracer, 4/19)
Reuters: Health Insurer UnitedHealth Reports Better-Than-Expected Revenue
Health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc (UNH.N) reported a better-than-expected quarterly revenue helped by strength in its Optum business which offers healthcare services and drug benefit plans. Optum revenues grew 54 percent to $19.7 billion. Revenue from Optum's pharmacy division rose 72 percent, the company said on Tuesday. (4/19)
Bloomberg: For Some States, UnitedHealth Exit From Obamacare Would Hurt
Although UnitedHealth Group Inc. hasn’t been a major seller of Affordable Care Act insurance plans, a further retreat from President Barack Obama’s health insurance reform program could pose problems for Obamacare users in some states. (Tracer, 4/18)
Kaiser Health News: Competition Suffers Most If UnitedHealth Exits Obamacare In 2017: Analysis
If UnitedHealthcare follows through on its threat to quit the health insurance marketplaces in 2017, more than 1 million consumers would be left with a single health plan option, forecasted an analysis released Monday. A UnitedHealthcare pullout would be felt most in several states, generally in the South and Midwest, where consumers would be left with little choice of plans, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported. (KHN is an editorially independent program of the foundation.) In most of the 34 states where United operates this year, though, the effect would be modest for premiums and the number of plan options, Kaiser said. (Galewitz, 4/18)
The nonpartisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission says incentives are needed to encourage insurance providers to push for bigger pharmaceutical discounts and manage prescription use. Meanwhile, according to an AARP survey, older Americans also strongly favor a federal role in negotiating Medicare discounts.
The New York Times: Panel Would Make Insurers Help Contain Rising Drug Costs
An influential federal advisory panel is calling for Congress to force private insurers to rein in rapid increases in prescription drug costs — by cutting some Medicare payments to insurance companies while shielding older Americans from higher out-of-pocket expenses. The recommendations by the nonpartisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission would squeeze private insurers and drug makers alike, creating strong new incentives for insurance companies to manage the use of prescription medicines by beneficiaries and negotiate larger price discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Obama administration agrees with the reasoning. (Pear, 4/18)
USA Today: Feds Should Negotiate Medicare Prices With Drugmakers, Seniors Say
The federal government should negotiate drug prices for Medicare and force drugmakers to explain how they set drug prices, according to a survey out Tuesday of people 50 and older by AARP, the nation’s largest organization of people this age. The survey showed more than 93% of adults 50 and older said they favored the Medicare price negotiations, a policy advocated by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. President Obama included such price negotiation authority for drugs known as biologics and "high-cost drugs" in his recent budget proposals. (O'Donnell, 4/19)
In other Medicare news —
STAT: Unintended Twist In Obamacare May Cost Medicare Patients More For Biosimilars
An “unintended consequence” of the Affordable Care Act may mean that Medicare Part D beneficiaries will pay more for biosimilars than for costlier brand-name biologics, according to a new analysis released last week. (Silverman, 4/18)
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