In This Edition:
From Kaiser Health News:
The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission outlined a package of changes to Medicare’s drug program that could save billions of dollars. (Julie Appleby, 6/15)
Medicaid spends billions on unintended pregnancies, and federal officials say better use of long-acting contraceptives, such as IUDs, offer advantages for women and are cost-effective. (Michelle Andrews, 6/16)
Staff at California’s largest public buyer of health benefits says the goal of reducing drug costs for the state is appealing but might not work in the real world. (Cynthia H. Craft, 6/16)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Time To Unplug'" by Chris Wildt .
Here's today's health policy haiku:
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Summaries Of The News:
The grants may inflame an already tense relationship with insurers, who say they've had a tough year on the Obamacare marketplace. Meanwhile, the long-awaited Republican plan to replace the health law will lack concrete financial details, aides and lobbyists say.
The Hill: White House Urges States To Resist ObamaCare Hikes
The White House is urging states to be more aggressive against health insurance companies as it looks to prevent expected and widespread premium hikes of 10 percent or more this year. The federal health department announced Wednesday that it will dole out about $22 million to boost state-level "rate reviews," considered one of the strongest weapons against premium increases. Under the system, health insurers are required to justify rate increases to state insurance departments, some of which have the power to reject “unreasonable” increases. With the new funding, federal health officials hope states can hire outside insurance experts to dig deeper into the proposed rates and prove the hikes are unjustified. (Ferris 6/15)
The Hill: GOP ObamaCare Replacement Will Leave Out Key Dollar Figures
House Republicans’ ObamaCare replacement plan will not include specific dollar figures on some of its core provisions, and will instead be more of a broad outline, according to lobbyists and aides. The plan, set to be released next week, will include a tax credit to help people afford insurance and a cap on the current exclusion of employer-based health insurance plans from taxation. However, it will not include specific dollar amounts on how large the tax credit would be, nor will it note which employer health insurance plans would be subject to taxation, lobbyists and aides said. (Sullivan, 6/15)
In other news, the health law is shifting the business model of family planning clinics —
KQED: Why Stand-Alone Family Planning Clinics Struggle To Survive In Age Of Obamacare
For free checkups, testing, treatment and contraceptives, (Mary-Michael) Watts has referred hundreds of students — many of whom are low income — to the New Generation Health Center, about a mile from Mission High. ... So Watts and her young patients were shocked to learn that New Generation was supposed to close down in July due to financial troubles. ... New Generation’s troubles stem in part from the very specialization in reproductive health that has made it such a valuable resource for young patients in the Mission District, say experts. They contend that the Affordable Care Act has changed the business model for clinics like this, forcing most to transform by adding primary care services or merging with other health centers in order to remain competitive. (Romero, 6/15)
Meanwhile, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., filibustered for nearly 15 hours to bring attention to gun control amendments.
The Hill: House Panel Advances Long-Delayed Mental Health Bill
A House committee on Wednesday advanced a long-controversial mental health reform bill, 53-0, that Republicans have cast as their response to mass shootings. (Sullivan, 6/15)
The Associated Press: In Wake Of Mass Shootings, Dem Senator Wages Filibuster
A Democratic senator who mourned the loss of 20 children in his home state of Connecticut four years ago waged a nearly 15-hour filibuster into the early hours of Thursday morning, demanding votes on gun control measures just days after a mass shooting at a Florida nightclub. As compromise on the gun issue remained improbable, Sen. Chris Murphy stood on the Senate floor for most of Wednesday and into Thursday, saying he would remain there "until we get some signal, some sign that we can come together." He yielded the floor at 2:11 a.m., EDT, saying he had won commitments from Republican leaders that they would hold votes on amendments to expand background checks and ban gun sales to suspected terrorists. It is unlikely that those amendments will pass. (6/16)
However, agency officials say the one-year guidance for gay men is in line with other countries' policies and note that every year some of the 3.5 million patients who receive transfusions are infected with various diseases. Meanwhile, an Orlando donation center that supplied blood to victims of the shooting confirmed that the gunman had given blood just before the massacre. And therapy dogs are bringing comfort to those affected.
The New York Times: Orlando Shooting Renews Debate Over Limits On Gay Men Donating Blood
In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Fla., 53 people were alive but wounded, many in desperate need of blood. Blood banks in the area put out a call for donors. Gay men were ready to volunteer. Rumors even went around that blood centers in Orlando had relaxed a ban on donations from sexually active gay men. But the rumors were false. The ban, imposed by the Food and Drug Administration, remains in place, infuriating some gay rights activists. (McNeil, 6/15)
ABC News: Orlando Gunman Donated Blood Less Than Two Weeks Before Shooting
The gunman who killed dozens of people at a gay nightclub in Orlando gave blood to a donation center that provided much of the supply later used to help save injured club patrons. The OneBlood donation center confirmed today that Omar Mateen donated blood last month. In a statement, officials from the center said an employee recognized Mateen from a mobile blood drive. (Mohney, 6/15)
CBS News: Therapy Dogs Deployed To Orlando
As the old saying goes, dogs are a man's best friend. But to those affected by the Orlando nightclub shooting, a pack of 12 golden retrievers have become the true companions to a broken community -- providing unconditional love and sloppy kisses to anyone they could get their paws on. Tim Hetzner is the president of a donation-based organization in Illinois that deploys a "sea of fur" - also known as K-9 Comfort Dogs -- to areas struck by crisis or natural disaster. (6/15)
Gordon Johnston made as much as $5,000 a month to bring confidential information to hedge fund manager Sanjay Valvani, according to allegations filed in a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney of Manhattan. Federal investigators have been scrutinizing communications between Washington research firms and Wall Street investors for years but struggled to build the cases partly because of unclear rules on what's considered confidential information.
The Wall Street Journal: Visium Insider-Trading Case Ensnares Former FDA Official
A hedge-fund insider-trading case has ensnared a former Food and Drug Administration official, one of the first criminal actions focused on how Wall Street gathers information from Washington. Federal prosecutors on Wednesday unveiled charges against a current and a former portfolio manager of hedge- fund firm Visium Asset Management LP, accusing them of trading on confidential government information about generic-drug approvals. (Viswanatha and Matthews, 6/15)
The Washington Post: Hedge Fund Manager Charged With Reaping $32 Million Profit From Washington-Style Insider Trading Scheme
Federal prosecutors on Wednesday charged a hedge fund manager with engaging in a Washington-style insider trading scheme, allegedly reaping a $32 million profit using confidential government information. The scheme involved Sanjay Valvani, a 44-year-old New York hedge fund manager, and Gordon Johnston, 64, of Olney, Md., who spent more than a decade working at the Food and Drug Administration, according to allegations filed in a complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney of Manhattan. Johnston served as a “political intelligence” consultant to Valvani, making as much as $5,000 a month for bringing the hedge fund manager confidential information mined from his relationships with former FDA colleagues, the complaints alleged. (Merle, 6/15)
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