Kaiser Health News Original Stories

1. California Gov. Brown Signs Aid-in-Dying Bill Into Law

Brown said that he weighed the controversial issue carefully, and in the end decided that it would be a comfort to know the option was available if he were facing a painful, prolonged death. (April Dembosky, KQED and Anna Gorman, 10/5)

3. Political Cartoon: 'Stomping?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Stomping?'" by John Cole, The Scranton Times-Tribune.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Humanness of health.
Our conversations matter.
Put worth in our time.

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.


4. Price Hikes -- Even Beyond Inflation -- Drive Drug Revenue

This scenario appears to play out even when demand for specific drugs doesn't match the increases. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that drug price surges also are a result of Food and Drug Administration safety testing.

The Wall Street Journal: For Prescription Drug Makers, Price Increases Drive Revenue
Demand for a drug called Avonex has declined every year for the past 10. Not a problem for its manufacturer. U.S. revenue from the drug has more than doubled in that time, to $2 billion last year. The key: repeated price increases. The multiple sclerosis drug’s maker, Biogen Inc., raised its price an average of 16% a year throughout the decade—21 times in all. (Walker, 10/5)

Bloomberg: 2,000% Drug Price Surge Is A Side Effect Of FDA Safety Program
Colchicine, a gout remedy so old that the ancient Greeks knew about its effects, used to cost about 25 cents per pill in the U.S. Then in 2010 its price suddenly jumped 2,000 percent. That’s just one of the side effects of a U.S. Food and Drug Administration plan to encourage testing of medicines that have been around longer than the modern FDA itself, and so have never gotten formal approval. Companies that do the tests are rewarded with licenses that can temporarily give them monopoly pricing power as most rivals are eased or kicked off the market. The result has been a surge in the cost of drugs used in treatments from anesthesia to heart surgery and eye operations. (Langreth and Koons, 10/6)

In other news -

Reuters: U.S. Labor Chief Tries To Calm Fiat Chrysler Worker Fears
UAW President Dennis Williams said in a Monday morning Facebook posting to Fiat Chrysler U.S. union members that he will not shift health care costs to workers from the Detroit Three automakers as he tries to lower costs by creating a pool of covered employees from the companies. (Woodall, 10/5)

5. Trade Pact's Drug Protection Efforts Disappoint Pharmaceutical Companies

Drug makers had hoped to get a 12-year period of protection against cheaper versions of the drug but the pact guarantees only five to eight years.

The Boston Globe: Trade Pact Offers Shorter Protection Against Copies Of Medications
Drug companies appear to have lost their fight to include longer-term protection against cheaper copies of some of their products in the historic trade pact reached Monday by the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim nations. While all the details weren’t immediately available, initial reports of a compromise struck between US and foreign negotiators said the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership won’t provide the 12 years of commercial protection the US-based biopharma industry had sought. (Weisman, 10/5)

Modern Healthcare: Trade Deal Disappoints Drugmakers, Consumer Groups
Part of the agreement requires the countries to extend data protection for biologic medicines—drugs produced by living matter—for at least five to eight years. The pharmaceutical industry had hoped for a minimum of 12 years, and some consumer groups had hoped for no minimum exclusivity. ... Biologics currently have 12 years of data exclusivity in the U.S. under federal law, and that's unlikely to change regardless of the trade agreement. The biggest impact will be felt by the partnership's other countries; Australia, Brunei, Vietnam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru and Singapore. At least five of the partnership countries now don't have any exclusivity for biologics, meaning the agreement would require them to pass laws granting at least five years of exclusivity. (Schencker, 10/5)

Bloomberg: Drugmakers Say Pacific Trade Pact To Stifle Investment In Cures
The biotechnology industry, whose ranks include Gilead Sciences and Amgen, criticized the deal struck by negotiators for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement to let drugmakers keep data secret for at least five years, saying negotiators should have extended protection for 12 years. "BIO strongly believes that 12 years of data exclusivity is a prerequisite to attract the investment required to continue medical innovation and develop new biological cures and therapies," Jim Greenwood, president and chief executive officer of the lobbying group Biotechnology Industry Organization, said in an emailed statement. (Edney and Bloomfield, 10/5)

The Hill: Trade Deal Would Limit Protections For Pharma Firms
Trade officials from 12 countries agreed Monday to shrink the length of time that pharmaceutical companies can receive monopoly rights for certain drugs, a provision that is already threatening to incite a Big Pharma rebellion on Capitol Hill. Brand-name companies would receive up to eight years of monopoly rights for drugs known as biologics — a decrease from the current 12 years provided under U.S. law, according to officials involved. The final language of the deal has not yet been released. (Ferris, 10/5)

CQ Healthbeat: Trade Deal Announcement Highlights Tobacco Problem
Before free trade supporters get too exuberant about the outcome of the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks, they might want to listen to the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. “Closing a deal is an achievement for our nation only if it works for the American people and can pass Congress by meeting the high-standard objectives laid out in bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority. While the details are still emerging, unfortunately I am afraid this deal appears to fall woefully short,” Chairman Orrin G. Hatch said in a statement. (Lesniewski, 10/5)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Health Law's 'Cadillac Tax,' Risk Corridor Program Draw Scrutiny

In other health law news, a study finds that chronically ill people enrolled in Obamacare plans pay more in out-of-pocket prescription drug costs than do those people who have employer-based coverage.

Minnesota Public Radio: Debate Rages As 'Cadillac Tax' Gets Closer
Five years after the Affordable Care Act became law, debate rages about whether one of its final provisions will do more harm than good. While most of the law's major elements have already taken effect, a final provision — the "Cadillac tax" — looms on the horizon. (Zdechlik, 10/6)

CQ Healthbeat: Insurers Ask Lawmakers To Find Funds To Close Health Law Gap
The Obama administration may need the help of congressional Republicans to shore up a risk management program established by the 2010 health care law. The program is already running a $2.5 billion shortfall that may otherwise land on insurers. Sen. Marco Rubio and GOP colleagues, who last December narrowed the administration’s room to maneuver to close the gap in the insurer-funded program, are now seeking to build on that by forcing insurers to adjust prices to reflect costs. (Young, 10/5)

Kaiser Health News: Chronically Ill Pay More In Obamacare Plans Than Employer Coverage
Chronically ill people enrolled in individual health plans sold on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges pay on average twice as much out-of-pocket for prescription drugs each year than people covered through their workplace, according to a study published Monday in the Health Affairs journal. Patients with at least one chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma pay on average $621 out–of-pocket for prescription costs on the popular, mid-priced silver exchange plans compared to $304 for those with employer coverage, researchers at Emory University in Atlanta found. (Galewitz, 10/5)

Modern Healthcare: Employers Turn To Health Startup To Screen Low-Wage Workers
When Jackie McMann-Oliveri started as human-resources director at the Meatball Shop in July 2014, she knew the company had to act quickly to prepare for the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. The six-restaurant chain would shortly be responsible for providing health benefits to even its lowest-wage workers—dishwashers, busers and other kitchen staff. (LaMantia, 10/5)

7. Gov. Herbert Expresses Cautious Optimism About Utah's Medicaid Expansion Plan

He also says some changes need to be made in the latest version of the expansion.

Deseret News: Gov. Herbert Says Latest Medicaid Expansion Plan May Need Changes
Gov. Gary Herbert said Monday there may need to be changes made to the latest Medicaid expansion plan he and legislative leaders came up with after months of private meetings. "There are concerns I have about it. There's nothing that's perfect," the governor told the Deseret News. He said, however, that shouldn't prevent action on a plan to provide health care coverage to low-income Utahns. (Riley Roche, 10/5)

Fox13 (Salt Lake City): Gov. Herbert Weighs In On New Medicaid Expansion Proposal
Gov. Gary Herbert weighed in on a new plan that would expand Medicaid to Utah’s poor and uninsured. He expressed cautious optimism that something would get done for thousands of Utahns waiting for Medicaid coverage. During an interview at FOX 13 News studio Monday, Herbert summed up his strategy sessions with fellow governors and health care leaders at the National Governor’s Association retreat in Salt Lake City over the weekend. ... The governor said this plan could be a tough sell to House Republicans. (Vaifanua, 10/5)

Also in the news, developments related to state exchanges and health insurance co-ops -

The Denver Post: Colorado Health Cooperative Says Feds Reneged On Promised Payment
Colorado's nonprofit health cooperative says its future has been jeopardized by an unexpectedly low payment from a federal program intended to help more people acquire health insurance. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services informed health cooperatives nationwide Thursday that a "risk corridor" plan, one of three programs meant to help insurance companies widen their coverage nets, was short of money. (Olinger, 10/5)

The Des Moines Register: Wellmark To Sell Policies On Obamacare Exchange For 2017
Iowa’s dominant health insurer has agreed to start selling policies a year from now that qualify for Obamacare subsidies. Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield has not participated in the Affordable Care Act’s online health insurance marketplace, which launched in th

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