Tagged Medicaid Expansion

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

Happy Friday! Before we dive in to the harder news, please join me in enjoying this story about scientists dosing a shy breed of octopus with ecstasy to see if the animal became cuddly and friendly while high. (I swear, it relates to health care: More studies are evaluating psychedelic drugs as outside-the-box treatments, especially for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans.)

Now, here’s what else you may have missed:

Senators were busy bees this week on the Hill. In a rare bipartisan feat, the upper chamber passed a sweeping opioids package … but there’s some fine print. Lawmakers still have to iron out the (harder, more controversial) differences between the Senate and House versions of the legislation, and they probably won’t do that work until November — conveniently, after midterms. Until then, they have a talking point!

And you know that “doughnut hole” change (which forces drugmakers to pay more for medication used by Medicare beneficiaries) that pharma hates and has been pestering lawmakers about for ages? Congress might tuck a measure rolling that back into the opioid package.

The Associated Press: GOP, Dems Unite Behind Senate Bill Fighting Addictive Drugs

Stat: GOP Lawmakers Seeking to Use Opioids Bill to Deliver Drug Industry Major Victory

It’s not all roses for drugmakers, though: A Senate-passed bill would ban “gag clauses,” which currently keep pharmacists from talking to consumers about lower-cost options.

Stat: Senate Passes Bill That Would Ban ‘Gag Clauses’ Limiting Disclosures on Drug Prices

In a sharp divergence from the budget spectacles of years past, the Senate quietly OK’d a measure to avert a government shutdown. The measure included a big, 5 percent boost to the National Institutes of Health, which was the fourth-straight significant increase for the agency.

The Associated Press: Senate Backs Bill to Avert Shutdown, Boost Military Spending

There’s a real fear out there that we’re all one bad accident away from financial ruin. A bipartisan group of senators wants to protect patients from that worry with its proposed measure on surprise bills, otherwise known as “balance billing.” (Bonus: Check out the KHN story that Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy cited in his announcement.)

The Hill: Bipartisan Senators Unveil Proposal to Crack Down on Surprise Medical Bills


As the news continues to evolve over the sexual assault allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, here’s a health tidbit you might have missed if you didn’t scan all the way to the bottom of today’s stories. Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska, an independent, and his lieutenant governor, Byron Mallott, both came out against Kavanaugh’s nomination — not because of the accusations, but because they’re worried he’s going to jeopardize Medicaid coverage. It will be interesting to see if that’s enough to sway Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, who is being watched closely as a possible swing vote.

The New York Times: Christine Blasey Ford Opens Negotiations on Testimony Next Week


Attorney general races are rarely the belles of the ball when it comes to elections. But as more of them use their position to try to check President Donald Trump’s policies (especially ones chipping away at the health law), the campaigns are drawing more eyes.

Politico: Obamacare Lawsuit Boosts Democrats in State AG Races

Preexisting conditions have been a bomb Republicans have been trying to defuse for weeks on the campaign trail, but even GOP strategists call it a losing battle. “What you have to do at this point is duck and cover,” said one in Politico’s coverage.

Politico: Republicans ‘Duck and Cover’ on Pre-Existing Conditions


A new, more detailed report has emerged of the slow-moving medical catastrophe that was Hurricane Maria. It’s also a grim insight into why counting a death toll becomes so complicated.

The Associated Press: Maria’s Death Toll Climbed Long After Rain Stopped

Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched into why two mentally ill women who were seeking care were taken from a safe hospital and driven into Florence’s floodwaters, where they both drowned.

The New York Times: They Were Seeking Mental Health Care. Instead They Drowned in a Sheriff’s Van.


In the miscellaneous, must-read file for the week:

  • The U.S. is the most dangerous place to have a baby in the developed world, yet states are doing little to address the issue. And the ones that are, often blame the moms.

USA Today: Maternal Deaths: What States Aren’t Doing to Save New Mothers’ Lives

  • We’re on the precipice of some amazing breakthroughs for cancer treatments, yet Native Americans and black patients are missing out because they’re underrepresented in clinical trials.

ProPublica/Stat: Black Patients Are Being Left Out of Clinical Trials for New Cancer Therapies

  • Personal health aides can be a lifeline for elderly patients. Inviting a stranger into your home, though, is inherently risky and there’s few regulations that exist to weed out predators.

Boston Globe: Stranger in the House

  • And a fascinating Alzheimer’s treatment called “reminiscence therapy” has seen success overseas and is gaining traction here. Check out this one facility that recreated a 1950s town square, complete with Buddy Holly on the jukebox and an old-fashioned diner.

The Wall Street Journal: To Help Alzheimer’s Patients, A Care Center Re-Creates The 1950s


As a newsroom that has a dedicated chocolate drawer and sweet treats brought in by colleagues a few times a week, this article on employers cutting down on sugary snacks sparked a bit of a debate here. To ban or not to ban, that is the question of the week.

Have a great weekend!

Must-Reads Of The Week From Brianna Labuskes

If you’ve been glued to your preferred weather service (as I have) over the past few days watching Hurricane Florence lumber toward the East Coast, you may have missed that it was a fairly huge news week for health. So, let’s get right to it!

President Donald Trump shocked and angered both allies and critics with accusations that the latest death toll from Hurricane Maria was inflated by the Democrats to make him look bad.

Bloomberg: Trump Defies Science With Rejection of Puerto Rico Death Toll

4 Takeaways On Puerto Rico’s Death Toll, In The Wake Of Trump’s Tweet Storm


For the first time since 2010, the decline in the uninsured rate stalled. Some blame the Trump administration’s whacks at the health law, but others say it’s just the marketplace leveling off.

The Washington Post: For First Time Since 2010, America’s Progress on Health Insurance Stalls

The fact that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is using health care while campaigning in a deep-red state that loves Trump shows just how far politics has evolved on the issue. (Even though he’s certainly not mentioning “Obamacare” by name.)

The New York Times: Manchin Counts on Health Care to Stave Off Republican Tide in West Virginia

But a look at tweets on the topic shows it doesn’t matter to Russian trolls which way that popularity pendulum swings — they recognize the health law as a plank sure to sow discord and pit sides against each other.

The Wall Street Journal: Nearly 600 Russia-Linked Accounts Tweeted About the Health Law


Baltimore health commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician with a reputation for fiercely taking on the Trump administration, has been tapped as Planned Parenthood’s next president. Wen brings firsthand experience with the organization as a child of a low-income family.

The New York Times: Planned Parenthood Names Leana Wen, a Doctor, Its New President


More than 4,300 beneficiaries in Arkansas were kicked off the state’s Medicaid rolls after failing to report their required work hours. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson focused on the 1,000 or so residents who have found employment under the new regulations, but critics were quick to point to the number as confirmation of their worst fears that the new fervor for work requirements will lead to a lot of Americans losing insurance.

The Associated Press: Arkansas Drops 4,300 From Medicaid Plan Over New Work Rules


A letter alleging a sexual misconduct incident in Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s past, which Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has turned over to the FBI, is adding fuel to an already fiery battle on the Hill.

A Sexual-Misconduct Allegation Against the Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh Stirs Tension Among Democrats in Congress

Meanwhile, accusations of bribery are coming out of Maine, where advocates have guaranteed $1 million in fundraising pledges to Republican Sen. Susan Collins’ 2020 opponent if she votes to confirm Kavanaugh.

The Associated Press: $1 Million Pledged Against Collins If She Backs Kavanaugh


A pharma exec’s defense that raising drug prices 400 percent was a “moral requirement” raised more than a few eyebrows. It was a bold claim in an era where most companies are trying to at least appear concerned about the topic.

Financial Times: Pharma Chief Defends 400% Drug Price Rise As a ‘Moral Requirement’

Want to know how those pharmacy benefit managers (yup, the ones now getting lots of fingers pointed at them for the high cost of drugs) can pocket almost $200 for a bottle of pills that’s valued at $6? Check out Bloomberg’s explainer.


In the interest of making this “breezy,” here are some other big news stories from the week: Apple kills two birds with one stone with its new watch: convincing people they need to buy a low-selling product and edging into the health care industry; the number of immigrant teens being held by the government has ballooned; and lawmakers may perform what might be called, in this partisan landscape, a miracle and actually fund the government on time. (See, I was not exaggerating about the amount of news this week!)

Stat: The New Apple Watch, With FDA’s Blessing, Comes With an EKG App

The New York Times: Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever

Stat: Trump Wants Drug Prices in TV Ads. The Latest Roadblock? Republicans

Politico: Congress Dares Trump To Shut Down The Government In New Spending Deal


In a story that you can’t make up: A member of the family that owns Purdue Pharma (the maker of OxyContin and subject of more than 1,000 lawsuits regarding its role in the opioid epidemic) has been awarded a patent for a treatment for opioid use disorder.

Stat: Richard Sackler, Member of Clan Behind OxyContin, Has Patent for Opioid Treatment


If all of that wasn’t enough for you, here are a few must-read miscellaneous stories from the week: Nearly two decades after Kendra Webdale was pushed to her death in the subway, the law named in her honor designed to shore up mental health systems is acting more like a band-aid than a cure; advocates are shifting gears on gun safety by going after bullets, which are largely unregulated; recent transparency controversies have some asking: Why do medical journals still take authors at their word?; and a look at the people behind suicide hotlines.

The New York Times: A Horrific Crime on the Subway Led to Kendra’s Law. Years Later, Has It Helped?

The New York Times: California Tries New Tack on Gun Violence: Ammunition Control

Stat: Why Do Medical Journals Keep Taking Authors at Their Word?

CNN: When Someone Is Thinking of Suicide, These Are the People Who Talk Them Out of It


If you had a gloomy 2017, at least take heart in the fact that it wasn’t just you.

Please have a safe weekend if you’re in Florence’s path!

Podcast: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’ A Detour On A Smoking Off-Ramp

The Food and Drug Administration declared Wednesday that vaping among teenagers has reached “an epidemic proportion.” The agency told five major e-cigarette manufacturers that they had 60 days to find ways to keep their products away from minors.

“I use the word epidemic with great care,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a Wednesday news release. “E-cigs have become an almost ubiquitous — and dangerous — trend among teens.” Yet, as the panel discusses, health advocates warned that the actions may not be strong enough.

This week’s panelists are Sarah Jane Tribble of Kaiser Health News, Stephanie Armour of The Wall Street Journal, Kimberly Leonard of the Washington Examiner and Rebecca Adams of CQ Roll Call.

They also look at Arkansas’ announcement that more than 4,000 Medicaid enrollees will be suspended for not meeting new work requirements, the Census Bureau’s announcement that the nation’s uninsured rate was unchanged last year, legislation under consideration on Capitol Hill that will affect the Affordable Care Act and efforts to stem the opioid epidemic.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The FDA’s announcement on e-cigarettes appears to be a turning point on officials’ views of how to handle the issue. It was spurred by reports of dramatic growth in teen vaping. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) recently reported that teen use has increased by 75 percent in the past year.
  • The e-cigarette industry is largely unregulated. Many brands offer a variety of sweet flavors, even though makers of traditional cigarettes are prohibited from doing that.
  • Arkansas’ move to cut adults from the Medicaid expansion program the state rolled out under the ACA is likely to be challenged in court.
  • The Trump administration has been a strong supporter of work requirements in the Medicaid program and Seema Verma, who heads the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, tweeted Wednesday night after the Arkansas announcement that she was excited about the work Arkansas has done to connect beneficiaries to jobs and education.
  • The Census Bureau’s report Wednesday is the first time since the implementation of ACA coverage expansions that the national uninsured rate did not fall.
  • The Republican-led House is expected to vote soon on a package of bills that will remove or postpone more taxes in the ACA, including the penalty for employers who do not offer coverage for workers and a tax on tanning salons. It is doubtful, however, that the measure will get through the Senate this year.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health stories of the week they think you should read, too:

Sarah Jane Tribble: Bloomberg News’ “The Secret Drug Pricing System Middlemen Use to Rake in Millions,” by Robert Langreth, David Ingold and Jackie Gu

Kimberly Leonard: Harper’s Magazine’s “Can Hospitals Learn to Better Treat Deaf Patients?” by Katie Booth

Rebecca Adams: The New York Times and ProPublica’s “Top Cancer Researcher Fails to Disclose Corporate Financial Ties in Major Research Journals,” by Charles Ornstein and Katie Thomas

Stephanie Armour: The Financial Times’ “Opioid Billionaire Granted Patent for Addiction Treatment,” by David Crow

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