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Yes, ‘Medicare for all’ would do away with private healthcare plans. When President Trump declared in a USA Today op-ed that the Democrats' "Medicare for all" proposal would "outlaw" private health insurance, CNN's Jim Acosta indignantly tweeted that this was "false." But reading the text of the leading proposal by Sen. Bernie Sanders makes clear that Trump's op-ed was correct. "It is right there in their proposed legislation: Democrats outlaw private health plans that offer the same benefits as the government plan." This is, in fact, 100 percent accurate. The plan would require, in four years time, for individuals to be enrolled in the new government plan at birth. At that point, Section 107 of the plan says, “it shall be unlawful for — (1) a private health insurer to sell health insurance coverage that duplicates the benefits provided under this Act; or (2) an employer to provide benefits for an employee, former employee, or the dependents of an employee or former employee that duplicate the benefits provided under this Act." In effect, this would mean that the roughly 180 million people who depend on private insurance would see their existing plans go away. Though the bill does allow for limited supplemental coverage, because the government plan promises to offer such a wide swath of benefits (including hospitalization, primary and preventive care, prescription drugs, dentistry and vision care), there won’t be much left over for private insurers.
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Sanders hits back at Trump in his own USAT op-ed. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the author of the Medicare for All Act, hit back at Trump’s “lies” on healthcare in his own op-ed in USA Today. Sanders touted the growing popularity of his proposal and noted that studies show overall spending under his plan would be lower than under the current model by shifting all medical spending to the government.
The Sanders bill hasn’t been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but researchers at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center released a widely circulated study that projected the Medicare for All Act would increase federal spending by $32 trillion. Though Sanders has touted a part of the study saying that overall private and public health spending could be reduced by $2 trillion, that assumes the plan would cut reimbursement hospitals and doctors currently receive from private health insurance by 40 percent, given that Medicare pays lower rates. This approach will not only receive backlash from insurance and drug companies, which Sanders attacks in his op-ed, but by hospitals -- and would likely lead to significant problems with access. The plan Sanders has put forward goes further than the current Medicare system and than those offered in other countries through the range of medical services it would cover and by doing away with all copays.
FDA again approves a record number of generic drugs. The Food and Drug Administration approved or tentatively approved a record-setting 971 generic drugs in fiscal year 2018 that ended last month, the agency announced on Thursday. The total figure is slightly above the 937 final and tentative approvals in fiscal 2017, which itself was also a record. The Trump administration has pinpointed faster generic drug approvals as a key way to bring down prescription drug costs. “We’ll continue taking additional steps to help ensure patients have access to the drugs they need by making generic drug approval more efficient and predictable,” said FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in a statement.
What has led to the record-setting increase? While the Trump administration will take a lot of credit, the foundation for the increase in generic approvals was laid back in 2012. That was the year a law was passed to create a user fee program for generic drugs. The agency collects user fees from generic drugmakers and uses that money to hire new staff and implement policies to address generic approval times. For example, the program devoted some user fee money to tackling a backlog of thousands of generic drug applications. President Trump signed a law last year that reauthorized the program for another five years.
Trump's health chief on shortlist to replace Jeff Sessions. President Trump is mulling Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar as a possible replacement for Attorney General Jeff Sessions, according to a new report. Citing unnamed sources in the White House, the Wall Street Journal reported that Azar and four others are on the shortlist, including Transportation Department general counsel Steven Bradbury, former Attorney General Bill Barr, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan and Janice Rogers Brown, a retired appeals court judge from the District of Columbia Circuit. But Azar, who was confirmed as Trump's health secretary in January, isn’t interested in the attorney general position, according to the WSJ’s sources.
Azar declares public health emergency in Georgia. The declaration came following damage from Hurricane Michael, allowing medical supplied to get to emergency areas faster. “We are working closely with state health authorities and private sector partners from hospitals and other healthcare facilities to save lives and protect public health after Hurricane Michael,” Azar said in a statement. “This declaration will help ensure that our fellow Americans who rely on Medicare and Medicaid have continuous access to the care they need.”
Higher taxes on tobacco key to tackling cancer deaths, American Cancer Society says. The American Cancer Society is calling for a ramp-up in cigarette taxes and other tobacco control efforts because tobacco is still the top cause of cancer deaths. The cancer society released a report on Wednesday calling for an extension of efforts aimed at controlling tobacco smoking, singling out higher taxes on cigarettes as the best strategy. Tobacco taxes “remain low throughout most of the United States, and the full public health potential of this intervention has yet to be fully realized,” the report said. “State taxes are as low as $0.17 per pack in Missouri and as high as $4.35 in New York State." The report cited prior research that showed tobacco smoking accounted for nearly 30 percent of all cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2014, making up 173,160 deaths. A decline in smoking has also led to a decline in cancer deaths overall.
Transgender Wisconsin state employees get $780,000 in damages after being refused health coverage. Two Wisconsin state employees who are transgender received $780,000 in damages from a Wisconsin jury after the two were rejected for healthcare coverage under the state health insurance plan. A federal court determined in September that refusing healthcare coverage to Shannon Andrews and Alina Boyden for gender-affirming medical services violated federal nondiscrimination laws, after a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Wisconsin, and volunteer lawyers.
FDA warns company to stop putting erectile dysfunction drugs in e-cigarette liquid. The Food and Drug Administration warned an e-cigarette manufacturer Thursday to stop putting the key ingredients of an erectile dysfunction drug and an anti-obesity drug into vaping liquid. The warning letter is another part of a broad crackdown on e-cigarette makers and retailers meant to curb teen vaping. But this is the first time the agency has warned a company for adding prescription drugs into an e-cigarette liquid. The letter was sent to HelloCig Electronic Technology Co. for selling two e-cigarette liquids, one containing the active ingredients of erectile dysfunction drug Cialis and the other the ingredients for anti-obesity drug Acomplia. The FDA also warned the company for marketing the products in a misleading way. For instance, the liquid containing Cialis ingredients is marketed with an image of a Cialis bottle.
Warning letter sheds light e-cigarette product approval. The FDA has been engaged in a broad crackdown since April on e-cigarettes to curb teen use. Last month, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb floated banning e-cigarettes after the agency gave out 1,300 warning letters and fines to retailers for e-cigarette sales to minors. But not much attention has focused on the quality of the products on the market. The FDA requires e-cigarette manufacturers to apply for agency approval of products, but the agency told the Washington Examiner it was not aware of an application from HelloCig for approval.
Senators join call for CDC to investigate rare, polio-like illness. Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota, and Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa sent a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urging the agency to investigate infections in children known as acute flaccid myelitis. The illness leads to muscle weakness and can cause children to become paralyzed for a period. Senators asked CDC Director Robert Redfield to share the plan to address the spread of the illness.
Washington state becomes 20th state to get rid of death penalty. The Washington state Supreme Court struck down the death penalty on Thursday after declaring in a court ruling that capital punishment is "imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner." This makes Washington the 20th state to get rid of the death penalty. In 2014, Gov. Jay Inslee declared a moratorium on the death penalty, saying that it was clear to him that the use of capital punishment is inconsistent and unequal. “This is a hugely important moment in our pursuit for equal and fair application of justice," Inslee declared in a statement on the ruling Thursday. There is a global trend toward abolishing the death penalty, with only four countries responsible for 84 percent of executions, according to 2017 data.
Ebola death toll rises to 122 in Congo. At least 122 people have died from the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and officials from the World Health Organization suspect that number is low because of delays in reporting. Healthcare workers in the area have been having trouble containing the illness from spreading because of violent battles in the region and because residents are distrustful of healthcare workers who have tried to vaccinate them. Officials say 194 people have been infected with the virus, and 29 more people have been infected since Oct. 2. Healthcare workers are using an experimental vaccine on patients, but they face difficult circumstances as they try to reach those who may have been infected.
The Intercept Mental health professionals denounce CNN and Don Lemon’s Show for mocking and stigmatizing Kanye West’s hospitalization
ABC News 2 Florida hospitals in wake of Hurricane Michael evacuating all of their 330 patients
Fierce Healthcare Aetna fined more than $600K in multistate investigation into 2017 HIV disclosure
STAT News Insurance giant, seizing on Trump initiative, will require Medicare beneficiaries to try controversial ‘step therapy’
Modern Healthcare Cross-market hospital mergers continue despite regulatory scrutiny
Los Angeles Times L.A. typhus outbreak adds fuel to the debates over homelessness and housing
FRIDAY | Oct. 12
8 a.m. FDA White Oak Campus. Food and Drug Administration meeting of the Anesthetic and Analgesic Drug Products Advisory Committee. Details.
SUNDAY | Oct. 14
Oct. 14-18. America’s Health Insurance Plans conference on Medicare, Medicaid, and dual eligibles. Agenda.
MONDAY | Oct. 15
10 a.m. 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW. Brookings event on “Crafting public policy to address the nation’s opioid epidemic.” Details.
4:15 p.m. 2101 Constitution Ave. NW. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Affordable Drugs Forum. Details.
TUESDAY | Oct. 16
1:30 p.m. Alliance for Health Policy webinar on “Potential Midterm Election Implications for Healthcare.” Details.
FRIDAY | Oct. 18
Noon. G-50 Dirksen. Alliance for Health Policy event on “Flexibility and Innovation in Medicaid.” Details.