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What We're Reading: Aetna Sells Part D Business; CMS Defends Work Requirements; TB Vaccine Shows Promise

AJMC Staff
Aetna is selling its Medicare Part D prescription drug unit to WellCare Health Plans; Seema Verma, administrator of CMS, defended Medicaid work requirements, saying they are not intended to kick people out of the program; an experimental tuberculosis (TB) vaccine demonstrated 54% protection in a clinical trial.

Aetna Selling Part D Drug Business to Prepare for CVS Deal

Aetna is selling its Medicare Part D prescription drug unit to WellCare Health Plans, The Wall Street Journal reported. The sale is contingent on the Justice Department approving CVS’ planned purchase of Aetna. The Justice Department was expected to ask CVS and Aetna to sell their Part D plans in order to preserve competition. CVS has the largest market share in the Medicare drug plan business, with around 6.1 million members, and Aetna is the fifth-biggest Part D seller, with around 2.2 million members. WellCare already has 1.1 million Part D enrollees and is a managed care operator focused on both Medicare and Medicaid coverage.

 

CMS Chief Defends Medicaid Work Requirements

Seema Verma, administrator of CMS, said Medicaid work requirements are not intended to kick people out of the program, according to The Hill.  “Community engagement requirements are not some subversive attempt to just kick people off of Medicaid,” Verma said in a speech in Washington, DC. “Instead, their aim is to put beneficiaries in control with the right incentives to live healthier, independent lives.” The Trump administration is preparing to defend itself against a lawsuit filed by the National Health Law Program over its approval of the Arkansas work requirements. Hearings for the case have not yet been scheduled. More than 4300 people lost their Medicaid coverage in Arkansas this month for not following the new rules.

 

Experimental TB Vaccine Shows Promise in Clinical Trial

An experimental tuberculosis (TB) vaccine demonstrated 54% protection in a clinical trial, STAT News reported. The vaccine is being developed by GSK and Aeras, a nonprofit organization working on affordable TB vaccines. The vaccine was tested in volunteers with latent tuberculosis. People who received placebo vaccine progressed from latent to active disease at roughly twice the rate of people in the trial who received the active vaccine. There is an existing TB vaccine, called bacilli Calmette-Guérin, or BCG. But studies have shown conflicting results about its effectiveness and it is not generally used in the United States. The WHO estimates that in 2017, 10 million people became ill with TB and 1.6 million people died from the disease.

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