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What We're Reading: Reviewing Gene Therapies; States Assist With Health Premiums; Healthcare Interpreters

AJMC Staff
The FDA will start to review gene therapy experiments and products the same as other treatments and drugs; Alaska and Minnesota have become models for other states looking to curb health insurance premium increases with reinsurance programs; patients with limited English proficiency often have to rely on family members and friends to interpret for them, which can have serious consequences.

Special Regulations for Gene Therapies Removed

The FDA will start to review gene therapy experiments and products the same as other treatments and drugs. According to The Associated Press, gene therapy applications will no longer be reviewed by a special National Institutes of Health oversight panel. The decision was made because gene therapies are no longer being considered an exotic science. However, some experts worry that the field is still very new with only a few approved treatments and should still get special oversight.

 

States Invest in Reinsurance Programs to Lower Health Insurance Premiums

Alaska and Minnesota have become models for other states looking to curb health insurance premium increases. Both states have launched reinsurance programs that help pay the cost of people with high medical bills, which allows insurers to lower premiums overall, reported Kaiser Health News. The programs are funded by the federal government, using money that would have gone to larger subsidies resulting from higher premiums that insurers charge when they have to fully cover the cost of high-cost patients. Alaska’s reinsurance program cut a potential 43% premium increase to just 7% in 2017. Oregon launched a program in 2018, and Wisconsin and Maine have had their requests approved. Idaho, Louisiana, Maryland, and New Jersey are all seeking approval for reinsurance programs.

 

Medical Interpreters Needed to Translate for Immigrant Patients

While the law requires facilities that offer medical services and receive federal funds to provide access for patients to make informed decisions, such as through qualified interpreters, patients with limited English proficiency often have to rely on family members and friends to interpret for them. NPR reported that this “informal and imperfect” system can have “potentially harrowing consequences.” Not only can the lack of interpreters result in poor care and outcomes, but it can also impact patient satisfaction. Despite the fact that 97% of physicians see some patients with limited English proficiency, only 56% of hospitals offer some sort of translation services.

 
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