This Week in Managed Care: January 16, 2016

This week in managed care the top stories included the announcement of a initiative to cure cancer, pharmaceutical company executives brushed off public outrage over drug prices, and the president's nominee for FDA commissioner has passed his first hurdle.

Hello, I’m Sara Belanger, with The American Journal of Managed Care. Welcome to This Week in Managed Care, from the Managed Markets News Network.

"Moonshot" Initiative for Cancer

With one year left in office, President Obama this week tapped Vice President Joe Biden to lead an all-out effort to cure cancer.

The so-called “Moonshot” initiative will combine new funding with government support to promote cooperation between public and private sectors for things like data sharing. In a blog post, the vice president wrote that important discoveries are being made, “but the science, data and research are trapped in silos, preventing faster progress and greater reach to patients.”

Biden and his staff are meeting with leading scientists, both in the US and abroad. They will travel next week to meet with scientists who are gathering in Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum.

For more on this effort, read the full article.

ACA Changes in the States

Changes in State Houses mean that Medicaid expansion and exchanges are moving in different directions.

In Louisiana, John Bel Edwards was sworn in as the state’s new governor on Monday, and vowed to expand Medicaid by July 1st. Up to 11% of the state’s population, or 300,000 people, could be eligible for Medicaid if Edwards, a Democrat, can work with the Legislature to make more people eligible, which is allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

Louisiana is one of the poorest states in the country and has high rates of cancer, diabetes, and obesity, and Edwards promised to expand Medicaid as soon as possible when he campaigned last fall.

But Kentucky, which received national attention for reducing its uninsured rate by more than 11%, is moving away from Obamacare. Republican Matt Bevin has sent word to the federal government that he plans to dismantle Kynect, the state-run insurance exchange that also marketed health plans to hard-to-reach rural residents and veterans.

Bevin also wants to change Kentucky’s Medicaid program to require cost-sharing for people above 100% of the poverty level.

Rising Drug Prices

Rising prescription drug prices received plenty of attention this week. Congressional Democrats sent a letter to the National Institutes of Health asking for an investigation and calling on the agency to respond to rising pricing.

In San Francisco, protesters faced off with pharmaceutical representatives at the JP Morgan Healthcare conference, but executives were not moved and even called their anger an “abomination.”

Most of the outrage was directed at Gilead Sciences over the price of the hepatitis C drug, Sovaldi. The therapy came on the market at $84,000 a year but has since faced competition. Last month, a Senate investigation found that Gilead knew its price would put Sovaldi off limits for many patients who needed it.

Senate Panel Confirms Califf Nomination

A Senate panel this week approved Dr Robert Califf to serve as FDA commissioner, but 2 senators are threatening to put a hold on his nomination, including presidential candidate Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sanders is concerned about Califf’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry, while Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska wants assurances about pending FDA rules that would harmful to her state’s salmon industry.

ACO Coalition Spring Meeting

Registration is under way for the spring meeting of the ACO and Emerging Healthcare Delivery Coalition, which is traveling to Scottsdale, Arizona, on April 28th and 29th. For more information, visit the meeting page.

For all of us at the Managed Markets News Network, I’m Sara Belanger. Thanks for joining us.

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