What We're Reading: Expanding HRAs; NY Ends Religious Exemptions for Vaccines; Orphan Drug Approval Lawsuit

Starting 2020, employees will be able to use health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) to purchase individual coverage; New York has enacted legislation that ends nonmedical exemptions for school vaccination requirements; the FDA is being sued by Catalyst Pharmaceuticals over its approval of a similar orphan drug.

Trump Administration Expands Pretax Health Accounts for Small Firms

The Trump administration Thursday issued a final rule that will loosen restrictions on health reimbursement arrangements funded by employers with pretax dollars, which are currently used to pay for medical expenses. Under the rule, employees will be able to use special pretax health arrangements to buy individual health insurance, including plans that don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act, starting January 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal. The administration has said that the move will expand coverage to an estimated 800,000 previously uninsured people by 2029.

New York Ends Religious Exemptions for Vaccines

Governor Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, has signed legislation removing nonmedical exemptions from school vaccination requirements amid ongoing measles outbreaks in the state, reported CNN. The law, which will go into effect immediately, comes despite opposition from anti-vaccination activists and religious freedom advocates. New York has become the epicenter of the country’s ongoing measles outbreak, with more than 800 cases of measles over the last 9 months. California, Mississippi, West Virginia, and Maine do not allow nonmedical exemptions.

Catalyst Sues FDA Over Approval of Rival Orphan Drug

The FDA is being sued by Catalyst Pharmaceuticals, who is accusing the agency of “arbitrarily and capriciously” approving a similar medication made by Jacobus Pharmaceutical, according to STAT. Catalyst is alleging that the FDA did not adhere to the pharmaceutical company’s right to 7 years of exclusive marketing for its orphan drug for Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome, or LEMS. Catalyst said the move undermines incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest the money it takes to bring an orphan drug to market.