What We're Reading: Government Halts Cigna's Medicare Advantage Enrollment

What we're reading, January 25, 2016: Cigna faces sanctions from CMS; a Massachusetts senator blocks the nomination of Robert Califf, MD, for FDA commissioner; and hospitals and health systems are mostly unprepared for precision medicine.

CMS is imposing sanctions on Cigna as a result of a number of issues, including a “longstanding history of noncompliance.” The government halted enrollment into Cigna’s Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans and has blocked the insurer from marketing its Medicare plans, according to The Wall Street Journal. The timing of the penalty comes after the annual Medicare open enrollment period, which will limit the impact, and despite the sanctions, Anthem stated it remains committed to its $48 billion acquisition of Cigna.

The nominee for FDA commissioner may have overcome his first hurdle by being approved unanimously by a Senate panel committee, but a US senator is blocking the nomination over opiate approvals. The Boston Globe reported that Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, is blocking Robert Califf, MD, in an attempt to get the FDA to rescind approval of prescribing opioids for children. Markey has made the growing opioid epidemic a legislative priority and also wants the agency to change its regulatory practices.

A survey of hospital and health systems has found that organizations are mostly unprepared for precision medicine despite the fact that the White House announced a $215 million precision medicine initiative a year ago. Responses are split, however, with academic medical centers largely believing precision medicine will play a significant role over the next 5 years, but the majority of all respondents said it would not, reported Healthcare Informatics. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they had no plans to integrate genomic data into their electronic health records, but half believe DNA sequencing could have a positive impact on patient treatment strategies.