What We're Reading: Verma/Azar Feud; IRS Possibly Saves Lives; Facebook PrEP Ad Controversy

December 11, 2019

CMS Administrator Seema Verma and HHS Secretary Alex Azar told to work out their differences; the debate continues on whether health insurance coverage affects mortality rates; Facebook is accused of misleading the public about the benefits of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

CMS Administrator Seema Verma, HHS Secretary Alex Azar to Meet on Thursday

Does the IRS Have the Power to Save Lives?

Facebook Asked to Remove Controversial PrEP Ads

The acrimonious relationship between Verma and Azar will be under speculation once again when they convene at the White House on Thursday at the behest of Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, and President Trump, according to The New York Times. Verma has been in the news lately for requesting taxpayer reimbursement for lost luggage and jewelry totaling $47,000, as well as misusing taxpayer dollars on communications consultants. Representative Joe Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, called for her resignation earlier this week. Former HHS Secretary Tom Price and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were forced to resign following similar accusations. Azar, meanwhile, lost his fight to eliminate drug rebates in order to reduce drug prices in July after President Trump denied the proposal.An estimated 700 lives may have been saved thanks to letters the IRS mailed to 3.9 million uninsured Americans 3 years ago reminding them of their fine for not having health insurance and offering tips for how to get coverage, The New York Times reports. This unintentional study result came thanks to an Obama administration budget shortfall preventing letters from going to an additional 600,000 Americans, which led to a randomized controlled trial. That health coverage under the Affordable Care Act actually can save lives has been a hot debate topic, despite reports showing Medicaid expansion did just that, and a working paper from 3 Treasury Department officials touting increased sign-ups. In December 2017, Congress struck down the much-debated Affordable Care Act mandate penalizing individuals for not carrying health coverage.The Human Rights Campaign, GLAAD, amfAR, and the Gay Men's Health Crisis are among the 52 advocacy organizations demanding that the social media platform immediately take down ads purported to recruit plaintiffs for a class-action lawsuit involving pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug Truvada, The Advocate reports. The HIV-prevention drug has a 99% effective rate when taken daily, but the ads tout it is extremely dangerous because of adverse effects that include decreased bone density and kidney function. Meanwhile, supporters worry the ads will scare away HIV-negative individuals at risk of contracting the disease who are already voicing their PrEP fears because of these ads.