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CMS Head Takes Tough Stance on Rising Drug Prices

November 4, 2016

Last night, Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), addressed the annual Biopharma Congress in Washington, DC. His talk was titled "The Need to Partner on Drug Innovation, Access and Cost." In it, Slavitt addressed what he called "pervasive" cost increases, noting: "Despite all the attention it has generated this year, Mylan’s Epipen is not even on our top 20 list for either high price increases or spending overall in 2015." Rising public outcry and state-level budget crises have led to congressional hearings about the reasons behind spiraling prices; the issue has been especially prominent during the current presidential election. Slavitt cautioned conference attendees, the majority of whom work in the pharmaceutical industry, that he's no longer comfortable defending Big Pharma. He noted that in the past, "I didn’t want this industry to be defined by its worst actors. . . but the more data that’s revealed, the more bad actors you find, and I’m telling you now: it’s too many." What is to be done? According to Modern Healthcare, despite policy positions held by both major-party candidates, significant change is unlikely because of the power of the pharmaceutical industry and ideological divisions in the legislative branch.  

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Obama Lays Out Next Steps for the Affordable Care Act in JAMA

July 12, 2016

In an article that "is apparently the first by a sitting president to be published by the [Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)]" according to NPR, Barack Obama, JD, reviews the effects the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has had since it was passed in 2010. He notes, "Since the Affordable Care Act became law, the uninsured rate has declined by 43%, from 16.0% in 2010 to 9.1% in 2015, primarily because of the law’s reforms." The article goes on to describe remaining "major opportunities to improve the health care system," including offering a government-run insurance plan, the so-called public option, as part of the ACA. While Obama advocates for Congress to revisit the idea of "a public plan to compete alongside private insurers in areas of the country where competition is limited," the public option has been controversial thus far and was dropped from the health law prior to its passage because of fears it represented a step toward fully government-run system.

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Kathleen Call

Health Insurance Complexity Demands Consumer Literacy

January 1, 2016

As we move through the health insurance enrollment season, parsing terms like "coinsurance" and an alphabet soup of acronyms (FSA, HSA, HRA, HDHP) can present real obstacles to making informed decisions. An article from National Public Radio (NPR) provides some comfort for the bewildered, noting that even those who work in health care fields struggle with the terminology. Kathleen Call, a professor in the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health, notes: "We've created a monster, and it's not surprising to me that there's literacy issues. I've studied this stuff, and sometimes I make mistakes." Among Call's areas of study is the way complexity compromises public health and increases health disparities. Luckily, the article includes a graphic that explains the terms that most frequently cause confusion; you can view it here

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JLME Summer 2007

Genetics & Disability Insurance: Ethics, Law & Policy

This grant was awarded to the Center for Bioethics and Joint Degree Program in Law, Health & the Life Sciences to complete a comprehensive investigation of the ethical, legal, and policy issues in the use of genetic information in private and public disability insurance and to recommend policies based on the findings.

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