What’s New in Health Care Reform: Sept. 13

The Week in Review provides an overview of the past week’s top health care content, including industry news and trends, Mayo Clinic and Mayo Medical Laboratories news, and upcoming events.

Hospital Watchdog Gives Seal of Approval, Even after Problems Emerge

The Joint Commission is the accrediting organization for almost 80% of U.S. hospitals, including those for veterans, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Indian Health Service, giving it a sweeping quasi-governmental role overseeing medical care. The federal government relies on the Joint Commission’s findings, and nearly all states recognize its judgment in some part of their licensing process, usually instead of doing regular inspections. Via Wall Street Journal.

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What the Senate Has in Mind for the ACA's "Innovation Waivers"

The Senate HELP Committee this week is scheduled to resume its hearings on stabilizing the Affordable Care Act, and it's already clear Chairman Lamar Alexander wants that effort to focus on the process by which states can obtain what are known as "innovation waivers." Via Axios.

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Senators Float Broader Effort on Health Care Costs in Bipartisan Talks

A Senate panel’s bipartisan push to bolster the Affordable Care Act in the near term could set the stage for broader changes that would contain U.S. health care spending, which has been growing at a faster rate for decades compared to many other industrialized countries. Via Morning Consult.

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Senate GOP Accepting Defeat on Obamacare Repeal

Senate Republicans are throwing cold water on the idea of holding another Obamacare repeal vote before their opportunity to gut the law on a party-line vote expires at the end of this month. Though President Donald Trump and some Senate Republicans are pushing a plan being devised by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) to block grant federal health care funding to the states and keep much of Obamacare's taxes, the idea of passing the measure by month's end appears almost impossible, according to senators and aides. Via Politico.

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Meningitis B Vaccine’s High Price Tag Poses a Health Care Conundrum

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends doctors consider the meningitis B vaccine for people ages 16 to 23 on an individual basis. This recommendation—ranked as a category B—is not as universal as the approach applied to illnesses such as measles or human papillomavirus vaccines or even the “quadrivalent” vaccine for meningitis A, C, W and Y, which all students must get. Meanwhile, insurers generally cover it as part of preventive care. Still, most universities don’t require the vaccine but simply list it as an option for families to consider. Via Kaiser Health News.

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Senate Panel Eyes Federal Money and State Flexibility to Stabilize ACA

Lawmakers and policy experts are honing in on a small handful of policies—mostly, different forms of federal funding and regulatory flexibility—as the Senate tries its hand at a bipartisan Affordable Care Act fix. The first of several Senate HELP Committee hearings on the individual market was full of substantive health policy discussions, as members questioned state insurance commissioners. Everyone seemed interested in funding the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing subsidies, and most seemed interested in expanded regulatory waivers for states. A handful of other policy ideas, including direct government payments to help offset the costs of expensive patients, are also looking pretty popular. Via Axios.

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Insurance Regulators Want Obamacare Reinsurance Funds

A majority of insurance regulators at a Senate hearing wanted Congress to prop up Obamacare insurers with more funding to cover their sickest claims. The regulators testified at a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on how to stabilize the individual market. A majority of the five state insurance commissioners at the hearing wanted Congress to provide a reinsurance fund for Obamacare insurers. Via Washington Examiner.

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Congress Rejects Trump Proposals to Cut Health Research Funds

Back in March, when President Trump released the first draft of his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, he asked lawmakers for deep cuts to one of their favorite institutions, the National Institutes of Health (NIH)—part of a broad reordering of priorities, away from science and social spending, toward defense, and border security. Six months later, Congress has not only rejected the president’s NIH proposal, but lawmakers from both parties have joined forces to increase spending on biomedical research—and have bragged about it. Via NY Times.

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Uninsured Rate Fell in 2016 As More People Aged into Medicare

The share of people in the U.S. who lacked health insurance for the whole of 2016 declined to 8.8%, the Census Bureau said, down from 9.1% the previous year, largely due to Americans aging into the federal Medicare program for people 65 or older. The rate reflects around 28.1 million people without health coverage, a decrease from 29 million a year earlier, hitting a new low that has also been reflected in other government and private surveys. Via Wall Street Journal.

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Sanders, GOP Push Banner Health Care Bills

Liberal Sen. Bernie Sanders is ready to unveil his bill for starkly reshaping the country’s current hodge-podge health care system into one where the government provides medical insurance for everybody. Republican senators are preparing to roll out details of a last-ditch effort to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care law. The rival packages have little in common, other than the likelihood that neither is going anywhere. Via Washington Post.

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Andy Tofilon

Andy Tofilon is a Marketing Segment Manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories.

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