Tag Archives: Medicaid

Health Policy Updates: September 16 2017

There were a couple of great articles in JAMA Internal Medicine this week on cancer drug development and pricing.

The first, discussed in this NYTimes article, did a thorough job of tallying the total R&D cost to bring a new cancer drug to market. The study authors ended up with a significantly lower number than has been reported in the past.

“Following approval, the 10 drugs together brought in $67 billion, the researchers also concluded — a more than sevenfold return on investment. Nine out of 10 companies made money, but revenues varied enormously. One drug had not yet earned back its development costs.”

Continue reading Health Policy Updates: September 16 2017

Health Policy Updates: September 2 2017

The Atlantic on the ongoing efforts in the Senate to pass a bipartisan “improvement bill” to stabilize Obamacare insurance exchanges:

“The hearings are the brainchild of Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, who has been talking for months about the need to stabilize Obamacare’s individual insurance market…Alexander, aides said, has an ambitious goal of moving quickly from hearings to drafting legislation that would, at minimum, guarantee the continued payment of cost-sharing reduction subsidies to insurance companies and allow states more flexibility to adjust insurance rules…”

Continue reading Health Policy Updates: September 2 2017

Health Policy Updates: July 23 2017

Wow, another incredibly hectic week. Health policy has never been so frenzied…even though we ought to be getting used to it by now.

To sum up the horse-trading, by Monday night enough Senate Republicans had come out against the Better Care Reconciliation Act that it became clear the bill would never pass. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell, followed by Donald Trump, quickly reverted to the old “repeal and delay” strategy of voting to repeal the ACA in two years time, giving a prolonged interval to work on replacement. This strategy already failed back in February. Again, enough Senate Republicans came out against “repeal and delay” by Tuesday that this, too, seemed unlikely.

“But it became quickly apparent that GOP leaders, who were caught off guard by defections of their members Monday night, lacked the votes to abolish parts of the 2010 law outright. Three centrist Republican senators — Susan Collins (Maine), Shelley Moore Capito (W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) — all said they would oppose any vote to proceed with an immediate repeal of the law.”

(the repeal and delay strategy, by the way, would result in 32 million Americans losing insurance, according to the CBO report that came out Wednesday).

Despite what looks like a lack of sufficient vote and the continually-damning CBO scores, GOP leadership continues to plan for a vote next week.

Continue reading Health Policy Updates: July 23 2017

Health Policy Updates: July 16 2017

On Thursday, the Senate released its latest version of its Obamacare-repeal bill, known as the BCRA. Vox.com ran a brief explainer on the key provisions that have changed since prior versions, including a shift towards low-premium (and low-coverage) plans:

“The bill will include a provision based on a proposal by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), which allows health plans to offer skimpy coverage options so long as they have at least one plan that covers a robust set of benefits. The insurance industry opposes the policy, calling it ‘infeasible’ and fearing it would create ‘greater instability.'”

Politico ran a similar outline of the bill’s contents.

The GOP efforts at health care reform, overall, continue to be a “solution in search of a problem.”

“The GOP health care bill doesn’t even have pretextual justifications. Republican leaders like to claim that Trumpcare is necessary because Obamacare is “collapsing” into a “death spiral,” but not only is Trumpcare non-responsive to a death spiral, the death spiral they posit as the basis for Trumpcare is wholly fabricated.”


The supposed urgency behind Obamacare repeal is that it is “collapsing.” This doomsday claim is a bit premature, however, as the exchanges have continued creep along slowly but surely. In fact, a new report out from Kaiser appears to show that the Obamacare insurance exchanges are looking healthier than ever.

“Early results from 2017 suggest the individual market is stabilizing and insurers in this market are regaining profitability. Insurer financial results show no sign of a market collapse…Although individual market enrollees appear on average to be sicker than the market pre-ACA, data on hospitalizations in this market suggest that the risk pool is stable on average and not getting progressively sicker as of early 2017. Some insurers have exited the market in recent years, but others have been successful and expanded their footprints, as would be expected in a competitive marketplace.”


The ongoing challenge for the GOP in passing health care legislation is that different GOP senators have different goals. Some want sustained Medicaid spending, others want even deeper cuts. The NY Times gives a summary of which senators are breaking with the party line to request more changes to the bill – and which senators are pulling in opposite directions.


More great writing on Medicaid by Aaron Carroll and Austin Frakt this week. This time, the topic at hand is the idea that private insurance is inherently “better” insurance than Medicaid. This is one of the chief arguments among Medicaid critics (typically, the GOP) that Americans would be better off by defunding Medicaid and transitioning people to some for of private plans. While it is true that some doctors do not accept Medicaid, causing access problems, in general Medicaid is actually better than private insurance. Medicaid simply pays more of your medical costs; that is, it has lower “cost sharing” requirements – low/no deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

And based on well-established research, having low cost sharing is important for the quality of health care that people receive…

“The Senate’s health care plan, for example, would offer much less generous plans. A 64-year-old woman with an income of $11,400 would face a deductible of at least $6,000. For her, such a plan is not better than Medicaid; it is most likely much worse if she is also sick. Because of the deductible, the care she’d need would be financially out of reach.”


Kaiser Health News has recently started a new health policy news podcast called “What the Health.” I just listened to episode #3, a conversation including Margot Sanger-Katz at the NYTimes and Sarah Kliff at Vox.com about the politics behind the BCRA.

I’ll be a new subscriber! Highly recommended.


 

Health Policy Updates: July 8 2017

One of the arguments from Republicans to support the BCRA’s steep cuts to Medicaid is that it is “bad insurance” – that having Medicaid somehow causes its beneficiaries to have WORSE health outcomes than those without insurance at all. Clearly, this is an extraordinary claim; how could having health insurance make one worse off? Is there “extraordinary evidence” to support the notion that Medicaid is harmful?

Health policy experts Austin Frakt and Aaron Carroll examine the available evidence. Moving beyond purely correlational studies (Medicaid patients are also quite poorer than average Americans, and so have many reasons to be unhealthy besides having Medicaid), it becomes clear that Medicaid does not, in fact, harm people.

“Findings from more recent studies looking at expansions in enrollment, in the 2000s and then under the Affordable Care Act in 2014, are consistent with older ones. One can argue that Medicaid can be improved upon, but the credible evidence to date is that Medicaid improves health. It is better than being uninsured.”
Continue reading Health Policy Updates: July 8 2017