LAST WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, Nov. 27th – Friday, Dec. 1st

LAST WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, Nov. 27th – Friday, Dec. 1st

This week’s news cycle continued to center on efforts by Congress to overhaul the nation’s tax code, with many experts describing the different ways that the tax bill could substantially impact American health policy. While we discussed the first three impacts in our Viewpoints Spotlight last month on the tax bill, the last two are worth describing well. First, the House bill would change tax treatment for graduate students and those paying back student loans. For graduate student, those receiving stipends and tuition waivers for teaching would be required to pay taxes on the full value of tuition they were not required to pay. The House bill would also eliminate the deduction for interest paid on student loans, disproportionately affecting young doctors. Next, the House tax bill would eliminate a tax credit that encourages pharmaceutical companies to develop drugs for rare diseases. The National Organization for Rare Disorders reports that this would cause a huge loss in orphan drug tax credits for the drug industry, as well as leading to 33 percent fewer orphan drugs coming into the market.

In other news, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is running out of funding in nearly a dozen states (including Virginia). Some states have reported that their budgets are able to keep the program for a few more months, while others are at risk of running out of funding as early as late-December. Bearing that in mind, some states have been making preparations for funding to dry up. Even though legislation was introduced to fund the program for five years and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch is committed to supporting the program, there still has yet to be a final action by Congress on CHIP. The National Governors Association has taken up the cause, as the health providers in states across the country deal with the growing uncertainty.

There was quite a bit of background news on the opioid front this week as well. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) introduced an updated version of the Medicare Part D opioid prescription mapping tool to display opioid prescribing rates across geographical areas and identify regions that may be at the highest risk. Meanwhile, President Trump pledged to donate all of his presidential income ($400,000/year) to charity, specifically pledging his third quarter salary of $100,000 to combat the opioid crisis. Finally, on the Hill, four House Democrats proposed a bill to provide $45 billion to the opioid crisis over the next ten years.

Building on that theme, be sure to stay tuned for this week’s Viewpoints guest blog, where Dr. Megan Tracci reviews the role and impact of legislation in addressing the opioid epidemic.

Student Contributors on this Article:
Marissa Alvarez, Chad Fletcher, Shaina Haque, Virginia Wright