THIS WEEK IN REVIEW: Monday, April 2nd – Friday, April 6th
The official enrollment numbers for the 2018 Obamacare open enrollment period are in. 11.8 million people signed up this year, a three percent drop from last year. On Tuesday, the Trump Administration lauded this year’s open enrollment period as the most successful and cost effective year for HealthCare.gov of all time…ever. Critics were quick to push back, arguing that the general success of this year’s open enrollment was actually in spite of the Trump administration’s efforts to undermine the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a shortened, six-week enrollment period, and substantial cuts to the marketing and patient navigation budgets. Either way you slice it, though, enrollment in the Obamacare marketplaces remained strong for 2018.
The prescription drug pricing conversation continued this week when the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized policies for Medicare plans in 2019 that will lower costs for beneficiaries on prescription drugs. According to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, the policies are intended to drive more competition among plans and pharmacies to meet the needs of seniors and lower costs. Meanwhile, the recently proposed trade tariffs on China by president Trump could cause a spike in prescription drug costs. The products that could be hit with a 25 percent tariff could include ingredients that are used to manufacture drugs such as insulin, antidepressants, and epinephrine.
The theme in health policy news this week (because…there’s always a theme) centered around the federal government’s latest responses to the opioid epidemic. In a national advisory, the United States Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome M. Adams, addressed the epidemic and advocated for increased availability and use of naloxone (Narcan®), the opioid reversal agent. This is the first advisory issued since 2005. Medical professionals and police officers around the country already use this drug—administered into to the nose or injected—to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. On the same day, CVS announced they would lower the price of Narcan nasal spray for uninsured patrons over the counter.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee met on Thursday to talk about a potential bipartisan plan to address the epidemic. The proposal—called The Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018—includes at least twelve recommendations to be executed through eight different federal agencies. Among these are encouraging the development of non-addictive painkillers, clarifying FDA regulations and addressing provider prescribing practices.
We’ll end with our lightning round of news updates. First, the department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a new initiative to give patients more control of their electronic health records. Next, the FDA is meeting with chief executives of Internet companies in hopes of teaming up to crack down on online opioid sales and trafficking. In the Golden State, California legislators seem to be at loggerheads in their efforts to implement statewide universal health care coverage. Finally, physician assisted suicide has officially been legalized in a sixth state, with Hawaii being the latest to approve the controversial practice. What a week, indeed! See you next time!
Student Contributors on this Article:
Marissa Alvarez, Chad Fletcher, Shaina Haque, Virginia Wright