ACHP Media Monitoring Report: December 5, 2016

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New on the blog: Geisinger combats diabetes with Fresh Food Pharmacy

Presidential Transition Brief
Until inauguration on January 20, ACHP will provide updates on the presidential transition.

 – Four prominent Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump requesting Francis Collins remain Director of the National Institutes of Health.

– President-elect Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as Secretary of Defense Mattis will need to ask Congress to exempt him from a law requiring military officers be out of the service for seven years before serving in the role.

– Ben Carson has accepted President-elect Donald Trump’s offer to serve as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

– Reports indicate former governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (R-UT) is now being considered for Secretary of State. Others include: former New York Mayor Rudy Guiliani, former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA), former UN Secretary Jon Bolton, and Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).

– Last week, it was widely reported former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK) was under consideration for Secretary of Veterans Affairs. On Saturday, Palin criticized President-elect Trump for helping negotiate a tax break for Indiana-based furnace and air conditioner manufacturer Carrier in exchange for not outsourcing jobs. There have been no major reports on Donald Trump’s plans for the VA position since Friday.

Health care spending surpasses $3 trillion
The cost of U.S. health care grew 5.8 percent in 2015, the fastest rate of increase in eight years. Averaging nearly $10,000 per person, the tab for health care has reached $3.2 trillion. The surge in spending results from coverage expansion due to the Affordable Care Act and the high cost of prescription drugs, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Associated Press shares health spending grew faster than the overall economy last year.

Incoming HHS secretary has history opposing federal regulation
The next secretary of Health And Human Services (HHS) has spent the majority of his career battling the expansion of government’s role in health care. While serving in the House, Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) fervently opposed the Affordable Care Act and has indicated he would prefer a system in which employers provide employees with funds to purchase insurance directly. Senate Democrats plan to scrutinize Price’s record closely, which could lead to a contested confirmation hearing, writes Robert Pear of The New York Times.

Drugmakers eye ACA replacement warily
Replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could be a boon or bust for the pharmaceutical industry. Drugmakers are hopeful provisions mandating customer rebates may be rolled back, but concerned an increase in the number of uninsured Americans could result in fewer consumers, explains Dylan Scott of STAT. Republican lawmakers are also considering drug reimportation, which drug companies oppose. 

Obama hopes strong enrollment in ACA will combat repeal
President Obama is urging Americans to push Congress to support the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Amy Goldstein at The Washington Post shares the Obama administration insists large enrollment numbers will indicate support for the health care law and shield against a repeal. More than two million individuals selected insurance plans in the first month of the three-month enrollment period, which is a slight increase from last year.

Some insurers profit from ACA
Many insurers are now learning how to price plans sold on the exchanges, according to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, and some are seeing profits. Supporters of the ACA assert the aspects of the health law working well do not receive as much attention as insurers’ financial losses and increased rates. Jayne O’Donnell at USA Today has the story.

State regulators question nationwide insurance sales
Republicans are considering allowing insurers to sell plans across state lines as a part of their replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. Some state insurance officials are pushing back, as regulations often differ in each state. According to state regulators, interstate sales would undercut Trump’s promise to give states’ greater ability to regulate the insurance industry. Stephanie Armour and Anna Wilde Mathews at The Wall Street Journal report (subscriber’s content).

Senator asks for inquiry into “surprise” medical bills
Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the issue of consumers receiving out-of-network bills after treatment at hospitals their insurer considers in-network. According to Margot Sanger-Katz and Reed Abelson of The New York Times, the billing discrepancy occurs when insurers have reached a payment agreement with hospitals but not with emergency room physicians. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine finds surprise bills occur for almost a quarter of all visits to the ER by individuals covered by a large, commercial insurer.

Blog Review

Our weekly Blog Review features insightful posts from around the web and keeps an eye on medical industry and health news via the Trend Watch. This week we review posts exploring how health care systems are utilizing telehealth. This week’s Trend Watch compiles posts discussing President-elect Donald Trump’s selections for health care officials.


Using Telehealth to Advance Value-Based Care
Modern Healthcare (sponsored content)
Video doctors’ visits are personalizing care and expanding access, helping to reduce costs and improve engagement, according to reporter Cheryl Alkon. Through telemedicine, providers provide care in a less costly and more efficient manner.

Health Systems Lining Up to Offer Telehealth Options
Healthcare Dive
Writer Meg Bryant shares health plans can use telehealth to improve relationships with a variety of stakeholders, including patients, specialists and caregivers. Telehealth also has the ability to reduce costs and lessen the burden on emergency rooms.

Trend Watch

Trump’s Health Care Picks

President-Elect Trump Selects Price for HHS and Verma for CMS
Health Affairs Blog
Contributing Editor Tim Jost, J.D., analyzes the policy positions of two Donald Trump nominees who will play a central role in shaping health care policy: Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) as Health and Human Services secretary and Health Policy Consultant Seema Verma as Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services director. As a House representative, Price has proposed a full replacement plan for the Affordable Care Act. His proposal would allow insurers to sell across state lines, would revise the health care tax credit program and severely limit medical negligence litigation. Verma was responsible for Indiana’s Medicaid expansion and has been a vocal advocate of Medicaid waiver programs, but has made few comments on Medicare. Under Verma, Indiana’s Medicaid program required contributions to accounts similar health savings accounts.

The Price Is Basically Right
The Health Care Blog
Niran Al-Agba, M.D., believes Rep. Tom Price’s (R-GA) commitment to rolling back federal involvement in health care makes Price an excellent candidate to lead the Department of Health and Human Services. Al-Agba, a pediatrician with her own practice in Washington state, identifies as a liberal on most issues, but believes the Affordable Care Act has hampered independent practices’ ability to function.