ACHP Media Monitoring Report: December 6, 2016

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

– President-elect Donald Trump met with Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) on Monday. The conversation included the possibility of Rep. Cramer joining Trump’s cabinet as Secretary of Energy.

– President-elect Donald Trump is interviewing more candidates for Secretary of State this week, including ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.


Trump and Ryan lack consensus on Medicare policy
The future of Medicare is uncertain under a Trump presidency. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump stressed a desire to protect the program, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence reiterated Trump’s commitment, writes Peter Sullivan of The Hill. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has proposed plans to partially privatize Medicare. Following Trump’s election last month, the official presidential transition page highlighted “modernizing Medicare” as a policy position, language usually associated with plans similar to Ryan’s. Experts do not believe Ryan will move on Medicare without agreement from Trump but expect the speaker to lobby the incoming president on the issue.

Risk corridor payments owed to insurers may never come
The federal government owes private insurers more than $8 billion in risk corridor payments. The risk corridor program was established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and was designed to shift money among insurers to help cover losses incurred on the exchanges. Republicans are pushing legislation to prevent the government from paying insurers, arguing the program is a bailout. Some experts believe Republican efforts to block payment could make insurers reticent about participating in a replacement ACA plan, according to Shelby Livingston of Modern Healthcare.

ACA court challenge to be heard after Trump inauguration
The appeal of a lawsuit challenging key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) will not take place until after the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump. The suit, filed by House Republicans, challenges the Obama administrations’ reimbursements to private insurers in exchange for lower out-of-pocket medical costs for consumers. The issue not only affects the ACA, but also has potential implications for relationships among the branches of government. A federal judge had ruled against the administration in May, but placed the order on hold. If Trump follows through with his promise to repeal the ACA, the lawsuit may prove moot, explains Lawrence Hurley of Reuters.

Aetna-Humana deal could raise prices for seniors
The Aetna-Humana trial is underway, and a Justice Department attorney has told a judge the merger would lessen competition in Medicare Advantage and the exchange businesses. According to the Justice Department, Aetna’s acquisition of Humana would lead to an increase in prices for seniors enrolled in Medicare as well as for individuals purchasing insurance through the exchange. On Monday Aetna asserted the merger agreement would not reduce competition, as consumers can still choose between Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare. Diane Bartz at The Washington Post has the story.

Freedom Caucus advocates to repeal ACA in two years
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), head of the Freedom Caucus, plans to challenge the GOP leadership’s timeline of a three-year replacement of the Affordable Care Act. In an interview, Rep. Meadows has said the repeal and replacement of the health law should happen during the 115th Congress, confining health care reform to a two-year period. Rachael Blade at Politico shares the 40 members of the Freedom Caucus, which includes of some of the most conservative House members, will be needed to pass any repeal plan, as Democrats are expected to vote against attempts to overturn the health law.

Living in the coverage gap
Many Americans are caught in the coverage gap, earning too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to receive tax credits to offset the cost of health care. The absence of health insurance comes at a physical and emotional cost, yet there is little research on how the coverage gap affects individuals’ day-to-day lives. Inara Verzemnieks of The New York Times has traveled more than 1,000 miles in five days to profile individuals living in communities with pervasive lack of health insurance.

The new Cures Act leaves concern about safety
Despite the quick passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, some critics have expressed concerned aboutabout the legislation. Sheila Kaplan at Stat News explains Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and consumer advocacy groups feel the act weakens safety requirements, asrandomized clinical trials will not be a top priority and regenerative medicine for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may have rushed approval. Not all groups are displeased with the provisions of the bill. Drug companies can expand their markets by promoting off-label use of medications and the National Institutes of Health has received billions in funding.