RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 02/04/2016

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Obama Budget Adjusts Cadillac Tax
Angela Greiling Keane, Bloomberg
President Barack Obama will propose reducing the bite of the unpopular "Cadillac tax" on high-cost health insurance plans in the budget he releases next week, in a bid to preserve a key element of the Affordable Care Act. Jason Furman, the White House Council of Economic Advisers chairman, wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that the president’s plan would reflect regional differences in the cost of health care, reducing the tax’s bite where care is particularly expensive.

Cadillac Tax Is a Crucial Tool for Reform
Furman & Fiedler, NEJM
The President’s fiscal year 2017 budget proposal would further improve the tax’s targeting. The most significant provision specifies that in any state where the average premium for “gold” coverage on the state’s individual health insurance marketplace would exceed the Cadillac-tax threshold under current law, the threshold would instead be set at the level of that average gold premium.

Insurers Move to Limit Exchange Enrollment
Jay Hancock, KHN
Stung by losses under the federal health law, major insurers are seeking to sharply limit how policies are sold to individuals in ways that consumer advocates say seem to illegally discriminate against the sickest and could hold down future enrollment.

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Valeant Wants New Rules for Prescription Assistance
Rockoff, WSJ
Howard Schiller, interim chief executive of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., is expected to urge House lawmakers Thursday to rewrite rules that make it illegal for drug companies to help Medicare patients pay the out-of-pocket costs of their prescriptions. Such assistance for patients in Medicare and other government-funded health-care programs is considered an illegal kickback under federal law, so drug companies limit offering the help only to patients who are commercially insured.

A Viewers Guide to the Martin Shkreli Hearing
David Nather, Stat
Martin Shkreli, the colorful former pharmaceutical executive who helped spark a national furor over drug prices and who more recently has feuded with rappers, comes to Capitol Hill for a public flogging Thursday. Shkreli is traveling here for a congressional hearing on prescription drug prices, and he’s likely to be treated as the star witness — even though his lawyer says he plans to invoke the Fifth Amendment.

Panel Supports CDC Guidelines for Opiods
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
After weeks of uncertainty, a federal advisory committee has endorsed controversial opioid prescribing guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proposed for physicians. During a meeting late last week, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control’s Board of Scientific Counselors unanimously supported the recommendation of a CDC expert working group, although the committee did suggest modifying some of the language.

Feds to Study Health Benefits of Social Services
Jayne O'Donnell, USAT
The Obama administration is working to build evidence supporting increased federal and state spending on anti-violence, social service and other programs to improve life in poor neighborhoods and limit the growth in health care costs. The move comes despite more limited reports done by outside groups and is designed to create a paper trail that makes the need for and efficacy of the programs for Medicare and Medicaid recipients indisputable by showing the cost savings.

Adoption of Population Health Lags
Neil Versel, MedCityNews
In a new study from consulting firm Numerof & Associates and the Jefferson College of Population Health, part of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, more than half of healthcare providers said that they get no more than 20 percent of revenue from risk-based contracts. “That leaves population health still in the realm of ‘business model experimentation,'” according to the survey report.

Should Tackling Be Banned from Youth Football?
Dennis Thompson, HD
Tackling should be eliminated from youth football due to the risks that collisions and head injuries pose to young athletes, a researcher argues in the Feb. 4 New England Journal of Medicine.

Why BlackRock Is Buying Health Care Stocks
Barkholz & Herman, MH
The giant New York money manager with more than $4.5 trillion under management took large positions last year in at least 14 investor-owned healthcare companies ranging from Tenet Healthcare Corp. and TeamHealth on the provider side to insurer Centene Corp. and a host of medical device and equipment companies.

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