RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 03/09/2016

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Medicare to Test Ways to Cut Drug Prices in Part B
Robert Pear, NYT
The Obama administration said on Tuesday that it would test new ways to pay for prescription drugs in an effort to slow the growth of Medicare spending on medicines while encouraging doctors to choose the most effective treatments for their patients. The announcement comes as presidential candidates including Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and Donald J. Trump are calling for government action to protect consumers against high drug prices.

Oncologists Call New Part B Drug Plan 'Absurd'
Virgil Dickson, Mod. HC
The Obama administration unveiled a five-year Medicare initiative Tuesday that would test new ways of paying for outpatient drugs. The pharmaceutical industry and some provider groups quickly attacked it as an irresponsible experiment.

Slavitt Eyes Stability on ACA Exchanges
Tom Howell, Washington Times
The man in charge of implementing Obamacare rallied insurers to the cause Tuesday, saying there is a viable path forward for the law’s insurance markets so long as health plans stay affordable and meet consumers’ demands. Andy Slavitt, acting director at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said the Affordable Care Act’s Web-based exchanges have moved beyond their technological stumbles in fall 2013 and grown into a $40 billion industry.

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* * *'s Counihan Touts 'Maturing' Market
S. Ferris, The Hill
A top ObamaCare official on Tuesday touted the increasingly stable healthcare marketplace, looking to assuage concerns from an insurance industry that remains jittery about some parts of the law. Addressing the nation’s largest insurance group, CEO Kevin Counihan highlighted the younger and healthier customers who signed up in the most recent enrollment season. Ticking off statistics about the latest open enrollment season, he said the figures are showing “just want you want to see in a risk pool.”

FDA Settles over Promotion of Off-Label Use of Drug
Brady Dennis, WP
The Food and Drug Administration has decided not to appeal a federal judge’s ruling that drug maker Amarin has a First Amendment right to promote its fish-oil pill for unapproved uses, as long as the information it provides doctors is truthful and not misleading. The company announced Tuesday that it had settled the case with the agency, in a move that will allow Amarin to continue to communicate with physicians about off-label uses for its drug, Vascepa.

Prices, Changing Preferences Drive Drug Spending
Dylan Scott, Stat
Rising prices and a shift toward more expensive medications are driving the increases in prescription drug spending, according to a new report from the US Department of Health and Human Services. From 2013 to 2014, drug spending rose by an estimated 12.6 percent, ending a period of slower growth that had started in 2008, according to the report. Drug spending is projected to rise again to $457 billion in 2015 — up from $424 billion in 2014 — and to continue to outpace the growth in overall health care spending through 2018.

Who Started (and Can Stop) Opioid Abuse
Caitlin Owens, Morn. Consult
Almost every major player in the health care industry has played a part in making opioids widely available. As it happens, the abuse of opioid drugs has also unified policymakers in Washington. Legislation to encourage states to adopt a range of anti-opioid strategies is on track to pass the Senate this week.

Financing Health Care to Hold Down Costs
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
Consumers take out loans every day to purchase houses, cars, and college tuition. What if they could do the same for expensive medicines? It’s an idea that a group of Boston-area health economists floated last month in response to the rising cost of prescription drugs. And as envisioned, everyone involved in health care and finance could benefit from the availability of a health care loan.

Medical Bills Still Take Big Toll, Even with Insurance
Alison Kodjak, NPR
Radley is among the 26 percent of people in a recent poll who say health care expenses have taken a serious toll on family finances. The poll, conducted by NPR, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, shows that even people with medical insurance are still struggling to pay medical bills.

USPSTF Proposes TB Screening for Some Adults
Mary Dallas, HealthDay
Adults at greater risk for latent tuberculosis infection should be screened for the condition, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends. "The task force recommends that primary care clinicians screen adults at increased risk for [latent TB] to help prevent the progression to active TB," panel member Dr. Francisco Garcia said in a task force news release.

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