RealClearHealth Morning Scan -- 04/20/2016

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MedPAC Wants Insurers Help Contain Drug Costs
Robert Pear, NYT
The recommendations by the nonpartisan Medicare Payment Advisory Commission would squeeze private insurers and drug makers alike, creating strong new incentives for insurance companies to manage the use of prescription medicines by beneficiaries and negotiate larger price discounts with pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Obama administration agrees with the reasoning.

Insurers, Pharma Seek to Share Specialty Drug Info
Caitlin Owens, MC
There is a lot of disagreement about what to do about high drug costs. But in at least one case, frequent foes, insurers and drug companies, agree. Participants in both industries say that if they could communicate with each other before new drugs hit the market, it would ease the pain for insurers and patients.

Out-of-Pocket Cap On, Premiums Up
Joseph Burns, Managed Care
During the beginning part of year, people with high-deductible health plans who have large medical bills can end up shelling out thousands of dollars (up to $6,850 for individuals, $13,700 for families) before their coverage kicks in. This hit to the pocketbook comes after the holiday season when many bank accounts are in recovery mode. No retailer or financial services firm would recommend asking customers to pay so much at once. Why not spread out the payments?

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies are committed to addressing the nation’s growing opioid crisis community by community, nationwide. Learn more about the BCBS commitment.

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Growing Debate on Compounding Pharmacies
Ed Silverman, Pharmalot
A congressional committee is proposing an amendment to a spending bill that may intensify the debate over the safety of compounded medicines. The House Appropriations Committee has introduced language that would alter a key requirement for pharmacists to make and dispense compounded medicines, which are generally customized for specific patient needs. And the language runs counter to a draft guidance that the US Food and Drug Administration released just last week that would govern compounding practices.

United ACA Exit Raises New Concerns Over Law
Paul Demko, Politico
UnitedHealth Group’s announcement Tuesday that it would significantly pare back its Obamacare business reinforced growing concerns about the long-term viability of the health care marketplaces heading into a presidential election in which the law is once again a contentious issue.

Obama Officials Warn About Planned Parenthood Cuts
Lena H. Sun, WP
The Obama administration on Tuesday warned officials in all 50 states that actions to end Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood may be out of compliance with federal law. Ten states have taken action or recently passed legislation to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood after antiabortion activists released covertly filmed video in the summer purporting to show that the women’s health organization and abortion provider illegally sold fetal tissue for a profit.

New Guidance On SHOP Online Enrollment
Timothy Jost, Health Affairs
Although the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance marketplaces have received far more attention, the ACA also created Small Business Health Options (SHOP) marketplaces, where small businesses and their employees can purchase insurance coverage. The SHOP marketplaces were intended to be operated through an online portal like the individual marketplaces.

Cuts to Public Health Could Hamper Zika Response
Liz Szabo, USAT
Recent cuts to public health could hamper the USA's ability to fight the Zika virus, widely expected to arrive here this summer as mosquitoes begin biting. A report released Tuesday shows the USA reduced spending on public health by hundreds of millions of dollars in the past several years. According to the report from the Trust for America's Health, a non-profit health advocacy group:

FDA Ads Warn Against Chewing Tobacco
Dennis Thompson, HealthDay
U.S. health officials said Tuesday that they are targeting rural teenagers with a new $36 million ad campaign that highlights the health risks associated with chewing tobacco. The campaign's message -- "smokeless doesn't mean harmless" -- will challenge a habit that has become a tradition in the rural United States, said Mitch Zeller, director of the Center for Tobacco Products at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Life Expectancy Drops For White Women
Alison Kodjak, NPR
White women are dying at a slightly younger age than they used to. That's according to a report released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. The life expectancy for non-Hispanic white women in the United States declined by one month — from 81.2 years to 81.1 years — from 2013 to 2014.

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Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies around the country are undertaking initiatives to help patients, families, health professionals and communities address the opioid epidemic. These programs are reducing the misuse of opioids while ensuring those who need access to pain medication can get it, when they need it. Learn more about the BCBS commitment to fight substance use disorder and help prevent opioid addiction.

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