State Highlights: N.Y. Sues Drugmaker Over Alzheimer’s Drug Switch
A selection of health policy stories from New York, Arizona, Texas, California, Florida, Maine, Georgia and Oregon.
The New York Times: New York Files An Antitrust Suit Against The Maker Of An Alzheimer’s Drug
New York State’s attorney general filed an antitrust lawsuit on Monday seeking to stop a pharmaceutical company from forcing patients with Alzheimer’s disease to switch to a new version of a widely used drug. The lawsuit contends that the switch is designed to blunt competition from low-priced generic versions of the medication (Pollack, 9/15).
The Associated Press: NY Bid To Halt Alzheimer’s Drug Swap
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman alleges both anti-trust and state law violations in the federal suit filed Monday in Manhattan against Dublin-based Actavis PLC and New York subsidiary Forest Laboratories (9/15).
The New York Times: Arizona Republican Official Resigns After Remarks About Medicaid Recipients
The former Arizona lawmaker who sponsored the state’s stringent anti-immigration law resigned as a top state Republican official late Sunday amid criticism for remarks he made supporting mandatory birth control or sterilization for Medicaid recipients (Medina, 9/15).
Politico: Russell Pearce Resigns After Birth Control Remarks
Former Arizona state Sen. Russell Pearce resigned from his post as vice chairman of the state’s Republican Party following recent controversial remarks about Medicaid, suggesting women be required to use birth control. However he pointed blame at media. “Recently on my radio show there was a discussion about the abuses to our welfare system. I shared comments written by someone else and failed to attribute them to the author. This was a mistake. This mistake has been taken by the media and the left and used to hurt our Republican candidates,” Pearce said in a statement in which he announced his resignation, published by the Arizona GOP on Sunday (McCalmont, 9/15).
Texas Tribune: Advocates Warn Of Unexpected Medical Bills
Even Texans who have health insurance often face steep, unexpected costs for emergency-room care, consumer advocates told a panel of state lawmakers Monday. Senators on the State Affairs Committee met to address a charge from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, a Republican, to study "increasing medical price transparency" in advance of the legislative session that begins in January. Policy experts representing patients and hospitals expressed concern about the practice of “balance billing” -- when consumers are asked to pay more for out-of-network care not paid for by an insurer (Walters, 9/15).
Los Angeles Times: California Broadens Autism Therapy Coverage For Children On Medi-Cal
California children enrolled in public health care will regain access to an expensive form of autism therapy after the state Monday became the first in the country to comply with new federal guidelines. The therapy, called applied behavior analysis, was at the center of controversy last year when state officials phased out the Healthy Families program, which covered the treatment, and shifted poor children into Medi-Cal, which did not (Megerian, 9/15).
The Associated Press: Fla.’s 'Gray Belt' A Glimpse At Nation’s Future
In Citrus County, about 70 miles north of Tampa, health care dominates the labor force. Residents prefer to get their news from a newspaper. Strip malls have an unusually high number of hearing aid businesses. The library offers Medicaid planning seminars. Voters turn out in large numbers, albeit often by absentee ballot. Having such a high concentration of elderly citizens has its trade-offs. You get an engaged citizenry with high voter turnout and volunteerism, but also an economy based on low-skill jobs such as health-care aides, retail clerks and food service workers (Schneider, 9/15).
Health News Florida: Problems Pop Up In Florida’s Medicaid Managed Care Program
Florida recently finished rolling out a new way of providing care to more than 3.5 million low-income Floridians. Nearly all of them are now enrolled in managed care plans. The state agency that runs Medicaid recently released a series of comments from various players in the industry praising the rollout. But some groups say the new system is still plagued with problems (Hatter, 9/15).
The Associated Press: Maine Gubernatorial Hopeful Outlines Ideas Around Health Care
Gubernatorial hopeful Mike Michaud on Monday touted a 10-part health care plan that includes taking advantage of telemedicine, supporting [preventive] care and improving substance abuse and mental health services. The Democrat challenging Gov. Paul LePage again pledged his support for expanding Medicaid to an estimated 70,000 residents under the Affordable Care Act -- a proposal the Republican governor fiercely opposes and has vetoed five times because he says it will be too costly for the state. LePage's campaign criticized Michaud's continued push to add more people to the Medicaid program, saying that its growth the past lead to a $400 million debt owed to the state's hospitals, which was his administration recently paid (9/15).
Georgia Health News: Another Important Change In State Benefit Plan
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia is dropping its Medicare Advantage plan for next year for retirees in the State Health Benefit Plan. That means UnitedHealthcare will be the sole provider of the Advantage plans for 2015. (Blue Cross is the sole provider for 2014.) The Georgia Department of Community Health is informing retiree health plan members about the Blue Cross move through email and letter this month, letting them know that the decision won’t affect the coverage in effect for the current year (Miller, 9/15).
Oregonian: Impasse Between Oregon Officials, Controversial Drugmaker Goes Before Lawmakers
The state of Oregon and the maker of a pricey new Hepatitis C drug may yet have room to compromise on cost, according to a hearing of the House Health Care Committee on Monday. Oregon and Gilead Sciences, maker of a $1,000-a-pill drug called Sovaldi, have been at a widely publicized impasse on the drug's potential cost to the Oregon Health Plan. Though the drugmaker has offered about a third off the list price, that price would require the state of Oregon to drop any attempt to limit consumers' access to the drug. The cost of the drug has sparked national controversy and criticism from insurers and states' Medicaid officials (Budnick, 9/15).