Happy Friday! Ending a week in which I’ve been wondering if we all have been dropped into the first act of a supervillain movie since the news that the mysterious brain-injury-caused-by-sound has seemingly spread from Cuba into China.
Here’s some other whodunits — health policy thrillers, right? — for this three-day weekend.
Lawmakers were busy: Ahead of Memorial Day, the Senate sent a bill that would overhaul the VA health system and expand the Choice Program to President Donald Trump. While the legislation sailed through the chambers, critics say it’s too drastic a move toward privatized care, a hot-button topic that’s not going anywhere soon (especially with the Koch brothers’ billions behind it). On the other side of the building, the House approved a “right-to-try” bill (… coincidentally also backed by the Koch brothers … ), reviving the measure that had stuttered over the past few months.
Consider: $685 billion a year. That’s what it costs taxpayers to make health care affordable for Americans, and the price tag is expected to nearly double in the next decade. So, while some Republicans are refusing to touch a fresh attempt at repeal with a 10-foot pole this close to the midterms, others are trying to reclaim the topic that’s clearly going to be at the top of voters’ minds. High premium increases loom large in the next few months as each side races to control the conversation.
And, for what it’s worth, despite Republicans’ attempts to chip away at the health law, the uninsured rate held pretty steady last year.
Requiring pharma companies to list their drugs’ prices in ads seems like a simple request. As with most things in the dark and confusing labyrinth that is the drug-cost pipeline, though, it’s a bit more complicated. The proposal, which is part of Trump’s blueprint to lower prices, at first seemed like an idle threat. But HHS Secretary Alex Azar keeps bringing it up. Companies are getting nervous, and are left asking — would the rule even be legal?
Adding work requirements to states’ Medicaid programs may be the hot new trend, but a new report shows that it will cost states and the government tens of millions of dollars. And despite garnering savings in the long-run, that money will come entirely from people losing coverage and access to care. On the flip side of things, red states are getting a serious reality check on just how far they can go with changes to their programs.
The miscellaneous file is bursting with must-read stories, so it’s lucky there’s an extra day in the weekend to fit them all in: Patients addicted to opioids were promised free rehab but were instead put to work 16 hours a day for no pay at adult care homes changing diapers and dispensing medication; some new mothers in China are being forced to pay their medical bills before they’re allowed to see their babies; depression medication, insulin and birth control are ending up in our rivers and streams from poor wastewater disposal practices; scientists are on tenterhooks as they watch the effectiveness of the new Ebola vaccine play out in real time; and a captivating profile surfaced on a doctor who has been accused of putting his quest to make history ahead of the needs of some patients.
And make sure you’re following the L.A. Times’ comprehensive coverage of the controversy at the University of Southern California —
Have a great holiday weekend, and if you’re planning on soaking up any rays, stick with lotion instead of trying any of those sunscreen pills.