Health Brief: Tenet Healthcare Corp. Exploring Possible Sale

Government Brief

  • While Congress wrestles over the Affordable Care Act, the Trump administration is moving to roll back Obama-era regulations and loosen federal oversight over sectors of the health care industry — thrilling some lobbyists in the process as the Department of Health and Human Services requests input on regulatory reform. (Politico)
  • President Donald Trump appeared “open” to the idea of stabilizing the Obamacare markets, but did not make any commitments during a meeting with members of the Problem Solvers Caucus, according to some lawmakers who attended. The bipartisan House caucus proposed a stabilization plan that is similar to what is being considered by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. (The Hill)
  • While Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) “Medicare for all” legislation does not include details on how to pay for a single-payer system, his office did release a white paper floating a combination of tax hikes and possible savings. (The Washington Post)

Business Brief

  • Tenet Healthcare Corp., one of the nation’s largest for-profit health systems, is exploring options to sell the hospital company after facing pressure from shareholders. Tenet has struggled amid uncertainty over the future of Obamacare. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • A House panel is considering a bill that would increase resources for the Food and Drug Administration’s division that oversees over-the-counter drugs through new industry-paid fees. Currently only about 30 FDA employees oversee the $32 billion industry, and the proposed changes would allow the agency to have around 100 employees working on the program in approximately five years. (Roll Call)
  • An FDA advisory panel voted unanimously to recommend the agency approve GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix shingles vaccine for use in adults aged 50 and over, with panel members saying they were “very impressed” with efficacy data from the vaccine’s clinical trials. The FDA does not have to follow the panel’s advice, but members’ enthusiasm for Shingrix is a huge boost toward its chances of being approved in the coming weeks. (Reuters)

Chart Review

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on Public Health Service Act workforce programs 10 a.m.
Senate HELP Committee hearing with health care stakeholders 10 a.m.
No events scheduled

Ever wonder who decides what you pay for your medicines? It’s not who you might think.

Biopharmaceutical companies set the list prices for their medicines, but it’s your insurer that ultimately determines how much you pay out of pocket. More than one-third of the list price of a medicine is rebated back to middlemen, like insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). These rebates and discounts create savings of more than $100 billion, but these savings aren’t always shared directly with patients. Let’s talk about cost.


How the Trump administration is reshaping health care — without Congress
Adam Cancryn, Politico

While Congress tussles over Obamacare, the Trump administration is quietly pressing ahead with plans to gut major Obama-era rules and relax federal oversight of swaths of the health care industry. Top health officials have already signaled their intention to end mandatory programs making hospitals more accountable for their patients’ health, slowed the transition to a system that pays doctors based on quality rather than quantity, and indicated they will reverse a high-profile rule blocking nursing homes from forcing residents to sign away their right to sue.

Senate Backpedals on Bipartisan Approach to Health Law
Michelle Hackman, The Wall Street Journal

Two groups of senators on Wednesday released the details of diametrically opposed health plans, reflecting an enduring partisan split on health care despite calls for more bipartisanship after the failed Republican effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. A week after Republicans and Democrats held the first bipartisan hearing on ways to fix the 2010 health-care law, the Senate was once more divided on Wednesday, with one side continuing efforts to undo the ACA and the other pushing to expand government-sponsored health coverage.

Martin Shkreli Is Jailed for Seeking a Hair From Hillary Clinton
Stephanie Clifford, The New York Times

Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive who is awaiting sentencing for a fraud conviction, was sent to jail on Wednesday after a federal judge revoked his bail because he had offered $5,000 for a strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair. Mr. Shkreli, who was free on $5 million bail while he awaited sentencing, had made two Facebook posts offering cash to anyone who could “grab a hair” from Mrs. Clinton during her book tour.

Stocks Struggle as Miners Drop; Pound Jumps on BOE: Markets Wrap
Samuel Potter, Bloomberg

The rally in risk assets took a breather amid further signs China’s economy is cooling. That weighed on commodities including base metals, which in turned dragged down mining stocks.


Trump is ‘open’ to ObamaCare fix, lawmakers say
Peter Sullivan, The Hill

President Trump was “open” to the idea of a bipartisan ObamaCare stabilization bill but did not make any commitments during a meeting Wednesday with a group of House lawmakers, attendees said. The bipartisan group of lawmakers, known as the Problem Solvers, pitched Trump on their plan to stabilize ObamaCare markets.

How the Bernie Sanders Plan Would Both Beef Up and Slim Down Medicare
Margot Sanger-Katz, The New York Times

In his big new single-payer health care bill, Senator Bernie Sanders says he wants to turn the country’s health system into “Medicare for all.” But his bill actually outlines a system very different from the current Medicare program.


Tenet Healthcare Is Exploring Options Including a Possible Sale of the Company
Dana Mattioli and Dana Cimilluca, The Wall Street Journal

Tenet Healthcare Corp. THC -5.31% , facing shareholder-activist pressure, is exploring strategic options including a possible sale of the hospital company, according to people familiar with the matter. Tenet is working with investment banks Lazard and Barclays BCS -0.30% PLC on a range of options and has started to arrange meetings with possible buyers, the people said.

Providers find success in CMS’ multipayer model
Virgil Dickson, Modern Healthcare

Dr. Katherine Clark was tired of the fee-for-service status quo. Every day, she would go through the same motions: see patients, treat their ailment and not see them again until they had a new health issue. But those patients weren’t getting better in the long run, and she wanted the cycle to end.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

House Begins Work on Over-the-Counter Drug Fees
Andrew Siddons, Roll Call

The House began public deliberations Wednesday on a bill that would boost the Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of over-the-counter drugs in exchange for industry-paid fees. A bipartisan draft bill released earlier this week has support from the FDA and the over-the-counter drug industry.

‘Impressed’ FDA panel unanimously recommends GSK shingles vaccine
Bill Berkrot, Reuters

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Wednesday voted 11-0 that the safety and efficacy of GlaxoSmithKline’s Shingrix shingles vaccine warrants approval for its use in adults aged 50 and over. Panel members said they were “very impressed” by efficacy data from Shingrix clinical trials, and that it represents an improvement over Zostavax, the only marketed shingles prevention vaccine from Merck & Co.

FDA Moves To Guard Against Abuse Of ‘Orphan Drug’ Program
Sarah Jane Tribble, Kaiser Health News

The Food and Drug Administration is changing the way it approves medicines known as “orphan drugs” after revelations that drugmakers may be abusing a law intended to help patients with rare diseases. In a blog post Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he wants to ensure financial incentives are granted “in a way that’s consistent with the manner Congress intended” when the Orphan Drug Act was passed in 1983.

Study prompts call to examine flu vaccine and miscarriage
Mike Stobbe, The Associated Press

A puzzling study of U.S. pregnancies found that women who had miscarriages between 2010 and 2012 were more likely to have had back-to-back annual flu shots that included protection against swine flu. Vaccine experts think the results may reflect the older age and other miscarriage risks for the women, and not the flu shots.

Health IT

MedStar Health develops virtual reality training program for emergency, trauma physicians
Paige Minemyer, Fierce Healthcare

Hospitals are experimenting with virtual reality programs in a number of areas, and a District of Columbia health system will debut this fall a program aimed at improving training for emergency physicians. MedStar Health’s Institute for Innovation will unveil its “Trauma:Yellow” virtual reality program next month at a conference for emergency doctors.

A Message from PhRMA:

Are middlemen really holding down the cost of medicines? Biopharmaceutical companies set the list prices for their medicines, but it’s your insurer that ultimately determines how much you pay out of pocket. More than one-third of the list price of a medicine is rebated back to middlemen, like insurers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). These rebates and discounts create savings of more than $100 billion, but these savings aren’t always shared directly with patients. Let’s talk about cost.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Health Care Next Steps: Listen, Learn, and Strengthen Today’s Marketplace
Anthony R. Tersigni, Morning Consult 

As I listen intently to members of Congress, thought leaders and members of the Trump administration, I am encouraged by how Congress and President Donald Trump came together in the last week to supply urgently needed aid to the victims of Hurricane Harvey. They responded to the emergency with overwhelming bipartisan support, and they may need to do so again rapidly for storm victims in Florida.

Bernie’s Socialism Goes Mainstream
The Editorial Board, The Wall Street Journal

Hillary Clinton’s memoir of her presidential campaign is getting most of the media attention this week, but that’s the politics of progressive nostalgia. If you want to know where the Democratic Party is going, Bernie Sanders showed the way Wednesday with his proposal for a complete government takeover of health care.

New Trumpcare Deserves a Quick Death
David Leonhardt, The New York Times

To paraphrase Ronald Reagan: There they go again. On Wednesday, a group of Republican senators plan to release a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The Latest (Dim, Distant) Hope for Health-Care Reform
Megan McArdle, Bloomberg

Health-care reform is like one of those ill people in a Victorian novel. They are pronounced close to death, with no possibility of a cure … and then they linger on for hundreds of pages of breathless plotting, while the reader wonders: “Is this it? Could they possibly live after all that suffering?”

Should states be allowed to semi-expand Medicaid?
Chris Pope, Washington Examiner

The collapse of the congressional Republican attempts to replace the Affordable Care Act have ensured that the broad expansion of Medicaid to low-income able-bodied adults is unlikely to be repealed. But nor have many additional states since leapt to expand their programs.

Tom Price decides he doesn’t want Medicare to save money
Editorial Board, The Washington Post

THE COMING crisis is as predictable as it is worrying. Nearly a fifth of every dollar spent in this country is spent on health care.

Research Reports

Dreams Deferred — The Public Health Consequences of Rescinding DACA
Atheendar S. Venkataramani and Alexander C. Tsai, The New England Journal of Medicine

After months of conflicting statements, President Donald Trump has announced that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, a landmark immigration program introduced during the Obama administration, will be rescinded as of March 2018. The announcement was made in the face of threats by nine Republican state attorneys general (one has since withdrawn) to sue the Trump administration over what they perceived as the executive branch’s unconstitutional implementation and administration of immigration policy.