Health Brief: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

Senate Republicans not there yet on health care bill  

  • Senate Republicans are struggling to coalesce around a plan to overhaul the Affordable Care Act, casting doubt on GOP leaders’ goal to hold a floor vote on the bill before the July recess.
  • Some Republicans openly question GOP leaders’ decision to have the bill crafted behind closed doors and without holding any hearings.
  • President Donald Trump told 15 Senate Republicans that the House health care bill is “mean,” and urged them to craft a version that is more “generous.” Trump’s apparent turnabout on the House bill he once heralded raised concerns among conservatives that his remarks could affect the negotiations in the Senate.

Insurers grapple with unstable Obamacare marketplaces 

  • Despite calls from senior Republicans, the Trump administration refuses to say whether it will continue to make cost-sharing reduction payments owed to insurers.
  • The uncertainty is causing insurers to plan rate hikes next year and drop out of exchanges across the country. In more than 10 states, major insurers have already announced premium hikes averaging 20 percent.
  • Despite GOP claims that the Obamacare markets are in a “death spiral,” Centene Corp. announced it would offer plans in three new states for the first time, as well as expand its offerings in six states where it currently sells insurance.

Opioids are a top concern in states and Congress  

  • A bipartisan group of state attorneys general is probing how drug manufacturers market prescription painkillers and the causes of widespread opioid addiction. The investigation involves a majority of U.S. states, and is another sign of growing pressure on the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told senators that he is committed to fighting opioid addiction — but he faced criticism from lawmakers of both parties who say the Trump administration’s budget would not provide enough funding to address the opioid abuse epidemic.

Supreme Court eases path to market for biosimilars 

  • The Supreme Court ruled to cut the time it takes for copycat versions of biologic drugs to enter the market, a blow to brand-name drugmakers seeking to avoid cheaper versions of their products from entering the market.

Tech giants jumping into health business

  • Google Inc. and Swiss drugmaker Novartis are investing in a $300 million fund run by life sciences investment firm Medicxi. The fund will back European biotech companies that specialize in late-stage drug development.
  • Health care experts say Inc. is poised to disrupt the medical supplies industry as it builds out its Amazon Business platform.

What’s Ahead

  • Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is still aiming for a floor vote to overhaul the nation’s health insurance system before the July recess, even though major disagreements among Senate Republicans, particularly over Medicaid, threaten to derail the GOP’s efforts.
  • The overall state of Obamacare will become more clear on June 21, which is the deadline for insurers to decide whether they will participate in 39 states’ insurance markets next year.
  • Senior Trump administration officials are preparing an executive order aimed at lowering drug costs. One policy under consideration is value-based purchasing.

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

BIO International Convention 8 a.m.
BIO International Convention 8 a.m.
Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on FDA budget request 10:30 a.m.
Bipartisan Policy Center event on pandemics 4:30 p.m.
BIO International Convention 8 a.m.
FleishmanHillard event on health care in Trump era 11:30 a.m.
BIO International Convention 8 a.m.
Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing on NIH budget request 10 a.m.
No events scheduled.


Morning Consult Health Top Reads

1) GOP Senate leaders aim to bring health-care legislation to the floor by end of June
Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post

2) Iowa Seeks to Revamp Affordable Care Act
Anna Wilde Matthews and Louise Radnofsky, The Wall Street Journal

3) Republicans Weigh Higher Medicaid Growth Rate for Some States
Joe Williams and Kerry Young, Roll Call

4) AP sources: Trump tells senators House health bill ‘mean’
Alan Fram, The Associated Press

5) Opioid Crisis Complicates GOP’s Health-Law Push
Sharon Nunn, The Wall Street Journal

6) Amazon poised to deliver disruption in medical supply industry
Alex Kacik, Modern Healthcare

7) Supreme Court speeds copycat biologic drugs to market
Andrew Chung, Reuters

8) Secrecy Surrounding Senate Health Bill Raises Alarms in Both Parties
Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear, The New York Times

9) Cruz’s fragile alliance with GOP leaders now pivotal in health-care push
Sean Sullivan and Kelsey Snell, The Washington Post

10) Who could lose from state health benefit limits
David Nather, Axios