Health Brief: White House Cuts ACA Advertising by 90 Percent

Government Brief

  • The Trump administration announced a 90-percent spending cut in advertising and promotion for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, a move that critics argue is a blatant attempt to sabotage the law ahead of the enrollment period starting in November. The advertising budget is being cut from $100 million to $10 million, and grants to approximately 100 nonprofit groups that help people enroll for Obamacare coverage are also being reduced to $36 million from roughly $63 million. (The New York Times)
  • President Donald Trump called the nation’s opioid crisis a national emergency on Aug. 10 — but he has yet to issue a formal declaration, and no new policies have been announced. One reason for the delay could be that the opioid epidemic is a chronic problem, and national emergencies are usually only intended to provide short-term relief. (The Hill)
  • A federal judge temporarily blocked an anti-abortion law from taking effect in Texas that would outlaw a procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which is commonly used on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies in their second trimester. The judge’s ruling prevents Texas from banning the abortion procedure for 14 days, and is in response to a lawsuit filed by abortion providers who argue the law would deny women access to a safe procedure. (NPR News)

Business Brief

  • The chief executive officer of Tenet Healthcare, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health systems, plans to step down by early next year amid investor criticism of the hospital chain’s corporate strategy and board defections. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • Providers of telemedicine are hoping the technology will aid doctors caring for families displaced by Hurricane Harvey. Many of those displaced have chronic illnesses or are children and require care from specialists that may only be possible to do remotely. (Stat News)
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis is investigating an American company that conducted a clinical trial for a herpes vaccine, saying government officials were not notified about the experiments. The trial sparked controversy because the lead researcher, a professor at Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year. (Kaiser Health News)

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Trump Administration Sharply Cuts Spending on Health Law Enrollment
Abby Goodnough and Robert Pear, The New York Times

The Trump administration is slashing spending on advertising and promotion for enrollment under the Affordable Care Act, a move some critics charged was a blatant attempt to sabotage the law. Officials with the Department of Health and Human Services, who insisted on not being identified during a conference call with reporters, said on Thursday that the advertising budget for the open enrollment period that starts in November would be cut to $10 million, compared with $100 million spent by the Obama administration last year, a drop of 90 percent.

No action on opioid emergency three weeks after Trump declaration
Nathaniel Weixel and Rachel Roubein, The Hill

President Trump on Aug. 10 said the nation’s opioid epidemic was officially a national emergency. More than three weeks later, Trump is dealing with a natural disaster.

Federal Judge Blocks Texas Anti-Abortion Law
Richard Gonzales, NPR News

A federal judge temporarily blocked an anti-abortion law set to take effect in Texas on Friday that would have limited second trimester abortions in that state. U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel issued a injunction lasting 14 days that prevents Texas from outlawing an abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation, commonly used on women seeking to terminate their pregnancies in their second trimester.

Lessons for the next act on health care
David Nather, Axios

When Congress comes back next week, it’s going to start the next chapter on the Affordable Care Act — and it probably will set its sights a lot lower for changing the law, now that the repeal effort has collapsed. There are a lot of lessons Republicans can learn from the failure that effort — and a few that Democrats can learn too, if they’re honest about their own experiences since the ACA became law.

European Shares Climb With Metals Before Jobs Data: Markets Wrap
Eddie Van Der Walt, Bloomberg

European shares advanced, with mining companies extending gains as industrial metals continued a rally fueled by positive economic data surprises this week. The dollar and Treasuries were steady as investors await a U.S. jobs report for clues on the Federal Reserve’s policy-tightening path.


Governors’ market stabilization proposal may clash with new GOP repeal bid
Harris Meyer, Modern Healthcare

Two healthcare trains may be headed for a collision in Congress next month, as a bipartisan group of governors and three Senate Republicans push clashing visions of how to fix the Affordable Care Act. But it’s unclear whether Republicans and Democrats will be able to agree on any bill—or whether President Donald Trump will sign one—before the Sept. 27 deadline for insurers to decide whether to offer individual-market plans in 2018.

Medicaid fueling opioid epidemic? New theory is challenged
Carla K. Johnson and Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press

An intriguing new theory is gaining traction among conservative foes of the Obama-era health law: Its Medicaid expansion to low-income adults may be fueling the opioid epidemic. If true, that would represent a shocking outcome for the Affordable Care Act.


Tenet Healthcare CEO to Step Down as Activist Flare-Up Continues
Austen Hufford and David Benoit, The Wall Street Journal

The chief executive of one of the nation’s largest for-profit hospital chains will resign by early next year as the company deals with investor pushback over its corporate strategy and recent board defections. On Thursday, Tenet Healthcare Corp. THC -0.23% said Chairman and CEO Trevor Fetter will step down from his roles as chief executive and director in by March or when a new executive is found, and director Ronald Rittenmeyer will become executive chairman effective immediately, making him the senior executive of the company and working on the search for a new leader.

As cancer patients look to last-chance therapies, hard conversations are getting postponed
Bob Tedeschi, Stat News

A new generation of immune-boosting therapies has been hailed as nothing short of revolutionary, shrinking tumors and extending lives. When late-stage cancer patients run out of other options, some doctors are increasingly nudging them to give immunotherapy a try.

Mental health providers worry about Harvey’s legacy
Steven Ross Johnson, Modern Healthcare

At least 11,000 Houston residents sought shelter at the George R. Brown Convention Center this week after torrential rains forced them out of their homes. For Dr. Sophia Banu, the convention center became her office.

Pharma, Biotech and Devices

St. Kitts Launches Probe Of Herpes Vaccine Tests On U.S. Patients
Marisa Taylor, Kaiser Health News

The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has launched an investigation into the clinical trial for a herpes vaccine by an American company because it said its officials were not notified about the experiments. The vaccine research has sparked controversy because the lead investigator, a professor with Southern Illinois University, and the U.S. company he co-founded did not rely on traditional U.S. safety oversight while testing the vaccine last year on mostly American participants on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

Rep. Chris Collins’ Australian Stock Bet Looks Bleaker
Rachel Bluth, Kaiser Health News

The little Australian biotech firm that once counted U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price as a shareholder — a link that roiled his Senate confirmation hearing last winter — is facing closure, the company has told shareholders. Innate Immunotherapeutics will probably shut down in the coming months, CEO Simon Wilkinson said at the company’s annual meeting Wednesday, The Australian, a news outlet, reported.

Arizona accuses drugmaker Insys of fraudulent opioid marketing
Nate Raymond, Reuters

Arizona sued Insys Therapeutics Inc on Thursday, accusing the drugmaker of engaging in a fraudulent marketing scheme aimed at increasing sales of a fentanyl-based cancer pain medicine called Subsys. The lawsuit by Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix comes during a series of federal and state investigations centered on Insys’ drug Subsys amid a national opioid addiction epidemic.

Health IT

In mega-shelter for Harvey evacuees, telemedicine plans to help doctors keep up
Leah Samuel, Stat News

Getting thousands of Houston-area families to shelters has been a massive humanitarian effort. But the aid doesn’t end there: Many of the displaced have chronic medical conditions like asthma or injuries from recent days that need medical attention.

Leveraging online platforms to measure how patients feel
Maria Castellucci, Modern Healthcare

The National Quality Forum is encouraging providers to use online patient support networks as a new way to gather data on how patients feel. In a report released this week, the NQF found that the magnitude of personal health information on patient support networks can be used for the development of patient-reported outcome measures.

Opinions, Editorials and Perspectives

Free Birth Control from the Third-Party Trap
Jeffrey Singer, Morning Consult 

According to some reports, the Trump administration could be about to relax the Affordable Care Act requirement that employer-provided health insurance cover birth control pills at no direct cost to the patient. Some advocacy groups, such as the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, fear this will mean many women won’t be able to obtain affordable oral contraceptives.

Medicare for all is the only health care proposal that meets Trump’s standards
Dr. Carol Paris, USA Today

The Senate’s chaotic attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act prove that Republicans who campaigned for years against the ACA never had a plan to replace it. In the meantime, Americans’ support for a comprehensive national health plan grows even stronger.

Are Short-Term Limited Duration Plans Bad For The Individual Market?
Christopher Pope, Health Affairs

With the impasse in the congressional GOP’s attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Trump administration has sought regulatory reforms that could improve health care choices and reduce costs for consumers. Among their options is the reversal of a recent regulation that sought to restrict the availability of short-term limited duration plans—insurance coverage exempted from the ACA’s regulations, which had previously been available for terms of up to one year.

John McCain: It’s time Congress returns to regular order
John McCain, The Washington Post

Americans recoiled from the repugnant spectacle of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville to promote their un-American “blood and soil” ideology. There is nothing in their hate-driven racism that can match the strength of a nation conceived in liberty and comprising 323 million souls of different origins and opinions who are equal under the law.

Blame Congress for high health-care costs
The Economist

IN AMERICA nearly one in every five dollars spent is on health care, a larger share than in any other country. Many of the culprits are well-known.

Research Reports

Health Care Providers Can Use Design Thinking to Improve Patient Experiences
Sharon H. Kim et al., Harvard Business Review

A hospital administrator recently talked to us about an issue that is all too common for patients: missed medical appointments. The story was about a woman named Mary (a pseudonym), a patient with a painful chronic condition who continually failed to keep her regular appointments.