Midweek update

The ACA regulators issued their 35th FAQ on the ACA yesterday.  Most of the FAQ concerns the new flexibility that the 21st Century Cures Act offers small employers in their efforts to offer reasonably priced health care coverage to their employees.

Also yesterday the HHS Office of the National Coordinator for Health Care Technology issued its 2017 electronic medical record interoperability advisory. Good luck with that effort.  The federal government missed the boat by not building interoperability into the electronic medical records which the government design and gave away to doctors. We should not have to be playing catch up ball but we are.

A week or two the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Service, perhaps recognizing the election results, backed off on their hotly opposed Medicare Part B drug pricing initiative. The FEHBlog consequently was surprised to read that this week CMS announced its decision to move forward with its involuntary program “that would make hospitals in 98 markets financially accountable for the cost and quality of all care associated with bypass surgery and heart attacks.” Modern Healthcare reports that

The final regulations issued Tuesday came just days after the agency announced it was junking a proposed mandatory demonstration that would have tested new ways of paying for outpatient drugs under Medicare Part B in an effort to bring those prices down. 

Both models have drawn criticism that the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation is overreaching its mandate by compelling participation, including from President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for HHS secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.). Price is likely to pull the plug on the five-year demonstration, which is now scheduled to take effect July 1, 2017, in 98 randomly selected metropolitan areas.

Because it’s the holiday season let’s wrap up this post with some up beat news:

  •  The Wall Street Journal reports that “GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s ViiV Healthcare announced positive phase-three trial results for its new HIV drug in a dual-drug regimen, supporting the company’s audacious bet that it can shift the treatment orthodoxy away from three-drug combinations.”
  • Reuters reports that “Inovio’s Zika vaccine generates robust immune responses in first human study and that the “vaccine was well tolerated, no significant safety concerns noted in any of 40 subjects out to 14 weeks from initiation of dosing.”
  • Finally, Sci-Tech Today reports that 

New research demonstrates that, in mice whose brains are under attack by Alzheimer’s dementia, exposure to lights that flicker at a precise frequency can right the brain’s faulty signaling and energize its immune cells to fight off the disease. Light therapy for Alzheimer’s is miles from being ready to treat patients — even those with the earliest signs of the disease. But the new research has already prompted creation of a start-up company — Cognito Therapeutics Inc. — to approach the Food and Drug Administration about clinical trials, and to explore ways to deliver precisely calibrated flickers of light to human research subjects. Even if the new research does not yield a treatment for Alzheimer’s, it is expected to deepen understanding of a key player in the disease — the brain’s dedicated immune system — and point to ways it can be used to fight the disease. In 2016, 5.4 million Americans are believed to have Alzheimer’s, which causes progressive loss of memory and cognitive function.

Hope springs eternal.