Weekend update

Congress returns to work on Capitol Hill this week following a district work week for President’s Day.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the FDA is putting pressure on the prescription drug manufactures to develop a more effective, quick flu diagnostic tool. The existing tools have high level of false negatives.

New diagnostics are starting to become available. Earlier this month, the FDA cleared Quidel Corp.’s QuickVue Influenza A+B test, the company said. Abbott Laboratories ’ Alere unit and Becton, Dickinson & Co. also say they have antigen-based tests that meet the raised standards. Some companies have also introduced another rapid flu diagnostic they say is more accurate: molecular-based tests, which detect viral nucleic acid in patient specimens.

Avik Roy in Forbes magazine’s Apothecary column writes about the Trump Administration’s decision to expand the availability of shore term insurance coverage:

Prior to 2016, because of the high cost of Obamacare-regulated plans, a growing number of individuals had been turning to a more affordable alternative: short-term, limited-duration plans that are exempt from most Obamacare regulations. These plans could last up to 364 days, and be renewed, before the Obama administration cracked down in mid-2016 and limited their duration to three months.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners wrote a blistering letter arguing that the Obama crackdown was misguided, because “it could harm some consumers, limit consumer options, and have little positive impact on the risk pools in the long run.”
In response to these concerns, the Trump administration has now proposed new rules under which these affordable STDLI plans would once again be available to those who want them, for up to 364 days. “While in the past these plans were a bridge, now they can be a lifeline,” says Seema Verma, chief of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

The FEHBlog agrees that it helps consumers to give more choice in coverage.

Finally, Health Payer Intelligence reports that payers are making progress toward electronically pre-authorizing medical and pharmacy services. 

Providers that exclusively used an electronic prior authorization for
medication requests reduced their administrative workload by 2.5 hours
each week. However, only 24 percent of providers exclusively used an
electronic prior authorization solution and the remaining 76 percent
used multiple, complex prior authorization channels.

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