Weekend update

The House of Representatives is engaged in Committee work this week. The Senate is on a State work period for the next two weeks. Meanwhile, according to Fierce Healthcare,

a collection of unions, business groups and policy institutes wrote to congressional leaders Wednesday asking for a provision on surprise medical bills to be included in the next coronavirus stimulus package. “We urge you to end surprise medical billing for all patients through the implementation of fair, market-based payments for out-of-network charges,” the letter said. The American Benefits Council, the AFL-CIO, the Business Group on Health and the American Health Policy Institute were among the groups that signed on to the letter.

That resolution is also the FEHBlog’s preference while provider groups often call for arbitration of some sort.

The U.S. Supreme Court has eight more cases to decide before its summer break. All of these cases were argued virtually in May 2020, and include one PPACA case involving the scope of the contraception mandate. Tomorrow is another decision day. This will be the first time in 24 years that the Supreme Court has released decisions in July. The most famous Supreme Court decision issued in July in the FEHBlog’s memory was the U.S. v. Nixon case decided July 24, 1974, which lead to the President’s resignation early the following month.

The Wall Street Journal brings us up to date on the state of COVID-19 vaccine development. Several candidates are headed into large scale final/phase 3 testing this month.

The U.S. federal government is planning to fund three 30,000-person trials starting this summer: Moderna Inc.’s vaccine starting this month, followed in August by a vaccine co-developed by University of Oxford and AstraZeneca PLC, and in September, a vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson. Oxford’s vaccine recently began late-stage testing outside the U.S.

The scale is so large it means trials are effectively competing with each other for recruits. “One volunteer cannot be in two different studies. It’s a zero-sum game in that regard,” said Dr. Joseph Kim, chief executive of Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc., which last week announced positive results in a small study and is preparing for a larger study. PRA Health Sciences Inc., which helps recruit trial patients, is mining busy Covid-19 testing locations, including public-health departments, testing labs and pharmacies, to find healthy volunteers, said Kent Thoelke, PRA’s chief scientific officer.

Fingers remain crossed.

On Friday, the FEHBlog suggested that readers check out last Monday’s Econtalk interview about healthcare reform. The discussion of Iora Health. Iora Health is a multi-state group practice which holds a Medicare Advantage plan contract and is looking to expand to employer groups. Their model is centered on the use of health coaches.

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