Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

From Washington, DC,

  • The Wall Street Journal reports
    • “Senate Democratic and Republican leaders unveiled their plan to avoid a government shutdown, releasing legislation to extend funding through Nov. 17 while also providing about $6 billion apiece for Ukraine and for disaster relief.
    • “The proposal—the only bipartisan approach currently being pursued by congressional leaders—marks a contrast with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s plan to extend government funding on the condition that Congress also enact strict border-security measures. The Senate plan was released as the chamber prepared a vote to open debate on the measure, while the House was preparing to vote to advance four full-year funding bills.”
  • Roll Call adds
    • “House Republicans finally paved the way for consideration of more fiscal 2024 appropriations bills, setting up a busy week in which the chamber is set to consider four separate spending measures. And that’s not counting the one bill they have to pass this week in order to stop a partial government shutdown.
    • After several tries to get the Defense bill on the floor, the House adopted a rule to take up that legislation plus three others — Homeland Security, Agriculture and State-Foreign Operations.”
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced
    • “that average premiums, benefits, and plan choices for Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Part D prescription drug program will remain stable in 2024. Improvements adopted in the 2024 Rate Announcement, as well as the 2024 Medicare Advantage and Part D Final Rule, such as increased beneficiary protections around marketing and prior authorization and increased access to behavioral health, support this stability. CMS is committed to ensuring these programs work for people enrolled in Medicare, that benefits remain strong and stable, and that payments to plans are accurate.
    • “Additionally, thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, people with Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage will continue to have improved and more affordable benefits, including a $35 cost-sharing limit on a month’s supply of each covered insulin product, recommended adult vaccines at no cost, and additional savings on their Medicare Part D drug coverage costs in 2024. These savings include the expansion of the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) program, also called Extra Help, which helps eligible enrollees afford their premiums and cost-sharing, as well as a cap on out-of-pocket costs for millions of people with very high drug costs in the catastrophic phase of the Part D benefit.
    • “CMS is releasing this key information, including 2024 premiums and deductibles for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans, ahead of the upcoming Medicare Open Enrollment, beginning October 15, 2023, to help people with Medicare determine the best Medicare coverage option for their health care needs.”
  • The National Institutes of Health announced its Targeted Challenge to revolutionize technology to treat genetic diseases.
  • NIH also “designated people with disabilities as a population with health disparities for research supported by the National Institutes of Health.” 
  • The Centers for Disease Control called attention to its quick Pre-Diabetes Test.

From the public health front,

  • NBC News reports,
    • “More than three years into the pandemic, the millions of people who have suffered from long Covid finally have scientific proof that their condition is real. 
    • “Scientists have found clear differences in the blood of people with long Covid — a key first step in the development of a test to diagnose the illness. 
    • “The findings, published Monday in the journal Nature, also offer clues into what could be causing the elusive condition that has perplexed doctors worldwide and left millions with ongoing fatigue, trouble with memory and other debilitating symptoms.”
  • MedPage Today tells us,
    • “Long COVID in the U.S. is rare among children and has affected roughly one in 14 adults, according to a pair of data briefs from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
    • “Overall, in 2022, an estimated 1.3% of children in the U.S. ever had long COVID, and 0.5% currently had long COVID, reported Anjel Vahratian, PhD, MPH, of the NCHS, and colleagues.
    • As for adults, an estimated 6.9% ever had long COVID, and 3.4% currently had long COVID that year, said Dzifa Adjaye-Gbewonyo, Ph.D., MPH, of the NCHS, and colleagues.
  • Deloitte released a report concluding
    • “Out-of-pocket health care costs for employed women in the United States are estimated to be $15 billion higher per year than for employed men, exacerbating gender wage disparities. And this financial burden on women persists even when excluding maternity-related services.”
    • The report offers possible remedies to employers and health plans.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Per Fierce Healthcare
    • “In the aftermath of a devastating summer tornado at Pfizer’s Rocky Mount injectables plant in North Carolina, manufacturing has largely resumed. Still, the company expects supply shortfalls for some drugs produced at the plant to stretch into next year.
    • “The “majority” of the Rocky Mount facility’s manufacturing lines have restarted, Pfizer said in a Monday release. What’s more, Pfizer has launched an additional line in the site’s new sterile injectable manufacturing area, dubbed R3, the company added.
    • “The “expedited restart” comes ahead of Pfizer’s previously stated timeline. Late last month, Pfizer said it intended to restart manufacturing at the plant the fourth quarter of 2023.
    • “Pfizer is restarting production in phases, with full production across the site’s three manufacturing suites expected to come back online by the end of the year.”
  • Beckers Hospital Review adds
    • “As the supply of two staple cancer drugs rebounds after months of scarcity, two medications used in pediatric cancer patients have fallen into shortage, NBC News reported Sept. 25. 
    • “The shortages of cisplatin and carboplatin are easing, but methotrexate access remains in flux, and supply levels of vinblastine and dacarbazine are worsening. 
    • “Vinblastine is approved to treat Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma, and breast and testicular cancer; dacarbazine is used for melanoma and Hodgkin lymphoma. Both are in shortage, and pediatric providers are worried because there are few alternatives.”
  • Healthcare Dive reports
    • “Elevance Health and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana have paused their $2.5 billion merger following criticism from state regulators that it could reduce competition and raise healthcare costs in the state.
    • “Political pressure has been building to delay the deal, with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry calling for a stay in the approval process last week.
    • “Elevance and BCBSLA said they’re withdrawing the merger to “provide more time for key stakeholders to understand the benefits this transaction will provide” in a statement to Healthcare Dive.”
  • Axios shares private employer ideas on how to improve health benefits for their employees.