Midweek update

Photo by Manasvita S on Unsplash

From Washington, DC

  • The Washington Post reports,
    • “The Senate passed legislation Wednesday to extend funding for federal agencies, sending the bill to avert a government shutdown to President Biden’s desk just days before the weekend deadline.
    • “The bill, which passed by an 87-11 vote, represents a marked de-escalation between congressional Democrats and new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.). Without the new spending measure, called a continuing resolution or CR, the government would have shut down just after midnight Saturday, forcing federal workers — including military members and airport security agents — to work without pay or go on furlough on the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday.”
  • Roll Call informs us,
    • “House lawmakers left town Wednesday for Thanksgiving after a GOP revolt that led to defeat of the rule for floor debate on the final two pieces of legislation the chamber was scheduled to consider.
    • “Nineteen Republicans voted against the rule for the fiscal 2024 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill and separate legislation dealing with frozen Iranian assets.
    • “Combined with all Democrats voting “no,” the measure was rejected on a 198-225 vote, leaving the House with no further business to attend to after dispensing with a series of pending amendments to the fiscal 2024 Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill.”
  • The Department of Health and Human Services announced,
    • “taking the next step in working to ensure greater access to the life-saving services that it provides for people with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and people with disabilities. In releasing the HHS Language Access Plan, HHS joins agencies across the federal government in prioritizing communication in services to the public. Today’s action supports President Biden’s Executive Orders to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities, which aims to improve access to benefits and services across the Administration, including for people with LEP.”
  • and
    • On November 15, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) placed on display at the Federal Registera final rule that will implement portions of section 6101 of the Affordable Care Act, requiring the disclosure of certain ownership, managerial, and other information regarding Medicare skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and Medicaid nursing facilities, commonly known as nursing homes. It also defines the terms private equity company and real estate investment trust, about which information must be disclosed on Form CMS-855A, the Medicare enrollment application. This final rule continues a series of initiatives the Biden-Harris Administration announced in February 2022[1], designed to improve care and accountability at such facilities.
  • Per Govexec,
    • “The U.S. Postal Service lost $6.5 billion in fiscal 2023 despite initial projections it would break even for the year, and leadership cautioned the agency will once again be in the red in fiscal 2024. 
    • “Looking at only the parts of the operation that USPS leadership considers within its control, losses spiked to $2.3 billion compared to just $500 million in fiscal 2022 and a controllable profit of $1.5 billion in fiscal 2021. At the start of fiscal 2023, USPS forecasted a $4 billion loss. The negative financial numbers occurred despite the Postal Service growing its total revenue by $500 million. 
    • “Postal leadership attributed much of the losses—about $5.6 billion—to two factors: ongoing inflation and a miscalculation of what it must statutorily contribute toward its pension fund. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy also noted USPS is incurring upfront costs as it updates its network as part of his 10-year Delivering for America plan.” 
  • The Food and Drug Administration announced,
    • granting marketing authorization to LetsGetChecked for the Simple 2 Test. This is the first diagnostic test for chlamydia and gonorrhea with at-home sample collection to be granted marketing authorization. Prior to today’s authorization, the only cleared tests for either condition were used with samples collected at the point of care, such as a doctor’s office. The Simple 2 Test is available over-the-counter (OTC) and is intended for use in adult patients ages 18 years and older. It is the first FDA-authorized test with at-home sample collection for any sexually-transmitted disease other than HIV.

In Open Season news, Reg Jones discusses the FEDVIP and FSAFeds offerings in Fedweek.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • STAT News reports from London,
    • Clinical trials have shown that lifestyle programs — which include diet, exercise, and behavioral coaching — can help people in danger of developing type 2 diabetes from tipping into a diagnosis of the condition. But there’s been a nagging question of whether such intensive regimens work in the real world.
    • A study published Wednesday backs up the idea that they can. Researchers behind the work relied on novel statistical approaches to analyze millions of records from England’s National Health Service and found that participants in the NHS’s Diabetes Prevention Program saw improvements in risk factors for type 2 diabetes, indicating that patients can benefit from such initiatives even outside the confines of a controlled experiment.
  • The Washington Post points out,
    • “Lung cancer survival rates have increased over the past five years, but serious disparities remain among Black and Latino communities, according to the American Lung Association’s 2023 “State of Lung Cancer” report released Tuesday.
    • “The report highlights the need for better messaging about screening for lung cancer, which is still the nation’s leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The disease claims more than 120,000 lives each year, according to the American Cancer Societyin part because it is most often diagnosed at later stages when the cancer is harder to treat.
    • “The national survival rate for lung cancer jumped nearly five percentage points, from 21.7 to 26.6 percent, over the last five years, said report author Zach Jump, the national senior director of epidemiology, statistics and research at the American Lung Association.”
  • KFF lets us know,
    • “The U.S. spends huge amounts of money on health care that does little or nothing to help patients, and may even harm them. In Colorado, a new analysis shows that the number of tests and treatments conducted for which the risks and costs exceed the benefits has barely budged despite a decade-long attempt to tamp down on such care.
    • “The state — including the government, insurers, and patients themselves — spent $134 million last year on what is called low-value care, according to the report by the Center for Improving Value in Health Care, a Denver nonprofit that collects billing data from health plans across Colorado. The top low-value items in terms of spending in each of the past three years were prescriptions for opiates, prescriptions for multiple antipsychotics, and screenings for vitamin D deficiency, according to the analysis.”
  • McKinsey and Company discusses how
    • “Clinical factors are responsible for just 20 percent of individuals’ health outcomes; the remainder can be attributed to factors such as health-related social needs (HRSNs).1 Increasing recognition of the impact of these needs on consumers’ health and livelihoods is driving momentum across the healthcare ecosystem to integrate health and social care, creating opportunities for healthcare entities to design consumer-centric models of care tailored to individual needs and preferences.
    • This article synthesizes insights gleaned from a survey of more than 5,000 US consumers that highlights how HRSNs are evolving; their potential impact on healthcare use, preferences, and outcomes; and actions healthcare entities may consider to effectively support consumers’ needs.”
  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • “Researchers are coming up with new ways to make medical studies less white.
    • “They are building trust in groups long ignored by science and working with doctors and patients of color to design better studies. They are opening research sites in more diverse communities and providing stipends to help people participating in their studies pay for gas and child care.
    • “The efforts are starting to work: More people of color are participating in medical research. That is good news for everyone. Data from clinical trials—used to approve drugs and train artificial intelligence on medical decision-making—until recently failed to include swaths of the population. In the future, more diverse data sets will lead to better treatments and prevention of diseases in people of different backgrounds.
    • “Without diversity, we lose the ability to address fundamental problems that lead to suffering and loss of life,” said Dr. Carol Horowitz, director of Mount Sinai’s Institute for Health Equity Research.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Amazon’s One Medical inked a major partnership with Health Transformation Alliance, expanding access to its primary care services to 67 employers and nearly 5 million employees.
    • HTA is a collective of large U.S. employers, and its member companies include Coca-Cola, American Express, Marriott, Boeing and Intel.
    • “Employers are grappling with rising healthcare costs and expect health benefit expenses to climb 5.4% in 2024, according to Mercer.
    • “HTA, on behalf of its member companies, saw an opportunity to partner with One Medical to provide access to high-quality primary care services while also addressing inefficiencies and costs in the healthcare system, according to HTA CEO Robert Andrews.”
  • BioPharma Dive reports,
    • “Gilead is expanding its collaboration with cancer cell therapy developer Arcellx, announcing Wednesday that subsidiary Kite Pharma has used an option to license a second experimental drug. The partners will also broaden their collaboration on a cell therapy that was the subject of the initial partnership.
    • “Per deal terms, Gilead will buy $200 million of Arcellx shares, giving it a 13% stake, as well as pay an $85 million cash fee. Arcellx will be owed undisclosed payments on achievement of development milestones “to offset prespecified development costs,” according to Gilead.
    • “Last year, Gilead paid $225 million upfront and made a $100 million investment in Arcellx to secure access to the first drug in the collaboration, a type of cancer treatment called CAR-T therapy, which engineers a patient’s own immune cells to attack tumors.”
  • Health Payer Intelligence notes,
    • “Members with diabetes spend between $3,300 and $4,600 per year in out-of-pocket costs for chronic disease management, including lost wages, according to a new report from GoodRx Health.
    • “These out-of-pocket cost estimates accounted for health insurance coverage but still represented 6 to 8 percent of the typical yearly wage in the US.
    • “The researchers addressed the cost of managing diabetes separately from the cost of complications. They used data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) for 2021 and prices across online diabetes medical device suppliers to assess healthcare spending among patients with diabetes.”