Tuesday Tidbits

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

From Washington, DC

  • Roll Call tells us,
    • “The Senate overwhelmingly voted Tuesday night in favor of the first procedural move needed to avert a partial government shutdown at the end of this week.
    • “The chamber voted 68-13 to end debate on the motion to proceed to the shell legislative vehicle for the stopgap spending measure, which would run to March 1 for four of the dozen annual appropriations bills and until March 8 for the remaining eight.
    • “Leadership in both chambers are in favor of the stopgap measure, which is designed to give appropriators more time to negotiate final fiscal 2024 appropriations bills following the $1.66 trillion topline agreement Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., and Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., announced earlier this month.”
  • Roll Call further informs us,
    • “Congressional leaders and key committee heads are poised to meet with the president at the White House Wednesday to discuss the national security supplemental package that has remained stalled over the lack of agreement on border and immigration policy measures.
    • “White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed President Joe Biden’s plans to host the meeting during a Tuesday briefing. 
    • “Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are expected to attend the meeting.”
  • The Wall Street Journal adds,
    • “Top U.S. lawmakers unveiled a bipartisan tax agreement that would revive expired breaks for businesses and increase the child tax credit for low-income families, and they are aiming to push the $78 billion in tax breaks through Congress in the next few weeks. 
    • “The deal comes from Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Rep. Jason Smith (R., Mo.), ideological opponents who found common ground after months of talks. They have a tough task ahead, given skepticism about aspects of the deal in both parties and a tight deadline before tax season starts.”
  • Roll Call notes,
    • “The conservative-controlled Supreme Court could upend how courts handle challenges to the decisions administrative agencies make, in a pair of cases set for oral arguments Wednesday that could change the standards for how Congress writes laws and the federal government implements them.
    • “The challengers to a fishery inspection rule asked the justices to overturn the Chevron doctrine, a nearly 40-year-old legal framework based on a Supreme Court decision that established that judges should defer to the agencies’ interpretations of a law when that law is ambiguous.
    • “Parts of the conservative legal movement have targeted the doctrine for years, casting it as emblematic of the broader power of administrative agencies, and Wednesday’s oral arguments could preview its demise.”
  • STAT News reports,
    • “President Biden has promised to require fair prices from drugmakers that use federally funded research — and now, in a major recent move, said he’ll trigger government “march-in” on patents for drugs that run afoul of that goal.
    • “It’s a simple principle. You shouldn’t pay the highest price in the world for drugs that your tax dollars have already helped create,” Biden said last month as he touted the move at the National Institutes of Health.
    • “But the new NIH director, locked in the center of this debate, isn’t taking any big steps yet.
    • “Our relationship with the pharmaceutical industry, with the industry overall, is really, really critical,” Director Monica Bertagnolli told STAT in an interview. “It’s very difficult, if you can imagine, to implement something broadly that is as effective as we want it to be.”
  • KFF Health News reports that a new federal program to save rural hospitals is experiencing growing pains.
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force announced the appointment of three new members, “Sei Lee, M.D., M.A.S.; Tonette Krousel-Wood, M.D., M.S.P.H.; and Sarah Wiehe, M.D., M.P.H. They are appointed to serve 4-year terms beginning in January 2024.”
  • The National Academies of Science announced,
    • “A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says 15 health care services related to intimate partner violence — including reproductive health care, screening for STIs and HIV, forensic medical exams, and mental health care — should be classified by the Health Resources and Services Administration and all U.S. health care systems as essential healthcare services. The report recommends prioritizing access to these healthcare services during public health emergencies, such as a pandemic or natural disasters, using a phased approach.”  
  • Per Forbes,
    • “The FDA approved the use of Casgevy, a therapy that uses CRISPR gene-editing to treat the serious blood disorder transfusion-dependent beta-thalassemia, marking the second major U.S. regulatory approval for the emerging gene-editing technology. The FDA’s approval comes just one month after the regulator approved the use of Casgevy in treating sickle cell disease.”

From the public health and medical research front,

  • Health Day points out,
    • “Despite overall progress against cancer in the United States, Black Americans are still more prone to die of the disease than whites
    • “Data from 2000 to 2020 showed the racial gap in cancer deaths had diminished but was still significant.
    • “Disparities in deaths from breast cancer, prostate cancer and colon cancer in men were especially troubling.”
  • Healthcare IT News explains why “Virtual group therapy enables Geisinger to treat more patients and maintain care continuity. With waits for individual psychotherapy as long as several months and several thousand outstanding orders, the mostly rural health system needed a solution. Combining group therapy and telemedicine [with help from American Well] was the answer.”
  • STAT News reports,
    • “Last fall, the World Health Organization and some national drug regulators urged influenza vaccine manufacturers to drop the component known as B/Yamagata from flu vaccines as quickly as possible, citing the fact that this lineage of flu B viruses appears to have been snuffed out during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • “It might seem like that request would be as simple as deciding to leave blueberries out of a mixed-fruit smoothie. It turns out it is not.”

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Healthcare Dive discusses trends shaping the health insurance business in 2024.
  • Via Fierce Healthcare, Morgan Health offers three items employers should focus on to manage GLP-1 drug costs.
  • Bloomberg informs us about lawsuits that air ambulance companies have brought against health insurers who allegedly refused to pay No Surprises Act arbitration awards. The insurers have asked the federal district court in Houston to dismiss the cases for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and improper venue.
  • Beckers Hospital Review lets us know,
    • “The Mayo Clinic Diet, a weight loss program developed by the Rochester, Minn.-based health system, is launching a weight loss telemedicine service.
    • “The Mayo Clinic Diet Medical Weight Loss Rx program will offer direct access to weight loss medications, or GLP-1s, via video visits with Amwell Medical Group clinicians, according to a Jan. 16 news release shared with Becker’s.
    • “The program, which is available in beta form to qualifying members, will also provide lab testing to confirm medication suitability, clinical monitoring, insurance support, meal plan options, and coaching and education tools.”
  • Beckers Payer Issues tells us,
    • “Though some contract negotiations with providers came “down to the wire” last year, UnitedHealthcare executives said the payer did not see more contract splits than usual in 2023. 
    • “Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare, told investors on a Jan. 12 call the insurer did not see more contract disruptions than in previous years in 2023.”