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Best Reads Of The Week With Brianna Labuskes

By Brianna Labuskes

The Friday Breeze

Newsletter editor Brianna Labuskes, who reads everything on health care to compile our daily Morning Briefing, offers the best and most provocative stories for the weekend.

So maybe “yesterday was not a good day” for you (as Novartis said after its $1.2 million contract with Michael Cohen made news) but today is Friday! And that means just a couple of hours left until the weekend.
To help you get through that last little bit, here’s a cheat sheet of stories you might have missed this week in health care.
President Donald Trump spoke from the White House about plans to curb drug prices, but pharma wasn’t exactly quaking at the proposed changes. Pharmacy benefit managers (cast by some health care players as the villains-du-jour for high costs), on the other hand, might want to be.
Foreign governments’ “freeloading” is also expected to be a target (though experts say raising costs in Europe isn’t going to affect Americans’ pharmacy bills), while Trump is backing off the idea of letting Medicare negotiate drug prices.
Reuters: Trump Plan for Drug Prices Seen Largely Sparing Industry
The New York Times: Trump to Drop Call for Medicare to Negotiate Lower Drug Prices
Enthusiasm for Medicaid work requirements is running headlong into concerns over Native Americans’ rights over at HHS. Top officials at the agency and Hill Republicans (who are excited — to say the least — about the work mandate for the general public) want to exempt Native Americans from the restrictions. But their hands are tied by the HHS Office of General Counsel, which has ruled that it would be an illegal racial preference. So, no one’s happy, the optics are bad, and a massive legal fight might be about to land at the government’s door.
Politico: Trump Challenge to Native Americans’ Health Splits HHS, Alarms Hill GOP
Officials are drawing a line at lifetime limits, at least for now. And in the states: Budget cuts just got very real for potentially thousands of Louisiana nursing home residents, and California pushes to expand Medicaid benefits to undocumented immigrants.
The Hill: Trump Officials Reject Medicaid Lifetime Limits in Kansas
CNN: Tens of Thousands of Louisiana Residents Could Face Eviction
Sacramento Bee: CA Lawmakers Push Health Care for Undocumented Immigrants

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As the first glimpse of eye-popping premium hikes for next year trickle in, Democrats are being vocal about their plans to point fingers. “We Democrats are going to be relentless in making sure the American people exactly understand who is to blame for the rates,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said.
Bloomberg: Obamacare Premiums to Surge Next Year, Early Requests Show
The Hill: Schumer: Dems Will Be ‘Relentless’ in Attacking GOP for Premium Hikes
And Trump might be boasting that he all but got rid of the health law, but the Internal Revenue Service is sending a different message. In fact, the agency is policing the employer mandate more aggressively than it did even under the Obama administration. Businesses are less than pleased, but there’s no political capital lying around right now (see: above) to get lawmakers to attempt any more tweaks to the legislation.
The New York Times: Trump Says He Got Rid of Obamacare. The I.R.S. Doesn’t Agree.
In the miscellaneous file for the week: VA’s leadership vacuum at the top is just the tip of the iceberg for the agency’s dire staffing situation (“I’ve never known the enthusiastic mass exodus of an organization’s most knowledgeable and experienced personnel to be an indication that all is well,” said one official); those outrageous pharma price tags are bad enough for people with insurance, but what happens when those in the Amish community need an $850,000 drug?; to the shock of no one, most of the drug distributors hauled in front of Congress this week skirted any responsibility for the opioid crisis (with the money quote coming from Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.): “I just want you to feel shame”); and states desperate for an alternative to lethal injection are eyeing nitrogen, hearkening back to the days of gas chambers.
The New York Times: V.A. Medical System Staggers As Chaos Engulfs Its Leadership
Stat: With No Insurance, Amish Want Discount on Spark’s Pricey Gene Therapy
Stat: Congressman To Drug Distributors: ‘I Just Want You To Feel Shame’
The New York Times: States Turn To An Unproven Method Of Execution: Nitrogen Gas
Have a great weekend! And if your allergies are bad (as I have heard is the case this week), maybe double-check to make sure you aren’t actually leaking brain fluid.

From:: KHN Insurance