On Friday, June 22, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6, the Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act, by a sweeping vote of 396-14. This final legislative package combines 58 bills, passed earlier this month, and includes a wide variety of provisions to expand access to opioid use disorder prevention, treatment and recovery services, including streamlined Medicaid coverage, increasing the number of providers that are eligible to prescribe buprenorphine as part of medication-assisted treatment (MAT), and Medicare incentives for health centers to expand the use of MAT. Stay tuned for a NACHC blog post outlining key provisions for health centers, and in the meantime you can read more about this legislative opioid package, here.
- A report from health insurance giant Aetna found that patients want communicative doctors who offer convenient appointments and that they put a high value on privacy and data security.
- The study of 1,000 people also found that women are less likely to take their doctors’ recommendations or tell them about their lifestyle habits.
- A physician survey of 400 doctors divided evenly between primary care and specialties also featured in the report. That poll found 54% of physicians said mental health counselors are very important, but only 7% said they have excellent access to that community resource.
- Insurers are moving away from fee-for-service toward value-based care more quickly than previously predicted, Change Healthcare reported in a new survey of 120 payers.
- The report posits that for the first time private payers, rather than government programs, have taken the lead in implementing value-based care models and strategies.
- However, payers are finding they need a long time to implement programs. Only 21% say they can roll out a new episode of care program in three to six months. More than one-third said they need a year, 21% need 18 months and 13% require up to two years or more. Taking longer than a year to implement a payment program could cause problems in a fast-moving healthcare market.
- The 340B Drug Pricing Program took center stage at the Senate’s HELP panel for the third time in several months on Tuesday, this time turning the focus to audits of hospitals and drug manufacturers conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration. HRSA Director Krista Pedley said that in the past five years, 12 of 600 program manufacturers faced audits compared to 981 of 12,700 of hospitals, also known as covered entities.
- The director said no findings of wrongdoing were yielded in any of the 12 audits of manufacturers, whereas 60% of the audits of covered entities resulted in repayment to manufacturers.
- Pedley also said legislation is needed to give HRSA authority to increase oversight over the program and the pricing transparency many hospitals have been asking for. Earlier this month, the Trump administration pushed back a rule on 340B that would impose penalties on manufacturers that charge above the ceiling price.
Under the program, Medicaid covers drugs if the pharmaceutical companies are willing to have a national rebate agreement with HHS. Manufacturers must pay a rebate on drugs purchased by Medicaid programs.
MACPAC claimed Friday in its annual report that Congress could improve the program with two tweaks.
The Trump administration on Tuesday unveiled the final version of a rule that allows more small businesses and self-employed workers to band together to buy insurance.
The final rule, released by the Department of Labor, is part of the administration’s plan to encourage competition in the health insurance markets and lower the cost of coverage. It broadens the definition of an employer under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, or ERISA, to allow more groups to form association health plans and bypass ACA rules. ERISA is the federal law that governs health benefits and retirement plans offered by large employers.
“The Trump administration hopes to level the playing field between large companies and small businesses by expanding access to association health plans,” Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said on a call with reporters Tuesday. “This expansion will offer millions of Americans more affordable coverage options.”
State Drug Director Kirk Lane says the state and nation aren’t doing enough to combat the nation’s opioid epidemic, while the U.S. House of Representatives is passing a flurry of bills to combat the problem.
“The biggest thing that Arkansas needs to do is be adaptable to change. What we have been doing for a long time is not working,” Lane said during an opioid summit at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on Monday (June 18).
The summit was organized by the office of U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock, and featured two panel discussions. One of those included Lane; Hill; Commander Karen Hearod, regional administrator for the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA); and Jim Tom Bell, a member of the board of directors of the Quapaw House addiction treatment facility. Arkansas Surgeon General Dr. Greg Bledsoe moderated the discussions.