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Just a week after Hurricane Irma tore through Florida, citizens in many parts of our state are still picking up the pieces. Recovery will be long and difficult. The FMA is gathering survey information from physicians who were affected so that we can offer appropriate assistance. Our Foundation for Healthy Floridians is also seeking contributions for the Medical Disaster Fund, which will support doctors whose practices were forced to relocate or temporarily shut down because of hurricane damage.
For now, health care reform has returned to the front burner. Republicans’ efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare continue to defy death, consensus and predictions.
What I’m Reading
The latest health care repeal plan would give states sweeping discretion
First, the New York Times provides this Cliffs Notes version of the GOP’s latest health care legislation, crafted by Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy, M.D. It covers key differences between Obamacare and the new proposal, which “would essentially allow states to come up with their own health care plans using a federal block grant.”
McConnell reportedly considering vote on Graham-Cassidy repeal bill
New plan, same challenge. As with past repeal bills, GOP leaders are facing an uphill battle in securing enough votes to pass the Graham-Cassidy plan. Talking Points Memo says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is considering bringing the bill to the floor for a vote by September’s end, but time is running out to get senators on board.
The new GOP Obamacare repeal effort faces the same old math
Fifty is the magic number. That’s how many votes it will take for the current Obamacare repeal legislation to pass the U.S. Senate. Unfortunately for Republicans, the crucial 50th vote is anything but guaranteed and perhaps unlikely. According to the Washington Post, Sen. Rand Paul has already tweeted his disapproval. While Sen. John McCain favors the bill’s concept, his final review is pending.
2 GOP heavyweights brawl over Obamacare bill
A turf battle between Sen. Lamar Alexander and Senate Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch is yet another sign of trouble. Sen. Alexander has been focused on pushing through a plan to stabilize next year’s health insurance markets — a campaign that doesn’t sit well with Sen. Hatch, who told POLITICO his colleague was “stealing our jurisdiction.” POLITICO also made note of Sen. Hatch’s recent op-ed likening Sen. Alexander’s proposal to an insurance company bailout. “At the heart of the dispute is which committee gets to control the 1332 waiver program that gives state officials flexibility to ignore some of Obamacare’s requirements under certain conditions.”
Uproar builds over secret doctor panel that influences Medicare
Several advocacy groups and primary care doctors contend that the federal government gives an AMA panel of physicians too much power in determining Medicare payment rates. Known as the Relative Value Scale Update Committee, or RUC, these 31 physicians gather annually to make recommendations to CMS about the value of various tests and procedures. After CMS indicated that it would approve “almost every 2018 payment proposal” made by the RUC, opposition was swift and pointed. “Critics believe Medicare’s deference to the AMA panel creates a conflict of interest and steers federal spending toward more expensive procedures,” an Axios article says. “And if the AMA panel distorts Medicare rates in favor of certain medical specialties, ‘that carries over into the private sector,’ said Frederick Isasi, executive director of the consumer group Families USA”
Fact check: Americans aren’t clamoring for single-payer health insurance
Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ vision for a largely government-financed health coverage system is based on the idea that Americans are demanding single-payer insurance. However, polls tell a story of ambivalence. For example, a Kaiser Family Foundation report cited in STAT shows “a ‘modest increase’ in support for single-payer coverage in recent years, with ‘substantial’ opposition.”
Amid opioid crisis, insurers restrict pricey, less addictive painkillers
Unlike pharmaceutical companies, physicians and pharmacists, insurers have not faced much scrutiny about their role in the nation’s opioid crisis. But the New York state attorney general’s office has brought three major pharmacy benefits managers into the spotlight by asking what their companies are doing to address it. Following an analysis of Medicare prescription drug plans covering 35.7 million people, the New York Times and ProPublica concluded that insurers have placed obstacles between patients and painkillers that are safer, but more expensive. “The insurers have also erected more hurdles to approving addiction treatments than for the addictive substances themselves.”