Election week musings from the Health Wonks

In case you missed the Health Wonk Review this week, now’s your chance to catch up on some weekend reading.  Jennifer Salopek hosted this week at Wing of Zock, and it’s an excellent round-up.

It’s the election week edition of the HWR, and Joe Paduda’s post looks into the implications for healthcare reform under a Republican Senate.  The Republicans did take the Senate – and now we also know that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear King v. Burwell, meaning that the fate of subsidies in the federally-run exchanges now rests with the High Court. (Note for our Colorado readers… we’ve got a state-run exchange here, so King v. Burwell and Halbig v. Burwell have no implications here – federal subsidies are explicitly allowed in state-run exchanges).  I agree with Joe that full repeal might not be the top priority of the majority of congress right now.  There are certainly things that could be fixed about the ACA, and Joe mentions a couple of easier targets for GOP leaders intent on chopping away at least some of the ACA.  Repeal won’t happen regardless, because the President would veto a repeal bill.  That doesn’t meant Congress won’t try, but I think they’re more likely to take an incremental approach.  The medical device tax might end up getting removed or reduced, and I could definitely see further extensions – or removal – of the employer mandate.  I imagine the insurance industry would push back pretty hard against removal of the risk corridors program.  Time will tell…

Since repealing the ACA’s medical device tax is one of the GOP’s big targets, Roy Poses’ article in this week’s HWR is particularly timely.  Roy explains a recent $6 million fine levied against medical device manufacturer Biomet – they make a bone growth stimulator, and were giving kickbacks to doctors for prescribing it regardless of medical need.  But then the ever-diligent Dr. Poses digs deeper and looks back at the history of Biomet.  It’s not pretty.  And then he pulls out all sorts of other dubious actions on the part of medical device manufacturers – and points out that although sometimes financial penalties are levied against companies that participate in unethical behavior, the individual people who are responsible for the unethical/illegal actions are rarely held accountable.  Maybe we should rethink repealing the medical device tax…

Lawrence Gostin, writing at Health Affairs, has a great post about Ebola, and United States’ “misguided self-interest” when it comes to the disease.   The Ebola media coverage became relentless and frenzied as soon as we had a handful of isolated cases here in the US, and it was difficult for scientists and infectious disease experts to be heard above all of the panic and knee-jerk reactions.  Gostin explains how our insular approach (including quarantines and the widespread public support for travel bans) is counterproductive.  Well worth reading.

There are lots of other good articles in this edition of the HWR.  Check it out, if you haven’t already!


About Louise Norris

Louise Norris has been writing about health insurance and healthcare reform since 2006. In addition to the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, she also writes for healthinsurance.org, medicareresources.org, Verywell, Spark by ADP, and Boost by ADP, and Gusto. Follow on twitter and facebook.

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