3 health policy items to know this summer

By Julie Barnes, Director of Health Policy
July 27, 2015

Here are three major health policy developments you should know about to keep you up to date this summer.

  1. Big pharmaceutical drug changes on are on the horizon.

    • On July 10, 2015, the House passed, with overwhelming bipartisan support, the 21st Century Cures bill. It is intended to speed up and improve the process for approving innovative drugs and medical devices, and to address clinical trial design, research funding, and interoperability of health technology. The Senate is expected to consider the massive bill in the fall.

    • The Trans-Pacific Partnership, a major trade deal that involves nearly half of world GDP, is being negotiated by the U.S. and 11 other countries bordering the Pacific Ocean. The agreement is expected to be completed in the coming weeks, encouraging trade among member countries, lowering tariffs, and opening up new pathways for the movement of goods. For health care policy, this may mean that the U.S. is arguing for other countries to keep generics and biosimilars off the market for as long as we do – creating a controversy here at home. You can read more about the criticism from the public health community here.

  2. Leadership changes are abundant throughout the health policy realm, beginning with the nomination of Andy Slavitt to run CMS. He previously served as an executive vice president for Optum, a division of UnitedHealth Group, but has been interim CMS Administrator ever since Marilyn Tavenner left the post in February.

    • Health Insurance: Marilyn Tavenner has been tapped to run America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP)

    • Hospitals: Rick Pollack will run the American Health Association.

    • Brand drugs: PhRMA is looking to replace its outgoing President, John Castellani

    • Generic drugs: Generic Pharmaceutical Association, Ralph Neas, is also on his way out.

  3. Medicare and Medicaid will be 50-year old government health care programs on July 30, 2015.

    • The Medicare Trustees recently reported that the fund will run out of money in 2030. So the entitlement reform debate rages on – but nothing dramatic will likely happen before the next presidential election.

    • Medicaid expansion decisions, however, loom large. To date, 29 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid. Now Montana, Alaska, Utah, and Kansas are currently considering doing so – with others more quietly exploring options, like so-called Section 1332 waivers, a vehicle to seek comprehensive Medicaid reforms without expanding under Obamacare.