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A digest of health care information about cost savings, public policy and staying healthy in retirement.

Prescription drug legislation in Congress: An update | AARP

Recent developments in both houses of Congress show movement on drug pricing legislation. The Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives passed the Elijah Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act, with a series of far-reaching drug pricing reforms. The Senate Finance Committee released updates to its drug pricing package. Finally, the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee reached a deal on surprise billing that includes small drug pricing elements. With the passage of the House bill, pressure may increase on Senate Republicans to sign on to the Finance Committee’s more moderate package. Yet for legislation to pass in this Congress, it may take focused attention and support from the Trump administration, which faces a number of competing priorities.

Gardner, members of Congress request delay of Health Insurance Tax | Colorado Politics

U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner and members of
Congress from both chambers and both parties have sent a letter to
congressional leadership requesting a delay in a $15.5 billion tax on health insurance companies.

Senators and Representatives who signed the letter indicated a concern that the tax, which would be passed on to consumers, would particularly impact seniors and Americans with disabilities. The Health Insurance Tax (HIT), part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, imposes a fee on health insurance based on their premiums and market share. Congress put a moratorium on the HIT in 2017, allowed it to resume in 2018, and suspended it again in 2019. It’s unclear when Congress might act on legislation that would suspend the tax through 2021.

As Coloradans demand action on health care costs, lawmakers work on a public option | KUNC

The
latest health care proposal coming out of the Capitol from State Rep. Dylan
Roberts (D-Avon), which has bipartisan support, would create a new health
insurance plan. The so-called “public option” would be governed by the state,
but still use private insurance companies. The state would set reimbursement
rates for hospitals and dictate how much the insurance companies must spend on
patient care.

Colorado could soon get a lot of money from opioid settlements. But where should those dollars go? | The Colorado Sun

Colorado could soon be in line for tens of millions of dollars from legal settlements related to the opioid epidemic. That kind of windfall would represent a major leap forward in the state’s effort to combat the crisis, which has claimed the lives of more than 5,000 Coloradans since 2000. But it would also present a significant challenge over how to spend those funds. Already, the Attorney General’s office is involved in discussions over multi-state, multibillion-dollar settlements with several drug companies. Local governments that filed lawsuits separately could also be in line for dollars coming directly into their budgets.

House-Senate fix could break gridlock on ‘surprise’ medical bills | Politico

Bipartisan efforts to protect patients from
“surprise” medical bills are regaining momentum after stalling out over the
summer. Leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the
chairman of the Senate health panel recently announced a deal they said would
rely on “a new system for independent dispute resolution often called
arbitration.”

The announcement comes as consumer advocates
pushed for a solution that would hold patients harmless in billing disputes
between health plans and providers. Congress set the issue as one of its top
health care priorities this year, citing sometimes jaw dropping bills for care
received out of network.

The Polis administration wants a greater say over hospital prices for more than 1 million Coloradans  | The Colorado Sun

Colorado’s top
insurance regulator has said that he will soon propose a rule that allows him
to dig deeper into hospitals’ deals with health insurance companies, the latest
in the Polis administration’s push for greater say over hospital prices. The
new rule will give him the ability, as part of the rate-review process, to
determine whether the underlying prices that insurance companies negotiate with
hospitals are affordable. It will also allow him to look at whether insurance
companies are passing onto consumers any price breaks that they negotiate with
hospitals or whether they are pocketing the savings for themselves.

As his wife’s caregiver, a doctor discovers what’s missing at health care’s core | Kaiser Health News

Caring for someone with a serious illness stretches people spiritually and emotionally, often beyond what they might have thought possible. In his recently published book, “The Soul of Care: The Moral Education of a Husband and a Doctor, Dr. Arthur Kleinman, a professor of psychiatry and anthropology at Harvard University, describes his awakening to the realities of caregiving when his beloved wife, Joan, was diagnosed with a rare form of early Alzheimer’s disease. He learned that no one who goes through this emerges unchanged. He became less self-centered, more compassionate and more aware of how the health care system fails to support family caregivers, the backbone of the nation’s long-term care system.

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