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HEALTH CARE NEWS

US Congress extends CHIP, funds opioid crisis response following temporary shutdown

Publish date: February 9, 2018

By 

Gregory Twachtman 

Oncology Practice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congress, despite a second shutdown in less than a month, was able to pass a number of financial extenders to fund key health care programs.

The bipartisan spending bill (H.R. 1892), passed in the early morning hours on Feb. 9 by a 71-28 vote in the Senate (16 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against it, and Sen. John McCain [R-Ariz.] was not present) and a 240-186 vote in the House (67 Republicans and 119 Democrats voted against and 5 representatives did not vote). President Trump signed the bill later that morning.

 

The spending bill and continuing resolution to fund the government through March 23 includes $6 billion to fund treatment for opioid addiction and other mental health issues, $2 billion in additional funding for the National Institutes of Health, and 4 additional years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The additional CHIP funding extends the program for a total of 10 years.

The funding bill also made a technical correction to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) track of the Medicare Quality Payment Program. It removes Part B drug reimbursement from the MIPS payment adjustment, so any positive or negative change to physician payments based on the MIPS score will only be applied to physician fee schedule payments.

The bill also repeals the Independent Payment Advisory Board, a panel created by the Affordable Care Act that would have the power to slash Medicare spending under certain budget circumstances. That board was never convened.

The funding legislation also accelerates closure of the Medicare Part D “donut hole,” the coverage gap in which beneficiaries must pay 100% of medication costs prior to entering catastrophic coverage.

Just over $7 billion was provided for community health centers and Medicare’s therapy caps were repealed.

While the funding bill was written in the Senate with bipartisan input and received bipartisan support, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) held up votes over objections to the more than $1 trillion it will add to the nation’s debt, as well as for the fact that there was no opportunity to introduce and vote on amendments, leading to an hours-long government shutdown.

There also were concerns about two issues that could have derailed the vote in the House. Democrats wanted to add language to address immigrants brought to this nation illegally as children, while some Republicans did not want to increase the federal debt. However, there were enough votes to pass the funding legislation.

gtwachtman@frontlinemedcom.com

Opioids killed nearly 4,000 in Canada last year: official

Drotumdi O

June 19, 2018
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

The opioid crisis claimed nearly 4,000 lives in Canada last year, mainly from overdoses of the powerful painkiller fentanyl, the public health agency said Tuesday, warning of a worsening situation.

The was 34 percent higher than the previous year, with most of the fatal overdoses involving men aged 30 to 39 who obtained fentanyl illegally from narcotics traffickers on the street.

Almost 90 percent of the 3,987 deaths in 2017 were concentrated in just three provinces: Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario.

"Canada continues to experience a serious and growing opioid crisis," the public health agency said in a report.

Fentanyl is considered 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin and 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said " of opioid prescriptions" are also a "contributing factor in the crisis."

"As minister, I am calling on industry to act now and stop their marketing activities associated with these products in Canada," she said.

The health ministry explained that while "can help Canadians who need them to manage pain," marketing the drugs can unduly influence doctors and lead to "over-prescription."

According to figures, opioid prescriptions actually fell last year for the first time since 2012, to 21.3 million.

In response to the crisis, Ottawa has poured tens of millions of dollars into strengthening and distributing the overdose antidote naloxone.

Explore further: Fatal opioid overdoses on the rise in Canada