May 15, 2017 AOA Morning Brief

Leading The News

Anthem Ends Pursuit Of Cigna.

The Wall Street Journal (5/12, Subscription Publication) reported Anthem Inc. said Friday it would give up attempts to acquire Cigna Health, which the Journal said sets the stage for a potentially rancorous legal battle over damages that could number in the billions of dollars. Anthem continues to assert that Cigna sabotaged the merger, and that Cigna is ineligible to receive $1.85 billion in break-up fees as provided in the merger agreement. Anthem said it will seek “massive damages” from Cigna.

While Delaware Judge Travis Laster denied Anthem’s request for a 60-day extension to try and make the deal happen, he also indicated “there was significant evidence Cigna may have violated the merger agreement by dragging its feet on antitrust concerns, which could entitle Anthem to ‘potentially massive damages,” Bloomberg News (5/12) reported. Cigna issued a statement which stated its belief “that Anthem willfully breached” its obligations “and as a result the transaction did not receive the requisite regulatory approvals.”

The AP (5/12) recounted that last year, antitrust regulators sued to stop the merger from going through. Anthem had argued at the time that the merger would allow both companies to “negotiate better prices with pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and doctor groups,” although critics maintained that such benefits would have “taken years to materialize,” and meanwhile, it would leave limited choice for customers.

Patient Care And Prevention

“Mysterious Cancer” Linked To Breast Implants.

The New York Times (5/14, Subscription Publication) reported breast implant-associated anaplastic large-cell lymphoma “is a mysterious cancer that has affected a tiny proportion of the more than 10 million women worldwide who have received implants.” The Food and Drug Administration “first reported a link between” the cancer and breast implants in 2011, and earlier this year “linked nine deaths to the implants has helped raise awareness.”

Men With Multiple Risk Factors For Heart Disease May Have Higher Likelihood Of Developing Erectile Dysfunction, Study Suggests.

Reuters (5/12) reported that research suggests “men with multiple risk factors for heart disease may be more likely to develop erectile dysfunction later in life than men with optimal heart health.” The findings were published in the American Journal of Hypertension.

Should You Become An Employee Or An Independent Contractor?
A new CME webinar from the AOA will explain what physicians should consider when weighing contracts to become an employee vs. an independent contractor. You can catch this webinar on June 6, 2017, at 6 p.m. CT.

News From The DO
New And Improved: NBOME’s Residency Program Director’s Guide To COMLEX-USA. The newly updated version of this guide explains how COMLEX-USA scores can help in evaluating residency program applicants.

Employer-Funded Health Programs Can Improve Employees’ Health, Preliminary Study Finds. JAOA study examined participation in the Complete Health Improvement Program.

Connect with the AOA online:    or read more news in The DO

Serving Our Communities

Smaller Insurers To Determine If Many Areas Will Have Access To ACA Plans In 2018.

The Washington Post (5/12) reported, “As the last option standing in two states’ Affordable Care Act marketplaces for next year, a small Midwestern health insurer faces a decision that could become a symbol of the law’s failure or of the last-minute political compromises needed to keep its markets intact.” The article explained that it is smaller insurers such as Medica which “will determine whether people can” purchase ACA plans in 2018. The insurer’s “competitors in Iowa and Nebraska have announced they will drop out next year, making the company the likely last guard against a scenario that leaves exchange participants with zero options for buying their own health coverage.”

Healthcare Policy

Conservative GOP Senators Mulling Medicaid Cuts That Could Result In Loss Of Coverage For Millions.

The Wall Street Journal (5/14, Subscription Publication) reports that conservative Republicans in the Senate are eyeing quicker and more drastic cuts to Medicaid. While the plan – which the Journal says could result in millions being dropped from coverage – will likely face opposition from more moderate Republican senators, who have already expressed concern that the House-passed plan would leave too many people without coverage, it is nonetheless an indication that if a bill passes both chambers, it could significantly reduce the Medicaid program.

The AP (5/14) says the for school districts, “the Medicaid changes being advanced as part of the health care overhaul are sounding familiar alarms.” According to administrators, “any reduction in the estimated $4 billion schools receive in annual Medicaid reimbursements would be hard to absorb after years of reduced state funding and a weakened tax base.” The AP goes on to outline what opponents of the changes say could be the “potential impacts.”

Parents Worried ACA Replacement Bill Will Hurt Children’s Access To Healthcare Coverage.

USA Today (5/13) reported that parents with “special needs children or low incomes are bracing for similar threats to their families’ health care” as the Senate works on its version of an ACA repeal bill. The article said the almost “$1 billion in federal cuts to the Medicaid program approved by House Republicans threaten the record success getting these children covered by insurance and on a path to healthier lives, health experts warn.” These parents’ “angst is magnified by the Sept. 30 deadline for CHIP reauthorization, which some worry will be used as a bargaining tool to get the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA) through the Senate.”

Also In The News

IT Expert Warns Hospitals Particularly Vulnerable To Ransomware Attacks.

The Washington Post (5/13) reports on its front page that “officials in nearly 100 countries raced Saturday to contain one of the biggest cybersecurity attacks in recent history.” According to the Post, “Health-care IT experts said it was no surprise that hospitals so easily fell victim to the ransomware attack.” Johns Hopkins University Information Security Institute technical director Avi Rubin said hospitals were easily targeted because of a “perfect storm” of factors. He explained healthcare systems have time-sensitive data vulnerable to ransomware, lag behind other industries in areas like security and basic software updates, and spend considerably less than other organizations on information technology. He said poor hospitals that “don’t have enough budget to keep the lights on” are particularly vulnerable to attacks because they cannot afford to backup their data, a crucial ransomware-fighting tool.

Researchers, Patient Group Want Lower Bar For Alzheimer’s Drugs.

STAT (5/15) reports that some researchers and the patient advocacy group known as UsAgainstAlzheimer’s want the FDA to evaluate drugs for the disease “for efficacy in either cognition or function – but not both,” because functional decline often comes so long after symptoms of cognitive decline that patients may miss a significant benefit of taking a drug at the earliest stages. The researchers and patient group created a paper that detailed their case.

Friday’s Lead Stories

 • CDC Report Estimates New Hepatitis C Infections In US Nearly Tripled From 2010 To 2015.
Antiretroviral Drugs Increasing Life Expectancy For People With HIV, Study Indicates.
Many People In Rural Areas Have Few Insurance Options On ACA Exchanges.
CBO To Release Analysis Of AHCA In The Next Two Weeks.
FDA Approves Use Of Pembrolizumab With Chemotherapy To Treat Certain Lung Cancer Patients.

DO Engage Updates from AOA<< >>Introduction Regarding H. 3824 For Physicians and Physician Assistants

About the author : Tammy Whaley

Tammy E. Whaley is the executive director of the South Carolina Osteopathic Medical Society (SCOMS).

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