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Beltway Buzz: May 2014

Beltway Buzz: May 2014

May 20, 2014 0 Comments

The Beltway Buzz is CCA-DC’s monthly recap of healthcare related happenings in the District.

Finally, Cool Celebrity Sightings in DC: President Obama was a hoot during the recent White House Correspondents dinner, skewering the media, Republicans and even his own administration. He didn’t forget to mention the ACA, though, saying, “In 2008 my slogan was, ‘Yes We Can.’ In 2013 my slogan was, ‘Control-Alt-Delete.’” Later, former HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius made a cameo to “fix” a glitch in a video the President was trying to play. The crowd loved it. Celebrities like Sofia Vergara, Mindy Kaling, Gov. Chris Christie, and our personal favorite Kid President attended the event. Don’t miss Obama’s best lines from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Makin’ Moves: Remember Sylvia Mathews Burwell? Though she’s not yet confirmed as HHS Secretary, Burwell put up a good fight in round one of her confirmation hearings. Burwell pledged to make ongoing HealthCare.gov tech issues a top priority, calling the web issues “unacceptable.” Yet she made sure to mention that the ACA is “making a difference in the lives of our families and our communities while strengthening the economy.” So far, she’s received nods of approval from Republican Sens. John McCain (AZ) and Richard Burr (NC). Stay tuned for the final verdict, which could come before the holiday weekend.

Worst. Anniversary. Ever. Measles are up on the 20th anniversary of the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program, which launched in 1994 in response to a measles outbreak. So far, there have been 129 reported cases of measles this year, mostly linked to infections from abroad and affecting people who either weren’t vaccinated or didn’t know whether they were. That compares to just 189 all year in 2013. In positive news, highly concentrated doses of the measles virus are helping some patients put their cancer in remission. Pretty big deal! Learn more here.

Lay Off Those French Fries, Pal: It’s no secret that excessive amounts of sodium can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and increased cancer risk. That sure makes us feel salty. The FDA hasn’t set limits on sodium levels in processed food – so the Center for Science in the Public Interest is stepping in to make the big push. They’ve launched a digital counter to log how many preventable deaths have occurred since the Institute of Medicine urged the FDA to set targets in 2010. The big question is – will it push the FDA to act?

CDC’s Report Card: A+ on Effective Strategies for Reducing Health Disparities: A new report by the CDC’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity found that evidence-based interventions at the local and national levels provide promising strategies for reducing racial and ethnic health disparities related to HIV infection rates, immunization coverage, motor vehicle injuries and deaths, and smoking.

NIH Cheer Squad? According to a RAND study, policymakers should find ways to incentivize pharma companies and device makers to focus on developing drugs and medical devices that produce more value. Researchers recommended that the National Institutes for Health take a more active role by encouraging more creativity, offering prizes, buying out patents and creating a public-interest investment fund.

Race For A Cure: Maybe it’s the pending election season but congressional leaders seem eager to show off their bipartisanship, with House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and ranking member Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) launching a new effort, called the 21st Century Cures, to accelerate the pace of medical innovation and cures in the U.S. At a kick-off roundtable with FDA officials and the director of the NIH, experts took a close look at ways to streamline the drug and device development process and “unleash the power of digital medicine and social media at the treatment delivery.” Pretty sweet, huh? Check it out here.

Update on the ACA: Hot topic or hot potato? More news, more updates. Here’s the latest of what’s happening:

  • The Actual Final Numbers: ACA enrollment hit 8 million people. Cue jaw drop. When the initial 6-month enrollment period officially closed on April 1, enrollment was at 7.1 million, but the Administration extended the deadline until April 15 for anyone who had “technical difficulties.”
  • Young Invincibles: POTUS also shared that 35 percent of enrollees are under 35 years old. This younger, healthier demographic is a vital part of the ACA’s health insurance risk pool because it will help offset the costs of insuring older individuals. These facts led President Obama to proudly declare that “this thing is working,” and he entreated the Republicans to stop their efforts to repeal the law.
  • Unimpressed, More Anti-Obamacare Votes: In spite of the enrollment success, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor declared that the House will keep working to replace Obamacare, but he didn’t provide specifics…
  • Health Care Law is Major Player in Midterm Elections: November may seem far away, but in DC it’s just around the corner. Politico reports that “nearly nine in 10 respondents said that the health care law would be important to determining their vote, including 49 percent who said it would be very important.” Check out the full poll here.
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