Editor’s take – health care and life sciences. Vaping-linked illness, affordability and Medicare for All

The reading habits of SmartBrief's health care and life sciences audiences provide a unique window into the priorities and interests of professionals across these industries, and our newsletter engagement data also sheds light on what's keeping our readers up at night. We serve health care insurers, providers and IT professionals, as well as audiences in pharma and medtech. Here's what was top of mind for all of them in Q3, as well as a look at what's next.

E-cigarettes under a microscope

Vaping has been a source of concern all year, as health care and regulatory professionals scrutinize and work to stem widespread use of e-cigarette products among youth. However, efforts to understand the physiological effects of vaping have dramatically intensified amid recognition that vaping is associated with pulmonary injury that can sometimes be deadly. Case reports have been rising with every update from the CDC. At last check, 1,479 cases had been identified in all states but Alaska, and 33 deaths had been confirmed.

What’s next: Investigators have uncovered an association between illnesses and tetrahydrocannabinol-containing products, but it’s not clear if the link is causative, and the CDC recently said it’s possible more than one substance will be implicated. Clearly, the investigation will continue as case reports rise, but the increasing concern could also contribute to legislative and regulatory action against the vaping industry, which could soon be subject to a proposed ban on unapproved flavored products.

Prices again (and specifically drug prices again)

Health care affordability is a perennial topic in the news (we all need and must pay for health care, after all), and it’s a topic that has implications for nearly every aspect of the health care and life sciences. The health insurance industry is awaiting a ruling from a Texas judge that could upend the Affordable Care Act. Insurers, physician practices and hospitals are awaiting and working to influence legislative solutions to surprise medical bills for out-of-network care. Meanwhile, drug-price legislation introduced in the House continues to evolve, and prices continue to rise.

What’s next: There’s little debate that medical bills for unexpected out-of-network care are a challenge, and the patient is always on the losing end. The specifics of a solution, however, remain up in the air, and it will be interesting to see whether health insurers or health care providers end up with a solution that satisfies them. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legislation targeting drug prices doesn’t go far enough, according to some Democrats, and it’s been called “dead on arrival” in the Senate.

Medicare for All

The prospect of major upheaval in the form of a public option for health insurance, such as Medicare buy-in or single-payer health care, has clear implications across the health care and life sciences industries. As the playing field for the Democratic nomination takes shape and primaries loom on the horizon, candidates are being pressed to get more specific about how their proposals would be paid for and what effect they will have on Americans and American companies. Meanwhile, stakeholders are raising concerns that the loss of private payers would reduce health system revenues and force hospital closures, compromising access to health care in rural areas especially.

What’s next: Health care has been the most-discussed topic in all the Democratic debates thus far, and that will surely continue as divisions among the candidates become sharper. No doubt, health insurers and hospitals will work to clarify the consequences of what Medicare for All will mean in practice. Proposals are being analyzed, and we will learn more from government analyses and private think tanks about the specific costs and benefits. Meanwhile, the Trump administration will continue to make the case for private market solutions and strengthening the current system, as its recent executive order is parsed.

More top trends

Check out a snapshot of more top health care and life sciences stories from Q3 below.

 

Melissa Turner is director of health care and life sciences content at SmartBrief. She edits science, medical and health care delivery newsletters and oversees development of content marketing pieces for SmartBrief’s health care clients.

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This feature reflects the most read items across SmartBrief's health care and life sciences publications. Check out all of SmartBrief’s health care newsletters, covering health IT, news for insurers, news for providers and more to get news like this delivered straight to your inbox. Also, be sure to check out opportunities to reach SmartBrief's readers with your own content and solutions.