HEALTH

Senate panel votes in favor of healthcare reform bill

BY DSN STAFF

NEW YORK After decades of fruitless efforts, activist lawmakers in a Democratically controlled Congress finally may be on the verge of pushing through one of the most elusive policy goals of the past half-century: a massive reform of the U.S. healthcare system that aims to extend health coverage to most Americans and put a clamp on federal healthcare spending.

 

That bill, the Affordable Health Care Choice Act of 2009, is a long way from passage. Republicans on the Senate HELP Committee object to several key provisions in the bill – including language that would impose higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans to help pay the bill’s estimated trillion-dollar 10-year tab, a new government-run insurance provider to compete with private-sector insurers and a provision that would penalize employers who don’t offer health benefits to their workers – and that opposition is sure to play out when the House of Representatives and the full Senate debate the measure in coming days.

 

 

Nevertheless, even staunch conservative lawmakers acknowledged that the climate for health reform is ripe. Spurred by public alarm over the rising cost of health care and dire projections about the future of Medicare and Medicaid, the Obama administration and the President’s allies in Congress have made overhauling the healthcare system a top legislative priority, and are pushing for fast-track passage of a bill before the end of the current session.

 

 

It’s too soon to tell just what impact the bill would have on some of the biggest issues of concern to retail pharmacy, such as Medicaid reimbursement. But concerns over costs and employer mandates aside, chain and independent pharmacy advocates have found much to like in the Affordable Health Care Choice Act.

 

 

As envisioned by HELP Committee chairman Sen. Edward Kennedy, the bill, if passed in its current form, would advance the concept of pharmacy care, elevate the role of pharmacists as patient-focused community health practitioners and exempt retail pharmacies from accreditation requirements for the sale of durable medical equipment, a cause long sought by pharmacy leaders.

 

 

Needless to say, the bill also would swell the roles of prescription drug customers by expanding affordable coverage to most of the estimated 45 million to 50 million uninsured Americans.

 

 

Among the pharmacy-friendly provisions championed by Kennedy and other supporters of the bill:

  • The establishment of community health teams to set up the “medical home” model of individualized health care for patients – a model that could include retail pharmacies as “homes;”
  • Funding of a pioneering grant program to implement medication therapy management for the treatment of chronic diseases;
  • Greater incentives to spur generic drug switching and the adoption of health information technology;
  • A greater emphasis on disease prevention through healthier lifestyle and nutrition, and closer coordination between health counselors (including pharmacists, presumably) and patients; and
  • The creation of an approval pathway for biogenerics at the Food and Drug Administration.

 

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Survey finds majority of Americans anticipate H1N1 outbreak during upcoming flu season

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON Approximately 6-in-10 Americans believe it is very or somewhat likely that there will be widespread cases of novel H1N1, with people getting very sick this coming fall or winter, according to a survey released Thursday.

Parents are more likely than people without children to believe this will occur, with 65% of parents saying it is very or somewhat likely, compared with 56% of people without children.

“These results suggest Americans are likely to support public health officials in prioritizing preparations for the possibility of a serious H1N1 outbreak in the fall or winter,” stated Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health, the organization which conducted the surveys.

Despite a majority believing that a serious outbreak is likely, more than half of Americans (61%) are not concerned about their personal risk — that is, that they or their family members will get sick from novel H1N1 in the next year. This level is unchanged since the previous poll conducted from May 5 to 6. The current survey further suggests that the World Health Organization’s decision to raise the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6 did not dramatically impact Americans’ level of concern about their personal risk. Only 22% of Americans knew that the WHO had raised the level, and only 8% of Americans said it made them more concerned that they or their family would get novel H1N1 in the next 12 months.

One approach that has been used in the recent outbreak as a means to slow the spread of novel H1N1 is the closing of schools. In this survey, substantial numbers of parents who have children in school or daycare report that two-week closings in the fall would present serious financial problems for them. About half (51%) of these parents report that if schools/daycares closed for two weeks, they or someone else in their household would likely have to miss work in order to care for the children. Forty-three percent of these parents report that they or someone in their household would likely lose pay or income and have money problems; 26% of these parents report that they or someone in their household would likely lose their job or business as a result of having to stay home in order to care for the children.

The situation is likely to be worse for minority parents. More African American and Hispanic parents of children in school/daycare indicate that they are likely to lose pay or income and have money problems (56% and 64% respectively), as compared to Caucasian respondents (34%). And, more African American and Hispanic parents of children in school/daycare report that they or someone in their household would likely lose their job or business (40% and 49% respectively), as compared with Caucasians (14%).

If the outbreak in the fall or winter is serious and leads to large-scale workforce absenteeism, the survey suggests the possibility of substantial difficulties for many people and the economy as a whole. If people had to stay home for seven to 10 days because they were sick or because they had to care for a family member who was sick, 44% indicate that they would be likely to lose pay or income and have money problems, and 25% reported that they would be likely to lose their job or business.

“The findings highlight the important role that employers would play during a future outbreak. Flexibility in their employee policies may help minimize some of the problems identified in this survey,” Blendon said.

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Reese introduces OneTabT dose Cold and Flu Products

BY Anna Mcgrath

CLEVELAND, OHIO Reese Pharmaceutical Co. announced the launch of its OneTabT line with three new OTC dye-free, cold and flu relief tablet products.

In exchange for the two-tablets dosage from the national brands and store-brand equivalents, Reese is providing consumers with a convenient one-tablet dosage, without altering the active ingredients.

OneTabT is available for the same price as competitive national brands but comes with six additional tablets and provides customers with 30 doses per package, compared with the 12 doses from national brands thanks to OneTabT’s easy one-tablet dosages.

Individual product offerings are available to help stop cold and flu, allergy and sinus as well as congestion and cough.

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