Good morning, readers! This is Sy.
Let's cut to the chase: The big news out of Washington on Monday was the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) newly released analysis of the Senate's health care bill. Its conclusions were pretty dramatic.
The agency projects that 22 million more Americans would be uninsured under the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) by 2026 compared with current law (i.e., Obamacare). That includes a prediction of 15 million fewer insured by next year. Premiums would also rise substantially at first, and then take a massive dip after 2020. The reason? Significantly lower levels of assistance to people buying insurance and a shift toward benchmark plans which cover significantly less out-of-pocket medical costs. (In Obamacare, a benchmark plan comes with an actuarial value of 70%; a benchmark plan under the Senate's bill would have actuarial value of just 58%, essentially putting far more financial onus on patients.)
For a fuller read on the CBO's report, check out my breakdown from yesterday here. In the meantime, the political math has become far more demanding for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, with key GOP Senators saying they won't even vote yes on the motion to proceed on the bill, much less the legislation itself. The legislation could be changed and shift the political ground once more—but GOP leadership's ambitious goal of voting on a bill before the July 4th Congressional recess just became a lot harder to achieve.
Read on for the day's other news.
CloudHealth Technologies pulls in $46 million in latest funding round. CloudHealth Technologies, a firm focusing on the use of cloud platforms in health IT infrastructure, has raised $46 million in a Series D round led by Kleiner Perkins and joined by other existing investors. That brings the firm's funding haul up to $86 million and underscores the changing shape of health IT, which is increasingly relying on cloud-based solution for data storage and transfer.
Merck among companies wound up in global cyberattacks. In a series of tweets this morning, U.S. drug giant Merck said that the company's computer network "was compromised today as part of [a] global hack." The firm noted that other companies and organization had also been affected by cyberattacks on Tuesday. Other attacks have targeted airports, banks, and oil giants in Russia and Ukraine.
The FDA is trying to get more cheap generic drugs on the market. In a striking move, the Food and Drug Administration has published a list of off-patent drugs which have lost exclusivity and don't have any approved generic versions. Although the FDA can't dictate prices or reject therapies over pricing concerns (they can only focus on safety and efficacy), the agency can encourage more competition through moves like this (as well as speedier approval pathways) which could spur drug makers to produce products that ultimately lower costs for patients—a goal cited by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb in announcing the list.
Merck scores a surprise win for its long-doubted heart drug. In a surprising twist, Merck's anacetrapib, a heart disease drug, produced strong results in a large clinical trial of 30,000 patients, according to the company. That's striking because the treatment is part of a class called CETP medicines which haven't proven particularly successful in previous studies. Merck shares spiked briefly before some skepticism surrounding the data emerged from investors. The drug maker's stock is now flat.
Congressmen lose big on Australian biotech bet. Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) is a board member for the Australian biotech Innate Pharmaceuticals and one of its biggest stakeholders. He believes in the company so much that he convinced several of his fellow Republicans—including HHS Secretary Tom Price—to put some serious money into the company. Now, that tip isn't looking so hot. After a clinical trial failure, shares of the biotech plunged to 4 cents per share on Tuesday. Price, at the very least, got out of his investment well before the plunge. (STAT News)
THE BIG PICTURE
Half of all opioids are given to mental health patients. Kaiser Health News reports that an enormous swath of the nation's opioid prescriptions are given to mental health patients. In fact, these Americans receive half of all opioid prescriptions. That's a huge problem given the country's ongoing opioid and prescription painkiller overdose epidemic. "Because patients with mental health disorders are a vulnerable population, [they’re] probably more likely to develop addiction and abuse," as researcher Dr. Brian Sites puts it.
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