In the News: Dec 14–21

NEW: Tax Reform Bill Passes House and Senate

On Wednesday, December 20, a sweeping tax reform bill passed both the House and Senate. In addition to significant permanent corporate tax cuts and more modest, temporary cuts to individual tax rates, the bill eliminates the penalty associated with the individual mandate to have qualified health insurance coverage starting in 2019. The vote was almost entirely divided along party lines—no democrats voted for the bill, and 12 House Republicans voted against it. It is expected that President Trump will sign the bill into law in early January 2018. This vote continues to underscore the current administration’s push for deregulation and sets up critical decisions that will need to be made at the state level, as governors in California, Maryland and New York (among others) have initiated discussions about reinstating the state-level mandate.

Sg2 has been keeping tabs on health care policy changes and what they mean for the health care landscape. For more information, check out the Sg2 on-demand webinar, Payment and Policy Update 2017 and the September 2016 Sg2 Letter, Unraveling of the Public Exchange Markets: Now What?

Gene Therapy Deployed to Treat Hemophilia

A recent New England Journal of Medicine study details the use of gene therapy to improve the body’s production of clotting factors that prevent bleeding, ultimately leading to long-term intervention for hemophilia. Currently, hemophilia B sufferers require routine injections of blood clotting factors, which pose financial and lifestyle challenges. This new intervention provides patients with a one-time injection of a piece of gene sequences that prompts the body to produce increased levels of the clotting factor.

Such an approach suggests that interventional genetics could be the key to future medical treatments. To learn more about Sg2’s perspective on the future of gene therapy and other innovative medical interventions, register for our Disrupters to Watch in 2018 webinar.

Committee Wants Continuum of Care for Mental Health Services

An Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee report calls for a “national system of crisis intervention” and details 45 recommendations for installing a holistic approach that spans a continuum of care. This relatively new, Congress-installed committee consists of 24 multidisciplinary members whose goal is to improve federal programs and agencies serving people with mental health issues.

The report includes recommendations surrounding federal coordination of care, early identification, improving access and treatment efficacy, criminal justice system and emergency department diversion, and affordable care. Alternatives to inpatient care are considered of the utmost importance.

The obstacles blocking effective behavioral health care are well known to providers and health systems, but this report is a clear indicator of federal action. Review Sg2’s Basic to Comprehensive Behavioral Health Offerings for help considering the continuum of care your organization can offer.

The Federal Communications Commission Repeals Net Neutrality

As Sg2 has covered at length, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal net neutrality rules 3-2 this past week. This is an unsurprising, yet troubling, development for health systems across the country, as all hospitals consume large amounts of data bandwidth supporting wireless connectivity for patients and staff alike. Throttling the speed of these services, as well as adding layers of cost to supporting them, will inevitably be problematic for many.

Most agree that the result of this regulatory change will be a tiering affect, with providers needing to choose between low-cost, unreliable internet and high-cost, high-speed internet. This is especially concerning for smaller community hospitals supporting rural areas that simply can’t afford higher costs, yet serve communities that disproportionately rely on virtual health services. The FCC could set aside a health care carve-out that would exempt health care providers from these rules, but there has been very little discussion of this approach yet.

To learn more, refer the Sg2 expert insight: Establishing Viable Virtual Health as Net Neutrality Ends.


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