Trending News Today: HHS Secretary Nominee Not Facing Much Criticism

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

Yesterday, President Donald Trump said he supports 2 proposals that will stabilize the Affordable Care Act (ACA) if the individual mandate is repealed as part of a proposed GOP tax reform bill, according to The Hill. The bills would fund insurer payments and a new reinsurance program. Republicans said that the ACA legislation would offset any potentially negative impact caused by a repeal of the individual mandate, according to the article. Previously, critics said that without the provision, insurers would likely raise premiums and withdraw from the marketplace due to a lack of healthy customers enrolling.

Despite potential criticism from Democrats, Alex Azar—Trump’s pick for the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—has not received much outcry compared with other nominees, according to Politico. Republicans have said Azar is someone who will be able to get the department back on track, while some Democrats may be skeptical due to his past employment in the pharmaceutical industry. Although he may not receive Democratic votes, the party recognizes Azar as someone with a history with the HHS and a potential willingness to work across party lines, according to the article. Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told Politico that, “there are reasons to want to be hopeful here.”

The opioid epidemic has resulted in a boom in urine screenings, which are paid for by Medicare and other insurers as a way to curb substance abuse, according to Kaiser Health News. If patients fail the screening, federal guidelines state that physicians should discuss the results and stop opioid treatment if needed. Despite the potential benefits of the tests, some physicians may not address substance use issues and continue to profit from prescribing the drugs and ordering tests, according to the article. Kaiser said that insurers do not have the resources to verify the tests are being ordered to benefit patients.