Trending News Today: High Deductible Plans May Not Initially Cover Chronic Conditions

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

A common blood pressure drug used in combination with regular treatment may prevent lethal brain hemorrhages and help treat malaria, reported The New York Times. It’s estimated that more than 400,000 people die from malaria, with young children in Africa accounting for most of the deaths. In a new study, researchers conducted experiments on mice infected with cerebral malaria. The results showed that 82% of infected mice treated with chloroquine died, compared with only 35% who were treated with a combination of chloroquine and the blood pressure drug irbesartan. Authors noted that although the treatment was successful in mice, it may not predict the same success in humans. As of now, researchers are seeking funding for a clinical trial of irbesartan and other candidates in humans with cerebral malaria.

The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange has launched a new mobile app that allows Marylanders to enroll in Maryland Health Connection health coverage from their tablet or mobile device. According to The Washington Post, consumers who use the free Enroll MHC app can apply, and compare prices and ratings of various plans. Furthermore, they can log in to view their notices and upload documents for verification through the camera on their device. The app will show preliminary eligibility for federal tax credits and cost-sharing for private plans that are offered through the state’s health insurance marketplace. It will also indicate user eligibility for Medicaid and the Maryland Children’s Health Program. At this time, the app includes 2016 and 2017 plans, and will be loaded next month. The open enrollment will begin November 1, 2016.

Although some insurers and employers are covering certain benefits, such as physician office visits or generic drugs for individuals who have reached their plan’s deductible, a rule under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) states that high-deductible plans that are set up to link to health savings accounts can only cover preventive services like mammograms and vaccines, until patients have bought enough services on their own to pay down their deductible. According to Kaiser Health News, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress in July of this year that would allow high-deductible plans that link the HSA to cover care for chronic conditions before plan members have met their deductibles. The legislation has been endorsed by policymakers and consumer groups who are proponents of value-based insurance design.