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Making Cancer Care Great Again

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Q: Donald Trump’s campaign for the presidency included a promise to repeal “Obamacare” in its entirety. If he succeeds in fulfilling that promise, what impact can we expect on American cancer prevention and cancer treatment?

A: Donald Trump, emboldened by eliminating ISIS, ending illegal immigration and energizing the economy, will eradicate cancer. Or at the very least, I predict, he will append it to his list of promised achievements as president.

Our current chief executive, dubbed “No Drama Obama” by his staff during the 2008 campaign, couldn’t resist the heady promise of a cancer “moonshot.” Trump, who’s declared, “I will take care of ISIS,” “close up those borders” and “jump-start America,” will likely rev up the rhetoric back to Nixonian “War on Cancer” levels.

A candidate whose campaign centered on his personal pledge to “make America great again” will surely be galvanized by the chance to make cancer care “great,” too.

The current Cancer Moonshot initiative, featured in President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union Address, is codified in a presidential memorandum of Jan. 28, 2016 and placed within the Office of the Vice President. While fighting cancer was of deep personal interest to Vice President Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Mike Pence was governor of Indiana, where pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly has a major portfolio of oncology products. Coincidentally, Lilly in October introduced a new version of its PACE Continuous Innovation Indicator (CII), a customizable, online tool to review progress against cancer in order to inform public policy and accelerate innovation.

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So what does Trump mean for new health tech?

Matthew-Holt-colorI’m a pundit who like everyone else was surprised by Trump’s victory in the (profoundly undemocratic and hopefully-to-be-abolished-soon) electoral college, and everything I say here is prefaced by the fact that there was very little discussion of healthcare specifics by Trump. So there’s no certainty about what will happen–to state the obvious about his administration!

What we do know is that Trump said he’d repeal & replace the ACA and the House has voted to repeal it many times (but the Senate has only once & Obama has always vetoed that repeal). A full and formal repeal requires 60 votes in the Senate which it won’t get with the Democrats holding 48. Note that the Democrats needed 60 votes to to forestall a Republican filibuster in order to pass the ACA in 2010. That 60 vote total is a very rare state of events which existed for only only one year–from Jan 2009 until Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s old seat in Jan 2010 and one we likely won’t see again for many years.

But this doesn’t does not mean things will continue as usual for two reasons. Congress can change the budget with the Republican 52 seat Senate majority, and the Administration can change regulations and stop enforcing them. So we have to assume that the new Administration and its allies(?) on the Hill will roll back the expansion of Medicaid which was responsible for most of the reduction in the uninsured (even if it didn’t happen in every state). They’ll also reduce or eliminate the subsidies which enable about 10m people to buy insurance using the exchanges. Both of those were in the repeal bill Obama vetoed, although in the bill the process was delayed for 2 years.

This of course may not happen or may be replaced by something equivalent because many of the people who voted for Trump (the rural, white, lower-income voters) fall into the category of those helped by the law, and in a few of his remarks he’s also said that he’ll be taking care of them. Even this week Senator Wicker (R-Mississippi) said that they weren’t going to take away 20 million people’s insurance. In Kentucky which went from a Democratic to Republican governor 2 years ago, the new administration ended their local exchange (from 2017), but in fact not much consequential happened as people were sent to the Federal exchange. If there are changes to the exchanges and the individual mandate or they’re both abolished, there’ll be lots of commotion but it won’t be completely system changing.

My day job at Health 2.0 involves running a conference and innovation program based on a community of companies using SMAC technologies to change health care services and delivery–either by starting new types of health care services or selling those technologies to the current incumbents. So I’m acutely interested in what happens next, albeit somewhat biased about my preferences!

Overall I think that (unlike many other areas of American life) health care technology won’t be that greatly affected. Continue reading…

Repealing and Replacing the ACA: A Whole New Ball Game. Same Problems Though.

I’ll dive right in, with the stipulation that this blog is initial reaction in a very fluid, unprecedented and soon-to-be even-more-intense political environment.  Fasten your seat belts!      

The ACA.   Replace is the critical word in “repeal and replace.”  Consensus is already emerging that Trump and the Republicans will indeed repeal the ACA in early 2017, via the reconciliation process Congress used earlier this year.  That resulted in the Senate’s first an only full ACA repeal vote.  Obama vetoed the bill, of course.   But Republicans demonstrated the do-ability of the reconciliation process.   Lacking 60 votes in the Senate, they’ll very likely try repeal again that way.Continue reading…

Dear (Quite Possibly) President Trump

Even the most ardent of Obamacare supporters are now forced to admit that the law has hit a rough patch this year. The opposition to Obamacare is positively gloating with self-congratulatory “I told you so” assessments of the supposedly dire situation. Defenders of the cause are counteracting with the customary deluge of charts and graphs to prove unequivocally that Obamacare is actually turning out better than they expected. Integrity and honesty being in short supply on both sides of this quandary, chances are excellent that no matter what happens next, the American people will lose big time, unless….

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Iowa Is Voting On Health Care Tonight

flying cadeuciiIn his last State of the Union address, President Obama stated that “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction”. I agree. The American economy has roared back from the Great Recession with 14 million new jobs, a ridiculously low unemployment rate, a booming stock market and 57 brand new American billionaires in 2015 alone.

The American people on the other hand are in a completely different boat. Almost a third of us are not working. Half of us have practically no savings and a record number is surviving on public assistance. Wages are stagnating and the middle class is shrinking. Student debt is skyrocketing and 20% of our kids live in poverty. Whereas in the immediate past the economy and the welfare of the people used to be one and the same, nowadays these terms have little if anything to do with each other.

The President did acknowledge that “the economy has been changing in profound ways” and therefore “a lot of Americans feel anxious”. To allay our collective anxiety, the President announced an unemployment program that will pay up to $10,000 to those who lose jobs to the economy fixing racket, money that can be used to retrain machinists, welders, builders and such, to flip burgers in the booming job market of the fixed economy.  The anxiety reduction program will also ease the transition to a “work-sharing” economy, where lower wages and no benefits, augmented by public assistance, a.k.a. the Walmart and Uber models, are the new normal.

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