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This Week in Health Care Reform - January 6th, 2017

The new Congress gets underway; drug prices are projected to grow at a faster pace than last year; and, telehealth takes aim at childhood obesity.

Week in Review

115th Congress: No sooner had they gaveled the 115th Congress into session then Republican Senators began to immediately move towards executing their plan to repeal and, eventually, replace the Affordable Care Act.  Having promised such action prior to convening, members of the Senate Budget Committee wasted no time Tuesday releasing a budget resolution aimed at eliminating funding for the health care law.  While a vote isn’t expected in the Senate before next week, stakeholders are urging lawmakers to adopt a measured approach as they marshal their energies for the first big legislative test facing the new Congress and an untested Administration.

Rx Price Trajectory: Any optimism that the New Year would bring about a positive change in the direction of prescription drug prices was quickly dispelled last week after a new analysis was released pointing to, not only a continuation, but a slight worsening, of the upward trajectory currently wreaking havoc in drug prices.  According to research performed by Segal Consulting, prescription drug costs for Americans under the age of 65 are projected to increase 11.6 percent this year compared to the 11.3 percent price increase experienced by this same group last year.  While older Americans may see a bit of relief, experiencing a 9.9 percent increase in 2017 compared to 2016’s 10.9 percent, both projections significantly outpace the 2.5 percent growth projected for wages this year.
Telehealth's Latest Target:
A new program seeks to deploy technology in the ongoing effort to address childhood obesity.  Launched by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the telehealth project enables the hospital’s registered dietician nutritionists to keep tabs on at-risk patients through a mobile application, an activity tracker, and a scale that monitors weight.  With estimates pegging obesity costs to the health care system at over $147 billion annually, and with two out of three Americans being overweight or obese, helping children develop better habits early on could go a long way in combatting the issue for the next generation of patients.  And, while some are quick to point out that telehealth is only a component thread in the larger fabric of care that needs to be wrapped around underserved populations, others remain steadfast in their belief that leveraging technology is the key to improving our health care system, writ large.  However, telehealth continues to face challenges even as its ubiquity grows
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Looking Ahead

With the calendar having turned to 2017, experts take a look at what the year ahead holds in store for health care.

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