House panel OKs ‘medicine stockpiling’ bill

calendar: House panel OKs ‘medicine stockpiling’ bill

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House panel OKs ‘medicine stockpiling’ bill

MANILA, Philippines — A House panel yesterday approved a bill seeking the stockpiling of medicines for public health emergencies like the current coronavirus pandemic.

The committee on health chaired by Quezon Rep. Helen Tan has approved the substitute to the proposed “Health Procurement and Stockpiling Act,” which seeks to ensure supply of critical drugs, vaccines, devices and materials in times of public health emergencies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to preposition critical and strategic pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as the supply of raw materials. The country needs to be proactive in its response to public health emergencies,” explained Tan, principal author of the bill.

The bill proposes the creation of the Health Procurement and Stockpiling Bureau under the Department of Health, which will absorb the existing Procurement Service and the Supply Chain Management Service and serve as the principal agency mandated to undertake a transparent, fair, proactive and innovative procurement service for the DOH.

The new bureau will be tasked to stockpile, conserve and facilitate the release of adequate amounts of potentially lifesaving pharmaceuticals, vaccines, devices and materials in times of public health emergencies.

It will also be mandated to identify strategic and critical drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials needed for public health emergencies that have the distinct capability of being stockpiled in strategic and secure areas of the country; supplement drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials to state supplies acting as a stopgap buffer when the immediate supply of adequate amounts of drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials may not be immediately available; and ensure the rotation, replenishment and freshness of stocks and that there exists at all times steady, available and adequate supplies in responding to public health emergencies.

The proposed DOH bureau will also lead in facilitating the creation of a conducive environment to encourage pharmaceutical and device self-sufficiency for medical supplies needed by the country and spearhead the crafting of a multi-sector National Drug and Device Security Program geared towards the country’s self-reliance in producing drugs and medicines, vaccines, devices and materials.

Tan pointed out that based on the Joint External Evaluation Mission report, the Philippines, due to its location, is one of the most natural-disaster prone countries in the world and in the past decade the country has faced challenges in making solid progress in infectious disease control.

“Given this situation, the country’s preparedness in times of public health emergencies is significantly necessary such as during pandemics and natural disasters,” the lawmaker stressed.?

In proposing the measure, Tan lamented how COVID-19 caught the country and the world flatfooted as it affected the global and local production and distribution of pharmaceuticals and medical devices as well as the supply of raw materials.

She recalled how some countries even imposed limits on export of medicines and medical supplies/equipment such as face masks, shields and ventilators to mitigate critical shortages in their countries likewise aggravated the situation.

The lawmaker cited, for

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MA Daylight Savings Bill Languishes As Clocks Fall Back

MASSACHUSETTS — Daylight savings time ends at 2 a.m. Sunday, meaning it’s time for the annual ritual of griping about shorter days and watching the sun set before the workday is over.

It’s also prime time to check in on a bill introduced in the Massachusetts legislature in January 2019 that, if passed, would keep Massachusetts permanently in daylight savings time. Co-sponsored by Senator John F. Keenan of Quincy and one of his constituents, Tom Emswiler, the bill would technically move Massachusetts out of the Eastern Time Zone and into the Atlantic Time Zone.

The bill has stalled, in part because the legislature has focused on the coronavirus pandemic this year. But Emswiler thinks the pandemic is reason to reconsider the bill, not an excuse to put it off.

“What better time to consider: Does it really make sense to arbitrarily shift our clocks for four short months?” Emswiler told Boston magazine earlier this month. “We’re already redesigning everything from work and school to weddings and Halloween. Why not commit now to stay on summer time?”

The proposal, which Emswiler has been championing for at least six years, isn’t just about having a little more daylight in the afternoons. Studies show workplace injuries, car crashes, pedestrian fatalities and heart attacks increase immediately when clocks “spring ahead” in March. There’s also a correlation between increased reports of Seasonal Affective Disorder and pushing the clocks back each fall.

About 5 percent of U.S. adults experience SAD each year, but experts worry those numbers will be higher this year with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Social interactions, which can offset the depression that accompanies SAD, are harder to coordinate in the year of social distancing. Add in the stress of trying to work from home, coordinate remote learning, a second wave of coronavirus infections and a chaotic presidential election, and the stress that fuels depression multiplies.

“All of these things that can actually improve our mood are all things that because of the quarantine, we can’t do at all, and having this extra added layer of shifting our clocks back so at 4:00 p.m. it’s dark in the winter makes it even harder to feel motivated to find something to do,” Dr. Eric Zhou, a clinical psychologist at Boston Children’s Hospital, told Boston. “So it’s these two elements that go hand-in-hand that might really make mood a major issue for individuals during this fall and winter.”

A commission that studied keeping Massachusetts on daylight savings time voted 9-1 in favor of it in 2017. But the commission said the switch would only work if other northeastern states made the change. Massachusetts is one of more than 30 states that has a bill pending to stay on daylight savings time.

For this year, however, Massachusetts residents will have to deal with dark afternoons, heading up to Dec. 3-12, when the sun will set at 4:11 p.m. in Boston. The days will continue to get shorter after that, with later sunrises, until the winter

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Coronavirus stimulus is ‘the best opportunity’ to help get the world vaccinated: Bill Gates [Video]

There’s a worldwide race to develop and test a workable coronavirus vaccine. And Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder Bill Gates hopes an area you might not expect — the never-ending stimulus negotiations Washington, DC — will be key in helping in the effort.

In a conversation with Andy Serwer for Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit this week, Gates said “the stimulus bill is the best opportunity” to get funding approved. The billions requested — he notes — could represent “less than 1% of the [overall] stimulus bill.”

Gates has been trying to secure those billions for a group called Gavi. That organization and a similar organization called the Global Fund “have spent two decades becoming experts in the task of financing vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics,” Gates recently wrote.

See also: Bill Gates slams Trump’s COVID-19 adviser as ‘pseudo-expert’ who’s ‘off-the-rails’

The Microsoft co-founder’s efforts have gained momentum even as the Trump administration had shied away from a leadership position in other areas of the global response to COVID-19.

‘We’re hopeful’

While gridlock in Washington has recently stalled stimulus talks, both parties have been responsive to greater U.S. involvement in funding a coronavirus vaccine.

The Republican stimulus proposal from July — known as the HEALS act — included $3 billion “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, which shall be made available for a United States contribution to The GAVI Alliance.” Funding for Gavi was not directly included in the Democrats’ proposal — known as the CARES Act — though House Democrats have passed legislation to create a Coordinator for Global Health Security.

Co-chair and Trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates, speaks to the gathering during the inauguration of the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in New Delhi, India on 18 November 2019. (Photo by Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Bill Gates speaks to the 8th International Conference on Agriculture Statistics in India in 2019. (Indraneel Chowdhury/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Gates notes that both Republicans and Democrats are now on the record for helping “and so we’re hopeful when there is a stimulus bill, which of course is not totally clear, that it will include this money.”

With the U.S. focused on a presidential election and Congress largely gridlocked, “the people in the Congress who support these things have decided that [the stimulus bill] is the most likely way for something to get done,” Gates said.

A push for the money ‘for our own self-interest’

While Gates is best known for his past role at Microsoft, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has long been a central player in the world’s public health debates and response from diseases like HIV to H1N1 and now COVID-19. The Gates foundation itself has currently pledged over $350 million to the global coronavirus response.

In February, the Trump administration had promised to commit $1.16 billion to Gavi over fiscal years 2020-2023. Estimates of the total cost to manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine to the 2 billion poorest people in the world have ranged somewhere between $12 billion and $16 billion. 

UNSPECIFIED LOCATION - APRIL 18: In this screengrab, (L-R) Melinda Gates and Bill Gates speak during "One World: Together At Home" presented by Global Citizen on April, 18, 2020. The global broadcast and digital special was held to support frontline healthcare workers and the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for the World Health Organization, powered by the UN Foundation. (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen )
Melinda Gates and Bill Gates during “One World: Together At Home” in support of frontline healthcare workers in April. (Getty Images/Getty Images for Global Citizen )

Gavi gathered in June and raised

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Fighting A High Medical Bill Takes Tenacity And Health Insurance Know-How : Shots

When Tiffany Qiu found herself on the hook for her usual 30% Blue Shield of California coinsurance after the hospital quoted 20%, she pushed back.

Shelby Knowles for KHN

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Shelby Knowles for KHN

When Tiffany Qiu found herself on the hook for her usual 30% Blue Shield of California coinsurance after the hospital quoted 20%, she pushed back.

Shelby Knowles for KHN

When Tiffany Qiu heard how much her surgery was going to cost her, she was sure the hospital’s financial department had made a mistake. Qiu already knew from a breast cancer scare earlier that year that her plan required a 30% coinsurance payment on operations, so she pressed the person on the phone several times to make sure she had heard correctly: Her coinsurance payment would be only 20% if she had the procedure at Palomar Medical Center in Poway, California, about 38 miles south of where Qiu lives.

“I was kind of in doubt, so I called them a second time,” said Qiu. “They gave me the exact same amount.”

Qiu had been diagnosed with uterine polyps, a benign condition that was making her periods heavier and more unpredictable. Her OB-GYN proposed removing them but said it was safe to wait. Qiu said that she asked about the possibility of doing it in the doctor’s office under local anesthesia to make the procedure cheaper, but that her doctor rebuffed her suggestion.

Because Qiu thought she was getting a deal on her usual 30% share of the bill, she decided to go ahead with the polyp removal on Nov. 5, 2019. As she sat in the waiting room filling out forms, staffers let her know she needed to pay in full before the surgery.

Unease set in. The hospital asked for the 20% coinsurance — $1,656.10 — that she had been quoted over the phone, but Qiu hadn’t been told she needed to pay on the day of the procedure. As she handed over her credit card, she confirmed one more time that this would be her total patient responsibility, barring complications.

The surgery was over in less than 30 minutes, and she walked out of the hospital with her husband, feeling perfectly fine.

Then the bill came.

Patient: Tiffany Qiu is a 49-year-old real estate agent and mother of two who lives in Temecula, California. Her family of four is covered by a Blue Shield of California policy that she and her husband purchased on the marketplace. Last year, they paid a $1,455 monthly premium, with an individual annual $1,850 deductible and an individual out-of-pocket maximum of $7,550.

Total Bill: Palomar Health billed Blue Shield $22,219.64 for the polyp removal, which the insurer negotiated down to $8,576.79. Blue Shield paid $5,769.72 and stated in an explanation of benefits document that Qiu was responsible for a $334.32 deductible and $2,472.75 coinsurance.

Because Qiu had already paid $1,873.20 on the day of surgery, the hospital billed her an additional $933.87, which meant Qiu was on

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New Bill Aims to End Racial Disparities in Amputations

On Friday, Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr., a Democrat from New Jersey, introduced a sweeping bill to reduce unnecessary amputations and address racial disparities that were the subject of a ProPublica story investigating why Black Americans were three times more likely to undergo diabetic amputations than others. The Amputation Reduction and Compassion Act of 2020 was introduced five months after the ProPublica investigation showed how government and hospital policies obstruct equitable care for at-risk patients.

The bill proposes major reforms that seek to address policy gaps explored in the article. Today, about half of patients with peripheral artery disease — a condition in which clogged arteries limit the flow of blood — are asymptomatic, and primary care physicians are not always reimbursed for screening. But catching and treating the disease, which is often caused by diabetes, is critical to preventing unnecessary amputations. The bill seeks to ensure that all at-risk patients can obtain a screening at no cost. It requires that Medicare and Medicaid cover the tests, as well as private insurers.

The ProPublica article also focused on how patients often undergo diabetic amputations without arterial testing beforehand. That testing, either with duplex scans or angiography, can show where blood flow is blocked and can indicate whether an intervention can restore blood flow before surgeons resort to amputation. But nationwide, more than 30% of patients don’t get arterial testing before amputation. One doctor likened this to removing a woman’s breast after she felt a lump, without first ordering a mammogram. The bill proposes that Medicare only pay for an amputation caused by vascular disease or diabetes if the patient has received arterial testing within three months of the surgery.

“The greatest problem with peripheral artery disease is that it can go undetected for years and lead to limb amputations that could be avoided with early detection,” said Congressman Payne, who launched the bi-partisan Congressional Peripheral Artery Disease Caucus with Congressman Gus Bilirakis, a Republican from Florida, in 2019. Payne said the bill provides resources to screen-at risk patients and educate doctors, which in turn will reduce racial disparities in amputations. Five co-sponsors, all Democrats, have signed onto the bill, including Congressman Bobby Rush, from Illinois, Congressman Ruben Gallego, from Arizona, Congressman Bennie Thompson, from Mississippi, Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, from Texas, and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, from Delaware.

Rush and Gallego joined the effort after reading the ProPublica article on the work of Dr. Fakorede, a cardiologist who is reducing amputation rates in Mississippi and advocating nationally for safeguards for patients. “I was shocked and disturbed by the investigative article published earlier this year in ProPublica,” Rush said by email. “The article succinctly highlighted the financial incentives to amputate diabetic patients’ limbs rather than invest earlier in preventive screenings, particularly for poor Black and Brown patients who are disproportionately and discriminatorily overlooked until it is too late.”

After reading the ProPublica article, Gallego was also galvanized to craft legislation to reduce unnecessary amputations. His office reached out to medical experts,

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