Aug 8, 2019

Medicare will now cover a costly cell therapy for cancer patients

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

A lab tech handles a CliniMACS Prodigy automated device used for cell processing. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy has been hailed as a major advance in clinical cancer care. Photo: GERARD JULIEN/AFP/Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced yesterday that Medicare will cover the innovative but expensive cancer treatment CAR-T, providing "consistent and predictable patient access nationwide," CMS administrator Seema Verma said.

By the numbers: The treatment, which is customized for each individual patient, costs $375,000 or $475,000, depending on the type of cancer, the Washington Post notes. The overall cost can rise by hundreds of thousands of dollars when hospital stays are factored in.

What they're saying: The agency announced last week that it was bumping up what Medicare will reimburse for CAR-T, but it fell short of what hospitals say they need to cover the cost of administering it.

Details: Yesterday's finalized decision contained a win for hospitals, as an earlier proposal would have required them to collect and report patient data over a long time period. Hospitals said this was too burdensome, per the Post.

  • The decision would also allow CAR-T to be given on an outpatient basis.

Go deeper: CAR-T payment challenges are only beginning

Go deeper

John Kelly defends James Mattis against Trump attacks

John Kelly in the White House in July 2017. Photo: Cheriss May/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Former White House chief of staff John Kelly defended James Mattis on Thursday after President Trump attacked the former defense secretary as "the world's most overrated general" and claimed on Twitter that he was fired.

What he's saying: “The president did not fire him. He did not ask for his resignation,” Kelly told the Washington Post in an interview. “The president has clearly forgotten how it actually happened or is confused."

Barr claims "no correlation" between removing protesters and Trump's church photo op

Attorney General Bill Barr said at a press conference Thursday that there was "no correlation" between his decision to order police to forcibly remove protesters from Lafayette Park and President Trump's subsequent visit to St. John's Episcopal Church earlier this week.

Driving the news: Barr was asked to respond to comments from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who said Tuesday that he "did not know a photo op was happening" and that he does everything he can to "try and stay out of situations that may appear political."

Updates: Cities move to end curfews for George Floyd protests

Text reading "Demilitarize the police" is projected on an army vehicle during a protest over the death of George Floyd in Washington, D.C.. early on Thursday. Photo: Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Several cities are ending curfews after the protests over the death of George Floyd and other police-related killings of black people led to fewer arrests and less violence Wednesday night.

The latest: Los Angeles and Washington D.C. are the latest to end nightly curfews. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan tweeted Wednesday night that "peaceful protests can continue without a curfew, while San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted that the city's curfew would end at 5 a.m. Thursday.