Good morning ... Here’s some health care news I sincerely hope you cannot use: The CDC does not want you to snuggle your pet hedgehog.
More than half of federal spending will soon be dedicated to seniors, according to the latest estimates from Congress’ official budget scorekeeper.
Why it matters: That spending will be driven largely by the steadily rising cost of health care. And futzing around the edges of the system won’t change that trend.
Between the lines: Medicare and Social Security alone cost the federal government roughly $1.3 trillion last year, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s latest estimates.
Aging baby boomers and rising health care costs are the main drivers of that spending. Per-person health care costs “are projected to grow faster than the economy over the long term,” CBO said.
For the first time, a pharmaceutical CEO is officially on trial for charges related to the opioid crisis. Opening arguments began yesterday in the trial of former Insys CEO John Kapoor, who — along with 4 other Insys executives — faces racketeering charges over the marketing of Subsys, a prescription fentanyl product.
Driving the news: Kapoor's lawyer sought to shift the blame to other Insys employees, Bloomberg reports, telling the jury during her opening statement that one of those employees hid payments to doctors from the CEO.
Why it matters: The judge in the Insys case told jurors yesterday not to let it become a “referendum on U.S. health-care policy," per Bloomberg.
Speaking of which: A Massachusetts judge ruled yesterday that Massachusetts' full, un-redacted complaint against Purdue must be released publicly. Purdue had fought the full release of the complaint, pitting it against the state attorney general as well as several news outlets.
Kaiser Health News and NPR are back with another installment of their “Bill of the Month” series: This time, it’s a guy who fainted after getting a flu shot, was taken to the ER, and ended up with a $4,692 bill.
The biggest culprit, at almost $3,000 of the total bill, was the ER’s “facility fee” — a charge just for walking in the door, not for any particular services.
"It's not a perfect system. Hospitals have an incentive to do a CT exam, and taxi drivers have an incentive to take the long way home,” the David McKenzie, reimbursement director at the American College of Emergency Physicians, told NPR.
Go deeper: Vox did a good rundown of rising facility fees as part of its own series on hospital billing.
Sen. Chuck Grassle (R-Iowa). Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images
The shutdown is over, and the new Congress is getting down to business with a slew of health care hearings. Axios' Caitlin Owens rounds them up:
What we're watching: This will probably be a lot of posturing, with Democrats talking tough, Republicans straddling a line between tough talk and a light touch when it comes to actual legislation, and pharma trying to keep Republicans in its corner.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) sure doesn't sound like she's planning to soften her support for Sen. Bernie Sanders' version of "Medicare for All."
CNN's Jake Tapper asked Harris about the Sanders bill during an interview last night, specifically asking whether people who like their existing plans could keep them. Here's what she said:
"The idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don't have to go through the process of going though an insurance company ... going through the paperwork ... Let's eliminate all of that. Let's move on."
Between the lines: Harris cosponsored Sanders' bill, so in one sense this isn't surprising. So did fellow 2020 candidates Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and potential candidate Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.).
After having practically eradicated measles from the U.S. almost two decades ago, a growing anti-vaccination movement has led to a resurgence of cases, currently concentrated in the Pacific Northwest and New York.
Public health officials are concerned the pro-vaccination message isn't getting through.
What they're saying: "When we see outbreaks of measles like this one, it’s a reminder to parents that many diseases rarely seen in the United States can affect their unvaccinated children," said Nancy Messionnier, the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.