Friday News Dump: Wonkbites

by Adrianna McIntyre 

Here are some health policy stories from the week to distract from yesterday’s ill-received news that Ben Affleck is the new Batman.

  1. Obamacare stands to benefit lots of young people—if they know about it. Many don’t. The Commonwealth Fund released a new study this week, and offers a mixed bag. On the one hand, it found that about 8 million individuals were able to stay on their parents’ plans as dependents as a likely result of the under-26 provision. And lots of young adults stand to benefit from the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies and Medicaid expansion (as I’ve detailed here, here, and here). But less than a third of people under 29—and less than 20% of those who were uninsured in the last year—were aware of the insurance exchanges.
  2. Pharmaceutical innovation isn’t declining—me-too drugs are. Conventional wisdom holds that drug development has been slowing over recent decades, despite pharmaceuticals increasing in cost. This (gated) article uses a new metric, breaking drugs into “first-in-class, advance-in-class, and addition-to-class”, and concludes that only the development of addition-to-class (“me too”) drugs has driven the slowdown trend, while truly new classes of drugs are being discovered at the same rate. These findings should allay some concerns that have been voiced about declines in pharmaceutical innovation.
  3. UPS vs. ACA. The United Parcel Service has cited the Affordable Care Act as a contributing factor in their decision to cease offering benefits to the spouses of employees. The Bloomberg editorial board notes that as a large, self-insured employer, UPS is exempt from a large swathe of the new requirements, though some (like limits on out-of-pocket medical expenses) remain. Health reform is implementation creates an environment where businesses can make unpopular decisions about health coverage and blame it on the law. Surely, some changes will be attributable to the law. But it’s worth keeping in mind that some changes in benefits—and changes have been happening for years—are business decisions that would’ve transpired with or without Obamacare.
  4. Dr. Dangerous? An investigation by USA Today has found that thousands of doctors banned from practicing in certain medical facilities still have their licenses. Some errors and accidents happen in the course of practicing medicine—but some physicians are egregious offenders. Licensing laws vary from state to state; medical boards in some states must wade through red tape that can drag out the process of license revocation for years.
  5. The naturwissenchaften of “weird” languages. English has a lot of quirks—but according to a new study, it’s not the weirdest of languages. Full disclosure: I’m mostly sending you here for the embedded Youtube video, which is terrific.

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Adrianna is a graduate student in public policy and public health at the University of Michigan.
Follow her on Twitter at @onceuponA or subscribe to the blog.

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