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GOP bill would exempt all plans from health reform

Washington -- A bill drafted by House Republicans would exempt more health insurance plans from regulations under the health system reform law. GOP lawmakers discussed legislation to block the Dept. of Health and Human Services from enforcing reform law provisions during a Sept. 15 Energy and Commerce health subcommittee hearing. A draft version of the bill circulated during the hearing would grant grandfathered status to all health plans operating before the reform law was enacted on March 23, 2010. Such legislation would prevent HHS from implementing new mandates regarding coverage and health plan administration, said Rep. Joseph Pitts (R, Pa.), the subcommittee's chair. "That way, consumers who really do like the coverage they have really get to keep it." Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D, N.J.) disputed the notion that Americans have lost insurance coverage they enjoyed before the enactment of the reform law. The Republican proposal is just a ploy to repeal the statute, he said. ...

Even brief explanations help patients make better medication decisions

Patients can choose safer, more effective medications if they are told about a drug's harms and benefits and they understand that newer doesn't always mean better when it comes to prescription drugs, a study says. The study in the Sept. 12 Archives of Internal Medicine involved an Internet-based randomized trial of about 3,000 people. Thirty-nine percent of respondents believed that the Food and Drug Administration approves only "extremely effective" drugs, and 25% believed the FDA approves only drugs without serious side effects. Participants made better choices about medications when they were given explanations about the drugs. For example, after a 23-word explanation about a drug's benefits and unknowns, 12% more people correctly chose a drug that reduced myocardial infarctions over one known to improve only cholesterol levels. A 37-word explanation about new drug safety led to 19% more people correctly choosing a heartburn drug with a longer track record, the study found. ...

Illinois doctors need Medicaid preapproval for 17 mental health drugs

Illinois budget woes have led the state's Medicaid agency to place an administrative hurdle in front of physicians seeking coverage for certain medications to treat depression, psychosis, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and other illnesses. Patient advocates say the barrier is affecting care. Beginning in May, the Illinois Dept. of Healthcare and Family Services excluded 17 drugs from its preferred drug list, meaning that physicians who wish to prescribe these medications must call or fax to obtain a coverage preauthorization. The list of drugs moved to the nonpreferred list includes relatively new treatments such as aripiprazole, also known by the brand name Abilify. The Medicaid agency expects that the change will save the state $90 million in its first year. The agency spends nearly $180 million a year on atypical antipsychotics -- the department's most expensive drug class. The four classes -- anticonvulsants, antidepressants, ADHD agents and atypical antipsychotics ...