The Health News USA July 24 2017


  • As Republican senators have no clue what is happening with Obamacare repeal next week. Senators are unsure about the status of a health care vote. Lawmakers wondered whether there would be a vote and what exactly they would be voting on.
  • U.S. drug distributor Cardinal Health has put its China business up for sale after the so-called “two-invoice” procurement system was introduced for drug distribution.
  • Millions of Americans got health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act. Though efforts in Congress to overhaul the law collapsed, Republicans including President Trump, say they haven’t given up on repealing the law.

News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 24th of July 2017. Read by Tabetha Moreto. Health News

As Republican senators prepared to make their familiar dash to airports and train stations Thursday evening,  many were in agreement:  We have no clue what is happening with Obamacare repeal next week.  At the end of a chaotic work week in Washington,  senator after senator interviewed by CNN said they were unsure about the status of a health care vote that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced earlier in the week.  Lawmakers wondered out loud whether there would be a vote  — and more importantly,  what, exactly, they would be voting on.  Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski was asked by a reporter Wednesday night as she exited a health care meeting whether she would oppose a “motion to proceed” vote  — a procedural hurdle that must be cleared to kick off debate on a bill on the Senate floor.

McConnell pulled the plug on that bill this week.  He announced, instead, that there would be a procedural vote early next week  aimed at considering a repeal-only measure that Republicans passed in two thousand and fifteen and was vetoed by former President Barack Obama.

“Regretfully,  it is now apparent that the effort to repeal and immediately replace the failure of Obamacare will not be successful,”  McConnell said late Monday.

But that plan drew swift opposition  — including from President Donald Trump.

In surprising remarks from the White House Wednesday,  Trump told senators he wanted them to focus on a repeal-and-replace strategy,  despite having tweeted as recently as Monday that it was time for Republicans to just repeal Obamacare.

Senators openly acknowledged that the President’s unexpected comments shifted the dialogue.  “The President’s being adamant about (doing) replace probably changes the dynamics as to what we vote on,”  Sen. Bill Cassidy said on CNN Thursday, before acknowledging: “We have to wait and see what that is.”  Senators will technically be voting to take up the House-passed bill,  but what is unclear is what they will replace it with.  Senators wonder if there will be a consensus plan by the time the vote happens.  For senators concerned about the bill,  agreeing to begin debate without having consensus on a replacement would be a leap of faith they might not want to take  because once the Senate is debating the bill,  there will be enormous pressure for them to vote “yes” on final passage.

U.S. drug distributor Cardinal Health has put its China business up for sale,  drawing keen interest from state-backed Chinese pharmaceutical firms in a deal that may be worth up to one point five billion dollars,  sources familiar with the matter said.

Shanghai Pharmaceutical Holding Co Ltd,  China Resources Pharmaceutical Group Ltd  and Sinopharm Group Co Ltd  are among those wanting to buy Cardinal Health China, one of the nation’s largest drug distributors,  said the first source who had direct knowledge of the matter.  A second source confirmed the sale process.  Cardinal wants to exit over worries China’s upcoming drug distribution reform could slow its growth, according to the first source.  The Ohio-based company has also been diversifying,  and in April announced a six point one billion dollar deal for Medtronic Plc’s medical supplies units.  It has hired Lazard as an adviser for the China sale, according to the sources.  The first round of bidding is due around Friday, said the first source.

Cardinal’s China business,  which operates sixteen distribution centers in twenty cities,  generated over three point five billion dollars in revenue last year, compared to over three billion dollars in two thousand and fifteen, according to its earnings report.

In two thousand and ten,  Cardinal became the first major U.S. wholesaler to invest in China’s drug distribution market with its four hundred seventy million dollar takeover of privately held Zuellig Pharma China,  known locally as Yong Yu,  the largest pharma importer in the country.

Cardinal has since acquired several other Chinese distributors and rebranded the whole business as Cardinal Health China.

Kathy Holbrook was at home one night last year when she started having chest pains, so the 63 three-year-old former office manager drove to a hospital near her home in the eastern Kentucky mountains.  “I am a Christian lady, so I believe in the power of prayer and I was just praying to God to give me the strength to get there,” she said.  She made it, and doctors treated her for a small blockage in her heart.  Because Holbrook has Medicaid,   the hospital got paid for its services, helping it keep its doors open and preventing Holbrook from a more perilous drive to the next nearest hospital more than thirty miles away.  Millions of Americans got health insurance through the expansion of Medicaid programs in thirty one states under the Affordable Care Act.  Though efforts in Congress to overhaul the law collapsed,  many remain nervous as some Republicans,  including President Donald Trump,  say they haven’t given up on repealing the law.  People who work at hundreds of rural hospitals are also watching closely.  Those hospitals have struggling budgets that were propped up by the massive influx of poor people who gained taxpayer-funded health insurance.

Just two years ago,  fifteen of Kentucky’s sixty five rural hospitals were in danger of closing.  Since then, more than four hundred forty thousand Kentuckians  — nearly ten percent of the state’s population  — got health coverage through Medicaid after the state chose to expand the program under the Affordable Care Act.  In two thousand and twelve,  Kentucky hospitals provided two point four billion dollars worth of “uncompensated care.”  Three years later, it was seven hundred eighty six million dollars, a sixty seven percent drop.  “It has helped them tremendously,” said Mike Rust,  president and chief executive officer of the Kentucky Hospital Association.  But the Medicaid expansion could disappear under Republican proposals.  The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates as many as twenty three million Americans could lose their health insurance under a House-approved bill.

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