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Health Reform Efforts Going Nowhere after AHCA Pulled


Also in this week's Practice Notes: President Trump launches opioid epidemic committee, while proposing budget cuts to mental health services.

Welcome to Practice Rounds, our weekly column exploring what's being covered in the larger world of healthcare.

GOP Healthcare Bill Back on Agenda?

On March 24, the Republican plan to repeal and replace parts of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was pulled at the last minute before reaching the House floor. The bill failed to garner enough support due to division within the Republican Party. Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans reportedly would have voted against the bill, according to ABC News. That evening, President Trump came out publically and stated he was moving on to tax reform, while declaring that the ACA was "exploding," according to The Washington Post, and put the issue in the Democrats' hands.

A few days later, it was reported by The New York Times that the AHCA was back on the agenda. Moreover, at a White House reception for Senators that evening, Trump called for Republicans and Democrats to work together and predicted "we are all going to make a deal on health care." according to The Hill. Yet, the Republicans second effort to reform healthcare does not appear to be moving anywhere near the break-neck pace of the first attempt to pass the AHCA legislation, according to NPR.

Trump Launches Opioid Commission

On March 29, President Trump signed an executive order to take action against the nation's ongoing opioid epidemic. The order creates a commission, The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which will be headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The committee plans to put together a report for this fall that will include numbers on the crisis and potential solutions. The executive order does not provide a specific plan for combating the opioid epidemic, leading some to question Trumps dedication to the cause. Trump has also proposed budget cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s mental health block grants in order to fund the building of the wall, according to Stat News

Kansas Looks to Expand Medicaid after AHCA Tabled

On March 28, Kansas lawmakers voted to expand Medicaid by a vote of 25-to-14. The bill, which saw 16 Republicans in favor of it and 14 against it, would make 150,000 additional residents eligible. The vote was eye-opening due to the states long-standing Republican leaning and comes shortly after the GOP healthcare bill was abandoned. On Thursday, Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed the bill, citing its burdens on the administration. The Kansas House debated overriding the veto shortly after Brownback's announcement, but tabled the debate after an hour. Expansion supporters are three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor's veto in the House and two votes shy in the Senate.

FBI Warns Healthcare Industry of Cyber Attacks

On March 22, the Cyber Division of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued an alert, warning the healthcare industry that cybercriminals are actively targeting File Transfer Protocol (FTP) servers. These servers, used to transfer data, are often unsecured and can be accessed by anonymous users who enter a generic username and gain access to protected health information.  

Although these FTP servers are often used by researchers for professional purposes, cybercriminals can access the servers to "store malicious tools or launch targeted cyberattacks," according to the FBI alert. The FBI recommends healthcare organizations check their networks for FTP servers running on anonymous mode and remove any protected health information on those servers.

Quote of the week:

"We encourage physicians to do what they've always done: give good patient care. We've done that through professional care, irrespective of the system around us." – AMA president-elect David Barbe's advice to physicians

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