End of internet subsidy leaves millions facing telehealth disconnect

End of internet subsidy leaves millions facing telehealth disconnect

Good morning! I’m Sarah Jane Tribble, chief rural health correspondent for KFF Health News, and I’m writing this year about how a lack of broadband harms the health of rural Americans. If you’ve got a story to share, write me at [email protected].

Today’s edition: An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration endorsed an Alzheimer’s drug on Monday. Moderna’s latest combination influenza and coronavirus vaccine elicits a higher immune response, according to new data. But first …

Biden announces internet discounts as subsidy program sunsets

When the clock struck midnight on May 31, more than 23 million low-income households were dropped from a federal internet subsidy program that for years had helped them get connected.

The Affordable Connectivity Program was created in 2021, in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic, to help people plug into jobs, schools and health care by reducing their internet costs by up to $75 a month.

Helping connect households was particularly important in rural America, where telehealth services are often leaned on to fill health care gaps and address provider shortages.

But that aid evaporated last month when Congress didn’t move to keep it funded.

“Internet bills for millions of Americans are increasing because Congressional Republicans failed to act,” White House spokesperson Robyn Patterson emailed me.

Some lawmakers have argued that too much of the subsidy money went to people who don’t need it. Last month, Republicans and Democrats introduced proposals to address those concerns. The ACP debate continues, with a funding measure expected to be part of the Spectrum and National Security Act of 2024, under consideration Wednesday by the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

The day before the subsidies expired, White House officials offered a consolation prize, announcing they had worked out a deal with 15 internet providers that agreed to keep offering low-cost plans. The announcement isn’t really new, though, nor as robust as a previous deal.

In 2022, the Biden administration announced that 20 companies would offer plans for $30 a month or less. AT&T, Verizon and Comcast are among the players continuing to sell low-cost plans the administration says will benefit an estimated 10 million households.

Of course, low-cost plans still come with bills consumers must pay. And without the connectivity program’s monthly assistance, 77 percent of households that benefited from it will have to change plans or drop their internet connections, Jessica Rosenworcel, chair of the Federal Communications Commission, wrote in a letter to lawmakers.

“A consistent theme is that many ACP recipients are seniors on fixed incomes struggling to pay competing bills and make ends meet,” she wrote.

Those affected are people like Myrna Broncho, 69, a Shoshone-Bannock tribal member who talked with me at the Fort Hall Reservation in southeastern Idaho. She had qualified for a $75 subsidy, enough to eliminate her internet bill after she signed on last year.

Without the subsidy, she’ll have to “go back on my tight budget.” Retired and ranching, Broncho said she uses the internet for shopping, paying bills and keeping track of her health care.

Rosenworcel’s letter arguing for renewed funding for the ACP was sent to a handful of lawmakers, including Sens. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), who chairs the commerce committee, and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who has proposed greatly narrowing eligibility for the program.

KFF Health News is a national newsroom that produces in-depth journalism about health issues and is one of the core operating programs at KFF — an independent source of health policy research, polling, and journalism.

Alzheimer’s drug wins backing of FDA committee

An advisory committee to the FDA endorsed Eli Lilly’s Alzheimer’s drug, donanemab, paving the way for potential approval of a medication that can slow the disease’s progression, The Post’s David Ovalle and Daniel Gilbert report. During clinical trials, the drug demonstrated a 35 percent reduction in cognitive and functional decline over 18 months in early-stage Alzheimer’s patients.

Concerns about the drug’s safety were a key focus, with three patients in the trial experiencing fatal ARIA, a condition that can cause the brain to bleed or swell. Despite more deaths in the drug group, the FDA remains cautiously optimistic, citing similarities with other drugs targeting amyloid plaques. The endorsement sets the stage for potential approval of a drug that could offer hope to those battling Alzheimer’s disease.

In other agency news: The FDA and federal law enforcement announced Monday the creation of a task force to crack down on illegal e-cigarettes as elected officials increasingly criticize agencies for failing to stop dangerous, unregulated vaping products, David reports for the Health Brief.

The announcement comes as FDA and Justice Department officials are scheduled to testify Wednesday at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on unauthorized e-cigarettes.

Lawmakers have criticized the FDA for the slow pace in evaluating e-cigarette products; only 23 have been approved for marketing. Last week, the FDA lifted its prohibition on products made by Juul Labs, which is widely blamed for igniting youth vaping.

The Supreme Court could also address legal challenges involving how the agency regulates vapes. In April, House members from both parties questioned FDA Commissioner Robert Califf about China’s influx of disposable flavored vape products.

Moderna’s combined covid-flu vaccine on the horizon

Moderna’s latest combination shot has shown to elicit a stronger immune response in older adults compared with separate influenza and coronavirus vaccines given together, according to company data released Monday.

Company officials say the earliest the combined vaccine could hit the market is fall 2025, pending regulatory approval, The Post’s Fenit Nirappil reports.

What’s next? Federal health officials are focusing on updating and distributing annual coronavirus vaccines in the fall as part of a broader seasonal respiratory virus protection strategy. They have recommended booster shots for individuals ages 65 and older and those with compromised immune systems.

Advisers to the FDA proposed that vaccine manufacturers adjust coronavirus vaccines annually to target prevalent virus strains. Moderna officials suggest an annual combined vaccine that aligns with federal recommendations for both flu and coronavirus formulations.

Trump vows to be ‘side by side’ with group that wants abortion ‘eradicated’

Former president Donald Trump vowed to stand “side by side” with an antiabortion Christian coalition that opposes abortion under any circumstance, The Post’s Amy B Wang reports.

In his virtual address Monday to the Danbury Institute’s Life & Liberty Forum, the Republican presidential candidate told the group it was time to “defend religious liberty, free speech, innocent life, and the heritage and traditions that built America into the greatest nation in the history of the world.”

Abortion rights have become a focal point in the campaign as both Trump and President Biden remain neck and neck in the presidential race.

Biden’s campaign has pointed to the Danbury Institute’s website, which calls abortion “child sacrifice.”

“A second Trump term is sure to bring more extreme abortion bans with no exceptions, women punished for seeking the care they need and doctors criminalized for providing care,” Biden campaign spokeswoman Sarafina Chitika said in a statement.

Federal judge orders pharma company to fix or take down patents

The Post’s Dan Diamond sends us this dispatch.

Five of Teva Pharmaceuticals’ patents for its inhalers used to treat asthma and other conditions were “improperly listed” in the FDA registry known as the “Orange Book,” U.S. District Court Judge Stanley R. Chesler ruled.

“Teva must correct or delete the relevant Orange Book patent information listings to reflect the Judgment of this Court,” ordered Chesler, a George W. Bush appointee. The case, Teva v. Amneal, centers on generic inhaler competition.

It’s the latest development in Democrats’ growing fight with the pharma industry over whether companies are wrongly using their patents to block out generic competition, such as by making small cosmetic tweaks to inhalers and other products.

The Federal Trade Commission last year began warning pharma companies like Teva that many of their drug-device patents in the Orange Book were improper; the patent could not just focus on tweaks to a device, and needed to claim the active ingredient in the medication. (Chesler on Monday sided with the FTC’s amicus brief.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and other lawmakers also pressured Teva and other pharma companies earlier this year to cut the prices of their inhalers; while other companies agreed to a cap on out-of-pocket costs, Teva did not. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) also sent letters to eight pharma companies last week, pressing on similar issues.

Advocates cheered Chesler’s ruling. “This decision sets a powerful precedent and paves the way for a more competitive and affordable market in essential medicines,” Lee Hepner, senior legal counsel at the American Economic Liberties Project, said in a statement.

On the move: Angie Boliver, former president of AB Communications Strategies, is the new president and CEO of the Healthcare Supply Chain Association. She was previously senior legal counsel and vice president of strategic communications and public relations for Vizient, a national group purchasing organization, and was an attorney for Jones Day.

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#internet #subsidy #leaves #millions #facing #telehealth #disconnect,
#internet #subsidy #leaves #millions #facing #telehealth #disconnect


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