Louisiana Is Getting an Unlimited Supply of a $24K Hep C Cure (HBO)

Louisiana has struck a deal to improve access to a Hepatitis C cure so expensive that some people only acquire the drug once they already have liver damage.

Gilead Sciences, the owner of Hepatitis C cure Epclusa, will now provide an unlimited supply of the generic version of the drug to people covered by Medicaid and in Louisiana’s state prisons. Asegua, a subsidiary of Gilead making the generic, will supply the drugs.

The list price of Epclusa is $74,760; the generic is priced at $24,000. Medicaid receives a discount price, but in many states, including Louisiana, Medicaid only approves the treatment after Hepatitis C causes severe liver damage because of its astronomical cost.

Under the deal, dubbed the “Netflix model,” Louisiana will pay for the Hep C cure up to a negotiated spending cap in exchange for an unlimited supply of the drug over five years. The state will then receive a rebate from Gilead for all its expenses above that cap.

The Louisiana Department of Health first chose Gilead as a partner for the deal back in March, after three drug companies submitted proposals to the state. Since then, negotiations stalled, to the point that the agreement nearly fell through entirely. But this week, the deal closed, Louisiana Secretary of Health Rebekah Gee confirmed to VICE News.

Gee said she hoped to not spend more than $30 million — the cost of treating only 326 people last year, according to the state’s Department of Health. The pricing cap won’t be announced until next week, but Gee told VICE News that Gilead agreed to a higher amount than that. Louisiana will hold an official signing on the deal next week, according to Gee.

“We need to get our money’s worth,” Gee said. “Our goal is 10,000 [treated people] next year, but we’ll have to hit a lot less than that to make it work.”

Gee estimated that around 40,000 people in Louisiana suffer from Hepatitis C, a chronic liver disease spread through blood. It’s the most widespread infectious disease in the U.S. The CDC estimates 2.4 million people in the U.S. were living with Hep C in 2016, the latest year with data available.

Louisiana hopes to use the deal to attempt to eliminate the disease entirely.

As Hep C most commonly spreads through shared needles, the opioid epidemic has only made its prevalence worse. The CDC estimates that 41,200 people were infected in 2016.

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What Joe Biden’s Flip-Flop On The Hyde Amendment Means For The Democratic Party (HBO)

Joe Biden no longer wants to be the only 2020 Democrat who supports a controversial rule to block federal funding for most abortions.

Biden said Thursday night that he doesn’t support the Hyde Amendment, a restriction added to the federal budget annually that prevents any money from going toward abortions — except in cases of rape, incest, or serious threats to the mother’s health. The U-turn comes just a day after his campaign told the New York Times Wednesday that he was still in favor of the rule.

Biden’s initial support made him the only 2020 candidate to come out in favor of Hyde, while a slew of his 2020 opponents — including the top three female candidates — almost immediately reiterated that they wanted to do away with the rule entirely.

On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren flat-out called Biden’s original stance wrong and pointed out that Hyde most directly affected low-income women through Medicaid.

“Understand this: Women of means will still have access to abortions,” Warren said during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night. “Who won’t will be poor women.”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker all doubled down this week as well and said they support repealing Hyde. Abortion groups, too, quickly came after Biden’s support for the law.

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Senators urge pharma CEOs to rein in lobbyists

The CEOs of seven major pharmaceutical companies are facing a hostile grilling from senators over high prescription drug prices that are a drain Medicare and Medicaid and a burden to millions of Americans. (Feb. 26)

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Wisconsin Republicans Are Trying To Strip Power From Newly Elected Democrats (HBO)

MADISON — Republican lawmakers passed a series of bills designed to strip power away from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general today, in an extraordinary session that started on Tuesday afternoon and didn’t end until after dawn on Wednesday.

The laws included measures that would force the incoming governor, Tony Evers, to seek legislative approval for any changes to the state’s public benefits programs, including Medicaid, and severely curtail the ability of the new attorney general, Josh Kaul, to bring or leave lawsuits on behalf of the state. Evers and Kaul ran on a promise to end the state’s legal fight against the Affordable Care Act.

The laws now go to Republican governor Scott Walker for final approval. Walker didn’t respond to a VICE News request for comment, but he has previously said he would be willing to sign the bills.

The Wisconsin Capitol dome has been home to a furious protests during the eight years under Walker, most notably in 2011, when he sought to end the state’s longstanding practice of collective bargaining for public employees.

The outrage this week was far more muted. But Democratic lawmakers decried the Republican policies as an attempt to change the rules of government in the aftermath of an election loss, and part of a trend that has also seen Republican legislatures cut the powers of newly elected Democratic governors in North Carolina and Michigan in recent years.

“It is ridiculous that Republicans are more concerned with clinging to power, than accepting an election,” said Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling (D-La Crosse) in a speech on the senate floor late Tuesday night. “Your antics today are what the voters rejected on November 6.”

Republicans, meanwhile, were relatively scarce. None of the dozen or so contact by VICE News agreed to an interview.

To some degree, that’s because their position in the legislature is secure. Gerrymandering in the state has all but guaranteed Republican control, even as the statewide vote tilts back Democratic. In November, for instance, while Democrats won most statewide elections, Republican candidates for the Assembly won 64% of the seats. They also gained one seat in the Senate.

If signed into law, the bills are likely to face legal challenges from none other than the incoming attorney general.

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Republicans Aren’t Campaigning On Healthcare — They’re Hiding From It (HBO)

Healthcare is once again a top priority for voters—almost three quarters list it as “very important,” according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But unlike four years ago, when the Affordable Care Act was deeply unpopular, voters have warmed to the law.

The shift has empowered Democrats, who have turned healthcare into their primary campaign issue, stumping for the ACA, protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and the importance of Medicaid expansions. Republicans, meanwhile, have been pushed into an unfamiliar position: playing defense on an issue they’ve owned for almost a decade.

VICE News traveled to Ohio to talk to Richard Cordray, the Democratic candidate for governor, about growing popularity of the ACA, the change in Republican messaging, and whether Republicans who are now promising to protect people with pre-existing conditions, like his opponent Mike DeWine who refused to speak with us, actually have a plan to do it.

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Today in History for July 30th

(30 Jul 2018) Highlights of this day in history: Ex-Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa disappears; Medicare and Medicaid signed into law; A blast rocks Black Tom Island; The USS Indianapolis sunk; Henry Ford and Arnold Schwarzenegger born. (July 30)

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Kentucky’s Medicaid War Is Hurting Low-Income People (HBO)

BEVERLY, Kentucky — When a federal judge struck down Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s plan to force Medicaid enrollees to work for benefits in June, Bevin responded by abruptly cutting vision and dental coverage for nearly 500,000 low-income people, claiming the state had no way to pay for them.

The move threw Kentucky’s health system into disarray, and patients arrived at dental clinics unaware that they no longer had coverage.
“I had abscesses that ate into the bone,” said Susan Wells, a patient at the nonprofit Shawnee Christian Healthcare Center in West Louisville. “I’m getting dentures on the top, which is embarrassing to say in front of people, because [it] shows how poor you are when you don’t have teeth.”

Democrats and healthcare advocates criticized the move as vindictive and petty.

“It was clear to us that that [the governor’s] decision was punitive, that it was in retaliation to the court case not going the way that he wanted to, and he chose to take that out on almost half a million
Kentuckians who use that coverage to keep them healthy so that they can work,” said Angela Koch, the state outreach director for an advocacy group Kentucky Voices for Health.

But the Bevin administration insisted the cuts were an “unfortunate consequence” of the judge’s decision to reject the state’s plan to implement a work requirement for some people on Medicaid, a waiver that had been approved by the federal government back in January.

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Trump’s “Voter Fraud” & Cutting Medicaid: VICE News Tonight Full Episode (HBO)

This is the July 5, 2017 FULL EPISODE of VICE News Tonight on HBO.

VICE explores how the GOP health care bill could impact the lives of disabled Americans. Plus, a look at why some states are refusing to give voter data to Trump’s election fraud commission.

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