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Doctor group exits anti-Medicare for All coalition; NIH chief marks 10 years

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Doctor group exits anti-Medicare for All coalition; NIH chief marks 10 years

The American Medical Association, the largest professional group of doctors in the U.S., confirmed reports it has left a coalition of organizations that lobbies against proposals to move the nation to a single-payer system or provide a public option.

The AMA was one of the founding members of the Partnership for America's Health Care Future, or PAHCF, which counts the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, American's Health Insurance Plans and the American Hospital Association among the group's more than 60 members.

SNL ImageSen. Bernie Sanders and others on Capitol Hill
Source: Associated Press

The AMA remains opposed to Medicare for All, but "missing in the recent debate was an ongoing discussion of practical solutions that will result in more affordable insurance options," the group's CEO, James Madara, told S&P Global Market Intelligence in a statement.

The AMA decided to leave the PAHCF to devote more time to policies that will address coverage gaps and dysfunction in the U.S. healthcare system, Madara said.

He said the AMA was advocating for a "mix of private and public health insurance options."

The doctor organization has proposed improving and building on the Affordable Care Act — the 2010 law Republicans and the Trump administration have attempted to dismantle through legislative and court actions.

In a number of television and online advertisements, PAHCF has criticized single-payer and public-option plans proposed by Democratic presidential candidates, like Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Medicare head weighs in on Harris plan

Meanwhile, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said she was supportive of Medicare Advantage — additional private insurance policies offered to seniors and Americans with disabilities — but she was unwilling to voice support for Harris' healthcare plan.

Harris' proposal seeks to give Americans the option to buy into Medicare Advantage or traditional Medicare — the California senator's version of Medicare for All.

While Medicare Advantage creates competition and choice, it is still "governed by government polices" and is tied to a fee-for-service approach for providing care, Verma told reporters last week. As such, the program's ability to innovate and add new options is limited, she insisted.

It took years and an act of Congress for Medicare Advantage to add telehealth services and supplemental benefits, Verma added.

NIH chief marks 10 years

Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, marked his 10-year anniversary over the weekend as head of the U.S. biomedical agency, becoming one of the longest serving chiefs of the government organization in recent years.

Collins was one of the few high-level holdovers from the Obama administration.

SNL ImageNIH Director Francis Collins
Source: National Institutes of Health

He was sworn into the director's job on Aug. 17, 2009, after being unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate a week earlier.

President Donald Trump initially kept Collins at the NIH in a temporary capacity with the changeover of administrations in January 2017. On June 6, 2017, the White House revealed Trump wanted to keep Collins permanently in the job.

Prior to leading the NIH, Collins served as the director of the agency's National Human Genome Research Institute, where he headed the U.S. government's effort on the Human Genome Project, an international research endeavor to sequence and map all genes.

As NIH chief, Collins has overseen key research initiatives in brain science, cancer and precision medicine — all projects started under the Obama administration and continued while Trump has been in the White House. Trump, however, has sought major cuts on that work, though Congress has been unwilling to oblige and has, instead, increased the NIH's funding for those research projects.

Asked if the NIH had any special celebrations planned to mark Collins' 10-year anniversary as director, a spokeswoman told S&P Global Market Intelligence it would be "business as usual" for the agency leader.

Precision medicine project on track

Meanwhile, the NIH disclosed updated information last week about its All of Us precision medicine program, which is seeking to enroll 1 million people in the U.S. in an ambitious study aimed at accelerating research for tailoring treatments to a person's genetic makeup and improving health.

Precision medicine is an approach to disease treatment and prevention that considers differences in people's lifestyles, environments and biological makeup, including genes.

As of July 31, more than 230,000 people had enrolled in the study, including 175,000 participants who had completed the core protocol and contributed biospecimens. Of those, 80% are from groups that have been historically underrepresented in biomedical research, according to the NIH.

The NIH said 34 healthcare provider organizations had uploaded electronic health record data from more than 112,000 participants. The agency expects to have 1 million participants enrolled in All of Us by 2024.