Fla. judge overturns individual mandate provision in healthcare-reform law
PENSACOLA, Fla. — A federal judge in Florida has overturned a key portion of the healthcare-reform law and ruled that the entire law must be scrapped.
In a 78-page decision, Judge Roger Vinson, a Reagan appointee in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, ruled that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s requirement that individuals buy insurance or incur fees — also known as the individual mandate, which would take effect in 2014 — was unconstitutional because it violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. He also ruled that the bill must be considered unconstitutional in its entirety, thus overturning it in full. The Obama administration has announced it will appeal the ruling.
“I emphasized once before, but it bears repeating again: This case is not about whether the act is wise or unwise legislation, or whether it will solve or exacerbate the myriad [of] problems in our healthcare system,” Vinson wrote in his decision. “In fact, it is not really about our healthcare system at all. It is principally about our federalist system, and it raises very important issues regarding the constitutional role of the federal government.”
Still, Vinson did not issue an immediate injunction against the bill, allowing it to continue taking effect pending an appeals process that could take two years. He also did not mention the bill’s provision of a regulatory approval pathway for follow-on biologics.
Supporters of the bill have argued that the individual mandate provision is needed to protect individuals with pre-existing conditions, who might be tempted to wait to purchase insurance until they actually need it rather than buying it beforehand. In addition, a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office found that repeal of the bill would add $230 billion to the federal deficit and leave tens of millions without health insurance.
Twenty-six states have filed lawsuits against the bill since President Barack Obama signed it into law last March. The new Congress also mounted a largely symbolic effort to overturn the bill once members took their seats last month.
In December 2010, District Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia also ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional.
BioScrip trims costs with two-part initiative
ELMSFORD, N.Y. — Specialty pharmacy provider BioScrip hopes to save $15 million through a cost-reduction and streamlining plan, the company said Monday.
Much of the two-part initiative will be implemented this year and completed by next year. Savings will mostly come from overhead, reduction of spending and restructuring of employee-benefit programs.
“Our leadership team has been undertaking an in-depth review of our organization to improve margins and increase operating cash flow,” president and CEO Richard Smith said. “While we are in the midst of this process and the early stages of implementing our plan, we believe there are additional areas for operational improvement and cost savings.”
In other news, the company appointed Mary Jane Graves as interim CFO, effective immediately, following the resignation of David Froesel as CFO, EVP and treasurer. Graves is the former CFO of Critical Homecare Solutions, which BioScrip acquired last year.
BioScrip said Froesel’s departure was for personal reasons and not due to any dispute with the company.
Walgreens introduces Way to Well Commitment program
DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Tuesday announced the implementation of its Walgreens Way to Well Commitment program, a new Walgreens initiative geared toward improving the everyday health of Americans nationwide.
To kick off the Way to Well Commitment, more than 7,600 Walgreens pharmacies and Take Care Clinics now are offering free blood pressure testing daily throughout February, an offering announced on “The Dr. Oz Show.”
"Way to Well is our commitment to disease prevention and to improving everyday health through education and early detection," stated Walgreens president and CEO Greg Wasson. "As a health and daily-living retailer trusted by millions of consumers every day, our ongoing effort is to help people get well, stay well and live well."
Through the Way to Well Commitment, Walgreens will bring $100 million in preventive healthcare resources, health-testing services and charitable programs to its stores over the next four years.
Walgreens realized the value in these types of programs and services during free diabetes health-testing offerings held at select stores and Take Care Clinics over three time periods from November 2009 through November 2010. Nearly 300,000 blood glucose and A1C tests were administered during these events, with more than 25% of patients testing "at risk" and consulting with Walgreens healthcare providers about their results.
In partnership with some of the nation’s top health organizations — including the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, American Diabetes Association and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation — Walgreens and Take Care Clinics will offer a range of free health-testing services, including blood glucose, A1C and blood pressure, as well as other wellness programs over the next four years. Currently scheduled programs include:
February — Heart Health Month: Free blood pressure testing at all Walgreens pharmacies and Take Care Clinics daily throughout February;
May — Women’s Health Month: Educational campaign in partnership with the American Cancer Society’s Choose You Movement; and
October/November — Health programs and testing to be offered in conjunction with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October) and National Diabetes Awareness Month (November).
In addition, the purchase of every Walgreens brand health-and-wellness product will support bringing Way to Well Commitment services to local communities through the Walgreens Way to Well Fund.