The Daily Rise: Tuesday, February 16

A Healthy Supreme Court Debate

The passing of Justice Antonin Scalia has turned the nation’s focus to the U.S. Supreme Court.  Over the next few weeks (possibly months), we’re likely to see a healthy debate in the media about the highest court in the land.

In the short term, Scalia’s death leaves the Court with an even number of justices and the potential for a 4-4 split on controversial cases.

What Happens in a Supreme Court Tie?

Thankfully, Slate’s Brendan I. Koerner has answered that question, thereby saving us the trouble of taking a constitutional law class.

“A split decision effectively upholds the ruling of the lower court (presumably a state supreme court)…When a 4-4 deadlock does occur, the case is not deemed to have set any sort of precedent.”

What Does It Mean for Patients Right Now?

Good question. We’re still sifting through what a vacancy on the Supreme Court means for patients and our ability to access life-saving treatments. Over the long term, the Court will have a major role in deciding issues important to patients.  But, those cases aren’t on the Court’s current docket.

For this term, Politico summarizes the most controversial cases on the Court’s current docket, including cases that will test the balance between religious freedom and access to reproductive health services under the Affordable Care Act.

While those subjects are important, there’s no shortage of coverage in other outlets and arenas. Our goal with The Daily Rise is to make patients better informed about stories and topics that aren’t getting covered 24-7 on cable news.

While We’re on the Subject…

While we’re on the subject of the Affordable Care Act, take the time to read an important piece by Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar of the Associated Press on how hundreds of thousands of patients are losing their Affordable Care Act subsidies due to a paperwork nightmare.

“Walt Whitlow was under treatment for cancer when he got an unwelcome surprise. His financial assistance under President Barack Obama’s health care law got slashed. That meant his premium quadrupled and his deductible went from $900 to $4,600.”

The numbers are staggering: “470,000 people had coverage terminated through Sept. 30 last year because of unresolved documentation issues involving citizenship and immigration…more than 1 million households had their financial assistance “adjusted” because of income discrepancies.”

Houston, We Have a Problem with That Moonshot Metaphor

The New York Times’ Margot Sanger-Katz makes the compelling case for why the cancer moonshot metaphor is flawed.

During last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama used the metaphor in reference to a billion dollar investment in cancer research to be led by Vice-President Joe Biden.

“The name suggests a broad, revolutionary new set of initiatives, but the Biden program’s funding represents a tiny fraction of the current national spending on cancer research… It’s a small component of the nearly $4 trillion federal budget. As health reporters at Bloomberg and Vox.com pointed out recently, the original moonshot cost $160 billion in today’s dollars; the annual budget for the National Cancer Institute is $5.2 billion; and the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development estimates that bringing a single new drug to market costs about $1.4 billion…”

Collaboration is Good for Patients

The Indy Star’s Jeff Swiatek has the latest on the recent announcement that Eli Lilly and Co. and Anthem will “share data and experiences with each other to try to better understand how drugs are prescribed and used.”  Over the next five years, the two companies will work together “to improve health outcomes for patients.”

We applaud this move. It’s exactly the type of realistic solution that those impacted with cancer and other critical medical issues are looking for.

Collaboration by all stakeholders serves the best interests of patients.

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