The Daily Rise: Wednesday, April 20

The Big Story

The big story of the day is the news that the nation’s largest health insurance company intends to drop out of more state health insurance exchanges. The Associated Press’ Tom Murphy reports that UnitedHealth no longer believes most of its state exchanges are financially viable.

In the last two years, UnitedHealth has lost more than a billion dollars from its state exchange business.

UnitedHealth struggled to find a place in the state health insurance exchanges. In 2014, it began with just 4 state exchanges, since expanding to 34 states. Nearly 795,000 patients are covered by United Health’s state health insurance exchanges.

This isn’t exactly shocking news for anyone who has been following UnitedHealth’s financial moves. Last year, our policy director Jonathan Wilcox detailed the insurer’s routine practice of denying life-saving treatments as part of its “fail first” policies in a piece published at The Hill.

Coming Soon: An Alternative

As the Affordable Care Act struggles with the news of one fewer insurer, Congressional Republicans are in the process of preparing an alternative health care plan. The Hill’s Sarah Ferris reports that a group of senior House Republicans is in “listening mode” but is expected to produce a proposal to replace ObamaCare.

“Give us a little time, another month or so,” House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton said this week. “I think we’ll be pretty close to a Republican alternative.”

The House has voted more than 50 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve voted against ObamaCare,” said Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma. “I’m looking for an opportunity to actually vote for a Republican replacement. It’s been quite a few years.”

Double the Funding

Stat News’ Dylan Scott has the scoop on the Obama administration’s significant increase in its Zika virus funding request. Originally, the Obama administration sought $130 million from Congress to research a vaccine for Zika virus. Now, that figure has more than doubled to $277 million.

The additional funding would supplement the $500 million in leftover Ebola emergency funding that was repurposed to fight Zika virus.

“The Zika outbreak continues to evolve, as does our knowledge about the virus,” an Obama administration official told State News. “As we learn more, it impacts preparedness and response funding estimates.”

Also on Tuesday, President Obama President Obama signed into law a bill that “adds Zika virus to a list of neglected tropical diseases eligible for priority review within the Food and Drug Administration. Under that designation, FDA officials would be able to test a vaccine for the Zika virus more quickly.”

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