Exchange Rules: The federal government has issued new rules that give states flexibility on the design of the insurance exchanges to be implemented in 2014 as part of the health-care overhaul law, the WSJ reports. The exchanges are intended to help individuals and small businesses more easily purchase private insurance. States will be able to decide whether or not to limit the number of plans offered and to set their own marketing rules, among other things.
Short Supply: Shortages of Mercks shingles vaccine, Zostavax, have precluded a full-blown public health push to make those aged 60 and up aware of the advantages of vaccination, the New York Times reports. Only 10% of that population received the vaccination in 2009. A Merck Vaccines executive tells the paper the live virus is hard to grow in large quantities and is also needed for the chicken pox vaccine; he also says a new plant designed to expand manufacturing capacity will be up and running in 2013.
Joining Forces: In other Merck news, the company is teaming up with the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and, separately, the University of California, San Francisco, to research possible HIV treatments, the WSJ reports. The two projects which will explore ways to eradicate HIV from the body and attempt to understand how the virus stays dormant in the body will be funded by the NIH, but Merck itself will receive no government funding, the paper reports.
Systems Failure: A Government Accountability Office report says the new integrated systems designed to detect Medicare and Medicaid fraud arent working as they were intended to, the Associated Press reports. The systems dont yet include Medicaid data and only 41 analysts have been trained to use them so far, according to the report. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services had no immediate comment, the AP says.
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