April 24, 2020

Around the nation: HHS official says he was ousted for questioning potential Covid-19 treatment

Daily Briefing

    Rick Bright, who had served as HHS' deputy assistant secretary for preparedness response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, says he was dismissed from the positions this week after he insisted the agency conduct more research on whether the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine can treat Covid-19, in today's bite-sized hospital and health industry news from the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Missouri.

    • District of Columbia: Rick Bright, who had served as HHS' deputy assistant secretary for preparedness response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), says he was dismissed from the positions this week after he insisted the agency conduct more research on whether hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, can be used to treat Covid-19. President Trump has touted hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for the disease, but researchers have said there isn't evidence to support that claim. HHS spokesperson Caitlin Oakley in a statement said "Bright has departed BARDA to NIH, where he'll work on development and deployment of novel point-of-care testing platforms." Trump during a White House press briefing on Wednesday said he'd "never heard of" Bright. "The guy says he was pushed out of a job. Maybe he was. Maybe he wasn't; I'd have to hear the other side. I don't know who he is," Trump said (Shear/Haberman, New York Times, 4/22; Diamond, Politico, 4/22; Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press, 4/23).
    • Louisiana: A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on Monday ruled that CMS can continue to include both Medicare and commercial payments made to hospitals when calculating a hospital's Medicaid disproportionate-share payment limit. Hospitals have challenged the payment-limit formula, arguing that CMS should include only "other Medicaid payments and payments made by uninsured patients" in the calculation. According to Modern Healthcare's "Transformation Hub," the payment-limit formula upheld by the ruling causes hospitals to receive lower Medicaid disproportionate-share payments than they would if CMS included only Medicaid payments and payments from uninsured patients in the formula (Brady, "Transformation Hub," Modern Healthcare, 4/21; Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 4/21).
    • Missouri: Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) has filed a lawsuit against Beijing's government over its response to the new coronavirus, making Missouri the first U.S. state to file a lawsuit against China over the pandemic. Schmitt in a statement claimed, "The Chinese government lied to the world about the danger and contagious nature of Covid-19, silenced whistleblowers, and did little to stop the spread of the disease." Schmitt said the state the state is asking the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri for damages from China for "the enormous loss of human suffering, and economic turmoil" that has resulted from the pandemic, which has affected hundreds of thousands of Americans and more than 2.5 million people worldwide (Axelrod, The Hill, 4/21).
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