Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy

Frequently Asked Questions About Prescription Drug Pricing and Policy. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Suzanne M. Kirchhoff, Judith A. Johnson, Susan Thaul. May 2, 2017

Prescription drugs play an important role in the U.S. health care system. Innovative, breakthrough drugs are providing cures for diseases such as hepatitis C and helping individuals with chronic conditions lead fuller lives. Studies show that prescription drug therapy can produce health care savings by reducing the number of hospitalizations and other costly medical procedures.

Congress has attempted to ensure that Americans have access to pharmaceuticals by enacting the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit as part of the Medicare Modernization and Prescription Drug Act of 2003 (MMA; P.L. 108-173) and expanding drug coverage under the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA; P.L. 111-148, as amended). Congress also has enacted laws to encourage manufacturing of lower-cost generic drugs, as well as cutting-edge biologics and biosimilars.

Americans are using more prescription drugs, and for longer periods of time, than in past decades. Still, access to prescription drugs remains a real issue for a number of consumers, particularly those without insurance; those prescribed expensive specialty drugs for treating serious or rare diseases; or those enrolled in private insurance or public health plans with high cost-sharing requirements, such as drug deductibles and coinsurance.

[PDF format, 37 pages, 1.14 MB].

The Importance of High Quality General Education for Students in Special Education

The Importance of High Quality General Education for Students in Special Education. Brookings Institution. Elizabeth Setren and Nora Gordon. April 20, 2017

Last month’s Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District sets a higher bar for the “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) guaranteed to students with disabilities by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. This standard is more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.” While the new standard may be vague, it has rejuvenated public discussion around special education policy and practice.

As policymakers and practitioners think about what changes may be required to meet the new standard, they should not overlook the role of general education. New evidence suggests that it’s possible for special education students to make large achievement gains without their traditional services in schools with high quality general education programs. This points to the importance of the quality of general education for students schools might place in special education. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Urban Blight and Public Health: Addressing the Impact of Substandard Housing, Abandoned Buildings, and Vacant Lots

Urban Blight and Public Health: Addressing the Impact of Substandard Housing, Abandoned Buildings, and Vacant Lots. Urban Institute. Erwin de Leon, Joseph Schilling. April 11, 2017

We spend more than 2/3rds of our time where we live; thus, housing and neighborhood conditions invariably affect our individual and family’s well-being. The health impacts from blighted properties—substandard housing, abandoned buildings, and vacant lots—are often not immediately visible or felt. This report—Urban Blight and Public Health—synthesizes recent studies on the complexities of how blight affects the health of individuals and neighborhoods while offering a blend of policy and program recommendations to help guide communities in taking a more holistic and coordinated approach, such as expanding the use of health impact assessments, tracking health outcomes, and infusing public health into housing policies, codes and practices. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 44 pages, 858.33 KB].

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Scott D. Szymendera. April 20, 2017

Workers’ compensation provides cash and medical benefits to workers who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment and provides benefits to the survivors of workers killed on the job. Benefits are provided without regard to fault and are the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Nearly all workers in the United States are covered by workers’ compensation. With the exception of federal employees and some small groups of private-sector employees covered by federal law, workers compensation is provided by a network of state programs. In general, employers purchase insurance to provide for workers’ compensation benefits.

[PDF format, 36 pages, 886.37 KB].

The Futures of NATO

The Futures of NATO. YaleGlobal. Jolyon Howorth. May 3, 2017

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization began in 1949, with 12 members, to curtail possible aggression against Europe. NATO now has 28 members, and Jolyon Howorth, an expert on European security and visiting professor at Yale University, analyzes the alliance’s transformations since the fall of the Soviet Union. “In the 1990s, realists predicted NATO’s imminent demise, pointing out that no alliance in history had outlived the disappearance of the threat against which it was formed,” he writes. The alliance survived that transition as a high-level political agency for managing transatlantic relations and later as a regional crisis management agency, opening to former members of the Warsaw Pact and taking on more global responsibilities for security assistance after the 9/11 attacks. NATO’s members have been divided over new missions, from Kosovo to Libya. Likewise, the United States under Barack Obama and especially under Donald Trump has expressed concerns about burden-sharing with Europe. Paradoxically, increased NATO activity near Russia’s borders may have spurred Russian intervention in Ukraine, reviving NATO’s original role. As Europe explores strategic autonomy, Howorth concludes by recommending that Europe become more self-reliant, taking control of NATO, while the United States gradually steps back. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Undergraduate Financial Aid in the United States

Undergraduate Financial Aid in the United States. American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Judith Scott-Clayton. April 2017

To inform discussions of the future of undergraduate education in the United States, and the role of financial aid within it, this paper provides an overview of undergraduate financial aid—its motivations, its moving parts, and its controversies. Section 2 summarizes the fundamental motivations for providing financial aid. While the social value of financial aid may be taken for granted among those working within higher education, it is not always obvious to policy-makers who are trying to balance budgets in an era of fiscal constraint. Thus, a succinct review of the rationale for student aid can be helpful to have on hand. The heart of the paper, Section 3, provides an overview of undergraduate financial aid: who provides what, how, and to whom. Section 4 discusses several hot-button issues in contemporary financial aid policy, highlighting key sources of debate and incorporating research evidence where available. Section 5 concludes. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 48 pages, 1.11 MB].

Improving College and Career Outcomes of Low-Performing High School Students

Improving College and Career Outcomes of Low-Performing High School Students. Brookings Institution. Louis S. Jacobson. April 26, 2017

There is growing recognition that there are many career-enhancing pathways through four-year and community colleges. Nevertheless, many students leave high school without the skills needed to complete the most demanding academic pathways, nor realistic plans for completing alternative pathways that are far more likely to lead to desirable outcomes.

This situation can be improved by high schools helping those disengaged students who are uninterested in attending college see personally meaningful connections between high school, college, and careers, and by helping non-college-ready students who are interested in attending college recognize their deficits and develop skills for college success. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 28 pages, 508.48 KB].