Health Highlights: Oct. 18, 2008

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

Medicaid Expenditures Will Rise Sharply in Coming Years: Report

Spending on Medicaid, the joint federal-states program that pays for medical care for those who can't afford it, will outpace the rate of growth in the U.S. economy over the next decade, threatening the stability of the program, according to a federal report released Friday afternoon.

The report, by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), estimates that spending on Medicaid benefits will increase 7.3 percent from 2007 to 2008, reaching $339 billion. It will then grow at an annual average rate of 7.9 percent over the next 10 years, reaching $674 billion by 2017. That compares to a projected rate of growth of 4.8 percent in the general economy, MarketWatch reported.

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    • Democratic Fundraiser Gets Unapproved Multiple Myeloma Drug
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"This report should serve as an urgent reminder that the current path of Medicaid spending is unsustainable for both federal and state governments. We must act quickly to keep state Medicaid programs fiscally sound," said Mike Leavitt, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. "If nothing is done to rein in these costs, access to health care for the nation's most vulnerable citizens could be threatened."

Although the CMS Office of the Actuary regularly produces 75-year projections of Medicare expenditures for the annual report of the Medicare Board of Trustees, the report released Friday was the first annual fiscal report on Medicaid.

Medicaid is the largest source of general revenue spending for health care for both the federal government and the states. Even with federal support, however, states said they're having trouble meeting their share of the growing Medicaid costs. Some states, such as Maine, are already spending as much as 31 percent of their budgets on Medicaid, the report said.

"High and increasing Medicaid spending clearly leaves states less able to fund other state priorities," said acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems. "This new financial report confirms that America's health-care system faces significant fiscal challenges. As a nation we must tackle the difficult job of bringing health-care costs under control and assuring that our health-care dollars are buying the highest quality, most efficient health-care services."


Democratic Fundraiser Gets Unapproved Multiple Myeloma Drug

Despite a drug maker's refusal to grant permission, a prominent Democratic fundraiser is being treated with a drug that's unapproved to treat multiple myeloma.

A "legal basis" was found that cleared the way for the drug Tysabri to be given to 61-year-old Fred Baron, who has late-stage multiple myeloma, his son Andrew Baron said in an email to the Associated Press. The drug was obtained through the Mayo Clinic, which consulted with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Biogen Idec Inc, which makes Tysabri, didn't approve Baron's use of the drug because the regulatory risks of giving him special access to the drug are too great, said company spokeswoman Naomi Aoki.

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