Big story on health law ruling buries news on revision of law banning pharma dinners for docs

We’re not exactly sure of the point size, but the Globe’s headline this morning measures 1.5 inches: UPHELD. It also features photos of Obama and Romney — the two people who have signed bills calling for mandated health coverage. Will Romney’s argument that it should be up to the states fly?

In the meantime, docs can now eat out on a drug maker’s dime. The law that prohibits drug companies from gifting docs includes everything from trinkets to junkets. But, it no longer covers “modest meals.”  Also from the Globe:

In a significant policy change, the budget weakened the state’s 2008 law that prohibited drug companies from giving gifts to doctors. The restaurant and hotel lobbies have been fighting the part of the law that prohibits drug company representatives from paying for doctors’ restaurant meals.

Under the new budget, pharmaceutical companies would be allowed to pay for “modest” restaurant meals for doctors, as long as those meals are part of an informational briefing. The state Department of Public Health will have to define the meaning of “modest.” Drug companies will also have to report their spending to the state.

Lawmakers left intact a ban on drug companies paying for doctors’ junkets on cruise ships and tickets to sporting events.

Rosman, of Health Care for All, said it was disappointing that drug companies will be able to pay for doctors’ restaurant meals because evidence shows those meals encourage doctors to prescribe more costly brand-name medications. Medical decisions should be based on “objective information, not fancy meals,” he said.

But House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo defended the change. He said some restaurants have reported losing as much as 20 percent of their business after the ban was passed three years ago.

Back to the ruling: it’s all about politics on the front page , but leads with the health writers’ story: “Mass. residents react to ruling with relief.” So did the folks running the state plan:

The architects of the 2006 Massachusetts law felt more than a little honored that their first-in-the-nation strategy will be carried forward nationally.

Dozens of staff members at the Beacon Hill offices of the Massachusetts Health Connector, the agency that oversees the law and built the state’s online health insurance exchange, squeezed into a conference room Thursday morning to monitor online coverage of the court decision and anxiously surf their cellphones. When the news broke, executive director Glen Shor said he and others felt “immense pride.”

For more coverage we recommend:

  • On Twitter, follow #HCR #HCR2 #SCOTUS and/or #ACA
  • The Globe and WBUR both have excellent health policy/finance reporters are likely to offer good coverage. Check out WBUR’s Commonhealth as well.
  • For a national perspective, you can’t beat Kaiser Health News.




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