Health Care Checkup: EndoStim IPO a no-go, Medicaid expansion coming?

The Health Care Checkup, a weekly rundown of the state’s top health care headlines, is sponsored by Heyen Wellness Therapies.

State Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City | Courtesy of Missouri News Horizon/Flickr
State Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City | Courtesy of Missouri News Horizon/Flickr

Taking the Pulse

Small business health insurance exchange goes live in Missouri

Missouri’s health insurance exchange for small businesses is now up and running, albeit partially. The state is one of five to receive a preview of the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) ahead of the start of open enrollment on Nov. 15. Businesses with 50 or fewer employees can begin creating accounts, uploading employee rosters and reaching out to brokers immediately, but they cannot view or purchase plans until open enrollment begins. The Department of Health and Human Services set up the preview as a way to get feedback on the site ahead of its full rollout. HHS chose its early-access candidates based on which states among those which defaulted to the federal exchange have the best established networks.

State senator Silvey says Medicaid expansion could be coming

Medicaid expansion could soon be a reality in Missouri, and Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, says he has the plan that could make it happen. In fact, he says it almost passed the last legislative session. According to Silvey, the plan would involve expanding coverage to include homes making up to 138 percent of the poverty level, a change that would bring in an additional 300,000 Missourians. If the state expanded Medicaid to cover more people, the money paid to hospitals by the Affordable Care Act to compensate for caring for the uninsured — money known as disproportionate share hospital (DSH) funds — would go down. The money previously allocated to DSH funds would then be put into a trust fund to help when federal Medicaid support goes down.

Silvey says his proposal has the support of hospitals and other health care providers and that now may be the right time to get it passed. He says it went before the legislature last year but failed thanks to influential opponents of the bill. However, several of those opponents, including John Lamping, R-St. Louis, are not seeking reelection this year.

EndoStim delays IPO

St. Louis-based medical device maker EndoStim, currently working on an implantable device to help treat acid reflux disease, has curbed plans for its initial public offering citing “poor market conditions.” The IPO, valued at between $32 million and $38.4 million, has not yet received a new date. It’s a significant stumble for EndoStim, which earlier this year announced it had raised a total of $42 million in funding, including $6.4 million in July alone.

Number of the Week: $4 million

The total amount spent on Washington lobbying by six St. Louis-area health care-related companies: Express Scripts, Centene Corp., Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, Ascension Health, SSM Health Care and BJC HealthCare. Express Scripts alone accounted for more than half that total, spending $2.3 million in lobbying last year.

Quote of the Week

“We think that the microRNAs are really doing the heavy lifting. They are priming the skin cells to become neurons.”

Matheus B. Victor, a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis and co-author of new research on innovations in the fight against Huntington’s disease. Huntington’s is an inherited disease that causes a gradual decline in brain function due to damaged cells. Victor and his fellow researchers found that they could place human skin cells into controlled environment that would convert them into brain cells. They then injected the new brain cells into mice with Huntington’s disease, where they found the cells could live and function for at least six months.

Tweet of the Week

This year’s National Conference on Rural, Public and Intercity Bus Transportation is underway in California, and among the topics of discussion is rural transit’s connections to health care. MFH Vice President Ryan Barker gave a presentation titled “The Impact of the Affordable Care Act on Rural Transportation: Opportunities and Challenges.” The challenges appear to be striking a chord.

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