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Top 10 Healthcare Stories of 2016

By: Kelley Talbot

What topped your list of key stories in 2016?

If you tried to stay on top of this year’s healthcare news, you’d be forgiven for feeling like the headlines just kept coming. We’ve collected ten of the biggest newsmakers of the year, ranging from inspiring to alarming. All of them will shape 2017 and beyond.

#10: CRISPR gene editing opens new lifesaving fronts

CRISPR edits genes quickly, cheaply, and precisely. From VOX: “We’re talking about a powerful new tool to control what genes get expressed in plants, animals, and even humans. The ability to delete undesirable traits and, potentially, add desirable traits with more precision than ever before.”

#9: Cancer Moonshot launched

Make a decade’s worth of advances in cancer in five years. End cancer as we know it. Unleash new breakthroughs. Do it, in part, by enabling more effective collaboration and data-sharing. Vice President Biden reports on the Moonshot’s progress in this video.

#8: NASA’s twin study of long-term space travel takes flight

Astronaut Scott Kelly returned from spending a year in space. His journey is part of NASA’s exploration of the effects of spaceflight on the human body, which will compare data from Scott Kelly and his twin astronaut brother Mark Kelly.

#7: After election, uncertainty looms for ACA, Medicare and Medicaid

Speculation about the ability and willingness of both President-Elect Trump and Congress to “repeal and replace” abound. Health Affairs, the Wall Street Journal, and Modern Healthcare try to sort it out.

#6: Value-based payment reforms march forward?

The year was full of payment reform events. MACRA passed congress with bipartisan support. There’s plenty of controversy and uncertainty though, as Trump’s pick to lead HHS – Tom Price, has criticized components of MACRA and certain mandatory value-based payment programs.

#5: Drug prices at the center of outrage – with little change to show for it

Skyrocketing costs for EpiPen allergy treatment drew public and Congressional attention to rising prescription drug prices. Mylan paid $465 million for overcharging the government for the drug and launched a less expensive generic version. But generics aren’t the silver bullet – at least six companies are part of an ongoing investigation for price-fixing generics. The Senate just released a report and recommendations on rising prices.

#4: Nation’s largest insurers try to merge – and DOJ pushes back

The Justice Department is challenging Anthem’s proposed acquisition of Cigna and Aetna’s planned combination with Humana.

#3: Opioid epidemic kills 78 Americans every day and CARA Act becomes law

Death rates from synthetic opioids increased 72 percent from 2014 to 2015, reports the CDC. The epidemic is killing a cross-section of Americans, with men and women of all ages and ethnicities seeing a surge in death rates. President Obama signed the CARA Act to help address the problem.

#2: Zika strikes over 4,800 in mainland US, Congress fights over funding

In February, the CDC announced it was going into its highest level of response for Zika, signaling the severity of the threat. Congress failed to agree on funding until the end of September, bickering for over seven months and delaying action on the public health emergency.

#1: Water crisis sickens and frightens Flint families, raises questions nationwide

This story began in 2014, when Flint switched its water source to the Flint River to save money. Residents immediately raised concerns. In 2015, doctors found high levels of lead in Flint children. Officials begin to acknowledge a problem, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder ultimately declared a state of emergency for Flint in 2016. Federal aid began to arrive, investigations were launched, and charges for multiple officials are pending.

The Philadelphia Tribune has a comprehensive timeline; ABC also reviews the timeline in this video.