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January 15, 2024

Good Articles On Takeaways From JPM Healthcare Conference Two good articles summarizing some major trends and topics at the JPM healthcare conference.  Highlights include: Additional article here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/finance/jpm-2024-takeaways-commonspirit-mayo-clinic-centene-cvs-cigna-teladoc (Some articles may require a subscription.) #healthplans #providers #hospitals #stars #pbms Link to Article AI Can Help Drive Social Determinant Information And Extraction Stories on the ability for generative AI to identify social determinants of health (SDOH) data in notes is a key development. The study indicates that extraction from clinical notes in tuned models show success in insights into housing, employment status, etc. Language models were able to identify about 94% of cases where SDOH barriers existed compared with 2% using diagnostic codes. We know that social determinants may be a greater predictor of health outcomes than underlying disease status.  This will be key to driving outcomes in the future. Additional article here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/digital-health/generative-ai-social-determinants-of-health-mass-general-brigham (Some articles may require a subscription.) #sdoh

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The GOP Primary: My Dilemma From A Healthcare Perspective And Other Policy Issues

Update: Posted early on January 1/15/2024 — Martin Luther King Day. The Iowa Republican Caucuses were on 1/15. After the Iowa Caucus results, Vivek Ramaswamy dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed Donald Trump. In Iowa, Trump won at least 20 delegates, at least DeSantis 8, Haley at least 7, and Ramaswamy at least 3. While you have learned I definitely have opinions, I try to keep politics per se out of my blogs. You do know, though, I am a Republican. As we approach the primary season, I have to try to pick a candidate. My decision will be a mix of healthcare and non-healthcare issues. So here is how I view it. As a Florida resident, I have until March 19 to make my decision on whom I want to win the GOP nomination. Forgive my delving into non-healthcare issues, but I believe the nation is on

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January 12, 2024

What Would A Nikki Haley Healthcare Agenda Look Like? The Republican debates continue with Donald Trump bowing out and Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley taking center stage.  A recent CNN debate saw the two sparring, sometimes on healthcare issues. Both Haley and DeSantis declared that they would like to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a block grant.  It is a horrible idea. With Chris Christie’s departure from the race and Haley rising in the polls, Kaiser Health News (KHN) did a feature on what a Haley administration’s healthcare agenda may look like. Additional article on Haley’s views on entitlement reform here: https://www.cnn.com/2023/12/05/politics/nikki-haley-social-security-medicare-reform/index.html #gopprimary #haley #desantis #trump #healthcare #aca #obamacare Link to Article Fight (Verbal Anyway) Breaks Out at MedPAC Meeting A verbal clash broke out at a MedPAC meeting, with one member reasonably arguing that MedPAC is not truly as non-partisan as it says it is. I generally

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January 11, 2024

Dysfunction Junction Update:  Will Government Shutdown? Faced with an upheaval by the rightists (his very own!) in the House GOP caucus and upended procedural votes, Speaker Mike Johnson, R-LA, met with the Freedom Caucus members to discuss a possible alternative spending bill.  This came as a surprise to other leaders.  But Johnson could face the same purge that former Speaker McCarthy saw when he tried to do the right thing and comprise to keep government operating.  While no one has explicitly said they would call a vote to vacate the speakership, the idea has again been put out there by prominent members of the right-wing fire-setting brigade. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, has begun drafting a continuing resolution (CR) that extends government while the agreed-upon deal is worked on.  Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-KY, has said this is needed. Johnson may be softening, but previously ruled out

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Major Health Insurers Can Have Differing Profiles and Priorities

With so much going on in the health insurance world, I thought it would be interesting to profile some of the largest insurers and discuss some of their priorities/activities. I picked the seven largest insurers owned by for-profit publicly traded companies. Collectively, they cover about 200 million people, or 60% of the U.S. population. Collectively, their revenues are over $1.25 trillion annually. While this is not meant to be an exhaustive review of financial information or advice on stock purchases, I combed investor relations filings and sites as well as the internet for this information. As you will see, some are focused a bit on diversification from insurance alone and strengthening services units. Others continue to be more pure-play insurers. A few points: Here goes: United Health Group 2022 Revenue: $324 billion Q3 2023 Membership: Commercial – 27.3 million Medicaid managed care – 8.0 million Medicare Advantage – 7.6 million

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January 10, 2024

Oscar Says It Can Be Profitable in 2024 And May Expand To Other Products Insurtech Oscar says its enrollment will hit 1.3 million members in the Exchanges once open enrollment concludes, a 31% increase year-over-year. It also could see positive margins in 2024, as much as 5%. It could expand into individual coverage health reimbursement arrangements (ICHRA) and Medicare Advantage (MA) in the future. Both Oscar CEO Mark Bertolini (former Aetna CEO) and Centene CEO Sarah London are right that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is here to stay with over 20 million enrollees.   ICHRA is a good Trump-era rule that allows employers to make tax-free contributions toward employees’ individual coverage.  Oscar would be well-placed to offer a total ICHRA administrative solution coupled with enrollment in individual Exchange enrollment. Bertolini is a genius on this issue. In other news, Alignment Healthcare touted its Star scores. Additional articles: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/jpm24-oscar-health-eyes-2024-profitability-and-ichra https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/finance/jpm24-day-3-goodrx-expects-least-749m-revenue-2023

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January 9, 2024

NY Wins Medicaid Waiver Approval New York received an 1115 Medicaid waiver approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) covering a myriad of innovations, including recruitment and retention of Medicaid providers, eligibility to bill social needs spending, primary care investments, behavioral health investments, and health equity pilots. CMS press release here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/cms-approves-new-yorks-groundbreaking-section-1115-demonstration-amendment-improve-primary-care #medicaid #cms #waivers #socialneeds #healthequity Link to Article Both Cigna And CVS Say They Are Ready For Changes in PBM World Both Cigna and CVS, owners of two of the three largest traditional Pharmacy Benefits Managers (PBMs) say they are ready for the transformation in the world of PBMS that may be coming. Cigna went as far as to say they welcome unbundling, where plans may hire multiple entities to service them in a transparent way. See my Blog on PBM Transparency from December 14 for the emerging changes in the PBM industry: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/pbm-transparency-and-reform-is-a-big-trend-in-the-american-healthcare-system/ #pbms

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January 8, 2024

Aetna Turnaround On Stars And Enrollment Is Amazing At the JP Morgan conference, CVS President and CEO Karen Lynch was taking a well-deserved victory lap.  With all that is going on at CVS, the Aetna turnaround on enrollment and Stars in Medicare Advantage (MA) is amazing.  It is no small feat given competitiveness in the MA world and the major changes in Star for 2024.  #cvsaetna #cvshealth #aetna #medicareadvantage Link to Article Clover Touting Clover Assistant Clover Health also deserves credit for its work creating the Clover Assistant.  It has been shown to promote better outcomes, especially in the tough pharmacy adherence area. With prior authorization to take a back seat, data analytics and member and provider engagement are key to reducing and controlling medical expense at health plans. #clover #dataanalytics #engagement #caremanagement Link to Article Alignment Healthcare Bullish On Membership And Positive Margin Alignment Healthcare John Kao expects major

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Inflation Reduction Act’s Medicare Price Negotiations Should Have Small Impact On Innovation But Positive Impact On American Lives And What We Pay

If you have read my book, The Healthcare Labyrinth (available at this website), you know I am a proponent of negotiating drug prices nationally as well as the Medicare drug price provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) more specifically. In my book, I argue a few fundamentals about drug prices in America: I am a Republican and I hold atypical views on drug pricing for my party – at least compared with most House and Senate GOP lawmakers. But the truth is, the last president and current president have proposed similar reforms on drug pricing. Respected think tanks with bipartisan representation support change, too. Polls also show support across parties for drastic changes to lower drug prices. I also don’t believe that if you support drug price negotiations and other reforms that somehow you are anti-free market. Negotiations and contractual agreements are a cornerstone of the free market. But

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January 5, 2024

FDA Approves Florida Drug Importation The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Florida to import prescription drugs from Canada via bulk purchasing.  This would mean Florida residents would have access to Canadian wholesale prices, which are far lower than in the United States.  Brand drug makers immediately attacked the waiver as reckless and claimed it could endanger health.  Nonsense.  Canada is a developed country with a great safety record. The waiver also has strict quality control measures in it. This is yet another stunt by Big Pharma to maintain its high prices in the United States. It likely will sue to stop it. Canada, too, could disrupt the plan if it results in shortages there.  Although the targeted drugs right now look like they are in reasonable supply, look out for a “manufactured” crisis to emerge. This is a feather in the cap of presidential candidate and Fl. Gov.

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