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April 4, 2024

CVS Executive Pushes Back On Cuban And PBM Transparency Narrative CVS Caremark President David Joyner wrote and op-ed for Fortune to explain the innovation and transparency his pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) is engaged in.  It seeks to counter some of the press Mark Cuban is getting.  I will note that leadership at CVS Health overall is on a path of reform and innovation. #cvshealth #pbms #transparency Link to Article Good Wall Street Journal Article On Why We Need Site-Neutral Payments This Wall Street Journal article tells how hospitals and health systems are buying up physician practices.  In so doing, they are changing practice patterns and forcing their now doctor-employees to practice at hospital-owned settings.  This increases costs for sometimes low professional fees into gigantic bills because facility fees are added on.  The hospital lobby was successful stopping the start of site-neutral payments in Medicare, but I doubt they can hold

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Final 2025 Rates For Medicare Advantage Remain As Proposed

In my February 1, 2024 blog, I walked you through the Advance Notice from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding proposed Medicare Advantage (MA) rates for calendar year 2025.  Many health plans and industry-friendly trade groups lobbied CMS hard for a change in the proposal. Even lawmakers got into the game. But the final notice came out this week and almost nothing changed on the rate front.  On February 1, I told you that MA plans were very worried about the proposed 2025 rate because of a series of negative trends that were hitting them: So let’s take a look at what happened between the Advance Notice and the Final Notice of 2025 MA rates. 2024 and 2025 Medicare Advantage Rate Comparisons   2024 Final 2025 Proposed 2025 Final Effective Growth Rate 2.28% 2.44% 2.33% Changes in Star Revenue (Overall) -1.24% -0.15% -0.11% Rebasing 0.00% TBD 0.07%

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April 3, 2024

Private Equity’s Role In Healthcare Takes Center Stage At Hearing Democrat members of the Senate HELP Committee staged a hearing on the role of corporate greed in healthcare.  Of particular concern was the role of private equity firm monies and whether dollars are diverted out from healthcare to corporate margins.  PE firms have big investments in both hospitals and provider groups. Additional article: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/regulatory/steward-healthcares-struggles-full-display-clinicians-policy-researchers-tell-senators #privateequityfirms #healthcare Link to Article Clover Health CEO Defends CMS MA Payments for 2025 In a strong but divergent move from other MA plans, Clover Health CEO Andrew Toy defended the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ final rate for 2025.  Depending on whether you count risk score trends increases, the rate would produce either a 3.7% increase or negative 0.16 decrease.  Plans do not believe the risk score trends should be counted. Clover may not be seeing the major increases that other plans are. Other

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April 2, 2024

Scrutiny Of Private Equity Healthcare Investments Expand Private equity investments are already being broadly looked at by Congress and regulators.  Now, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is seeking information on private equity’s role in emergency physician staffing firms that are leaving hospital emergency departments unprepared. Letters were sent to Apollo Global Management, the Blackstone Group and KKR — three of the nation’s largest private-equity firms — and four emergency medicine staffing companies owned by the firms.  It is estimated at least 40% of hospital emergency departments are overseen by staffing companies that are owned by private-equity firms. Additional article: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/providers/senator-probes-private-equity-physician-staffing-firms-emergency-care-cost-cutting #privateequityfirms #healthcare Link to Article MA Plans Say Rate Hike For 2025 Will Have Dire Consequences Health plans are pummeling the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) for finalizing what they see as an inadequate 2025 rate hike.  Plans say this will force them to reduce key

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April 1, 2024

New GLP-1 Survey Says Growth Is Explosive A new survey from Virta Health backs up the bleak cost picture. It says that 43% of health plan leaders are predicting 100% or more growth in GLP-1s for weight loss and obesity in 2024. More than half say GLP-1s will be a top 3 drug in 2024 in terms of spending. One fifth say they will be their most expensive drug class this year. Executives believe the media is misrepresenting GLP-1s and that lifestyle programs should be tried first. At the same time, a Vitra Health-linked study comes to a different conclusion on what occurs after stopping GLP-1s.  It says those who stop taking GLP-1s can avoid negative effects on glycemia and body weight if they are properly engaged in their healthcare, including proper nutrition. See my blog today on the subject: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/whats-all-the-clamor-over-glp-1s-for-weight-loss/ #weightlossdrugs #drugpricing Link to Article CMS Maintains Insufficient Rate

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What’s All The Clamor Over GLP-1s For Weight Loss?

Hollywood supposedly is addicted to them. More and more Americans are now trying GLP-1s for weight loss. What is happening here with GLP-1s is something repeated often in the drug world. First, what is a GLP-1? The drugs were introduced in the U.S. beginning in the mid-2000s and have been used for those with type 2 diabetes who were overweight. These are a class of drugs that perform much like a hormone called glucagon-like peptide 1. As blood sugars rise in the blood stream, the drugs stimulate the production of more insulin, which lowers blood sugar levels. This is essential for controlling type 2 diabetes. It’s not clear how the GLP-1 drugs lead to weight loss overall, although the drugs do appear to slow the movement of food through the digestive tract and make you feel fuller. How did it become popular for weight loss? Now let’s get into off-label use of

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March 29, 2024

NBA Player Robert Horry’s Healthcare Adventures Are Proof We Need Affordable Universal Coverage Touching story on NBA great Robert Horry’s healthcare adventures with his daughter, who lived with a genetic disorder and died in her 18th year.  It is a testament to why we need affordable universal access to healthcare.  Horry is now with a company promoting Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements (ICHRA), which allows businesses to cover portions of healthcare premiums and allows employees to privately procure insurance (usually on the Exchange). To me, it is one of the few positive healthcare developments from the Trump administration. #ichra #obamacare #aca #exchanges Link to Article Huge Bounty On BlackCat Cyberattackers The State Department has issued a reward for information that could find people working with BlackCat, the cyberattacker that got into the Change Healthcare systems. #changehealthcare #cyberattacks Link to Article CVS Health Aiming To Transform Customer Experience Karen Lynch, CEO

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March 28, 2024

Change Cyberattack Could Open Americans Up To Multiple Notifications Of Breach We don’t know yet if Change’s breach will be a record.  But based on the 6 terabyte report of compromise as well as the breadth of the Change system, it very well could be. United is reporting that it may be hard to tell who was impacted by the breach.  Further, because of Change’s tentacles in the market with providers and payers, it could be that people are notified multiple times from different providers and a payer that their data was impacted.  There could be hundreds of millions (even billions) of notifications.  This will cause mass confusion. In other events, United seems to be complaining that some insurers and providers are slow to reconnect to Change systems, which is needed to get the flow of information and claims.  Some complain that they do not know yet if Change is

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Surprise! Surprise! No Surprises Act Favors Providers And Is Driving Up Costs

Since the No Surprises Act (NSA) was passed in late 2020, I have argued that the baseball-style arbitration process is heavily stacked against health plans and favors providers.  The law went into effect on January 1, 2022, with some portions still forestalled by the federal government.  But the main components  that stop surprise billing to patients and the process to settle what is paid by plans to providers has been in force now for about 2 years.  The implementation of the arbitration has been rocky.  The number of cases is demonstrably above what was expected.  That said, more and more data is now available that shows how well providers are doing from the process. In commercial coverage, the main component of the law disallows providers from billing patients for out-of-network services beyond plan outlined in-network cost-sharing for emergency situations, post-emergency stabilization, and non-emergency in-network facility-based procedures where non-network services may

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March 27, 2024

Improper Payments Huge In Federal Programs A new Government Accountability Office analysis finds that the federal government made nearly $236 billion in improper payments in 2023. The payments were largely in Medicare, Medicaid, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness. Medicare had the largest improper payments at $51.1 billion.  Medicaid had $50.3 billion. GAO Report here: https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-24-106927 #fwa #medicare #medicaid Link to Article New Rule Simplifies Medicaid and Children’s Insurance Enrollment A new Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) final rule will help enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage. Among changes include transfer from Medicaid and CHIP if Medicaid is lost, renewals no sooner than every 12 months, no waiting periods, and sufficient time to respond to state inquiries on coverage. Federal press release and fact sheet: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/biden-harris-administration-builds-success-affordable-care-act-streamlining-enrollment-medicaid-and and https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/streamlining-medicaid-childrens-health-insurance-program-and-basic-health-program-application Additional articles: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/government/cms-medicaid-chip-enrollment-renewal-rule and https://insidehealthpolicy.com/daily-news/cms-finalizes-rule-overhauling-medicaid-enrollment-eligibility-processes (Some articles may

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