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February 20, 2024

Analysts Say Digital Health Facing Funding Challenges After record years of funding, digital health ventures are facing lean times to stay solvent. (Article may require a subscription.) #digitalhealth #healthcare Link to Article 2024 Financial Woes For Medicare Advantage Plans Excellent Healthcare Dive article on the potential financial woes for Medicare Advantage (MA) plans resulting from rising medical expense and insufficient rates.  I covered some of this in my blog here: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ #medicareadvantage #rates Link to Article New Challenges For Providers On Medicare Drug Price Negotiations Interesting article on the impediments to provider entities suing on their fallout from the Medicare drug price negotiations. A judge found they have a lack of standing right now to sue. (Article may require a subscription.) #ira #drugpricing Link to Article AI Task Force In The House Similar to Senate interest, the House Speaker has formed a bipartisan task force on regulating AI in healthcare.

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February 19, 2024

A Look At Growing Provider-Payer Disputes In California A good article from Kaiser Health News (KHN) that looks at growing contract disputes between providers and payers.  This one was in CA, but this is occurring nationwide.  KHN mentions higher costs coming from provider consolidation as well as increasing leverage when payers merge. The Biden administration is on to something with its anti-trust initiative. #providers #healthplans #coverage #payments Link to Article Wakely’s Assessment Of The 2025 Medicare Advantage Advance Notice As it does each year, Wakely has issued its annual assessment of the advanced notice for Medicare Advantage (MA).  My analysis is here: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-plans-look-tight/ . #2025 #rates #medicareadvantage Link to Article Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan Analysis By Kaiser Family Foundation The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) published a look at Dual Eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNPs).  Among the findings: My own research shows that SNPs in general, most of it dual

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Part 2: My Courageous Daughter Is Having Brain Surgery!

This is one of a number of blogs that will appear on my daughter.  I call her Kitty.  She is a wonderfully talented, bright, and empathetic individual in her late ‘20s.  She and I agreed I would write this series to impart how important health coverage is. Not only is her decision to have surgery courageous, but so is her decision to share her journey through me. The principal reason to share the journey is because we both want to explain what many average Americans go through financially when they have major operations and do not have the best insurance or no insurance at all.  My daughter is privileged to come from a well-off family and to have consistent and robust insurance.  This will mean that she will pay a tiny amount for a surgery with a sticker price in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  But for uninsured and

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February 16, 2024

No Surprises Act Dispute Process Favors Providers The No Surprises Act (NDA) remains  a huge mess with volume 13 times higher than forecast for 2023.  What’s more, providers won 77% of arbitration cases and health insurers won in 23% of cases. The winning offers were above the qualifying payment amount, which is the median in-network rate. The good news is that 10 million surprise bills were avoided with the law in the first nine months of 2023.  The bad news is that providers are winning huge in the baseball-style arbitration as they do in other states that have it.  Studies show that rates and premiums rose in those states under the provider-friendly process.  Researchers say that will happen nationwide now.  Yet, providers continue to sue to get things even more slanted toward them.  Congress has to even the playing field.  But they won’t as lawmakers from both sides of the

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February 15, 2024

Cigna To Start Stock Buyback Cigna said it would repurchase $3.2 billion in stock as part of a repurchase of $5 billion of common stock over the first half of 2024. This will help enhance its stock price.  Cigna will get $3.7 billion for its Medicare Advantage sale to Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) when it closes. #cigna #hcsc Link to Article New Bill To Establish “Essential Hospital” Designation Lawmakers are sponsoring a bill that would designate about 1,000 hospitals as “essential health systems” under federal statute.  This would provide a vehicle to shelter these hospitals from negative programmatic decision (similar to critical access hospitals and sole community hospitals) as well as target new dollars for health equity and related initiatives. Hospitals would need to meet certain Medicare or Medicaid thresholds. #hospitals #medicare #medicaid Link to Article Capitol Hill Interest In AI Legislation But Little Progress A good article on the interest

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What’s Up? Medicare Costs Will Be Up in 2024, While Medicaid Will Be Down At The Same Time

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has reported one of those weird conundrums in healthcare when it outlined expected cost increases in Medicare and Medicaid for 2024.  The CBO said that Medicare is expected to shoot up dramatically just as Medicaid expenditures will drop considerably as well. How is that possible? Let’s dig in here. Medicare The CBO says that Medicare spending will increase by about $65 billion in 2024 to $865 billion.  That is an increase of about 8%.  The significant rise in expected Medicare costs is driven by a few different things: In the outyears, outlays for Medicare will equal 3.2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2025 and increase to 4.2 percent of GDP in 2034. Medicaid On the flip side, the CBO says Medicaid expenditures will decrease by $58 billion to $557 billion.  This is a drop of about 9%.  The reason for this drop is driven by

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February 14, 2024

Elevance Health Takeover Of BCBSLA On Hold Again Facing pushback from Louisiana regulators, the governor and some lawmakers, BCBSLA has again withdrawn its application for sales to Elevance Health. BCBSLA sought permission to transition to a for-profit entity. Additional article: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/mergers-acquisitions/elevance-health-blue-cross-louisiana-merger-called-off (Some articles may require a subscription.) #bcbsla #elevancehealth Link to Article Biden Administration To Scrutinize Middlemen In Drug Shortage Controversy The Biden administration has issued a Request for Information (RFI) about the role of drug channel middlemen in creating drug shortages. The middlemen include group purchasing organizations (GPOs) and drug wholesalers. About six entities dominate. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are leading the effort. The agencies will look at market concentration, contracting practices, and regulatory exemptions. In addition, GPOs’ sole-source agreements that prevent hospitals and other providers from acquiring drugs elsewhere will be examined. HHS Press Release here: https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2024/02/14/ftc-hhs-seek-public-comment-generic-drug-shortages-competition-amongst-powerful-middlemen.html Additional

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February 13, 2024

Showing Strain In MA, PE Deals Dropped Significantly Private equity firms’ investment in the Medicare Advantage (MA) space are way down from a peak in 2021. This is a sign that rising medical expense and regulation is impacting the industry. Just 4 deals occurred in 2023, down from 19 in 2021. Additional article here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/finance/private-equity-medicare-advantage-pesp-report (Some articles may require a subscription.) #medicareadvantage #privatequityfirms Link to Article Site-Neutral Payment Fight Great Kaiser Health News article on the fight over site-neutral payments.  Advocates want site neutral and won passage in a small way on Part B drug infusion in the House.  Hospitals are using their weight and dollars to keep it out of any bill.  In a related move, advocates are proposing a possible rural exception to a site neutrality to get the reform passed. See here: https://insidehealthpolicy.com/daily-news/site-neutral-proponents-float-rural-exemption-hospitals-flag-risks (Some articles may require a subscription.) #siteneutral #medicare Link to Article Texas Federal Judge

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February 12, 2024

Kaiser Turns Around Performance Kaiser Permanente moved from a $1 billion loss in 2022 to about breakeven at least in terms of operating income in 2023.  Its income was $4.1 billion with investments.  It reached the $100 billion mark in both operating revenues and expenses. #kaiserpermanente #managedcare Link to Article Article Summing Up Congressional And Regulatory Issues On AI A good article on all the activities surrounding the use of AI and possible regulations.  The article discusses potential Capitol Hill bills, recent rules and guidance from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and lawsuits against insurers on AI issues. #ai #claimsdenials #priorauthorization Link to Article Humana Study Shows Discrimination In Healthcare A new study sponsored by Humana focused on structural determinants of health rather than social determinants.  The study found that 88% of respondents reporting healthcare discrimination were black. While similar and related to social determinants, structural determinants

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Senate HELP Committee Hearing On Drug Pricing Shows The Deep Divide In Congress

While I covered the topic in my Newsfeed on February 8 and 9, I thought it was important to blog about the February 8 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) drug price hearing. I have listened to every minute of the almost three-hour drug maker CEO hearing (where three brand drug makers testified) as well as an additional thirty-minute hearing presenting the views of advocates and researchers. I want to share my reaction. First, it is important to remember that, while I am a Republican, I march up the middle of the spectrum on health policy in general and share many of the views that Democrats do on drug pricing. I tend to favor what the Democrats have done on drug pricing because I think movement needs to happen and what has passed in the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA) Medicare drug price negotiations is a good experiment. Second, the

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