obamacare

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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February 9, 2024

Senate To Tackle Medicare Physician Formula A bipartisan group of senators will tackle long-term reform of the Medicare physician pay formula. On 1/1, a 3.4% reduction went into effect due to the existing formula.  Some have accused physicians of spending more time lobbying on health plan prior authorization reform than on their own rate issues. #medicare #physicians Link to Article CMS Wants Tougher Regulation Of Accrediting Organizations A proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants reform of how accreditation organizations operate, including conflict of interest and other requirements in force for other organizations. CMS Fact Sheet here: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/accrediting-organization-proposed-rule-fact-sheet Additional article here: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/regulatory/cms-proposes-greater-oversight-consulting-limitations-accrediting-organizations (Some articles may require a subscription.) #cms #healthplans Link to Article Provider Lobbies Pushing PA Reform At State Level A number of states have enacted and more will enact broad reforms of prior authorization (PA).  Generally these reforms revolve around electronic PA transmission,

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February 8, 2024

Weighty Lesson For Employers From NC State Employee Plan Experience On GLP-1 Drugs A lesson for employer groups as weight-loss drugs take off in popularity.  An analysis of data says that just 25 of over 6,200 prescribers in the North Carolina State Employee Plan accounted for 8 percent of the costs of prescriptions for costly weight loss drugs. These include GLP-1 meds Wegovy and Saxenda. These drugs accounted for 10% of total costs – or over $100 million. The state wanted to rein in costs with some ideas, but its pharmacy benefit manger shot them down. Shame on the healthcare players to not work with employers battling these cost issues. As important, there are telehealth entities now emerging, backed by private equity, advertising solely to prescribe such meds.  It is corrupt. #weightlossdrugs #drugpricing Link to Article Good News From Oscar Health; It Favors ACA Subsidy Extension Oscar reported major enrollment

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Part 1: 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 7, 2024

House Republicans Vote To Ban QALYs House Republicans passed a bill to ban the use of the controversial Quality Adjusted Life Years (QALY) measurement in federal programs.  Additional article here: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/house-republicans-vote-ban-pricing-metrics-federal-programs #qalys #medicare #medicaid Link to Article Fitch Says MA Trends Will Mean A Credit Neutral Outlook Fitch Ratings says that the spike in medical expense and rate reductions in Medicare Advantage (MA) will end up being credit neutral, arguing plans are well-placed to weather a storm. #medicareadvantage Link to Article Even With Good 2023, CVS Health Saw Utilization Spike and Cuts Its 2024 Outlook CVS Health is cutting its 2024 outlook in the face of a utilization and medical expense spike at insurer Aetna. It otherwise had good 2023 results.  CVS also agreed with Humana and Centene that the 2025 rate announcement was inadequate. Additional articles here: https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/payers/cvs-earns-350-billion-revenue-2023-over-77-billion-profit and https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/cvs-health-medicare-advantage-utilization-2024 and https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2024/02/07/cvs-health-profits-hit-2-billion-as-company-benefits-from-new-provider-businesses/?sh=443dc8d5507b (Some articles may require a subscription.) #cvshealth

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February 6, 2024

Centene Reports Good Numbers, But Cautions On MA Rates Centene reported good numbers to Wall Street today, with notable increases in its Exchange line of business. Medicaid enrollment dropped due to redeterminations. But like Humana, Centene is cautioning that the Medicare Advantage (MA) 2025 rate announcement was inadequate and could lead to further benefit and other changes in its MA line. It also notes that other regulatory changes are impacting its MA investment.  Centene has already pared back benefits and geographies to bring its MA line to a better financial position. Additional articles here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/centene-medicare-advantage-rate-cut-2025-sarah-london and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/centene-medicare-advantage-rate-drop-2023-earnings/706620/ Two other articles on the fallout from MA rates and regulatory changes here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/insurance/medicare-advantage-rate-cut-2025-reimbursements-benefits-unitedhealth-humana and https://www.statnews.com/2024/02/05/cano-health-bankruptcy-medicare-advantage/ These articles underscore what I said in these blogs: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ and https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-plans-look-tight/ (Some articles may require a subscription.) #centene #medicareadvantage Link to Article Another Big Week For Drug Policy Much like last week, this week is very

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February 5, 2024

Spectacular But Not Unexpected Fall Of Cano Health Showing that healthcare remains a risky place, Cano Health announces bankruptcy and a spectacular collapse for the provider organization that enters into risk arrangements with Medicare Advantage (MA) and Medicaid managed care. The MA market has been tough for both plans and providers. The new CEO has been trying to refocus efforts in better market areas by exiting questionable areas. Questions are being raised about why Humana, a major stakeholder, will not buy the firm outright.  Additional articles here: https://www.modernhealthcare.com/digital-health/cano-health-bankruptcy-mark-kent and https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/cano-health-chapter-11-bankruptcy-restructuring-agreement/706546/ (Some articles may require a subscription.) #medicareadvantage #humana #providers Link to Article Humana Reacts To CMS MA Rate Announcement Humana reacted publicly today to last week’s rate announcement. Despite the reduction being larger than expected, it reconfirmed its more recent guidance on earnings. The final rates could be higher. See my recent blogs on the subject: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ and https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-medical-expense-rising-what-are-health-plans-to-do/ Additional

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Value-Based Care Payments And Arrangements Explained

A few readers have written in and asked if I could explain the various value-based-care (VBC) payment and arrangement frameworks. Specifically, they asked about my references to global and partial risk funds for providers.  Here is my best effort to explain what I see as the two overall types of VBC payments/arrangements we see in the marketplace today. Purpose VBC payments are meant to move from the fee-for-service (FFS) transactional payment system to one driven by efficiency and quality.  What do I mean by transaction payments? For the past many decades, most payments in our healthcare system were made as a fee for each service transacted in the healthcare system.  That can be the case when we go to the primary care physician (PCP), where he or she will be paid a fee by the insurer for the visit as well as other services provided. Similarly, a specialist may be

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February 2, 2024

Cigna Chief Explains Medicare Advantage Exit Cigna CEO David Cordani told investors today that he believes in Medicare Advantage (MA) but it is better for his service business, not his insurance line. In an upbeat investor call, Cordani said that the Medicare line would have required major investments that were not justified based on the size of the portfolio, but that Medicare holds great promise as a service element of its growing Evernorth business.  He said Cigna will double down on Evernorth grow.  Its report on medical loss ratio was very good as were the financials.  Some still question the decision to shed the MA lives. In the current environment for MA, Cordani’s decision may look right.  But will it be the right one over the long term? Or, is this a short-term calculation and Cordani will go back after Humana again down the road? Stay tuned. Additional articles here:

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February 1, 2024

MA Issues Trickle Down To Providers And Vendors This article focuses on Medicare Advantage (MA) troubles – rates, utilization, medical expense, and punitive regulatory requirements – and how they impact insurers, value-based-care providers, and vendors. My intel suggests that the traditionally flush global and partial risk funds that insurers have with providers around the country (providers share in profits when they help reduce costs and improve quality) have dried up or are drying up. Providers are already attacking insurers on numerous issues and this development will only make such relationships even worse. Note as well the reference to MA plans emphasizing profitability by reining in market growth and benefits.  I say just this in my blog on the topic here: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/with-boom-over-will-medicare-advantage-collapse-or-adjust/ . As well, see my just published blog on the 2025 MA payment proposal: https://www.healthcarelabyrinth.com/2025-rates-for-medicare-advantage-plans-look-tight/ (Article may require a subscription.) #medicareadvantage #vbc #providers Link to Article Scan Group CEO Recommends

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