May 23, 2019

Congress eyes federally funded medical claims research

A technician works in a cardiac cath lab. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A new draft health care bill, released today in the Senate, would aim to build a better database of real-world records about health care costs.

Details: The federal government would pay a nonprofit $95 million over 6 years to build a database of medical claims, showing how much employers and insurers actually paid for care. Employers' claims data has long been considered a black box.

The nonprofit would have to produce reports, abide by strict protocols to keep the data secure and private, and make the data available to any company, researcher or entity who requests access, according to the draft bill text.

Driving the news: Employers have told legislators they want more access to this kind of data to make better purchasing decisions and see where they are overspending, and these kinds of claims databases have support across the political spectrum.

  • UnitedHealthcare's decision to stop providing data to the Health Care Cost Institute earlier this year served as an extra impetus to include this provision, according to a Senate staffer.

What we're watching: Hospitals and other providers likely won't be fans of this idea. They've benefited from keeping true prices hidden.

Go deeper

Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers and South Korea sees first death

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship. South Korea also announced its first death Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 75,465 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 6 hours ago - Health

SoftBank to cut its stake to get T-Mobile's Sprint deal done

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

T-Mobile and Sprint announced a revised merger agreement that will see SoftBank getting a smaller share of the combined company, while most shareholders will receive the previously agreed upon exchange rate. The companies said they hope to get the deal as early as April 1.

Why it matters: The amended deal reflects the decline in Sprint's business, while leaving most shareholders' stake intact and removing another hurdle to the deal's closure.