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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Insurers are trying to figure out ways to help employers afford to cover gene therapies, which can carry price tags in the millions, WSJ reports.

Driving the news: Cigna announced yesterday that it's starting a new program in which employers and insurers will pay monthly for a service that covers gene therapies and review who can get the drugs, which can be dispensed through Cigna's specialty pharmacy.

And CVS, which owns Aetna, said it's going to offer new coverage specifically for gene therapies. Anthem said it's also looking at ways to help employers protect themselves from the cost.

Why it matters: The gene therapy pipeline is robust, and sales are expected to skyrocket in the next few years.

  • Some experts say gene therapies are already too expensive. Insurers want to tie their payments to outcomes, and Cigna hopes to enroll enough patients in the new program to secure better deals.

What they're saying: "Hard to know if the thesis of getting more lives will turn into getting bigger discounts where there is no competition. It clearly has not borne out for those other expensive specialty drugs that lack competition," Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's Peter Bach told me.

Yes, but: Many companies already have stop-loss insurance, meaning these additional services could come across as redundant.

  • The 3 insurers included in the Journal's report also operate their own pharmacy benefit managers and specialty pharmacies.
  • Specialty pharmacies owned by the same companies that manage drug benefits have a financial incentive to handle expensive drugs — at a cost to everyone else.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

40 mins ago - World

Scoop: Jake Sullivan discussed Saudi-Israel normalization with MBS

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg and Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan raised normalization with Israel during his recent meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, three U.S. and Arab sources tell Axios.

Why it matters: Saudi Arabia would be the biggest regional player to sign onto the "Abraham Accords" peace agreement with Israel, and such a major breakthrough would likely convince other Arab and Muslim countries to follow suit.

Tech's leaky world

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Tech companies are learning what everyone in Washington already knows: Leaks of confidential info are inevitable, and "plumbing" operations to close them rarely work.

Why it matters: Most tech firms talk up the power of transparency but prefer to keep details of their operations secret from competitors and the public. Researchers, regulators and the media are increasingly relying on information provided by dissident employees and whistleblowers to see inside companies' workings.

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

First look: Harris wants more union membership in fed workforce

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks at a virtual town hall with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) on Oct. 14. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Vice President Kamala Harris and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh will today announce new guidelines to encourage federal workers to join unions, according to a White House official.

Why it matters: The Biden administration wants to bolster the collective bargaining power of workers across the country – and they are starting at home, with changes in the federal workforce.