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Taxpayers spent $100 billion on Medicare Part D in 2017. Photo: Universal Images Group via Getty Images

From 2006 to 2015, health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers that run Medicare's prescription drug program reaped $9.1 billion in additional taxpayer funds because they overestimated how much their members would spend on drugs, according to a Wall Street Journal investigation.

The bottom line: Medicare's complex rules allowed companies — including UnitedHealth Group, CVS Health and Humana — to pocket most or all of those overestimated funds instead of paying them back to the federal government.

The background: The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission for years has flagged problems with certain payment policies in the Medicare Part D program, which is run by private insurers but funded by the public. The policies in question are called "risk corridors" and "reinsurance."

  • The WSJ analyzed publicly available data and obtained confidential company data to show how those payments were actually panning out.

The big picture: The $9.1 billion in overpayments discovered by the WSJ equals a little more than 1% of the $637 billion spent on the Medicare Part D program from 2006-2015, according to Medicare data.

  • Yes, but: That means the program is still squandering taxpayer money. The WSJ's analysis also shows how health insurers are able to reap sizable windfalls — dollars that make a difference in earnings projections — even when they are only tinkering with a small amount of overall spending.

Go deeper

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

Updated 13 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Politics: Biden unveils "wartime" COVID strategyBiden's COVID-19 bubble.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong to put tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

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