Health care costs

The big picture

UnitedHealth posts most profitable quarter in its history

The coronavirus kept people out of the hospital.

Jul 15, 2020 - Health
The coronavirus pandemic hasn't stopped drug price increases

61 of the drugs with price hikes were being used to treat coronavirus.

Jun 29, 2020 - Health
The coronavirus is slowing health care spending

Delayed care is beating COVID-19 cases right now.

May 21, 2020 - Health
Watch: As Medicare for All debate rages on, costs keep going up

Part 5 of our What Matters 2020 series.

Mar 6, 2020 - Health
The health care debate we ought to be having

Health care is eating up more and more of Americans’ paychecks every year.

Dec 22, 2019 - Politics & Policy
Deep Dive: The drug pricing maze

It can be enormously frustrating for patients — and profitable for everyone else.

Nov 17, 2018 - Health

All Health care costs stories

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 18, 2020 - Health

Hospital prices' steady rise

Data: Whaley, et al., 2020, "Nationwide Evaluation of Health Care Prices Paid by Private Health Plans"; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Employers and private insurers paid hospitals, on average, 247% of what Medicare paid for the same services in 2018, per a new RAND study.

Why it matters: We all pay for this giant gap in prices through our premiums and lost wages.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 14, 2020 - Health

Drug pricing politics aren't dead

Illustration: Axios Visuals

President Trump released an executive order on Sunday ordering the Department of Health and Human Services to begin the process of limiting what Medicare pays for prescription drugs relative to other countries.

Why it matters: It's September of an election year. That means that this executive order is, at best, a statement of Trump's intention to keep trying to achieve something big on drug prices should he get a second term.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Sep 2, 2020 - Health

Half of Americans fear a health-related bankruptcy

Data: Gallup; Chart: Axios Visuals

The number of Americans who worry about bankruptcy if they have a serious health issue has spiked over the last year and a half — particularly among men, people of color and young adults, according to a new survey from West Health and Gallup.

Between the lines: Health care costs were a huge issue even when the economy was good and we weren't in a global pandemic. Now, millions of people have gotten sick, lost their jobs, lost their health insurance, or all three.

California could become first state to produce generic drugs

Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the measure. Photo: Agustin Paullier/AFP via Getty Images

California's state legislature approved a measure this week that would allow it to become the first state to develop its own line of generic drugs, including insulin, to tackle rising pharmaceutical prices.

Why it matters: If passed, the motion would put California in direct competition with major generic and brand-name drug manufacturers.

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

"Long-haul" COVID can lead to big bills for patients

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Some percentage of coronavirus patients experience symptoms that last well beyond their "recovery" — which can leave them on the hook for thousands in medical bills they may not be able to pay.

Why it matters: Its not clear whether guarantees from insurers and the federal government about covering coronavirus treatment costs will still cover long-term health effects, as the Wall Street Journal notes. And because some people never tested positive back when testing was scarce, they don't have a formal diagnosis — further hampering their issue.

Aug 26, 2020 - Health

Hospitals charge a lot more when Wall Street owns them

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hospitals owned by private equity firms rake in almost 30% more income than hospitals that aren’t, according to new research published this week in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Why it matters: Private equity is gobbling up more and more of the health care industry. Investors are buying up physicians’ practices, hospitals and the firms that negotiate prices with insurers.

Aug 19, 2020 - Health

People of color struggle to afford health care

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

People of color disproportionately lack stable health insurance and have more trouble affording health care than white Americans, a new survey from the Commonwealth Fund shows.

Why it matters: This is one of the long-standing inequalities the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated.

Aug 13, 2020 - Health

Unsealed lawsuit alleges Molina overbilled for children's mental health

Molina Healthcare headquarters in Long Beach, California Photo: Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A newly unsealed lawsuit accuses Molina Healthcare of cutting corners in its mental health services for children and defrauding Medicaid in the process.

The big picture: Molina provides Medicaid managed-care plans in more than a dozen states. The whistleblower suit accuses the company of overbilling specifically for children's behavioral health services, to the tune of at least $20 million across multiple federal, state and local agencies.

Aug 12, 2020 - Health

The top-selling drugs in the U.S. in 2019

Data: IQVIA, company financial documents; Note: Data has been corrected for Biktarvy, Enbrel, Januvia, Remicade and Stelara (more info below). Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The 10 highest-selling drugs in the U.S. last year gave away more than $23 billion in rebates to insurance intermediaries, but still netted $50 billion in sales.

The big picture: The U.S. drug pricing system is filled with confusing numbers, and many entities profit off the flow of drugs, but pharmaceutical companies retain a vast majority of the proceeds.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Aug 6, 2020 - Health

The health care sector imploded in Q2

Data: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis via FRED; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The pandemic has been very good for health insurers — largely because they don't need to pay for procedures that haven't been happening.

By the numbers: The value of health care services performed in America in the second quarter plunged to $1.69 trillion, from $2.26 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2019. The unprecedented drop was enough on its own to account for 9.5 points of the 32.9% annualized fall in second-quarter GDP.

More Health care costs stories