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

Florida's plan to import drugs from Canada hits setback

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis waves to supporters during a rally for President Trump last week. Photo: Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Florida's $30 million contract to set up and operate a drug importation program didn't attract any private firms by its September deadline, Kaiser Health News reports.

Why it matters: The lack of vendor interest delays Florida's attempt to become the first state to import some drugs from Canada under recently finalized federal rules.

Oct 26, 2020 - Health

Intermountain, Sanford hospital systems plan to merge

Intermountain and Sanford control 70 hospitals across the West and Midwest. Photo: Intermountain Healthcare

Intermountain Healthcare and Sanford Health have agreed to merge, creating a system of 70 hospitals, hundreds of physician practices, and two health insurance companies across the West and Midwest, pending state and federal regulatory reviews.

Why it matters: A combined Intermountain-Sanford system would generate $15 billion of annual revenue, making it bigger than BlackRock or Uber, and would highlight how hospital systems are still pushing to consolidate despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 16, 2020 - Health

A vast majority of Americans love pre-existing conditions protections

Reproduced from KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

The vast majority — nearly eight in 10 — of Americans don't want to the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act's pre-existing conditions protections, according to a KFF poll.

Yes, but: Only 58% of Americans say the same about the law in its entirety, with the gap between the two positions largest among Republicans.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 15, 2020 - Health

Medicaid enrollment projected to spike

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

States expect Medicaid enrollment to jump by 8.4% in fiscal year 2021, compared to 6.3% growth in fiscal year 2020, according to a new KFF brief. This growth is expected to be primarily driven by enrollment.

The big picture: The program is serving as a safety net for the millions of Americans who have lost access to their employer health insurance during the pandemic.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 15, 2020 - Health

Outpatient visits bounce back

Reproduced from The Commonwealth Fund; Chart: Axios Visuals

Outpatient visits have returned to their pre-pandemic levels after declining by nearly 60%, according to a new analysis by the Commonwealth Fund.

Why it matters: The massive drop-off in people seeking medical care was bad both for providers and for patients, many of whom delayed care for conditions that may have worsened.

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

UnitedHealth's profit declines as more people see doctors

A health care worker prepares to care for a coronavirus patient in a hospital ICU. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

UnitedHealth Group's profit in the third quarter dipped 10% as people sought health care at rates "more closely approaching normal," executives said on an earnings call today.

Yes, but: UnitedHealth's quarterly earnings still hit $3.2 billion, and even though the health insurance division is paying more in medical claims, more people also are going to doctors' practices, urgent care facilities and surgery centers owned by UnitedHealth.

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

Private equity-owned air ambulances charge the highest rates

Adapted from Brookings; Chart: Axios Visuals

Air ambulances owned by private equity firms charge the highest rates — more than seven times what Medicare pays, according to a new analysis by the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy.

Why it matters: Air ambulances are frequent sources of surprise medical bills, and even when they're covered by insurance, we all pay for these expensive prices through our premiums.

Oct 14, 2020 - Health

Seniors won't receive Trump drug discount cards until after election

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The $200 prescription drug discount cards the Trump administration promised to Medicare recipients won't likely reach households by the Nov. 3 goal, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The cards, which Trump announced in late September with little detail, target voters over 65, a group that is crucial to the president's reelection bid.

Oct 14, 2020 - Health

The pandemic isn't keeping the health care industry down

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Health care's third-quarter earnings season has started, and if the quarter is anything like the previous one, the industry will continue to fare relatively well even amid the broader economic turmoil.

The bottom line: The coronavirus dominated the spring and summer, which forced people to put off care, but people have resumed getting procedures and seeing their doctors.

Oct 9, 2020 - Health

HCA to return $1.6 billion in coronavirus bailout funds

HCA's hospitals are closing the books on a profitable Q3, despite the pandemic. Photo: Rusty Russell/Getty Images

HCA Healthcare is giving back $1.6 billion of federal bailout payments and paying back $4.4 billion in Medicare loans early. The money was intended to help hospitals weather the pandemic as patients delayed elective care.

Why it matters: Over the summer, the hospital industry said the pandemic was resulting in "the greatest financial crisis we have ever faced in our history." But HCA expects to report higher revenue and adjusted profits in the third quarter.

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