May 24, 2019

Health industry under bipartisan fire on Capitol Hill

Sens. Patty Murray and Lamar Alexander. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A new Senate bill would tackle an array of health industry tactics that are costing patients a lot of money, but have largely fallen under politicians' radar until now.

The big picture: This is one of the most ambitious bipartisan health care bills in a long time.

Details: The bill, written by Sens. Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray, pitches 3 options for ending surprise hospital billing, including a new one that could coax more doctors into accepting the same insurance plans as the hospitals they practice in.

It would also:

  • Create a nonprofit entity to collect and review claims data, to help illuminate what care actually costs.
  • Ban hospitals from including anticompetitive clauses in their contracts with insurers.
  • Ban pharmacy benefit managers from charging more for a drug than the PBM paid for it, and would require PBMs to pass 100% of rebates or discounts along to insurers and employers that hire them.
  • Prohibit some of the "gaming" practices that drugmakers use to keep competition off of the market.

The backdrop: A bipartisan House proposal released yesterday would restructure Medicare’s drug benefit and cap seniors’ out-of-pocket costs.

The other side: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi this week presented ideas for "Dems' forthcoming prescription drug negotiation bill," according to a senior Democratic aide and first reported by Politico.

  • HHS would negotiate prices for at least 25 drugs every year, which would apply to all payers.
  • Drugs covered by Medicare couldn't have price hikes higher than inflation, or the manufacturer would have to rebate the difference to Medicare.

Go deeper: Capitol Hill sees bipartisan momentum on surprise medical billing

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Biden bets it all on South Carolina

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Most Joe Biden admirers Axios interviewed in South Carolina, where he's vowed to win today's primary, said they're unfazed by his embarrassing losses in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada.

Why it matters: Biden has bet it all on South Carolina to position himself as the best alternative to Bernie Sanders — his "good buddy," he tells voters before skewering Sanders' record and ideas.

Coronavirus updates: Market ends worst week since financial crisis

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The stock market ended its worst week since the financial crisis, prompting the Fed to release a statement. Meanwhile, the WHO warned that countries are losing their chance to contain the novel coronavirus and raised its global risk assessment to "very high" Friday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,860 people and infected more than 84,000 others in over 60 countries and territories outside the epicenter in mainland China. The number of new cases reported outside China now exceed those inside the country.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 12 hours ago - Health

California coronavirus: Latest case has no recent history of international travel

Gov. Gavin Newsom. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

A new case of the novel coronavirus in California was announced on Friday after Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that 33 people had tested positive for the virus, noting the risk to the public remains low.

What's new: An adult woman with chronic health conditions in Santa Clara County who "did not recently travel overseas" or come into contact with anyone known to be ill was confirmed to have contracted the coronavirus on Friday by CDC and California Department of Public Health officials.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 13 hours ago - Health