Good morning … It’s almost here: “Axios on HBO” debuts this Sunday at 6:30pm. You’ll see more from Axios’ interview with President Trump, and we have a ton of cool stuff in store over the next 4 weeks. You won’t want to miss it.
Physicians were furious earlier this year when Medicare proposed consolidating most billing codes for routine office visits into a single code next year. Medicare now says it won’t go that far or that quickly, but it will move forward with the general idea, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Why it matters: This affects billions of dollars in physicians' pay.
Driving the news: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said in a 2,378-page final rule yesterday that instead of collapsing 4 office visit codes into 1, it will collapse 3 codes into 1, and keep the highest-paying code.
The big question: It’s unclear whether the rule will address concerns of fraudulent billing, because the most lucrative code will still exist.
The Trump administration’s latest move on drug prices is designed in part to raise drug prices in Europe. And that’s not the first time the White House has focused on raising prices abroad — the recent trade deal with Canada and Mexico could as well, my colleague Caitlin Owens notes.
How it works: The trade deal gives biologics 10 years of data protection in all 3 countries.
"I would say there is a relationship between the two measures — in both cases the industry's bottom line is amply protected and may even be expanded," Moon adds.
Merck “is ending a long-term agreement to supply a lifesaving vaccine for children in West Africa,” NPR reports. “At the same time, the company has started sending the vaccine to China, where it will likely be sold for a much higher price.”
Merck has been supplying a vaccine for rotavirus, which kills about 200,000 children per year, as part of a long-term agreement with UNICEF and Gavi, a public-private partnership that provides vaccines in low-income countries.
Details: Merck sold its rotavirus vaccine to Gavi for $3.50 per dose in Africa. It costs $70 per dose in the U.S.
John Hammergren will step down next March after 20 years as the CEO of McKesson, a major drug and medical supply distributor. McKesson’s current president, Brian Tyler, will take over as CEO, Bob reports.
Why it matters: McKesson is one of the largest companies on the planet, with more than $200 billion of annual revenue.
Sad news: HHS announced yesterday that Dan Best, a senior adviser on drug pricing, has died. HHS did not specify a cause of death.
“I had the great privilege to know Dan Best for the past decade. He joined me here at HHS out of a desire to serve the American people by making healthcare more affordable. He brought his deep expertise and passion to this task with great humility and collegiality,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said.
Our thoughts are with his family.