Today's word count is 813 words, or a 3-minute read.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
When the Trump administration urged the Supreme Court not to expedite an appeal in the big case challenging the Affordable Care Act, it was breaking with the tactic it has taken in many other high-profile cases, Axios' Sam Baker writes this morning.
The big picture: The Supreme Court almost never takes up cases before a lower appeals court has had the chance to rule. But the Justice Department, under President Trump, has asked for a whole lot of exceptions to that rule.
Yes, but: In the challenge to the ACA — in which a district court judge struck down the entire health care law — the Justice Department urged the Supreme Court not to expedite a hearing.
Expedition isn't always wrong, legal experts say. And in the ACA case, nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
Centene and WellCare have cleared all federal and state antitrust reviews, and today they expect their merger will be finalized — combining them into the largest health insurer by membership, with 23.4 million covered people.
Why it matters: The health insurance industry will get a lot more consolidated with this deal, and competition will decline within state Medicaid programs and among federal Medicare plans, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
The big picture: A combined Centene and WellCare essentially will function as a branch of state and federal governments, because almost all of its $100 billion in annual revenue flows from taxpayer-funded health care programs.
Between the lines: Centene had to sell some of its Medicaid and Medicare plans to alleviate competitive concerns raised by antitrust authorities, but those assets are just getting shifted to other dominant insurers.
18 Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers are investing a combined $55 million to build a new generic drug company as a subsidiary of the nonprofit Civica Rx. The firm will focus on manufacturing generics people get at the pharmacy, Bob reports.
Between the lines: Civica and the Blues aren't disclosing which drugs they want to make, so it's unclear how much effect this company will have. But the investment highlights the broad desire to counter generic companies that are accused of price-gouging.
What they're saying: The new company is evaluating a list of 30 to 40 generic drugs that have little or no competition and are deemed to be "high-priced," Civica CEO Martin VanTrieste said.
Yes, but: Pharmacies have contracts with wholesalers that usually require them to buy a vast majority of their drugs from that wholesaler.
The bottom line: Civica has already started distributing hospital-based drugs. This effort similarly hinges on which drugs are targeted and how cheap Civica's new subsidiary can make them.
The gender pay gap among physicians is widening, and researchers are struggling to understand why the difference in the average starting pay is more than $36,000, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.
By the numbers: The data compiled from 1999 to 2017 shows the average starting compensation was $235,044 for men and $198,426 for women, with a larger gap in more recent years.
Go deeper: Add-on expenses for medical students pile up
HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Had last year's feud between Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma resulted in one of them being forced out, the White House had a list of potential replacements ready, Politico scoops.
Yes, but: Politico's sources stressed that both Azar and Verma are expected to stay in their jobs through at least the end of President Trump's first term.