Good morning, and welcome to 2020! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and are feeling refreshed heading into the new year.
Today's word count is 883, or a ~3-minute read.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
Pharmaceutical companies began 2020 the same way they begin every year: with price hikes on hundreds of drugs.
Between the lines: The price increases are salt in the wound following Congress' failure to pass meaningful drug price legislation in 2019, and are already being used to make the political case for action this year.
By the numbers: As of Friday, drug companies had increased the prices of 445 products by a median of 5%, according to an analysis by 3 Axis Advisors. More hikes are expected throughout January.
Some notable increases, per Axios' Bob Herman:
Yes, but: List prices don't reflect discounts and rebates, which reduce net prices. List prices do, however, affect people who have high deductibles or are uninsured.
The bottom line: Congress these days is much better at doing nothing than passing legislation, and its inertia is only going to be made worse by the November election. Until something changes, expect increases to happen again.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
With legislation in Congress likely to be blocked by partisan division and interest group opposition, much of the real action in health care this year will be in the states, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman writes in today's column.
The big picture: States don't have the money or purchasing power the federal government does, but their decisions nevertheless affect millions of people, and they could signal the future of federal reform.
What to watch: Colorado and Washington are implementing public insurance options that could be a model for Democrats at the federal level.
State interest in Massachusetts-like cost controls may grow, as could interest in using Medicaid to pay for non-medical services for high cost patients, as North Carolina is doing.
The other side: Idaho and other red states are promoting short-term insurance plans as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
Last year, Medicare paid for $725 million worth of expensive medications administered in outpatient clinics — things like chemotherapy drugs — that ended up being discarded, according to new data released by the federal government.
Why it matters: Although that amount is just 2% of what Medicare paid for those types of infusion drugs, that's still a "very astonishing amount of waste," said Rena Conti, a health economist at Boston University who has studied the issue, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
By the numbers: 10 highly discarded drugs accounted for 63% of Medicare's wasted dollars.
Between the lines: Drugs that are given intravenously and are based on someone's weight are more difficult to administer than pills, and some cannot be reused after the vials are opened — thus making them prone to some inevitable waste.
Yes, but: Requiring companies to make more appropriate vial sizes may not reduce wasted medications or save money.
Hospitals and doctors play important roles, too, because they control the purchasing and use of these infused drugs.
For those of you who completely checked out over the holidays, the biggest health care news was that the Trump administration finally issued its contentious vaping policy last week.
The other side: Both Republicans and Democrats in Congress and heads of public health organizations, including the American Heart Association and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, are concerned the guidelines don't go far enough.