Situational awareness: An e-cigarette literally exploded in a teenager's mouth, causing damage to his jaw, NYT reports.
Update on our survey last week: 80.8% of respondents said they love the word count. Thanks for your feedback — and look out for more questions soon!
Today's word count is 1,046 words, or ~4 minutes.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
Employers will likely step up their efforts to rein in health care costs next year, a new PwC Health Research Institute report predicts, partially because they've nearly maxed out their ability to offload costs onto employees.
What they're saying: "2020 likely will be, in some ways, a turning point in the long arc of employer-sponsored insurance, a year in which more employers fight back," the report's authors write.
The big picture: Employers' medical costs are expected to rise by 6% next year, thanks to drug costs, chronic diseases and greater access to mental health care.
Between the lines: Nothing keeps business' health care costs in check better than healthy workers — and employers are getting increasingly hands-on in that pursuit.
The bottom line: Employers are the health care system's sleeping giant. Prices will go down when employers decide to use their massive political and financial leverage.
Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
In an increasingly lucrative market, dozens of companies and startups are selling futuristic-looking headgear that promise to connect to your brain to relieve stress, enhance memory, improve sleep or increase focus.
What they're saying: Experts say these products make mostly unsubstantiated claims, and in some cases can harm buyers, my colleague Kaveh Waddell reports.
There are two broad categories of wearable brain devices — those that record the user’s brain activity and others that stimulate the brain with electrical currents.
For example, Bellabee, a $159 headband and app, says it can help reduce symptoms of ADHD and PTSD.
None of the three — a small subset of the growing market — offers research showing that their devices do what they claim. None responded to requests for comment.
The big picture: The deal, which has been under FTC review for 19 months, allows UnitedHealth to continue its conquest of all aspects of the health care system — in this case, as a health insurer and care provider.
Details: The agreement stipulates that Optum will have to sell DaVita's primary care group in the Las Vegas area to Intermountain Healthcare, a hospital system based in Utah. Those terms were not disclosed.
That's not all: Colorado's attorney general negotiated a separate settlement to address anticompetitive concerns.
The bottom line: DaVita will now focus on its core dialysis business, while UnitedHealth maintains its position as one of the largest employers of doctors and biggest insurer for seniors.
Remember when I told you on Monday that ambulances aren't addressed in any of Congress' surprise billing proposals? Well, now they are.
Patients' cost-sharing would be based on the in-network rate for their air ambulance ride, and the ambulance couldn't bill them beyond that.
Related: The senators had previously listed 3 options for addressing payment disputes over surprise medical bills more broadly, but yesterday's bill settled on establishing a benchmark payment rate.
By the numbers: In 2017, about 1 in 6 emergency room and inpatient hospital visits resulted in at least one out-of-network charge, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation analysis.
Members of the Sackler family, who own Purdue Pharma, have notoriously avoided the media. But David Sackler broke the silence by speaking with Bethany McLean of Vanity Fair to say his family "didn't cause the [opioid] crisis," Bob writes.
What he said: Sackler conceded that marketing claims saying OxyContin had small risks of abuse and addiction were wrong, but argued they were based on the science at the time.
Yes, but: Reporting in the Los Angeles Times, ProPublica and elsewhere shows the company, led by the Sacklers, knew about the problems with OxyContin and other prescription opioids for years and still encouraged aggressive prescribing to boost sales.