Good morning. It's Friday!
📷 Joe Biden on Medicare for All: "The party is not there. The party's not there at all." In "Axios on HBO's" first-ever special, Biden accuses the media of misjudging how liberal the Democratic Party really is, telling Mike Allen, "you guys got it all wrong." Catch a sneak peek (here) and watch the full interview this Sunday at 6:30pm ET.
Today's word count is 863, or ~3 minutes.
Photo: HHS Secretary Alex Azar, President Trump and CMS Administrator Seema Verma. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
The working relationship between HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma has grown so dysfunctional that both President Trump and Vice President Pence have intervened to try to salvage the situation, three senior administration officials told Axios' Jonathan Swan and me.
Why it matters: It's an extraordinary intervention at the highest levels of government. And it highlights, as Politico extensively reported in this story, the White House's urgent desire for the heads of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to repair their working relationship.
Behind the scenes: Azar had a clearing of the air meeting with Verma on Wednesday, at Pence's request, according to two administration officials.
The tensions between the two officials have already disrupted the rollout of health care initiatives that Trump's team considers important for his reelection.
At their meeting on Wednesday, Verma raised her concerns directly with Azar about his leadership style. The two officials agreed to try to work better together and that her concerns would be addressed and mitigated going forward, a source familiar with the meeting added.
Americans spent $3.65 trillion on health care in 2018 — 4.6% more than the year before. That growth also was higher than the 4.2% rate from 2017, according to revised figures from independent federal actuaries, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Between the lines: U.S. health care spending climbed again not because people went to the doctor or hospital more frequently, but because the industry charged higher prices. And private health insurers didn't do a particularly good job negotiating lower rates.
The intrigue: The number of people with private health plans — which mostly consists of the coverage people get through their jobs — dipped in 2018, yet the amount spent per person soared 6.7%.
Medicare and Medicaid had much lower per-enrollee spending growth rates in 2018 than private insurance, but those figures were the highest they've been since 2015 — again due to higher costs for the private insurers that are increasingly running those government programs.
New data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey shows that 6.2 million middle school and high school students use tobacco, the highest level since 2000, Axios' Marisa Fernandez reports.
Why it matters: Tobacco use among middle schoolers and high schoolers remains high thanks to the popularity of e-cigarettes.
Findings: This year, NYTS asked teens why they smoked e-cigarettes. More than half cited their curiosity and almost a quarter said they tried them because of the flavors.
Yesterday's biotech news resulted in a combined $7.6 billion shift in value for Biogen, Sage Therapeutics and Acadia Pharmaceuticals, Bloomberg reports.
Driving the news: Biogen released new data on its Alzheimer's drug yesterday, which added $2 billion to the company's market value.
Why it matters: "The huge moves were yet another reminder of how biotechnology investing — and, more specifically, betting on drug development for diseases affecting the brain — can often resemble a roulette wheel," Bloomberg's Bailey Lipschultz writes.
If a perfect illustration of the human condition exists, then surely this is it: Cell phone-related injuries have skyrocketed over the last decade, according to a new study in JAMA Otolaryngology.
By the numbers: Nearly 40% of injuries between January 1998 and December 2017 were among people ages 13 to 29, and many of them were "associated with common activities, such as texting while walking."
The rise of the smartphone, particularly the iPhone️, was apparently pretty dangerous.