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HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Expect more big moves on prescription drug pricing today.
Driving the news: HHS Secretary Alex Azar is giving a "major policy address" on drug prices this afternoon.
Between the lines: Price transparency is popular, even bipartisan. But the specific weirdness of the health care system creates a situation in which more information may not actually be helpful.
The bottom line: There's no way to put a number on television that will be useful for everyone who sees it. Some critics even worry the disclosures could scare patients away from medicines that could help them, by giving them the impression they'll have to pay more than they really will.
Even in deep-blue California, Democrats haven’t been able to overcome industry opposition and pass serious cost control measures, my colleague Caitlin Owens reports after spending last week in the Golden State.
Details: A controversial bill that would have regulated prices for health care services within the private insurance system was shelved this past spring. It was part of a burgeoning effort to pass what’s known as all-payer rate setting — which has so far only succeeded in one state (Maryland).
"Any attempt to control prices will bring the health care industry out in force," the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt said. "Politically speaking, there likely needs to be some counterweight to hospitals and doctors for that effort to succeed."
Why it matters: As the national Democratic Party swings left on health care, California shows that even with strong liberal majorities, it's still an uphill battle to successfully chip away at the health care industry's bottom line.
It may not be long before the world simply doesn’t have many effective antibiotics, according to a scary piece by Maryn McKenna in Wired.
“The drugs we have for heart disease, for depression, for cancer, the vaccine for measles—they’ll still work. But antibiotics will be crushed,” Kevin Outterson, who runs an initiative that supports antibiotic research, told Wired.
McKenna suggests treating antibiotics not like other pharmaceuticals, which are developed and sold on the free market, but like infrastructure or military technology.
Faith-based health ministries are an increasingly popular alternative to health insurance, but they are not really insurance, and come with some significant risks.
“We’ve abandoned the health insurance model and instead rely on each other to pay our bills,” the leader of one health ministry told the Chicago Tribune.
Health sharing ministries are somewhere between charity and a form of insurance. Families pay in a certain amount each month, and the ministry then uses that money to reimburse members after they pay out of their own pocket for health care services.
“They’re not insurance,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Karen Pollitz told the Tribune. “There’s no contract. This is just a group of people who say God wants us to pay for each other’s medical bills, and then they either will or won’t send money.”