Good morning ... I missed this last week, but here's one way to get a jump on your Halloween costume: T-shirts ($22.95) emblazoned with the average cost of common health care procedures, including a knee replacement ($30,067) and a hysterectomy ($16,138).
President Trump announces a new trade deal at the White House. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
The Trump administration's new trade deal with Canada and Mexico includes a big win for pharmaceutical companies and Republicans, my colleague Caitlin Owens reports — a provision to protect biologic drugs from competition for 10 years.
Why it matters: Republicans say this will spread the cost of developing new drugs beyond the U.S. market, lowering American drug prices.
The big picture: Biologics get 12 years of market exclusivity in the U.S. market, but 10 years is longer than they currently receive in Canada or Mexico. It's also much longer than the Obama administration had negotiated in its trade deals.
The other side: “We feel this is bad news for patients who are seeking more affordable biologics. It would delay biosimilar competition," Jeff Francer, general counsel for the Association for Accessible Medicines, told Axios in August when the administration announced a similar policy with Mexico.
The Trump administration has been touting the fact that Affordable Care Act coverage is on track for relatively modest premium increases next year in much of the country. But a new paper published in Health Affairs offers a reminder that Trump has not been a friend to the ACA’s exchanges.
By the numbers: In 2016, 93% of the country lived in a county where they'd have at least three insurers to choose from, if they wanted to buy coverage through the exchanges.
Unsurprisingly, the places where insurers backed out tended to be rural, impoverished and unhealthy.
"It is unclear" whether this trend "represented a long-run equilibrium or more transient factors such as the fluid policy environment and insurer 'panic' over early losses," the paper says.
The bottom line: Premiums also skyrocketed in this period — the average premium for a middle-of-the-road policy rose by about 37% from 2017 to 2018. And insurers have said plainly that policy changes from the administration and congressional Republicans made them skittish.
Two hospital behemoths — Memorial Hermann Health System and Baylor Scott & White Health — are looking to merge. That would create an organization with almost $15 billion of annual revenue and hefty market power across Texas, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Why it matters: Hospitals continue to combine into larger regional and multi-state corporations as they anticipate seeing more and more patients covered by Medicare and Medicaid, which don't pay as much as private insurance. Mergers give hospitals the upper hand in negotiations with commercial health insurers.
What they’re saying: Oil magnate Ross McKnight, board chair of Baylor Scott & White, declared in a buzzword-laden press conference that “patients … all over Texas are the winners from this merger.”
By the numbers: Almost $900 million — that’s the combined total “surplus” (financial jargon for “profit” at a not-for-profit organization) of Baylor Scott & White and Memorial Hermann in fiscal 2017.
The FDA yesterday announced new steps it's taking to counter cyberattacks on medical devices, Caitlin reports.
The details: The FDA's plan includes ...
The big picture: Some of these steps are "quite substantial," says Beau Woods, a cybersecurity expert with I Am The Cavalry.
Photo: RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images
If it’s not an emergency, maybe you shouldn’t call an ambulance to take you to the hospital, economist Austin Frakt writes in the New York Times.
Ambulances can be very expensive, and often aren’t covered (or are only partially covered) by insurance.
Yes, but: Although this is sound advice, remember the woman whose leg got caught in the Boston subway tracks a few months ago, who was begging the people helping her not to call an ambulance because she couldn’t afford it?
Medicare’s next open enrollment period begins in less than two weeks, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has released its final handbook that serves as a central guide for seniors and disabled people signing up for coverage.
Medicare eliminated controversial portions from its draft 2019 handbook, including a sentence that supported the “flexibility” of private contracts and language that some consumer advocates thought was overly supportive of Medicare Advantage plans.
Go deeper: Read the entire Medicare handbook