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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios
The Democratic presidential candidates' plans to lower drug prices are much more aggressive than what the party has supported in the past.
The big picture: Many of the candidates have moved beyond the party's traditional support of allowing Medicare to negotiate with drugmakers and importing drugs from Canada, embracing an even larger role for the federal government.
Government controls the drug. The most aggressive end of the spectrum involves having the government manufacture drugs when they get too expensive or there's a shortage.
Government seizes the patent for the drug. Other candidates would allow the government to strip a drugmaker of its patent or license if the drug is too expensive.
Government determines the price of the drug. The U.S. doesn't regulate what drug manufacturers can charge for drugs, but some candidates — like Sanders, Harris and former Vice President Joe Biden — want to start doing so.
Government regulates price increases. Biden's plan prohibits drug companies from raising their prices above inflation, and price increases above inflation are a trigger for price-setting in Harris' plan.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced yesterday that Medicare will cover the innovative but expensive cancer treatment, providing "consistent and predictable patient access nationwide," CMS administrator Seema Verma said.
The treatment, which is customized for each individual patient, costs $375,000 or $475,000, depending on the type of cancer, the Washington Post notes.
Details: Yesterday's finalized decision contained a win for hospitals, as an earlier proposal would have required them to collect and report patient data over a long time period. Hospitals said this was too burdensome, per the Post.
Go deeper: CAR-T payment challenges are only beginning
More veterans are able to get more care outside the VA system, but improper billing oversight has put thousands at risk for unanticipated hospital bills, Axios’ Sam Baker reports.
By the numbers: A report this week from the VA’s Office of Inspector General found that many veterans’ claims were improperly denied after they sought care in the emergency rooms of non-VA facilities.
What happened: The part of the VA that handles these claims prioritized speed — making a lot of decisions as quickly as possible — over accuracy, the OIG said.
Sam's thought bubble: There’s a practical, non-ideological argument for expanding veterans’ options outside VA facilities, and that case is especially intuitive for emergency care. But the VA is still dropping the ball if it’s not actually covering that care the way it should.
Modern Healthcare’s Shelby Livingston found a report that uncovered just how little short-term health plans paid out in medical benefits last year, and hoo boy, the numbers are low, Axios' Bob Herman writes.
By the numbers: Fewer than 87,000 people had a short-term health plan last year, paying only $110 million in cumulative premiums — indicating this market is still extremely small. But insurers that operate in it are keeping a vast majority of the premium dollars for themselves.
The bottom line: The Trump administration has promoted short-term plans as cheaper alternatives to traditional medical coverage. But they are less expensive because they cover far fewer services (while keeping a lot for overhead), and therefore appeal to healthier people willing to roll the dice on bare-bones coverage.
Go deeper: Read the entire report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners
Apple is working with Eli Lilly to investigate whether health features on the iPhone and Apple Watch can be used to spot early signs of dementia, CNBC reports.
Why it matters: These partnerships between health care and technology companies could indisputably benefit patients, if they're successful. But they could also be lucrative for both parties.