Today's word count is 865 words, or ~3 minutes.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
The Trump administration is moving forward on the traditionally Democratic policy of importing prescription drugs from abroad, but the impact — if the proposals are actually finalized — could be pretty muted.
The big picture: While importation could help some patients afford their drugs, the policy overall is an attempt to take advantage of other countries' lower drug prices while avoiding taking direct action to limit prices in the U.S.
Details: HHS announced 2 pathways for drug importation yesterday. The first would allow patients to import certain drugs from Canada.
Yes, but: There are a lot of reasons to be skeptical about its impact — especially because Canada doesn't have large quantities of drugs compared to the U.S. supply and it's not thrilled about the idea of sending them to us.
The second pathway would allow drugmakers to import versions of FDA-approved drugs that they're selling in other countries, or to sell the same drug at a different price in the U.S. by working around their contracts with supply chain middlemen.
The other side: "Rather than surrender the safety of Americans by importing failed polices from single-payer countries, we should work on solutions here at home that would lower patient out-of-pocket costs at the pharmacy counter," said Steve Ubl, CEO of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images
Although it was anything but straightforward, last night's Democratic health care debate was partially about who pays for health care and how they pay for it.
The big picture: We currently pay for health care through taxes, premiums and our out-of-pocket spending. Medicare for All — whether it's full-blown single payer or a public option — shifts at least some of that spending on premiums and deductibles onto taxpayers.
The bottom line: How receptive Americans are to a more expansive version of Medicare for All is almost certainly related to how they feel about their increasing out-of-pocket obligations.
Related: President Trump is prepping an executive order for next week that's focused on strengthening Medicare, WSJ reports. A White House official said that the order is intended to serve as a point of contrast with Democrats' Medicare for All push.
Go deeper: Workers' health care costs just keep rising
Opioid lawsuits have now reached the Supreme Court, after Arizona yesterday filed a lawsuit directly to the highest court in the land, NYT reports.
Between the lines: The Supreme Court rarely hears cases that lower courts haven't yet considered. “I do think it’s a long shot,” acknowledged Mark Brnovich, Arizona's attorney general.
Medicare is proposing to start paying for total hip replacement surgeries in outpatient surgery centers next year, meaning patients can go home the same day they get the procedure instead of having to stay overnight in a hospital, my colleague Bob Herman reports.
Why it matters: Medicare spent roughly $6.5 billion on hospitalizations tied to hip and knee replacements in 2016. There’s a push to move more of those costly procedures into surgery centers because patients could recover at home and it’s cheaper to do as an outpatient.
Between the lines: Many patients with commercial insurance get new hips and knees in surgery centers instead of hospitals. Medicare started allowing knee replacements to occur in outpatient centers in 2018, and officials have contemplated doing the same with hip replacements since then — so this was just a matter of time.
Yes, but: Surgery centers and orthopedic surgeons naturally love this because they’ll get a ton of new Medicare patients, and the revenue that comes along with it.
Utah will ask the Trump administration for per capita spending limits for certain Medicaid beneficiaries — despite its rejection of Utah's partial Medicaid expansion last weekend, Politico's Rachana Pradhan tweeted last night.
And New Hampshire is appealing a federal court's ruling against its Medicaid expansion work requirement, the Concord Monitor reports.
My thought bubble: Blue and red states are providing a much clearer picture of what each party actually wants to do on health care.