Good morning ... Everything is so bad, all the time, especially on the Internet, and just when you think it couldn’t get worse, bam: There’s a robot dancing to “Uptown Funk.”
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Getting an unexpected bill for thousands of dollars is a gut-level problem. Both the size of these bills and the fact that they’re surprises contribute to the outrage over surprise billing.
The big picture: That blunt-force problem is a product of the health care system’s complexity.
How it works: These surprise bills are often “balance bills” — patients who are treated by an out-of-network provider get billed for the difference between the provider’s price and what their insurer pays.
Getting patients off the hook requires shifting the cost to someone else, or reducing the size of the bill, or both, Axios’ Caitlin Owens explains.
What's next: “The emergency room and the out of network billing… is the gateway drug to larger price control conversations," said Rodney Whitlock, a health care lobbyist and former Senate GOP health policy aide.
Medicare’s annual enrollment period started Monday, and health insurers are banking that a lot more seniors and people with disabilities will sign up for private Medicare Advantage plans instead of traditional Medicare coverage, my colleague Bob Herman reports.
Driving the news: UnitedHealth Group executives yesterday said earnings per share next year will increase by roughly 13%, due in large part to MA's “extraordinary growth opportunity.”
The bottom line: Both Democrats and Republicans support MA, so the enrollment wave likely won’t subside in the near term. But there are still deep concerns about insurers gaming the program.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is suing three drug companies — Sanofi-Aventis, Novo Nordisk and Eli Lilly — over price increases for their insulin products.
Details: Insulin prices have jumped significantly over just a few years. Some products’ prices have gone up 400% since 2002, according to Swanson’s office.
The other side: Novo Nordisk said in response to the suit that its “business practices are consistent with legal and regulatory requirements,” per the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Flashback: Officials in New Mexico and Washington state have also launched investigations into Eli Lilly’s insulin pricing.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is “frustrated” by the mysterious spread of an illness similar to polio, cases of which have now been confirmed in 22 states. Seems like a very reasonable cause for frustration, to be honest.
By the numbers: 127 cases of acute flaccid myelitis, or AFM, have been reported so far in 2018, including 68 confirmed cases, according to CDC data. There were 33 confirmed cases last year.
“We have not been able to find a cause for the majority of these AFM cases,” the CDC’s Nancy Messonnier said yesterday, via STAT. “There is a lot we don’t know about AFM and I’m frustrated that despite all of our efforts, we haven’t been able to identify the cause of this mystery illness.”
Parents remain deeply skeptical about the flu vaccine, according to a report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
My thought bubble: The flu shot isn’t perfect, but you should still get a flu shot. It’s a lot better than getting the flu, and definitely better than helping to transmit it.