Good morning ... Here it is, folks — the best #HealthPolicyValentine of the year. The rest of us can go ahead and pack it in.
Insurers and hospitals came out swinging yesterday against Democrats' proposal to let people older than 50 buy into Medicare — a reminder that almost any expansion of public health coverage will provoke a battle with the health care industry.
Between the lines: Politically, an age-restricted Medicare buy-in is about as moderate as it gets for Democrats in the age of "Medicare for All."
Yes, but: Being on the more moderate end of the political spectrum does not shield you from a fight.
The bottom line: Any proposal that would compete with (never mind eliminate) private coverage, particularly employer coverage, will meet this kind of resistance.
That's why Medicaid is the public program Democrats and industry can agree to love. Expanded access to Medicaid has rarely been an alternative to commercial insurance — it's usually an alternative to being uninsured.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Medical device companies are falling short of Wall Street's profit expectations, Axios' Courtenay Brown and Bob Herman report this morning.
By the numbers: Of the 26 health care device and equipment makers in the S&P 500, 11 missed Wall Street's expectations for 2019 guidance, according to FactSet.
The big picture: Many of these companies, which sell products that help keep people alive like heart valves, IV bags and dental equipment, make sizable portions of their revenues abroad.
What they're saying: As fears of an earnings recession this year stir, these executives are blaming the strong U.S. dollar for less-than-expected profits in upcoming quarters.
Our thought bubble: A guide-down of one quarter's worth of earnings doesn't change the necessity, market power or overall profitability of these companies.
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Hospitals have been buying up physicians' practices at a record clip. But Modern Healthcare flags a new study that found the quality of care isn't improving as a result.
Details: The study compared doctors who were employed by the hospital where they practiced against doctors who contracted with their hospitals.
Furthermore, hospitals in highly concentrated markets received lower satisfaction scores from their patients.
The bottom line: All this consolidation doesn't appear to be improving quality — and it's not lowering costs, either.
Congress could easily get rid of the GOP lawsuit that threatens the entire Affordable Care Act — if Democrats want to force the issue. But 2 of the smartest pro-ACA legal experts are divided over whether that’s a good strategy.
Refresher: The lawsuit, filed by Republicans attorneys general, argues that the ACA’s individual mandate is invalid because Congress has zeroed out the penalty for not having insurance — and the penalty, not the mandate it was enforcing, is what the Supreme Court upheld in 2012.
There's an easy fix: Just repeal the mandate. It's not in effect, and realistically, Democrats are unlikely to ever raise the penalty back above $0.
What they're saying:
Go deeper: Andrew Sprung, one of the Internet's best ACA resources, spoke to both Bagley and Jost and has a good roundup about all this on his blog.
Screenshot of an Insys Therapueitcs video shown by federal prosecutors. Source: Boston Globe
The racketeering trial for former Insys Therapeutics executives has already had some wild moments. Who could forget the former stripper turned sales exec who said she gave a doctor a lap dance to get him to prescribe Susbys, the company's fentanyl spray?
Well, here's another one: Prosecutors yesterday played for the jury a rap video that was produced for, and starred, members of the company's sales team — alongside a rapping bottle of the biggest dose of Subsys.
Details, as reported by the Boston Globe:
Why it matters: Companies make silly videos all the time, so that part alone is more amusing than scandalous — but of course most companies aren't making their silly videos in the service of boosting sales for a highly addictive drug.