Situational awareness: Vice President Mike Pence announced yesterday evening that, effective immediately, "any American can be tested" for the coronavirus, subject to a doctors' orders, without restrictions.
Today's word count is 852, or a 3-minute read.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The coronavirus may soon become a high-stakes reminder of the flaws in the U.S. health care system.
Why it matters: Our expensive, inaccessible health care system could easily make it harder to control the virus' spread, failing individual patients and putting more people at risk in the process.
Between the lines: A public health issue like the coronavirus isn't just another health care problem to add to the list of health care problems. Rather, all of those other issues directly complicate the response to the virus.
The uninsured: Nearly 28 million Americans don't have insurance.
Affordability: Even for patients who have insurance, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs have been steadily rising. A hospital stay often comes with the risk of a big bill, and emergency rooms are some of the biggest sources of surprise bills — often for thousands of dollars.
What's next: The Trump administration appears to be taking these concerns seriously. It's considering using a national disaster program to pay providers for the care of uninsured people who have the coronavirus, WSJ reported yesterday.
Illustration: Axios Visuals
Health care has become the framework that defines the broader ideological and stylistic divisions within the Democratic primary — a contest between political revolution and Medicare for All vs. bipartisan compromise and a public option, Axios' Sam Baker writes.
Yes, but: It's kind of a false choice. Passing either of those health care plans would require a knock-down, drag-out party-line brawl just as intense as the fight over the Affordable Care Act.
Why it matters: No single issue has highlighted the differences among the Democratic candidates more efficiently — or more often — than health care, and Medicare for All, specifically.
Ultimately, though, any Democratic president would run into many of the same brick walls trying to get any of these health care plans passed.
Hospitals have been preparing, to varying degrees, to treat more patients who have the coronavirus, Axios' Bob Herman writes.
Yes, but: Many hospitals have really bad track records of infection control, and "this raises concerns that they could become hotbeds for disease, putting patients at risk and rendering infected workers unable to care for others," according to a new ProPublica analysis of federal inspection reports.
Go deeper: The poor state of U.S. hospital quality
The price of brand-name prescription drugs went up by 60% between 2007 and 2018, after accounting for rebates and discounts, according to a new study in JAMA.
Why it matters: Drugmakers often argue that the uproar over drug prices is overblown, saying it focuses too much on list prices instead of the discounted prices insurance plans end up paying. But this study shows that those prices, too, are rising.
By the numbers: The average Medicaid drug discount increased from 40% in 2007 to 76% in 2018, the study found.
Facebook users are seeing more targeted ads from pharmaceutical companies — an ethical gray area for patient data and privacy, the Washington Post reports.
Why it matters: Drug companies don't need to know your medical history to target you for a a drug, and seeing a surprisingly relevant medical ad can feel invasive, Axios' Marisa Fernandez writes.
How it works: Drug companies can use your browsing history, along with your age, gender and location, to figure out health issues you may have and market their treatment.
By the numbers: Pharmaceutical and health care brands spent nearly $1 billion dollars last year on Facebook mobile ads. Their spending has nearly tripled over two years, according to Pathmatics, an advertising analytics company.
Health privacy laws like HIPAA don't address this intersection of drug companies, data brokers and social media networks.