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Prescription Drugs: From Costs and Bad Reputation to Civica Rx and Amazon to the Rescue

The prices of medicines prescribed in outpatient settings rose, on average, 10.3% in 2018. Wages increased about 2.6%, and consumer prices, 1.3%, based on the 2019 Segal Health Plan Cost Trend Survey. Segal forecasts that medical cost trends will moderate for 2019, lower than 2018 rates. But to the patient, now feeling like a consumer dealing with high-deductibles and the growing sticker shock of specialty drug prices, a so-called “moderate” trend still feels like a big bite in the household budget. Specifically, specialty drug trend is expected to be 14.3% in 2019, compared with 17.7% in 2018 — still several

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Surprise, Surprise: Most Americans Have Faced a “Surprise” Medical Bill

Most Americans have been surprised by a medical bill, a NORC AmeriSpeak survey found. Who’s responsible? Nearly all Americans (86% net responsible) first blame health insurance companies, followed by hospitals (82%). Fewer U.S. patients blamed doctors and pharmacies, although a majority of consumers still put responsibility for surprise healthcare bills on them (71% and 64% net). Most of the surprise bills were for charges associated with a physician’s service or lab test. Most surprise charges were not due to the service being excluded from a health plans provider network. The poll was conducted among 1,002 U.S. adults 18 and over

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Employers Take on Health Activism, Embracing Behavioral Health, Virtual Care, AI, and Transparency

More U.S. employers are growing activist roles as stakeholders in the healthcare system, according to the 2019 Large Employers Health Care Strategy and Plan Design Survey from the National Business Group on Health (NBGH). Consider the Amazon-Berkshire Hathaway-JPMorgan Chase link up between Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet, and Jamie Dimon, as the symbol of such employer-health activism. The NBGH report is based on survey results collected from 170 large employers representing 13 million workers and 19 million covered lives (families/dependents). This annual survey is one of the most influential such reports released each year, providing a current snapshot of large employers’ views

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“Lower Prescription Drug Prices” – A Tri-Partisan Call Across America

  There’s growing evidence that a majority of U.S. voters, across the three-party landscape, agree on two healthcare issues this year: coverage of pre-existing conditions, and lowering the consumer-facing costs of prescription drugs. A new poll jointly conducted by Politico and the Harvard Chan School of Public Health bolsters my read on the latter issue – prescription drug pricing, which has become a mass popular culture union. There may be no other issue on voters’ collective minds for the 2018 mid-term election that so unites American voters than the demand for lower-cost medicines. This is directly relates to consumers’ tri-party

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Healthcare Policies We Can Agree On: Pre-Existing Conditions, Drug Prices, and PillPack – the June 2018 KFF Health Tracking Poll

There are countless chasms in the U.S. this moment in social, political, and economic perspectives. but one issue is on the mind of most American voters where there is evidence of some agreements: health care, as evidenced in the June 2018 Health Tracking Poll from Kaiser Family Foundation. Top-line, health care is one of the most important issues that voters want addressed in the 2018 mid-term elections, tied with the economy. Immigration, gun policy, and foreign policy follow. While health care is most important to voters registered as Democrats, Republicans rank it very important. Among various specific health care factors, protecting

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As Medical Cost Trend Remains Flat, Patients Face Growing Health Consumer Financial Stress

When it comes to healthcare costs, lines that decline over time are generally seen as good news. That’s how media outlets will cover the top-line of PwC’s report Medical cost trend: Behind the numbers 2019. However, there are other forces underneath the stable-looking 6.0% medical trend growth projected for 2019 that will impact healthcare providers, insurers, and suppliers to the industry. There’s this macro-health economic story, and then there’s the micro-economics of healthcare for the household. Simply put: the impact of growing financial risk for healthcare costs will be felt by patients/consumers themselves. I’ve curated the four charts from the

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Technology, Aging and Obesity Drive Healthcare Spending, BEA Finds

The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released, for the first time, data that quantifies Americans’ spending to treat 261 medical conditions, from “A” diseases like acute myocardial infarction, acute renal failure, ADHD, allergic reactions, anxiety disorders, appendicitis and asthma, to dozens of other conditions from the rest of the alphabet. High Spending Growth Rates For Key Diseases In 2000-14 Were Driven By Technology And Demographic Factors, a June 2018 Health Affairs article, analyzed this data. This granular information comes from the BEA’s satellite account, using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey which nationally examines expenditures by disease;

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Doing Less Can Be Doing More for Healthcare – the Biggest Takeaway From ASCO 2018

Less can lead to more for so many things: eating smaller portions, lowering sugar consumption, and driving less in favor of walking or cycling come to mind. When it comes to healthcare utilization, doing less can also result in equal or even better outcomes. Groundbreaking research presented at this week’s ASCO meeting found that some women diagnosed with certain forms of cancer do not benefit from undergoing chemotherapy. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is one of the largest medical meetings annually, and at this huge meeting these research results for the TAILORx trial were huge news with big

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Personalized Medicine: Consumer Concerns About Coverage, Affordability and Privacy

Two in 3 Americans haven’t heard the phrases “personalized medicine” or “precision medicine.” When the concept of therapies tailored to individual patients is explained, most people like the idea of diagnostic tools that can identify biological markers and marry to personal medical records data to help determine medical treatments that best fit them. This picture of U.S. consumers’ views on personalized medicine comes from a survey conducted for PMC, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, and GenomeWeb, published in May 2018. The poll results are published in Public Perspectives on Personalized Medicine, with the top-line finding that life science industry innovators must

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The US Covered Nearly 50% of Global Oncology Medicine Spending in 2017 – a market update from IQVIA

“We are at a remarkable point of cancer treatment,” noted Murray Aitken, Executive Director, IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, in a call with media this week. 2017 was a banner year of innovative drug launches in oncology, Aitken coined, with more drugs used more extensively, driving improved patient for people dealing with cancer. This upbeat market description comes out of a report on Global Oncology Trends 2018 from the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. The subtitle of the report, “Innovation, Expansion and Disruption,” is appropriately put. The report covers these three themes across four sections: advances in therapies,

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Health Care for a Typical Working Family of Four in America Will Cost $28,166 in 2018

What could $28,166 buy you in 2018? A new car? A year of your child’s college education? A plot of land for your retirement home? Or a year of healthcare for a family of four? Welcome to this year’s edition of the Milliman Medical Index (MMI), one of the most important forecasts of the year in the world of the Health Populi blog and THINK-Health universe. That’s because we’re in the business of thinking about the future of health and health care through the health economics lens; the MMI is a key component of our ongoing environmental analysis of the

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The Gap Between the Trump Administration’s Promise of Reducing Rx Costs for Consumers and What People Really Want

This is what happened to pharma stock prices on Friday after President Trump and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar outlined their new policies focusing on prescription drug prices. The graph is the Nasdaq U.S. Smart Pharmaceuticals Index (NQSSPH) from May 11, 2018, the date when POTUS and Secretary Azar made their announcement. What this upward driving curve indicates, from the start of stock trading in the morning until the ring of the closing bell, is that the pharma industry players, both manufacturers and PBMs, were quite delighted with what they heard. The blueprint for restructuring the prescription drug industry,

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Americans’ Trust in the Healthcare System Low Compared to Rest-of-World’s Health Citizens

In the U.S., trust in the healthcare industry declined by 9 percentage points in just one year, declining from 62% of people trusting — that’s roughly two-thirds of Americans — down to 53% — closer to one-half of the population. I covered the launch of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer across all industries here in Health Populi in January 2018, when this year’s annual report was presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos as it is each year. The Edelman team shared this detailed data on the healthcare sector with me this week, for which I am grateful. Check

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Pharma Spending Gone Bipolar: Generics At One End, Specialty Drugs on the Other

While the use of medicines continues to rise in the U.S., spending grew by only 0.6% in 2017 after accounting for discounts and rebates. In retail and mail-order channels, net spending fell by 2.1%. Prescription drug spending on branded products grew nearly $5 billion less than in 2016; generic drug spending fell by $5.5 billion, according to Medicine Use and Spending in the U.S., a report from the IQVIA Institute for Health Data Science. The report reviews medicines spending in 2017 looking forward to 2022. There were over 5.8 billion prescriptions dispensed in 2017, and generic drugs accounted 90% of

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Food as Medicine Update: Danone Goes B-Corp, Once Upon a Farm Garners Garner, and Livongo Buys Retrofit

As the nation battles an obesity epidemic that adds $$ costs to U.S. national health spending, there are many opportunities to address this impactful social determinant of health to reduce health spending per person and to drive public and individual health. In this post, I examine a few very current events in the food-as-medicine marketspace. Big Food as an industry gets a bad rap, as Big Tobacco and Big Oil have had. In the case of Big Food, the public health critique points to processed foods, those of high sugar content (especially when cleverly marketed to children), and sustainability. But

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In the U.S., Spend More, Get Less Health Care: the Latest HCCI Data

Picture this scenario: you, the consumer, take a dollar and spend it, and you get 90 cents back. In what industry is that happening? Here’s the financial state of healthcare in America, explained in the 2016 Health Care Cost and Utilization Report from the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI). We live in an era of Amazon-Primed consumers, digital couponing, and expectations of free news in front of paywalls. We are all in search of value, even as the U.S. economy continues to recover on a macroeconomic basis. But that hasn’t yet translated to many peoples’ home economics. In this personal

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Nurses Rate Highest for Ethics in American Professions Once Again in Gallup Poll

Nurses working in the U.S. are number one when it comes to ethics and honesty, the Gallup Poll found for the sixteenth year in a row. After nurses, military officers, grade school teachers, medical doctors and pharmacists rank second through fifth in ethical-line behind top-rated nursing. It’s important to note that consumers have ranked pharmacists and doctors in second and third place in this annual survey for many years. This year, both professions fall below the military and teachers. Nurses have been #1 in this study every year since Gallup launched the survey in 1999, except for 2001 when firefighters topped

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The Patient as Payor – Consumers and the Government Bear the Largest Share of Healthcare Spending in America

The biggest healthcare spenders in the United States are households and the Federal government, each responsible for paying 28% of the $3.3 trillion spent in 2016. Private business — that is, employers covering healthcare insurance — paid for 20% of healthcare costs in 2016, based on calculations from the CMS Office of the Actuary’s report on 2016 National Health Expenditures. The positive spin on this report is that overall national health spending grew at a slower rate in 2016, at 4.3% after 5.8% growth in 2015. This was due to a decline in the growth rates for the use of

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Health Care Is 2.5 More Expensive Than Food for the Average U.S. Family

The math is straightforward. Assume “A” equals $59.039, the median household income in 2016. Assume “B” is $18,142, the mean employer-sponsored family insurance premium last year. B divided by A equals 30.7%, which is the percent of the average U.S. family’s income represented by the premium cost of health insurance. Compare that to what American households spent on food: just over $7,000, including groceries and eating out (which is garnering a larger share of U.S. eating opportunities, a topic for another post). Thus, health care represents, via the home’s health insurance premium, represents 2.5 times more than food for the

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A Health Consumer Perspective on CVS+Aetna

  A response to Amazon’s potential moves in healthcare and pharmacy…strategic positioning for the post-Trump healthcare landscape…vertical integration to better manage healthcare utilization and costs…these, and other rationale have been offered by industry analysts and observers of the discussions between CVS and Aetna, for the former to acquire the latter. “A pharmacy chain buying a health insurance company?” many have asked me over the past few days. These inquiring minds include people who work both inside and outside of health/care. I ask back: in 2017 and in the future, “What is a pharmacy? What is a health plan?” See the

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President Trump Utters “M” for Murder, and a $1 MM Price Tag for Rx Therapy – an October 2017 Pharma Update

Last week, President Trump once again used the “M” word (“murder”) in a sentence accusing the pharmaceutical industry of too-high priced products for U.S. health citizens. The sentence included the phrase, “Drug companies are getting away with murder.” That week, USA Today published an article on a new FDA-approved specialty drug therapy that could add up to over a $1 mm price tag. There is much to report in the world of pharmaceutical innovation, pricing, and patient Rx coverage this month. The CVS Health – Epic announcement ranks high in Health Populi’s vision for the evolving health/care ecosystem, bringing together two

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