Midweek Update

The FEHBlog’s fingers remain crossed as Congress continues to slog its way toward ending the current partial government shutdown and avoiding the impending X date when the government will not be able to fully fund its obligations. The X date is uncharted waters for everyone as the Washington Post explained in an article yesterday.

Sunday’s FEHBlog discussed a New York Times article about the high cost of asthma drugs. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Sanofi’s steroid based allergy spray Nasacort won FDA approval to be sold over the counter at drug stores. This is a first. The product will be available next spring.

In an interesting ACA related business development, United Healthcare subsidary Optum has entered into a joint venture with the San Francisco based hospital and health care center chain Dignity Health to create a back room registration, pre-authorization, and billing operation / revenue management company according to Modern Healthcare. The new business will include 3,000 employees from Optum and Dignity.

The FEHBlog is keenly interested in bending the health curve down. The FEHBlog has been banking savings from biosimilar drugs. The ACA authorized the FDA to create a regulatory pathway for such drugs. Such a pathway has been approved in the European Common Market for over a decade.  Health Affairs reports however that  it will be a while before the FDA gets it act together.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation asked eighteen physicians for their opinion on how to lower the cost curve. Here are the five consensus opinions that RWJF drew from those conversations:

1.Payment models must be evidence-based, physician-endorsed, and thoroughly tested.
 2.Protecting and creating financial incentives is critical to broad physician buy-in.
 3.Meaningful consumer engagement requires better communication and guidance from physicians, more willingness from consumers, and greater investments in prevention.
 4.Improving quality and reducing cost requires a stronger health information technology infrastructure.
 5.Major changes in education and practice are needed to help reduce costs.