TGIF

Yesterday, the President issued an executive order creating a task force on the U.S. Postal System. The task force is chaired by the Treasury Secretary and its membership includes the OPM Director. The task force is expected to evaluate the Postal Service and present a report with “recommendations for administrative and legislative reforms to the United States postal system” no later than August 10, 2018, which allows the task force 120 days to complete its work. The creation of the task force no doubt will cause Congress to place its postal reform legislation (S. 2639 and H.R. 756) on the back burners for now.

Altarum reported today that

In March 2018, the Health Care Price Index rose by 2.2% compared to the previous year, fractionally higher than in February, and the highest rate since January 2012. Driving overall price acceleration is high hospital price growth of 3.7%, barely down from 3.8% in February—a more than 8-year high. This was driven by continuing high hospital price growth for Medicare (4.6%)—the highest Medicare rate since November 2009. 

In that regard, Reuters reports on a recent study concluding that price of cancer drugs does not reflect value of those drugs.

“The cost [of cancer drugs] is going up very steeply, and the improvements tend to be much more incremental, that’s really the fundamental issue,” Dr. Richard Schilsky, senior vice president and chief medical officer at ASCO, said in a telephone interview. 

Cost increases are similar regardless of whether a drug is a “true game changer that revolutionizes the approach to treating a kind of cancer, or the drug just produces a small incremental improvement over an otherwise available therapy,” he added. 

“Cost is not connected with benefit, and cost is going up quickly, and benefit is highly variable,” Schilsky said. “I think that as a society and as a healthcare system we need to introduce and experiment with some strategies that try to restore more normal market forces.” 

ASCO and other groups are supporting efforts to make cancer drug costs relate to their effectiveness, he added. “We clearly need to do something,” he said. “We can’t just allow the continued escalation in pricing and cost without making any effort to tie it to the benefits the treatment delivers.”

Good luck with that.

Becker’s Hospital Review and Healthcare Dive offers interesting perspectives on United Healthcare’s Optum division. Beckers points out that

Andrew Hayek, a leader in UnitedHealth’s care delivery operation, told Bloomberg the company has “been slowly, steadily, methodically aligning and partnering with phenomenal medical groups who choose to join us.” In the future, OptumCare hopes to expand its 30-market operation to 75 markets, including the nation’s most populous states: California, Texas, Florida and New York.

Whether it’s hospital- or insurer-employed physicians, Ken Marlow, an attorney with Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, told the publication, “The smartest participants in the system are the ones who are going to be able to provide quality care at the lowest cost setting. Whoever gets there first, and whoever is able to do that, I think will be the winner.”

It’s hard to argue with that logic.

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