Tuesday Tidbits

At today’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing on the COVID-19 emergency, Dr. Fauci, according to the Wall Street Journal, remarked that “he is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that a successful vaccine could be produced around the end of 2020. ‘I believe it will be when and not if,’ he said.” Amen to that. Here’s a link to today’s Senate Health Education Labor and Pension Committee’s hearing on the same topic.

The Labor Department’s Employee Benefit Security Administration issued a wide-ranging set of frequently asked questions on the health plan related provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act. Check it out.

Reuters reports on a sobering CMS study of the COVID-19 emergency on Medicare beneficiaries. ““The disparities in the data reflect longstanding challenges facing minority communities and low income older adults,” said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).”

MedCity News informs us that “Clinical development will soon begin for an inhaled version of a [Gilead] antiviral drug {remdesivir} used to treat Covid-19 that is currently available only to hospitalized patients in intravenous form.” That’s a pro move.

Drug Channels offers its annual study of 2019 PBM drug spending reports.

The PBMs’ data highlight key trends about drug spending:
— For 2019, CVS and Express Scripts reported overall changes in drug spending that were in the low single digits. Prime reported mid-single-digit growth in overall drug spending.
— Spending growth on traditional drugs declined by mid-single digits for the third consecutive year. This decline came from deeper commercial rebates on brand-name drugs, ongoing deflation in generic drugs, and a small increase in the generic dispensing rates.
— The results for CVS and Express Scripts were comparable. For CVS Caremark’s commercial clients, net drug prices for traditional drugs declined by -6.3%, while utilization grew by 1.5%. For Express Scripts’ commercial clients, net drug prices for traditional drugs declined by -6.4%, while utilization grew by 1.4%.

In legal news

  • It was no surprise to learn from Politico that LGBTQ advocates already have brought a lawsuit against the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) “over its rollback of LGBTQ patient protections, arguing that last week’s Supreme Court decision extending workplace legal protections to gay and transgender employees invalidates the new rules.” That should be a rollover win for the plaintiffs.
  • It was a pleasant surprise to learn that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia today ruled in favor of an HHS rule requiring hospital to disclose real prices, e.g, negotiated prices with health plans, for their services just like retail stores. The FEHBlog expects that this rule will lead to more and better (e.g., quality based) competition among hospitals. But first the decision will need to be affirmed by the Court of Appeals.

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