Happy Groundhog Day

The Hill reflects on the history of Groundhog Day. By the way, “on Thursday, Punxsutawney Phil predicted six more weeks of winter.”

Each year on the first Friday in February, [February 3, 2023], the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, The Heart Truth® and others around the country celebrate National Wear Red Day® to bring greater attention to heart disease as a leading cause of death for Americans and steps people can take to protect their heart. Promote Wear Red Day in your community with resources such as printable stickers, posters, and social media graphics, including customizable ones.

From Capitol Hill, Roll Call tells us that “Senate committees will be able to get to work next week after the Senate adopted resolutions constituting their membership for the 118th Congress before departing Thursday afternoon.”

STAT News interviews the Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Senators Bernie Sanders and Bill Cassidy respectively.

Both senators cited addressing the national shortage of nurses as high on the bipartisan to-do list. The chairman also said he thinks expanding community health centers and improving dental coverage could get both parties’ buy-ins, while Cassidy pointed to mental health care legislation and probing the rollout of efforts to eliminate patients’ surprise medical bills.

Unsurprisingly, however, Sanders’ top priority is slashing drug costs — and he’s banking on voter polling to push GOP members, or at least put them in an uncomfortable spot with constituents. 

From the Medicare front, Health Payer Intelligence provides an overview of reactions to yesterday’s CMS 2024 Medicare Advantage Advance Notice with changes for Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D.

The Kaiser Family Foundation offers a detailed study of prior authorization requests for Medicare Advantage enrollees in 2021. Adverse decisions on prior authorization requests. The number of requests varied by Medicare Advantage carrier. Six percent of all prior authorizations were partially or entirely denied. 11% of prior authorization requests were appealed, and 82% of appeals were decided in the Medicare Advantage enrollee’s favor. What an interesting batch of percentages.

From the U.S. healthcare business front, BioPharma Dive reports

Sales of Eli Lilly’s new diabetes drug Mounjaro grew strongly in the final quarter of 2022, the company reported Thursday, challenging the market position of competing medicines from rival Novo Nordisk. 

Fourth quarter sales totaled $279 million, bringing the total for 2022 to $483 million following the drug’s June launch. The fast sales put Mounjaro, approved to improve blood sugar control in people with Type 2 diabetes, on pace to quickly reach blockbuster status. Studies have shown the drug to have a powerful weight-loss effect as well, supporting Lilly’s current efforts to expand the drug’s approval to include obesity treatment.  * * *

On an earnings call Thursday, Lilly executives said the company is having trouble keeping Mounjaro production high enough to match patient demand. More manufacturing capacity is being added, with a site in North Carolina expected to start production sometime later this year, CFO Anat Ashkenazi said on the call.

Russ Roberts spoke with Dr. Vinay Prasad on this week’s Econtalk episode. The topic is “Pharmaceuticals, the FDA, and the Death of Duty.” During the episode, Dr. Prasad identified Dr. Bernard Fisher as one of his heroes. Dr. Fisher passed away in 2019 at age 101. I had never heard of Dr. Fisher, but his story should be shared.

Healthcare Dive informs us.

Healthcare consumers appear to be increasingly comfortable switching providers when their current one isn’t meeting their needs, according to a report from Accenture. About 30% of patients selected a new provider in 2021 — up from 26% in 2017, the report found. A quarter switched providers in 2021 because they were unhappy with their care — up from 18% in 2017. Switching providers is especially true among younger generations, like Gen Zers and millennials, who were six times more likely to switch providers than older people, according to the report.

From the miscellany department —

  • Health Affairs Forefront delves into the data produced to date by the government’s payer transparency rules.
  • Fierce Healthcare tells us about a recent expansion of CVS Health’s virtual primary care service.
  • Benefit consultant Tammy Flanagan writing in Govexec, follows the path of a federal employee’s retirement application.