Friday Factoids

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From Washington, DC

  • The American Medical Association News informs us,
    • “The Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury Oct. 27 issued a proposed rule intended to improve how the No Surprises Act independent dispute resolution process functions in response to feedback and challenges shared by stakeholders. The public will have 60 days to submit comments. The rule would require plans to include claim adjustment reason codes and remittance advice remark codes, among other new information, with the initial payment or notice of payment denial for certain items and services subject to the NSA protections. The rule proposes changes to the batching requirements so that Items and services could be batched in the same payment determination if they are: furnished to a single patient on one or more consecutive dates of service and billed on the same claim form (a single patient encounter); billed under the same service code or a comparable code under a different procedural code system; or anesthesiology, radiology, pathology and laboratory items and services billed under service codes belonging to the same Category I CPT code section, as specified in the agencies’ guidance. Batched items would be limited to 25 items or services in a single dispute. Lastly, the proposed rule would amend certain requirements related to the open negotiation period preceding the IDR process, the initiation of the process, the dispute eligibility review, and the payment and collection of administrative fees and certified IDR entity fees.”
  • The proposed rule will be published in the Federal Register next Friday, November 3, and the proposal creates a sixty-day public comment period.
  • Here’s a link to the government’s fact sheet on the proposed rule.
  • The FEHBlog noticed that the proposed rule would run open negotiations through the government’s IDR portal, which will increase the government’s administrative costs. It strikes the FEHBlog that the proposed rule could have established a process for the open negotiation for the parties to follow. The proposed rule will require health plan system changes, which is always expensive.
  • Also today, the Department of Health and Human Services wrote to stakeholders, including health plans, reminding them the cost of Paxlovid and other Covid drugs is shifting from the government to the private sector beginning on November 1.
  • STAT News reports,
    • “The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved an Eli Lilly drug that takes a new approach to treating ulcerative colitis, a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause intense gastrointestinal pain and distress.
    • “The therapy, dubbed Omvoh, is an antibody that blocks IL-23p19, an immune signaling molecule that plays a key role in sustaining the disease. It’s the first treatment to target this particular pathway in ulcerative colitis. The drug’s approval comes after two late-stage trials found that patients taking Omvoh showed a significant improvement in symptoms after both three months and a year compared with those given a placebo, and that the therapy had minimal side effects.
    • “Omvoh’s list price will be $9,593 per month for intravenous delivery and $10,360 per dose injected beneath the skin. A company spokesperson told STAT that patients who have the drug covered by commercial insurance may pay as little as $5 per month for up to 30 months.”

From the public health front,

  • Health Payer Intelligence points out,
    • “Americans are feeling more optimistic about their well-being than last year, but financial concerns and mental health challenges are still negatively impacting their health, according to a report from The Cigna Group.
    • “The second annual Vitality in America study reflects responses from 10,000 adults collected in June 2023 by Morning Consult. The study uses the Evernorth Vitality Index, a subjective measure of health and well-being, to assess Americans’ experiences with personal health, finances, and job satisfaction.
    • “Almost half of respondents said they look forward to each new day, up from 43 percent in 2022. However, fewer adults said they prioritize their physical health (39 percent), feel capable of managing their emotions (45 percent), and can financially support themselves (40 percent).
    • “The top driver of stress among US adults was finances (40 percent), followed by housing conditions (25 percent), work (25 percent), family or social relationships (25 percent), and health (24 percent).”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “More patients are accessing their medical records online via patient portals or apps and are doing so more often than in years past, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC).
    • “From 2020 to 2022, the portion of U.S. adults who reported being offered access to their medical records by a provider or insurer increased 24% to about 3 in 5, the office wrote in a recent data brief. The percentage who said they were offered access and used it jumped 50% during the same period, from 38% to 57%, according to ONC.
    • “Together these findings demonstrate increased patient demand for and use of online health information by individuals in recent years,” the office wrote in the brief, citing data from the 6,252-respondent 2022 Health Information National Trends Survey.
    • “Patients who were offered access to their online medical records also used them more frequently—54% reported accessing their records at least three times during 2022, compared to 38% in 2020 and 26% in 2017.”
  • Healthcare IT News notes,
    • “The emergence of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting surge in the adoption of telemedicine are helping address patients’ needs without major signs of safety concerns, according to a study by Kaiser Permanente.
    • “The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, analyzed more than 1.5 million adult patients at Kaiser Permanente Northern California in 2021, and compared treatment and follow-up visits among primary care telemedicine (video and telephone) and in-person office visits.
    • “Of the 2,357,598 primary care visits analyzed, just over half (50.8%) utilized telemedicine, which broke down to just under 20% composed of video visits and 31.3% telephone visits.
    • “The findings indicate that medication prescriptions were lower for video and telephone visits at 38.4% and 34.6%, respectively, compared to in-person visits at 46.8%. Additionally, follow-up appointments within seven days were less frequent for in-person visits (1.3%) compared to video (6.2%) and telephone (7.6%) visits.”
  • Per Medscape,
    • “Among the 3188 people with type 2 diabetes who were adherent to their tirzepatide (Mounjaro, Lilly) regimen in four pivotal trials of the agent, a quarter achieved at least a 15% cut from their baseline body weight after 40–42 weeks of treatment, and researchers found seven baseline variables that were significantly linked with a higher incidence of this level of weight loss.
    • “These findings help inform which people with type 2 diabetes are most likely to achieve greater body weight reduction with improved cardiometabolic risk factors with tirzepatide,” say the authors.”
  • HR Dive offers advice to employers about how to extend a helping hand to employees in their first trimester of pregnancy.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Mercer Consulting offers plan design advice to self-fund health plan sponsors. For example,
    • “Commit to affordable plan designs. One of the biggest reasons people delay care is because they can’t afford to pay for care. Encourage use of preventive care and chronic condition management. 
    • “Provide advocacy support to help plan members get to the most appropriate care and setting. 
    • “Review the emerging spectrum of virtual care for options to help rein in costs while making care more accessible and affordable to plan members. 
    • “Now is the time to consider the long list of network options that exist in the market today and could result in cost savings.   
    • “If you haven’t explored reference-based pricing, you might want to do so. The protections offered by the No Surprises Act make this a more attractive and less risky option for plan members. 
    • “Make mental health a priority. People with medical conditions often have mental health needs. People with mental health needs often develop medical conditions. It is an investment you can’t afford to overlook. 
    • “Focus on pharmacy. Prescription drug costs are a top driver of medical plan cost increases mostly associated with new drugs and the cost of specialty drugs.” 
  • The Wall Street Journal reports,
    • Big Pharma is almost finished with the cough and cold medicine business.
    • French drug giant  Sanofi said Friday it plans to spin off its consumer-health business, which includes well-known brands like allergy medicine Allegra and the pain treatments IcyHot and Aspercreme.
    • — to hive off a division selling over-the-counter medicines and other retail products to focus on more commercially lucrative but scientifically riskier prescription drugs.
    • Once the split is completed as early as the fourth quarter of next year, there will be just one consumer-health business left under the umbrella of a big drugmaker parent. Germany’s Bayer will be the largest drugmaker with such a business. 
    • Sanofi and its rivals have made the moves in the hunt for higher margins and faster sales growth. “It allows Sanofi to become a pure-play biopharma company. We’ll be more agile and more focused in our areas of key areas of strength,” Chief Executive Paul Hudson said.
    • Yet the companies lose the crutch of a reliable source of cash flow and now face more pressure to hit on breakthrough medicines with large sales potential.