Monday Roundup

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Happy Bobby Bonilla Day!

“The calendar has turned to July 1, and that means one thing: It’s time for Mets fans everywhere to wish each other a Happy Bobby Bonilla Day! Why? On Monday, 61-year-old Bobby Bonilla will collect a check for $1,193,248.20 from the New York Mets, as he has and will every July 1 from 2011 through 2035.”

The FEHBlog is not a Mets fan. It’s a fun story.

From Washington, DC,

  • The American Hospital Association News reports,
    • “Changes to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Price Transparency Rule took effect July 1. Going forward, hospitals are required to use a standard machine-readable file format, which includes some new data elements, such as the negotiated rate methodology and an accuracy and completeness statement.”  
  • Per an HHS press release,
    • “Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), announced more than $200 million to support 42 programs across the country aimed at improving care for older Americans, including those experiencing Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.”
    • “HRSA’s Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program will train primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, and other health care clinicians to provide age-friendly and dementia-friendly care for older adults.  The program also focuses on providing families and other caregivers of older adults with the knowledge and skills to help them best support their loved ones.” * * *
    • “For a full list of award recipients, visit:”
  • The Washington Post lets us know,
    • “The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into Teva Pharmaceuticals, citing the company’s refusal to take down about two dozen patents for its asthma and COPD inhalers, according to confidential agency documents reviewed by The Washington Post.
    • “The FTC last week sent a civil investigative demand — effectively a subpoena — ordering Teva to provide internal communications, analysis and financial data related to the contested patents listed in a federal registry known as the Orange Book. The agency has argued that pharmaceutical companies such as Teva have wrongly made minor tweaks to their products to keep patents in the Orange Book and fend off generic competition. Teva charges hundreds of dollars for inhalers in the United States that the company sells for a fraction of the price overseas.
    • “Teva has until July 24 to cooperate with the FTC’s demand.”
  • The New York Times reports,
    • “The Supreme Court on Monday gave companies more time to challenge many regulations [under the Administrative Procedure Act], ruling that a six-year statute of limitations for filing lawsuits begins when a regulation first affects a company rather than when it is first issued.
    • “The ruling in the case — the latest in a series of challenges to administrative power this term — could amplify the effect of the blockbuster decision last week overturning a foundational legal precedent known as Chevron deference, which required federal courts to defer to agencies’ reasonable interpretations of ambiguous statutes. That decision imperils countless regulations, particularly on the environment, and advances a longstanding goal of the conservative legal movement.
    • “The vote was 6 to 3, split along ideological lines. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, writing for the conservative majority, rejected the government’s argument that the time limit to sue begins when an agency issues a rule.
    • FEHBlog note — The Supreme Court has completed its October 2023 term.

From the public health and medical research front,

  • Per an NIH press release,
    • “A Phase 1 trial testing the safety of an experimental nasal vaccine that may provide enhanced breadth of protection against emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is now enrolling healthy adults at three sites in the United States. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is sponsoring the first-in-human trial of the investigational vaccine, which was designed and tested in pre-clinical studies by scientists from NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Laboratory of Infectious Diseases.” * * *
    • “The study aims to enroll 60 adult participants, ages 18 to 64 years old, who previously received at least three prior doses of an FDA-approved or -authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. The trial sites are Baylor College of Medicine, Houston; The Hope Clinic of Emory University, Decatur, Georgia; and New York University, Long Island. Hana M. El Sahly, M.D., at the Baylor College of Medicine Vaccine Research Center, is leading the study.” * * *
    • “More information about the trial is available at using the identifier NCT06441968.”
  • MedPage Today informs us,
    • “Getting an mRNA COVID-19 shot during the first trimester of pregnancy didn’t lead to an increased risk of major structural birth defects, a multisite retrospective cohort study found.
    • “Major structural birth defects occurred in 1.48% of infants after a first-trimester vaccination and in 1.41% of those without a first-trimester vaccination (adjusted prevalence ratio 1.02, 95% CI 0.78-1.33), Elyse Kharbanda, MD, MPH, of the HealthPartners Institute in Bloomington, Minnesota, and colleagues reported in JAMA Pediatrics.”
    • “Additionally, secondary analyses revealed that there were no significant differences between groups when birth defects were grouped by organ system.
    • “These findings should provide reassurance to pregnant people and their obstetric care practitioners,” the authors concluded.”
  • The Washington Post relates,
    • “People with leg amputations were able to control their prosthetic limbs with their brains in a significant scientific advance that allows for a smoother gait and enhanced ability to navigate obstacles, according to a study published Monday in the journal Nature Medicine.
    • “By creating a connection between a person’s nervous system and their prosthetic leg, researchers at the K. Lisa Yang Center for Bionics at MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital paved the way for the next generation of prostheses.
    • “We were able to show the first full neural control of bionic walking,” said Hyungeun Song, first author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at MIT.”
  • Beckers Hospital Review points out,
    • “The national supply of the cancer drug cisplatin now exceeds demand, FDA Commissioner Robert Cailiff, MD, said June 28. 
    • “The drug, which treats multiple cancers, had been in shortage since February 2023. The shortage occurred after the FDA halted imports from Intas Pharmaceuticals’ manufacturing plant in India in late 2022 due to quality issues. In May 2023, 70% of cancer centers lacked sufficient cisplatin supply, according to a report from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. 
    • “Low supplies of cisplatin and other cancer drugs have complicated treatments for many patients, with some U.S. cancer centers still struggling to maintain adequate supplies.” 
  • The Washington Post and Consumer Reports identify cures for constipation.
  • BioPharma Dive calls attention to ten clinical trials to watch in the second half of 2024.

From the U.S. healthcare business front,

  • Mercer explains why healthcare cost – and volatility – has CFOs worried. 
    • “As we head towards the third quarter of 2024, top concerns around health programs are affordability for both employees and employers, the potential impact of GLP-1s on cost trends, and the increased volatility in claims. For fully insured sponsors, claims volatility makes it difficult to predict cost from year to year, while self-insured sponsors may also experience the effects of claims volatility within a given year. Healthcare trends have been impacted by broader economic inflationary pressures with a lag, and the environment will remain challenging for some time to come. While we expect medical cost trends to be similar to last year’s, we see growing cost pressure from prescription drugs, which account for approximately one-third of total health plan costs.”
    • The article compiles Mercer’s findings from a survey of eighty CFOs.  
  • Beckers Hospital Review notes,
    • “If current trends continue, Michael Murphy, PharmD, said all payers will come to recognize pharmacists as healthcare providers by the end of the decade. 
    • “Dr. Murphy, the American Pharmacists Association’s adviser for state government affairs, said there has been “an explosion” of health plans increasing coverage for pharmacists’ services. In a June 26 blog post, he said momentum is building among commercial plans and state Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care plans. 
    • “Pharmacists are being enrolled as providers in much the same way that health plans enroll physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants,” Dr. Murphy said. “Pharmacists are also billing for their services in similar ways as other providers. Often, pharmacists submit the same billing codes that other healthcare providers submit for a comparable visit.”
  • STAT News reports,
    • “For 15 years, a formidable CEO-CFO duo often called “the two Tonys” ushered their St. Louis-based health system through a period of explosive growth, adding hospital after hospital until it became one of the country’s biggest health systems.
    • “The year after former CEO Anthony Tersigni and former finance chief Anthony Speranzo stepped down, their sprawling empire of roughly 140 hospitals underwent the ultimate stress test: the Covid-19 pandemic. Ascension has lost almost $4 billion on operations from fiscal 2020 through fiscal 2023, triggering deals to offload almost 30 hospitals. Just last week, Ascension said it would sell its remaining five hospitals in Alabama.
    • “They are going hard on the expense side,” said Stephen Infranco, managing director and head of the nonprofit health care team at S&P Global. “It’s a wait and see approach to how successful it is.”
    • “In a statement, Ascension spokesperson Sean Fitzpatrick said reviewing the hospital portfolio is an ongoing exercise at Ascension. “We are constantly looking for opportunities to prudently prune and grow our care delivery system in an effort to best serve patients in our communities,” he said.”
  • Per Fierce Healthcare,
    • “Amedisys, a large home health provider, plans to divest a number of care centers to an affiliate of VitalCaring Group in advance of its planned merger with UnitedHealth Group later this year.
    • “VitalCaring also acquired some UnitedHealth Group care centers in the deal, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
    • “The completion of the divestiture hinges on the closing of the merger between Amedisys and UnitedHealth Group, which is expected to close in the second half of 2024, Amedisys said in the SEC filing.” * * *
    • “This news is unsurprising and relatively on schedule,” wrote Matt Larew, a healthcare research analyst and partner at William Blair in an analyst note. “In May, a report originally surfaced that UnitedHealth and Amedisys were working with regulators on a divestment package of over 100 locations and a short time after it was reported that VitalCaring had emerged as the buyer.”
  • Per Healthcare Dive,
    • “Health technology startup Fabric is acquiring Walmart’s telehealth assets as the retailer exits its healthcare delivery business. 
    • “Fabric, which offers patient intake, care navigation and telehealth services, said Friday it purchased Walmart’s MeMD for an undisclosed amount. MeMD, which Walmart acquired in 2021, provides virtual behavioral, urgent and primary care benefits for 30,000 corporate partners and five million members.
    • “Walmart said in April it would close its healthcare business, citing a challenging reimbursement environment and growing operational costs that limited profitability.”
  • and
    • “Amazon is folding its telehealth marketplace into primary care chain One Medical, unifying its healthcare delivery services under a single brand — and placing One Medical in front of the eyes of engaged telehealth customers, potentially creating a new source of subscriptions.
    • Amazon is rebranding the marketplace, previously called Amazon Clinic, to Amazon One Medical Pay-Per-Visit. The service, which automatically connects patients to a provider via virtual video or messaging for a flat fee, is also getting more affordable.
    • “Messaging visits are $29, down from around $35, and video visits are $49, down from $75.”