Today's News

About insurance:

The Cost of Employer Insurance Is a Growing Burden for Middle-Income Families: As healthcare costs (premiums and out-of-pocket payment) continue to rise, individuals and families are bearing greater financial responsibility. This study, by the Commonwealth Fund, details the changes for 2017, the most recent year available. Key findings include:

-Average premiums for employer health plans rose sharply in 2017. For example, family premiums rose $20,000 or higher in seven states and D.C. These increases resulted in higher employee contributions: ranging from $675 in Hawaii to $1,747 in Massachusetts for individual plans; from $3,646 in Michigan to $6,533 in Delaware for family plans.

-Overall, combining premiums and potential out of pocket expenses, meant that families spent 11.7 percent of median income on healthcare in 2017. 

Read the full report

National Health Care Spending In 2017: Growth Slows To Post–Great Recession Rates; Share Of GDP Stabilizes:
Some good news is slowing of the rate of growth of healthcare spending. However each percent increase comes on top of last year’s growth- think about compound interest. We will not make any progress in helping individuals and families with their costs (as explained above) until rates are negative: “Bending the growth curve” is good but we need to bend it down.
The overall findings of this study were: “Total nominal US health care spending increased 3.9 percent to $3.5 trillion in 2017, slowing from growth of 4.8 percent in 2016. The rate of growth in 2017 was similar to the increases between 2008 and 2013…”

The source of this study is Health Affairs, which requires a subscription. If you are not part of an academic institution that subscribes, it is worth purchasing.

Read more details about where costs are growing see also:
The NY Times report about this finding

About pharmaceuticals:
Drug Maker Pays $360 Million to Settle Investigation Into Charity Kickbacks: One technique pharmaceutical companies use to keep prices high and maximize reimbursement is providing patients with coupons to meet their out of pocket expenses. This practice results in insurance companies (or pharmaceutical benefit management companies- PBMs) footing the rest of the inflated charge. In a variation on this scheme, some companies set up non-profit foundations to help patients pay for the drugs pharma companies are selling. Actelion Pharmaceuticals (now owned by J&J) has agreed to a $360 settlement for such practices.

Read about the details of this case

AG’s Ask Supreme Court to Affirm States Power to Sue Drugmakers Over Misleading Labeling:
The big issue in these legal proceedings is whether states have powers to prosecute pharmaceutical companies (for actions such as misleading statements) or if federal laws and FDA actions not only have precedence but are the final words.

Read more about this issue

A Common Childbirth Drug Doubles in Price as Shortages Drag On: The law of supply and demand is one reason some drugs cost so much. In recent years there have been shortages due to such factors as natural disasters (like in Puerto Rico), plants being shut down for violations of Good Manufacturing Practices, and withdrawal from the market by companies who found certain products were not profitable. Sometimes these drugs are only benefit a few. Others are needed because of their common use.

Read here for more on this topic and