COVID

Millions Will Lose Medicaid Coverage After PHE Ends; Only Half of States Have Plans in Place

More than 14 million Medicaid enrollees could lose their coverage within six months when the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) ends, a Commonwealth Fund report projected. Meanwhile, Kaiser Family Foundation’s 50-state survey found that many states have not made key decisions on how to promote continuity of coverage. While the PHE is set to expire on April 16, HHS has said it would give at least 60 days’ notice before ending it, suggesting another extension is coming.

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News Briefs: Centene Appoints New CEO Amid PBM Overhaul

Centene Corp. has named Sarah London as its new CEO after its longtime chief executive, Michael Neidorff, took a medical leave of absence ahead of his planned retirement. London, who was serving as Centene’s vice chairman, will take the helm immediately. In her previous management role, London was responsible for a “portfolio of companies independent of Centene’s health plans, designing differentiated platform capabilities, and delivering industry-leading products and services to third-party customers,” per a March 22 press release. Before coming to Centene, she worked for UnitedHealth Group’s venture capital arm, Optum Ventures, and its data solutions division, Optum Analytics. London’s appointment comes at a time when Centene is planning an overhaul of its PBM assets, with a request for proposal seeking an external vendor due this summer. The firm in recent months has paid millions of dollars to settle accusations by states that its PBM operations overcharged their Medicaid programs for prescription drugs. During Centene’s Feb. 8 conference call to discuss fourth-quarter and full-year financial results, London told analysts that “the strategy here is to outsource administrative PBM functions to an external partner, thereby allowing us to reduce our three PBM platforms down to one and to focus...[on] clinical member and provider engagement.”

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Payers, Governments Invest in Rural Areas During Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, payers and federal and local governments are taking steps to improve health outcomes in rural, non-metropolitan communities, where case and mortality rates are significantly higher than in metropolitan areas.

Some of those initiatives include offering grants to health care providers, expanding access to telehealth and hosting events and campaigns to increase vaccinations, according to three speakers who discussed the pandemic and rural health during a Feb. 28 webinar hosted by the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation.

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Horizon and CINJ Are Piloting Home Infusion Oncology Program

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, to say the health care system was disrupted is an understatement. Many people undergoing treatment for cancer rightfully were concerned about their potential exposure to the virus and were hesitant to leave their homes for care. In order to continue treating some patients, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey partnered with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) and RWJBarnabas Health to start a pilot to offer home infusion of cancer treatments and telemedicine support for eligible people, the first such program in the state.

In addition to not putting people at risk of acquiring an illness, home infusion means that people don’t have to travel for treatment. It also provides them with one-on-one care, close monitoring during infusions and the ability to schedule treatments around their personal schedule. These benefits are especially important for people with compromised immune systems.

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AHIP Will Prioritize Telemedicine, Health Equity Post-Pandemic

On Feb. 23, health insurer trade group AHIP hosted a virtual State of the Industry presentation, reviewing progress made in 2021 and important issues for the health insurance industry as it looks to a world beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

Matt Eyles, president and CEO of AHIP, opened the conversation with a look at the organization’s 2021 initiatives and hopes for 2022. Eyles stressed the importance of the No Surprises Act, which aims to protect consumers from surprise medical bills. The legislation went into effect on Jan. 1, but it is currently the subject of a number of lawsuits filed by organizations including the American Hospital Association and American Medical Association. “AHIP continues to fight and protect the law,” Eyles said during the presentation.

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Big Insurers Change Little About Coverage of At-Home COVID Tests

A little more than a month after the Biden administration directed private health plans to fully cover at-home COVID-19 tests, insurers now have additional clarity from regulators about how to operationalize that mandate. Still, the country’s largest insurers do not appear to have significantly changed their approaches for covering at-home COVID tests since mid-January — with some still requiring members to submit claims for reimbursement rather than setting up more consumer-friendly direct-coverage pathways.

A Jan. 10 guidance document issued by the administration stated that by Jan. 15, all private group and individual health plans had to start covering up to eight over-the-counter, at-home COVID-19 tests per month for each covered member without imposing cost sharing or utilization management requirements. Previously, pandemic relief legislation required insurers to cover only diagnostic tests that were processed by a lab and ordered by a health care professional.

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Within Innovative Oncology Space, Companies Need to Address Oncologists’ Needs

The oncology space is undergoing a tremendous amount of innovation, as novel new products and practices become available. But those treatments can do only so much good if oncologists aren’t using them. Biopharma companies have an opportunity to differentiate themselves from their competitors by addressing oncologists’ specific needs, industry experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT.

When it comes to drug information, oncologists not only want to understand a product’s efficacy, “but also how to efficiently and effectively diagnose the patient and get that patient to the right targeted drug or combination using the patient’s genetics and the genetics of the tumor,” such as BRCA1 mutation-positive in breast cancer, explains Kristen Pothier, principal at KPMG U.S. Healthcare and life sciences deal advisory and strategy leader.

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Stop-Loss Market May Be Hot Opportunity for Health Insurers

While it’s become common knowledge in the health insurance sector that employer-sponsored coverage isn’t a major growth market, stop-loss insurance is bucking that trend. And with Blue Cross Blue Shield plans in particular not taking as much market share as they could, stop-loss could present attractive opportunities to health care-focused insurance carriers, experts say.

As it applies to health coverage, stop-loss insurance is typically paired with an administrative services only (ASO) contract, in which an employer pays its workers’ health care claims and hires an insurer to process those claims and perform other administrative functions. By adding stop-loss coverage, a self-funded employer is able to have that policy cover any “high-dollar” claim above a certain threshold, called an attachment point, thus minimizing the employer’s risk.

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Drug Pricing Remains Hot Topic, but Legislation Addressing It Has Stalled

While drug prices continue to be an issue of concern to many Americans, whether it can get any legislative traction issue remains unclear. So what might happen on the issue in 2022?

Dea Belazi, Pharm.D., M.P.H., president and CEO of AscellaHealth: Pharmaceutical drug pricing continues to be a contentious policy issue. Recent data has branded drug list prices growing annually by more than 9% over the last decade, which is much higher than gross domestic product (GDP) growth. However, a RAND study found that prices for unbranded generic drugs...are slightly lower in the United States than in most other nations. Additionally, patients’ out-of-pocket costs for specialty drugs have increased faster than GDP growth over the same period — 2.8% vs. 2.3%. Furthermore, the current White House administration and Congress have declared that reining in Medicare prescription drug costs to help older adults and people with disabilities is a top priority. This will put drug pricing in the crosshairs of elected officials, advocacy groups and patients.…

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ICER Draft Report Deems Four COVID Drugs Reasonably Priced

The manufacturers of four treatments aimed at easing the disease burden of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 received good news recently when the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) determined in a draft report that their prices are “reasonably aligned with patient benefits.”

Each of the treatments — molnupiravir, Paxlovid and fluvoxamine, which are delivered orally, and the IV-administered sotrovimab — have been shown in clinical trials to greatly reduce the risk of hospitalization or death in comparison to placebo treatments, according to a draft evidence report released Feb. 3 by ICER.

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