The two leading healthcare stories of the week are big, very big – and both happened on Tuesday. Is “very big” the correct descriptor? Better words may be those picked-up on a hot mic whispered by then Vice President Biden into President Obama’s ear as they embraced before the 2010 signing of the Affordable Care Act – “This is a big f–g deal!”
The Inflation Reduction Act signed on Tuesday by President Biden takes historic action to not only address climate change but also to control health care costs. The new legislation extends the enhanced subsidies for Affordable Care Act marketplace premiums, set to expire at the end of this year, for another 3 years. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that some people would see their premiums rise by more than 50% if the enhanced subsidies were not extended.
The Inflation Reduction Act also aims to reduce prescription drug costs for the Medicare program as well as for Medicare enrollees. Staring in 2026, Medicare is allowed to negotiate drug prices with manufacturers for 10 high-cost drugs – an extraordinary expansion of Medicare’s power. And similar to the AEPC-CVS prescription drug program, Medicare will now require drug manufacturers to limit price increase to no more than the rate of inflation. Next year, Medicare enrollees will see the elimination of cost-sharing for Part D vaccines and the $35 a month cap on insulin costs thanks to the new law. Another major Medicare benefit improvement is a $2,000 cap on out-of-pocket prescription drug costs in 2025. Check out the article in Just In to learn more!
On Tuesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a game changing final rule that allows adults with mild to moderate hearing impairment to purchase hearing aids directly from stores or on-line retailers without a prescription, medical exam, or fitting adjustment appointment. This marks the end to a process that began in 2017 when bipartisan legislation was passed directing the FDA to create a category of over-the counter (OTC) hearing aids in order to spur competition, drive lower costs and expand access. By some reports, five hearing aid manufacturing companies control 90% of the global marketplace – an industry ripe for competition! OTC hearing aids are expected to hit stores and on-line retailers in October with price tags far lower than the current $2,5000 – $5,000 per pair.
Lower costs and convenience are not the only good news – many of the OTC hearing aids won’t be much bigger than a true wireless earbud! Jabra, a major player in the wireless earbud and headphone space, launched its Enhance Plus earbuds that increase hearing and act as headphones for phone calls, streaming music – all of which can be controlled through a smartphone app. The Enhance Plus earbuds are 50% smaller than Jabra’s smallest Bluetooth earbuds. Check out the Jabra’s!
Tuesday indeed marked major progress on tackling healthcare costs and access. Although there is much more to be done, a moment to celebrate the strides made this week is certainly in order!
This Weekend Reading Series begins with Just In, with stories on new the Inflation Reduction Act, a new $2.8 million drug, autism research and more. Next, check out Somebody’s World, looking at the impact of inflation and healthcare costs on patients and families. Do not miss Provider Perils with articles on the role of monetary payments, benefit plan design and reimbursement on physician and hospitals. Last, but not least, check out In the End and my personal favorite – The End of Manual Transmission. Stick shifts are dying.
I hope you enjoy the following:
1. Just In
- The Inflation Reduction Act is a Milestone Achievement in Lowering Americans’ Health Care Costs (The Commonwealth Fund)
- Bluebird’s $2.8 million gene therapy becomes most expensive drug after U.S. approval (Reuters)
- Major Gene Study Spots DNA Tied to Autism, Other Disorders (HealthDay)
- In Post Roe v. Wade Era, Mozilla Labels 18 of 25 Popular Period and Pregnancy Tracking Tech With *Privacy Not Included Warning (Mozilla Foundation)
2. Somebody’s World
- Collateral damage of the Fed’s interest rate hikes: People who put medical bills on credit cards (STAT)
- Buy and Bust: Collapse of Private Equity-Backed Rural Hospitals Mired Employees in Medical Bills (Kaiser Health News)
- Parents and clinicians say private equity’s profit fixation is short-changing kids with autism (STAT)
- For Medically Vulnerable Families, Inflation’s Squeeze Is Inescapable (Kaiser Health News)
3. Provider Perils
- Eye Doctors Who Get Even Small Payments from Drug Companies More Likely to Prescribe Name-Brand Eyedrops (Johns Hopkins Medicine)
- Some Rural Hospitals Are in Such Bad Shape, Local Governments Are Practically Giving Them Away (Kaiser Health News)
- Rising out-of-pocket costs has ‘dramatic effects’ on hospital’s revenue cycle performance (Becker’s CFO Report)
- Outlook for nonprofit hospitals is ‘deteriorating,’ Fitch says (Healthcare Dive)
4. In the End
- The Polygraph Test That Saved My Marriage What a terrifying relief it was to have to tell the truth about everything (The New York Times)
The Hunt for the Massachusetts “Wild Man” In a tale with as many false identities as supposed crimes, investigative reporter Annie “Londonderry” Kopchovsky gets her man (maybe) (JSTOR Daily)
The 80-Year Mystery of the U.S. Navy’s ‘Ghost Blimp’ The L-8 returned from patrolling the California coast for Japanese subs in August 1942, but its two-man crew was nowhere to be found (The Smithsonian)
The End of Manual Transmission Stick shifts are dying. When they go, something bigger than driving will be lost. (The Atlantic)
Enjoy the weekend!
Suzanne Daniels, Ph.D.
P.O. Box 1416
Birmingham, MI 48012
Office: (248) 792-2187
Email: [email protected]