The Rundown | Week of 5.13.2019

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Trump, Congress to Draft Bill to Cut Surprise Billing

Following President Trump’s call to end surprise billing, Congress has announced a bipartisan bill to curb unexpected costs. “Surprise billing” refers to unforeseen expenses patients face when they, whether accidentally or due to an emergency, use out-of-network services. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) signed a letter seconding the initiative. Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Greg Walden (R-OR), leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released the discussion draft of a bill. “We are committed to working together on bipartisan legislation that protects patients and families from surprise medical bills and the crippling financial debt that comes with them,” Pallone and Walden said in a joint statement.
>> Read More: What They Are Saying: Bipartisan E&C Leaders Announce Intent for Surprise Billing Legislation

Drugmakers Must Disclose Prices in Ads

Last week the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a rule that mandates drug manufacturers disclose list prices in consumer advertisements. The ruling, which the pharmaceutical industry has opposed, aims to provide greater transparency. Only drugs that cost more than $35 per month must adhere to the measure. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar noted the rule will go into effect 60 days after the May 7 announcement.“Patients have the right to know the prices of healthcare services, and CMS is serious about empowering patients with this information across-the-board,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said. Industry experts are divided as to whether transparent pricing will lower prescription drug prices.
>> Read More: HHS Finalizes Rule Requiring Manufacturers Disclose Drug Prices in TV Ads to Increase Drug Pricing Transparency

Study: Meditation Can Harm Mental Health

Researchers from the University College London concluded that meditation can lead to “psychologically unpleasant experiences” for some practitioners. The study, which was published in PLOS ONE, explored “the association of these experiences with demographic characteristics, meditation practice, repetitive negative thinking, mindfulness, and self-compassion.” One-quarter of participants reported negative experiences. Religious and female participants were less likely to have a negative experience, while those who engaged in “repetitive negative thinking,” attended a meditation retreat, or engaged in deconstructive types of meditation were more likely to suffer an unpleasant experience.
>> Read More: Unpleasant Meditation-Related Experiences in Regular Meditators: Prevalence, Predictors, and Conceptual Considerations

Study: Most Medications Contain Allergens

A recent analysis of medications’ inactive ingredients found potential allergens in nearly all samples. These components are “supposed to improve a medication’s taste, appearance, absorption, or shelf life without any noticeable effect.” The study, published in Science Translational Medicine, found “clinical reports of adverse reactions triggered by inactive ingredients are on the upswing.” Analysts at JAMA noted: “Only 12% of solid oral medications contain no inactive ingredients that could affect people with allergies, intolerance, or sensitivities.” Researchers concluded the study underscored “the need to maximize the tolerability and safety of medications.”
>> Read More: Nearly All Medications Contain Potentially Allergenic Inactive Ingredients, Analysis Shows

Private Insurers Pay Hospitals Twice as Much as Medicare

A study from RAND found private insurers pay hospitals, on average, 241 percent as much as Medicare. “[R]esearchers used data from three sources — self-insured employers, state-based all-payer claims databases, and health plans — to assess $13 billion in hospital spending in terms of hospital price levels, variation, and trends from 2015 through 2017 in 25 states.” In response to the findings, researchers recommended employers explore “contracts based on a multiple of Medicare”; “use networks and benefit designs to move patient volume away from high-priced, low-value hospitals and hospital systems”; and “encourage expanded price transparency.”
>> Read More: Prices Paid to Hospitals by Private Health Plans Are High Relative to Medicare and Vary Widely

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