A panel of federal appeals court judges on Tuesday sounded likely to uphold a lower-court ruling that a central provision of the Affordable Care Act — the requirement that most people have health insurance — is unconstitutional. But it was harder to discern how the court might come down on a much bigger question: whether the rest of the sprawling health law must fall if the insurance mandate does.

Scott Kohan woke up in an Austin, Texas, emergency room after an attack that broke his jaw. The hospital was within his insurance network. But the oral surgeon who set his jaw wasn’t. Mr. Kohan’s insurer refused to pay the surgeon’s $8,000 bill.

He’s not alone. An estimated 51% of ambulance rides, 22% of emergency-department trips, and 9% of elective cases, in which patients have time for due diligence, lead to surprise bills. These typically come from providers who refuse to join insurance networks so they can charge astronomical fees.

Congress could eliminate the Part D “protected classes” rule which forces insurers to pay for any drugs in six arbitrary categories, regardless of their price or value. (The Trump administration had proposed just such a reform, but withdrew it in a sop to the drug lobby.)

More substantially, Congress should require that drug companies selling drugs into Part D rebate any price increases above consumer inflation to Medicare, to offset the program’s taxpayer-funded subsidies.

Without reforms of this type, it’s highly likely that restructuring Part D would drive costs upward.

Consolidation in the health system and health insurance industries has been a focus for years. But a new report sheds light on how the “bigger is better” mantra has taken hold in companies that make syringes, X-ray machines or other healthcare products

The report, prepared by the Open Markets Institute using data from IBISWorld, shows a small handful of companies dominate their respective markets in certain healthcare sectors that tend to get less of a spotlight than their payer and provider counterparts.

Transparency, though essential, is not sufficient to bring down health care costs. Nor does it always need to be legislated. Laws aren’t required to force sellers of food, computers or clothing to post prices. That information is driven by consumers who actively seek value for their money. The most compelling motivation for doctors and hospitals to post prices would be the awareness that they’re competing for price-conscious patients.

The Department of Veterans Affairs on Thursday will begin allowing a broad section of its nine million enrollees to seek medical care outside of traditional V.A. hospitals, the biggest shift in the American health care system since the passage of the Affordable Care Act nearly a decade ago.

While department officials say they are ready, veterans groups and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have expressed concerns about the V.A., which has been dogged for years by problems with its computer systems. They worry that the department is not fully prepared to begin its new policy, which Congress adopted last year to streamline and expand the way veterans get care.

The Medicaid Drug Rebate Program (MDRP) was created by Congress nearly 30 years ago. It requires drug manufacturers to pay a rebate for all out-patient drugs dispensed to Medicaid beneficiaries. The percentage for this rebate varies by type of drug, with brand-name drugs requiring the greatest rebate and generics the least. In addition, the rebate must rise until it ensures that the net (of rebate) price of the drug matches the best price available to anyone in the private market. (MDRP is often referred to as the Medicaid “best price” policy.) Finally, there is an inflation penalty — an additional rebate equal to the amount by which the price increase exceeds the rate of inflation, measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

 

More than 1 in 4 Americans say they or a family member went without needed health care in the past two years because they felt they could not afford it, according to a new poll.

The survey from Monmouth University released Monday finds that 27 percent of adults say they or a member of their household have avoided necessary medical care in the past two years because of cost. That figure is down slightly from 2017, when 31 percent said they had skipped care.

Nine years after Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act and more than a year after Republicans failed in their effort to repeal it, health care promises once again to be a major issue in the 2020 elections.

Drug costs are rising, as are insurance premiums. Rural hospitals are closing. Even as an estimated 20 million people have gained coverage under the ACA, widely known as Obamacare, nearly 30 million people remain uninsured. Surveys consistently find that Americans see the health-care system as broken.

Americans cited health care as the top issue for the federal government to address, ahead of the economy, immigration, national security and other issues, Wall Street Journal/NBC News polling found this month.

The financial burden of health care was of particular concern for American families, according to a new Gallup poll released last week, trumping worries linked to wages, college expenses, housing and taxes.

For generations, the prices that hospitals charge patients with private insurance have been shrouded in secrecy. An explosive new study has unlocked some of those secrets. It finds that employers and their insurers are failing to control hospital costs, increasing calls for transparency into insurer-hospital agreements. The analysis, by Chapin White and Christopher Whaley of the RAND Corporation, finds that hospitals are charging the privately insured 2.4 times what they charge Medicare patients, on average. The authors were able to access the actual contracted prices used by employers representing four million workers.