Determining whether the prices for medicines are appropriate or not is critically important, which is why studies that attempt to answer this question must stand up to scrutiny. Studies that undervalue medicines jeopardize the development of future cures, while studies that overvalue medicines justify the imposition of excessive health care costs today.

Public health insurance benefits in the U.S. are increasingly provided by private firms, despite mixed evidence on welfare effects. We investigate the impact of privatization in Medicaid by exploiting the staggered introduction of county-level mandates in Texas that required disabled beneficiaries to switch from public to private plans. Compared to the public program, which used blunt rationing to control costs, we find privatization led to improvements in healthcare—including increased consumption of high-value drug treatments and fewer avoidable hospitalizations—but also higher Medicaid spending. We conclude that private provision can be beneficial when constraints in the public setting limit efficiency.

Seniors in progressive U.S. states are choosing private Medicare Advantage plans more so than the national average even as the politicians who want to represent them talk about getting rid of the insurer’s role in health coverage.

New data from the Kaiser Family Foundation shows more than 40% of new Medicare beneficiaries in Oregon and Minnesota chose Medicare Advantage plans in 2016. And more than 36% of new Medicare beneficiaries in New York and California chose Medicare Advantage plans in 2016.

People new to Medicare can receive their Medicare benefits through either traditional Medicare or private plans, such as HMOs or PPOs, known as Medicare Advantage plans. Older adults and younger beneficiaries with disabilities have said that they make this choice based on premiums and out-of-pocket costs, access to desired providers, the reputation of the company offering the plan, ads and other marketing materials, and the advice of brokers, family members and friends.

The era of annual eye-popping Obamacare rate hikes appears to be over.

Premium increases in the law’s marketplaces are on track to be relatively modest for the second straight year, according to the first batch of 2020 rates proposed by insurers. The rate filings are an early indication that this year’s small rate hikes weren’t a fluke and that other Trump administration policies — including support for a lawsuit that could torch the Affordable Care Act — have proven less disruptive than some experts feared.

Widescale drug importation from Canada, is not a practical solution to the problem of high drug costs. It is a distraction from efforts to address the real prescription drug cost drivers. Perhaps conflating its geographic size, importation proponents seem to overlook Canada’s small population, which is less than California’s. There’s no way that our neighbors to the north could supply the U.S. market—or even a handful of states—with all of its prescription drug needs.  President Trump and legislators should redirect their efforts to proposals that could actually make a difference short term and long term in lowering costs.

Even when the Supreme Court tells a government labor union that it can’t do something, there’s no guarantee that the union will comply. In its 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision, the Court ruled that an Illinois law forcing home health-care workers—paid with Medicaid funds—to shell out cash to labor unions was unconstitutional. That should have ended unions’ ability to collect fees from these workers—many of whom were not really professionals but were receiving a small subsidy from Medicaid to care for disabled family members at home—unless the workers agreed to join the union.  The administration announced it will enforce the ruling.

The U.S. House put to a vote this week a bill that would threaten the health coverage of 1.5 million people. H.R. 987 would overturn a Trump administration regulatory-relief policy while wastefully allocating new taxpayer money to programs proven to fail. Among other changes, the bill would block the Trump administration’s relief efforts that help consumers access “short-term, limited-duration” insurance. While these plans were unnecessarily restricted by the Obama administration, the Trump administration has eased regulations to make incremental progress toward expanded affordable health coverage choices. The House bill would reverse this progress, capping duration of the plans at 90 days, and stripping consumers of the right to renew their coverage.

Democrats pushed through the House Thursday legislation that they say fortifies the ACA and also curbs prescription drug prices.  The bill seems engineered with next year’s elections in mind since it has no chance of surviving in the Senate or getting President Trump’s signature. The measure forced Republicans into the uncomfortable political position of casting a single vote on legislation that contained popular bi-partisan drug pricing restraints they support, but also language they oppose about the Affordable Care Act.  [The bill would undo many of the consumer-friendly changes the Trump administration has made through its regulatory authority]. In the end, all but five voting Republicans opposed the overall package; the measure passed by a mostly party-line vote of 234-183.

By all accounts, Robert Pear of the New York Times was one of the most relentlessly probing journalists on the healthcare beat, enlightening readers and rankling partisans with the clarity of his reportage and his savantlike understanding of the federal government and its arcana. With a seemingly ever-present byline on Page One of the Times, Mr. Pear was a constant and authoritative presence in Washington for four decades. He died May 7 at 69 at a hospice center in Rockville, Md. The cause was complications from a severe stroke that he suffered April 29, said his brother, Doug Pear. [Robert was the quintessential journalist who was always fair and thorough.  We will miss Robert’s kindness and his incredible devotion to informing the health reform debate. RIP.]