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The Voice of John Gorman
Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar was in front of the US Senate Health Committee for a hearing today on drug pricing. His prepared remarks freaked out the market open saying the US “fundamentally may need to move toward a system without drug rebates, where PBMs and drug companies just negotiate fixed-price contracts.”
The Gorman Health Group 2018 Client Forum concluded last week in Las Vegas with over 300 of our closest clients and partners. As we enter our 22nd (!) year, we returned to the Red Rock Resort where a great time and shared learnings were had by all.
The Wall Street Journal reported last night (Cigna Nears Deal to Buy Express Scripts) that Cigna is in final talks to acquire Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Express Scripts (ESRX) for a whopping $67 billion. ESRX was the last truly independent major PBM, and the deal signals the end of an era…and ushers in a new one, further blurring the lines between insurers, providers, and their primary vendor. The combined entity will reach over 250 million people and will have a ripple effect on many of their competitors.
The February 2018 Medicare Advantage (MA) enrollment report is out and includes the tail end of Annual Election Period (AEP) activity.
The Penceification of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) continued today as Alex Azar, former CEO of Eli Lilly America and Pence selection, was easily confirmed by the Senate to be the next Secretary. A twice-confirmed veteran of W. Bush’s HHS, Azar has earned bipartisan respect and takes the reins of a battered agency after the Tom Price debacle.
As 2018 and Year 2 of the chaotic Trump Administration kick off, trying to predict what will happen in Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act is as challenging as ever. It’s a midterm election year with terrible headwinds for the GOP, so the legislative calendar is abbreviated, and partisan rancor will peak. That makes it less likely Republicans will get to do much damage but also more likely they will try to serve up red meat for their base, like a return to “repeal and replace.” Congressional leaders, fresh off their billionaire bailout tax bill, are already talking about taking up “reform” (aka cuts) of Medicare and Medicaid and other social welfare programs. The only thing that is certain is 2018 will be another battleground year for government health programs.