Kaiser Health News Original Stories

2. 5 Challenges Facing Medicaid At 50

The federal-state health care program covers nearly half of all births, one-third of children across the country and two-thirds of people in nursing homes. (Phil Galewitz, 7/27)

3. Health Law Experiment Failed To Show Savings

An ambitious demonstration to transform clinics into “medical homes” treating patients in the community instead of the hospital didn’t save money. Some blame the test, not the idea. (Jay Hancock, 7/27)

5. Political Cartoon: 'Worried Sick?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Worried Sick?'" by Darrin Bell.

Here's today's health policy haiku:


Voting on Sunday?
But the health law repeal push
Still misses the mark.

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.


6. Anthem-Cigna Deal Prompts Questions About Regulatory Scrutiny, Consumer Impact

News outlets detail various aspects of the billion-dollar agreement in which Anthem agrees to buy Cigna, including how this deal fits into the insurance sector's merger trend, what role the health law played in this market behavior, what might be in store regarding regulatory scrutiny and how the agreement may affect consumers.

The Wall Street Journal: Anthem Agrees To Buy Cigna For $48.4 Billion
The deal, combining the second- and fifth-largest health insurers by revenue, would create a company with a huge footprint in commercial insurance, the type of coverage provided to employers and consumers. ...The biggest companies are seeking more cost efficiency and scale as the health-care landscape changes because of the Affordable Care Act and other factors. Of the current major health insurers, only UnitedHealth Group Inc., the largest by revenue, has so far sat out the merger wave. (Wilde Mathews and Hoffman, 7/24)

The Associated Press: Why The 2010 Health Care Law Led To Insurance Merger Mania
The health care overhaul law has reshaped the health insurance business, and one consequence is more than $100 billion in mergers and acquisitions over the last few years. Anthem Inc.'s purchase of Cigna Corp. and Aetna Inc.'s acquisition of Humana Inc., both announced this month, are worth more than $80 billion combined. The companies snapped up competitors in smaller, but still hefty, deals for years before that. (6/24)

Bloomberg: Anthem-Cigna Deal Tied To Rival Mergers In Antitrust Review
The fate of Anthem Inc.’s proposed takeover of Cigna Corp. is now linked with that of Aetna Inc.’s bid for Humana Inc. as antitrust officials vow to scrutinize the industry as a whole amid the frenzy of dealmaking. The $48.4 billion purchase of Cigna announced Friday would cut the number of major health insurers to three from five, making it challenging for Anthem and its rivals to win approval from the Justice Department, antitrust experts say. (McLaughlin, 7/24)

Reuters: U.S. Health Insurer Mergers to Speed Industry Deals - Experts
Anthem Inc's decision to buy Cigna Corp, forming the largest U.S. health insurer by membership, will likely speed consolidation across the healthcare industry, from hospitals to drugmakers. Anthem announced its proposed $54 billion purchase of Cigna on Friday, just weeks after Aetna Inc said it would buy rival Humana Inc for $37 billion. If both transactions are approved by regulators, the industry will go from five major national players to three. (Beasley and Gumpert, 7/24)

Politico Pro: Antitrust Scrutiny Likely For Insurance Mergers
The last big domino has fallen in the wave of deals that has reshaped the health insurance industry in a few brief weeks. Anthem’s deal to purchase Cigna for $54 billion, announced Friday morning, will create the largest health insurance company in the country. The insurance behemoth will have $115 billion in revenues and 53 million members — 17 percent of the entire U.S. population. (Demko, 7/24)

USA Today: Are Insurer Deals Good For Consumers, Employers?
Health insurer Anthem's $54 billion deal to acquire Cigna could help keep health care costs from continuing to rise, as the insurers will have more negotiating leverage with doctors and hospitals, but the effect on employers remains unclear, say health care experts. (O'Donnell, 7/24)

Los Angeles Times: Q&A Will The Anthem-Cigna Deal Cost You Money?
Anthem Inc., California's largest for-profit health insurer, has agreed to acquire rival Cigna Corp. for $54 billion. The planned merger is the latest in a string of health insurance deals announced in the last few weeks. Aetna Inc. reached a $37-billion deal for Humana Inc. this month. And Woodland Hills insurer Health Net Inc. agreed to be acquired by Medicaid insurer Centene Corp. for $6.8 billion. (Masunaga and Terhune, 7/24)

The Connecticut Mirror: What Does The Anthem-Cigna Deal Mean For Consumers?
The announcement Friday that Anthem Inc. plans to buy Bloomfield-based Cigna Corp. comes amid a period of rapid consolidation in the health care industry that some observers have likened to an arms race. Hospitals – seeking, among other things, greater leverage in negotiating with insurers – have increasingly been joining larger systems, while the insurance industry – already concentrated in many states – is poised to undergo even more consolidation. Where does that leave consumers? (Levin Becker, 7/24)

Georgia Health News: Mega-Merger Would Bolster Blue Cross Here
Anthem’s agreement to buy Cigna for $48 billion, if consummated, would cement the dominant position of Georgia’s leading health insurer. The insurer deal, announced Friday, follows the merger agreement announced earlier this month between two other insurance heavyweights, Aetna and Humana. And both fit into the picture of fast-paced consolidation across the health care industry, partly driven by changes from the Affordable Care Act. (Miller, 7/24)

7. Federal Regulators OK First Of New, Costly Class Of Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs

The drug, Praluent, which is likely to become a huge seller, could be the next flashpoint regarding rising pharmaceutical prices. Health plans also are expected to put rules in place to control which patients can use it.

The New York Times: New Drug Sharply Lowers Cholesterol, But It’s Costly
Federal regulators on Friday approved the first of a new class of drug that can sharply lower cholesterol levels, offering a new option for millions of Americans suffering from cardiovascular disease, the nation’s leading killer. But the drug, Praluent, which analysts project will become a huge seller, is expected to become the next flashpoint in the growing controversy of escalating pharmaceutical prices, and health plans are expected to put in place strict measures to control which patients can use the drug and prevent it from becoming a budget buster. (Pollack, 7/24)

The Wall Street Journal: FDA Approves Cholesterol Drug From Regeneron, Sanofi
The drug, called Praluent and developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Sanofi SA, provides a new and in some cases desperately needed option for several million high-risk heart patients who can’t get their cholesterol to desirable levels with the blockbuster group of medicines known as statins. But the companies are pricing the drug at $14,600 a year, an especially high amount for a medicine aimed at a common condition like heart disease. By contrast, statins, which are available in generic versions and remain the mainstay drug option for cholesterol reduction, can be purchased for just a few dollars a month. (Winslow, 7/24)

The Hill: FDA Approves Cholesterol Drug With $15,000 Yearly Price Tag
A newly approved drug that has been hailed as a breakthrough treatment for high cholesterol is causing sticker stock across the healthcare industry. The injectable treatment, Praluent, is the first of a powerful new class of drugs proven to lower cholesterol. It also carries a list price of $14,600 a year — nearly twice what analysts had been expecting. While the newly approved drug is far from the most expensive on the market, it has potential for widespread use: It could be used by millions of people who have been unable to treat their high-cholesterol with existing — and cheaper — drugs. (Ferris, 7/24)

Reuters: New Heart Drugs Come In More Expensive Than Expected
Two of the most anticipated new heart drugs to be launched in recent years have been priced well above analyst expectations, fuelling the debate about whether modern medicines cost too much. Praluent, made by Sanofi and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, and Entresto from Novartis are both treatments that represent significant advances for millions of patients at risk of serious heart problems. (Hirschler, 7/27)