KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

More Insurers Want You To See A Doctor Virtually

Insurers like WellPoint and Aetna are offering patients the option of e-visits with doctors as a way to cut costs, but some see problems with that, reports Bloomberg. Other media outlets explore the controversy over Sovaldi, an expensive new drug for hepatitis C.

Bloomberg: More Docs Are A Click Away, But Some Say It’s Not A Healthy Trend
Health insurers want you to see the doctor, just not in an office or hospital. To cut medical costs and diagnose minor ailments, WellPoint and Aetna, among other health insurers, are letting millions of patients get seen online first. In a major expansion of telemedicine, WellPoint this month started offering 4 million patients the ability to have e-visits with doctors, while Aetna says it will boost online access to 8 million people next year from 3 million now. The insurers are joining with companies such as Teladoc, MDLive and American Well that offer virtual visits with doctors who, in some states, can prescribe drugs for anything from sinus infections to back pain (French, 7/14).

The Washington Post’s Wonkblog: How do You Pay For A Drug That Costs $84,000? 
There's a new $84,000 treatment for hepatitis C that's giving new hope to patients. But it's also giving a health-care system strained by limited resources a strong reality check. Since Gilead Sciences unveiled Sovaldi more than six months ago, its $84,000 price tag has ignited a conversation in the health policy world about how to make life-saving medicines more affordable without hurting drugmakers' incentives to develop the treatments in the first place (Millman, 7/15).

The Hill: 4 in 5 Say $1,000-a-Pill Drug Cost ‘Unacceptable’
Eighty-two percent in a new poll say the cost of a $1,000-a-pill medicine which has sparked congressional scrutiny is “unacceptable” and expressed concerns the specialty drug could harm innovation in the pharmaceutical industry. In the survey by the Morning Consult released Tuesday, only 18 percent agreed that the cost was “acceptable and what we have to pay for innovative, life saving drug treatments" (Al-Faruqe, 7/15).

Meanwhile, Walgreen weighs purchase of overseas chain -

The Wall Street Journal: Walgreen Weighs Riding Tax-Inversion Wave
Walgreen Co.'s first pharmacy opened 113 years ago inside a hotel on Chicago's South Side and this year, the chain will derive nearly all its sales and most of its profits from its 8,700 U.S. locations. But Walgreen is currently thinking about leaving American shores, as part a plan to buy the rest of Alliance Boots GmbH, which operates a U.K. drugstore chain and is based in Switzerland. The move could help Walgreen lower its U.S. tax bill saving the company hundreds of millions of dollars a year—money that wouldn't flow into the U.S. Treasury (Ziobro, 7/15).

And the Nemours Foundation settles lawsuits against insurers -

The Associated Press: Nemours Settles 2 United Health Lawsuits
The foundation that owns the Alfred I. du Pont Hospital for Children in Delaware and various pediatric practices in the region has settled lawsuits against two United Healthcare entities for unpaid bills. Federal court documents filed this week indicate that the Nemours Foundation has settled lawsuits against United Healthcare of the Mid-Atlantic and United Healthcare Community Plan of New Jersey. A third lawsuit against United Healthcare of Pennsylvania remains pending (7/15).

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