Hospitals Caught Hiding Pricing Data in Search Results

Hospital pricing transparency has been a hot topic since last fall. Last year the Trump administration set a rule in place to require consumer access to hospital pricing on health care system websites. The Wall Street Journal did an investigation into whether or not hospitals were complying with these new federal regulations and discovered that more than 3,100 hospital websites had code embedded that prevented the pricing from appearing in search results.

Some of the nation’s largest healthcare systems including HCA Healthcare, Universal Health Services, Inc., the University of Pennsylvania Health System, and NYU Langone Health as well as regional systems had the code blocking their pricing. While the price lists were technically on the websites, critics said that making the information difficult to find, and blocked from search engines was intentional and went against the intent of the new transparency laws. Hospitals that violate the new rule can be penalized up to $300 per day. Read more at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required for full article).

Source: Wall Street Journal

Pharmaceutical Companies Squeezed on Drug Prices

Drug companies are free to set prices for the products at whatever they choose. However, they often rely on public and private health plans to include their medications in formulary plans, which means pharmaceutical companies pay rebates and offer discounts to cover their drugs.

The drug list price also pays wholesalers who deliver medication to hospitals, pharmacies, and health care sites. As a result, the sticker price ends up not being an actual reflection of the net price that manufacturers receive. While the gross price of many medications such as insulin are increasing, the net price is falling. Read more at the Wall Street Journal (subscription required for full article).

Source: Wall Street Journal

Amazon Expanding Their Telehealth Services

Amazon started Amazon Care in 2019 and offered up telehealth services to its employees in Seattle. Now, the tech giant is expanding its telehealth service nationwide and is offering the service to other companies. Amazon is planning to allow companies to purchase Amazon Care as an add-on service to their healthcare plans.

As telehealth services exploded in popularity and necessity in 2020, Amazon has taken this opportunity to increase its market share. Amazon Care operates via an app that facilitates video or chat appointments in addition to prescription delivery. Amazon pharmacy services ship insulin, asthma medications and other generic or branded drugs directly to consumers. An in-person health care service that has doctors making house calls is also in the works for expansion. Read more about Amazon here.

Source: Healthcare IT News

Free COBRA Coverage for Employees – What You Need to Know

The latest Covid relief package, called the American Rescue Plan was signed into law in mid-March and provides 100% subsidized COBRA premiums for eligible individuals and their dependents. The subsidized premiums are available April 1, 2021 until September 20, 2021.

Eligible individuals are those who lost coverage due to an involuntary termination or reduction in hours. If individuals were terminated prior to April 1, 2021, but didn’t initially elect for COBRA coverage, they must be given the opportunity to elect COBRA continuation coverage.

As an employer, you need to start identifying eligible individuals and notify them of the special election period. In addition, you must reimburse those individuals who have paid premiums on and after April 1 within 60 days of the payment. Learn more about what you need to do as an employer here.

Source: JD Supra

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