Many Health Plans Now Must Cover Full Cost of Expensive HIV Prevention Drugs

Ted Howard started taking Truvada a few years ago because he wanted to protect himself against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. But the daily pill was so pricey he was seriously thinking about giving it up.

Under his insurance plan, the former flight attendant and customer service instructor owed $500 in copayments every month for the drug and an additional $250 every three months for lab work and clinic visits.

Luckily for Howard, his doctor at Las Vegas’ Huntridge Family Clinic, which specializes in LGBTQ care, enrolled him in a clinical trial that covered his medication and other costs in full.

“If I hadn’t been able to get into the trial, I wouldn’t have kept taking PrEP,” said Howard, 68, using the shorthand term for “preexposure prophylaxis.” Taken daily, these drugs — like Truvada — are more than 90% effective at preventing infection with HIV.

Starting this

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Seniors Face Crushing Drug Costs as Congress Stalls on Capping Medicare Out-Of-Pockets

Sharon Clark is able to get her life-sustaining cancer drug, Pomalyst — priced at more than $18,000 for a 28-day supply — only because of the generosity of patient assistance foundations.

Clark, 57, a former insurance agent who lives in Bixby, Oklahoma, had to stop working in 2015 and go on Social Security disability and Medicare after being diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer. Without the foundation grants, mostly financed by the drugmakers, she couldn’t afford the nearly $1,000 a month it would cost her for the drug, since her Medicare Part D drug plan requires her to pay 5% of the list price.

Every year, however, Clark has to find new grants to cover her expensive cancer drug.

“It’s shameful that people should have to scramble to find funding for medical care,” she said. “I count my blessings, because other patients have stories that are a lot worse

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KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: 2020 in Review — It Wasn’t All COVID


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COVID-19 was the dominant — but not the only — health policy story of 2020. In this special year-in-review episode of KHN’s “What the Health?” podcast, panelists look back at some of the biggest non-coronavirus stories. Those included Supreme Court cases on the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid work requirements and abortion, as well as a year-end surprise ending to the “surprise bill” saga.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of KHN, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Anna Edney of Bloomberg News and Sarah Karlin-Smith of Pink Sheet.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • The coronavirus pandemic strengthened the hand of ACA supporters, even as the Trump administration sought to get the Supreme Court to overturn the federal health law. Many people felt it was an inopportune time to get rid of that safety valve while so many Americans
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Medicare Fines Half of Hospitals for Readmitting Too Many Patients

Nearly half the nation’s hospitals, many of which are still wrestling with the financial fallout of the unexpected coronavirus, will get lower payments for all Medicare patients because of their history of readmitting patients, federal records show.

The penalties are the ninth annual round of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program created as part of the Affordable Care Act’s broader effort to improve quality and lower costs. The latest penalties are calculated using each hospital case history between July 2016 and June 2019, so the flood of coronavirus patients that have swamped hospitals this year were not included.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced in September it may suspend the penalty program in the future if the chaos surrounding the pandemic, including the spring’s moratorium on elective surgeries, makes it too difficult to assess hospital performance.

For this year, the penalties remain in effect. Retroactive to the federal

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Look Up Your Hospital: Is It Being Penalized By Medicare?

Under programs set up by the Affordable Care Act, the federal government cuts payments to hospitals

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