For marketing agencies, healthcare has been a flurry of news and hot topics not only due to COVID-19, but the downstream effects of how the pandemic has pushed innovation and collaboration across the industry. In this month’s edition, we’ve compiled the need-to-know stories for marketing agencies, healthcare communications professionals, and others working to support health systems, insurers and health technology companies. Notable this month is digital health news, including organizations working cross-functionally to develop the first “digital health passport”, and health systems using technology to engage patients back into care settings. Finally, cost hits to insurers and hospital systems remain long-standing effects of the last year, and how they’re working to circumvent these challenges is especially topical for marketing agencies, healthcare consultants and others who need to be in-the-know with these developments.

 

COVID-19 NEWS

House set to vote on $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package

The bill that includes direct payments to individuals, unemployment bonuses and per-child allowances as well as funding for vaccine distributions, increased Medicaid payments to states, and eligibility for coverage, plus support for schools and local governments will be put to a House vote on Friday, Feb. 26.

COVID-19 variant cases increase by 73%

The CDC released new data that show 944 new coronavirus variants. All the while, cases and hospitalizations are falling in numbers for the first time since November.

New quarantine guidance for vaccinated individuals

The CDC now states individuals fully vaccinated against COVID-19 do not have to quarantine after having been exposed to someone with the virus if they meet certain criteria.

CDC recommends reducing exposure risk to COVID-19 with two masks

The agency’s revised guidance around double-masking, or wearing tight-fitting masks, can lower the risk of exposure to the virus.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine submitted for emergency use authorization

Earlier this month, the manufacturer applied for EUA for its single-dose, COVID-19 vaccine, and is prepared to ship doses immediately once authorized.

Eli Lilly granted EUA for antibody cocktail

The pharmaceutical company provided data backing up reduced risk of death and hospitalization in high-risk patients following administration of the cocktail. In partnership with Amgen, the two companies are set to develop 1 million doses by mid-2021.

Novavax reports near-90% effectiveness against UK variant in its COVID-19 vaccine

In a UK clinical trial, another new vaccine showed 89.3% effectiveness, but reduced efficacy in another trial against a South African variant of the virus.

‘Digital health passports’ prompting industry collaboration and innovation

The Good Health Pass Collaborative is made up of about 20 organizations seeking to streamline, using common standards, a secure solution for COVID-19 testing and travel guidelines, both for individuals and airlines.

BCBSA analysis reveals inpatient and outpatient cost impacts on insurers

In a study of more than 90,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, the Association found costs were 45 times higher for inpatient cases as compared to those treated on an outpatient basis.

Hospitals lost over $20B due to suspended elective surgeries during COVID-19

An Annals of Surgery report revealed significant revenue losses for hospitals of all types.

 

LEGAL & REGULATORY NEWS

CMS opens special ACA enrollment period

To assist millions of people who lost health coverage during COVID-19, the HealthCare.gov enrollment opened for individuals on February 15, and will remain accessible through May 15.

Medicare Part D rebate rule on hold until 2023

The Trump-era rule was scheduled to go into effect in 2022, and would remove safe harbor drug rebate protections and replace them with pharmacy-counter consumer discounts. The Biden Administration will review the rule and advise on how it should proceed by April 1.

Health systems come under scrutiny for information blocking

On April 5, a new rule will go into effect that is challenging IT leaders with prioritizing HIPAA rules, privacy and cybersecurity resources amidst COVID-19 vaccination scheduling. The HHS enacted new regulations as part of interoperability rules issued by ONC and CMS, supporting the 21st Century Cures Act, intended to prevent providers, information exchanges and networks and IT developers from blocking information and expanding patient access to their personal health information.

Opioid epidemic settlement costs McKinsey $573M

The consulting firm agreed to pay 47 states and D.C. in a settlement against allegations of its role in supporting Purdue Pharma, Oxycontin manufacturer.

ACA no longer deemed unconstitutional by Justice Department

The Department of Justice stated that with the removal of the individual mandate penalty, it reversed its previous position about the unconstitutional nature of the ACA.

CMS rule to streamline prior authorization withdrawn

The last-minute finalization by the Trump administration was said to ease patient and provider administrative burdens in accessing their data. The new White House administration withdrew the rule, with support from industry groups like AHIP.

Study finds savings in regulating hospital prices

A report conducted by RAND Corporation estimates that more cost savings can be derived from hospital price regulation than heightened competition or increased price transparency. Annual spending could be reduced by 1.7% to 6.5% if price setting for commercial payers was implemented.

Hackers target healthcare billing, insurance companies
Various healthcare business companies such as research institutions, rehabs, and labs were big targets for hacking events last year. In the second half of 2020, 21.3 million health records were compromised. Over the entire year, 75% of these were consolidated to breaches against medical billing and reimbursement companies.

 

INDUSTRY GROWTH 

10 predictions for global healthcare in 2021

Frost & Sullivan outlines predictions for the healthcare industry—many of which are impacts to digital strategies—about COVID-19 vaccinations, telehealth, hospital margins and spending in light of changes driven by the pandemic.

Deloitte analysis posits lower healthcare spend over 20 years due to more active healthcare consumers

The consulting firm predicts a discrepancy between federal government estimates and Deloitte report, with the firm expecting $3.5 trillion less healthcare spending by 2040, due to individuals taking more proactive approaches to their care and identifying early signs of disease.

Cost-sharing results in lower Rx use, higher mortality according to report

The National Bureau of Economic Research released a report tying increased cost-sharing by health insurers to negative effects on medication usage (a 22.6% drop) and increased morality (32.7%, monthly).

Best in KLAS 2021 winners announced

The KLAS report recognizes organizations that excel at helping healthcare providers improve patient care, including health IT companies, patient access software and other vendors.

 

M&A NEWS

23andMe merges with VG Acquisition Corp to go public

The consumer product for genetic testing is valued at $3.5 billion, and the combined company, expects to make its IPO in Q2 of 2021. The company’s shift away from its ancestry product will make room for more investment in its consumer health and therapeutics focus areas.

ShareCare patient engagement company plans $3.9 billion IPO deal

In a merger agreement with SPAC Falcon Capital Acquisition Corp, the digital health company ShareCare announced its IPO. The company provides various tools in its virtual care platform to connect patients, providers and other healthcare stakeholders to manage their health in once place.

Oscar Health files IPO

Little information has been released, including the number of shares and price range, according to an announcement by the technology startup and insurer Oscar Health.

Signify Health raises $564 million in its IPO

The company provides analytics and technology-backed value-based care solutions focused on home health services.

Zocdoc focus on telehealth and public health services secures $150 million in funding

The privately-held appointment scheduler’s additional funding is timely among a great need for vaccination appointments for people in the US seeking the COVID-19 shot.