This month, a new White House administration drove new healthcare headlines and spurred more regulatory changes. At the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make the news with rising amounts of vaccine doses being administered, despite some concerns about lack of planning delaying mass distribution. Finally, the first few weeks of this new year reinforced that healthcare M&A activity shows no sign of slowing in 2021.

Read on for a recap of the important stories you may have missed this month.



24 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered, according to CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recorded over 48 million distributed doses of the coronavirus vaccine and more than 26 million administered doses.

Unpredictable vaccine shipments leading to canceled appointments for hospitals, clinics

The distribution model outlined by Operation Warp Speed is posing challenges for various healthcare delivery organizations due to lack of early notice of quantities shipped by the federal government. 

Biden administration pushes for $1.9 trillion relief package

The proposed relief measure is intended to provide additional stimulus checks to most Americans, cover many of the costs of responding to the virus, as well as extend and enhance jobless benefits.

COVID-19 response strategy unveiled by Biden administration

Just before inauguration day, President Biden released a strategy for addressing the COVID-19 pandemic that includes plans for expanded access to vaccinations, mask wearing, improved data collection and guidance on returning to school and workplaces.



CMS issues final price comparison rule for Part D plans

The organization is requiring all Part D plans to offer real-time, cost and benefit comparison tools for members starting January 1, 2023. The rule is estimated to result in $75 million in savings over 10 years.

CMS finalizes proposals in ACA rule for 2022 exchange

CMS has been consistently lowering user fees since 2018, having decreased premiums by 8%. Qualified ACA health plans and state-based exchanges using will see fees lowered in 2022.

30 measures for CMS calculation of 2022 Star Ratings

Medicare Advantage plans are ranked on a quality scale of one to five stars by CMS. The agency outlined the 30 measures that will be used in calculating 2022 Star Ratings for these plans.

Breakthrough medical device coverage rule finalized by CMS

This month, a rule that intends to speed Medicare coverage for newly FDA-approved medical devices, aiming to help seniors and remove barriers for medical technology innovators, was finalized.

FTC looks into insurer data related to physician group mergers

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating how physician group acquisitions impact competition and the marketplace, and ordered patient-level claims data from Aetna, Anthem, Cigna and others.

CMS halts three rules proposed by Trump administration

President Biden’s White House Chief of Staff ordered a freeze on pending or new rules issued by the Trump administration until the Biden administration reviews them, three of which CMS has withdrawn. These include changes to Medicare Part A enrollment, coverage requirements for dialysis and greater oversight of accrediting organizations.



In January alone, nearly 600 drugs have seen price increases

With an average 4.2% jump, GoodRx found 589 drugs increased in price in the first month of 2021. Manufacturers raise drug prices each year in January and July.

Higher drug prices related to rising median insurance payments

Increased wholesale drug costs resulted in higher insurance payments and patient out-of-pocket costs, according to an analysis of six years of commercial and employer pharmaceutical claims.

Medicaid expansion linked to lower hospital costs for uncompensated care

Health Affairs study finds a $6.4 million reduction in mean hospital costs associated with expanded Medicaid coverage in certain states.



Centene enters $2.2 billion deal to acquire Magellan Health

The multi-billion dollar transaction would mark one of the country’s most robust behavioral health platforms.

Optum set to acquire Change Healthcare for $13 billion

Change Healthcare will join UnitedHealth Group’s OptumInsight business unit to enhance its core clinical, administrative and payment processes by providing software, data analytics, research and revenue cycle offerings.

Walgreens drug wholesale business poised to be acquired by AmerisourceBergen for $6.5 billion

In light of COVID-19 with many retail pharmacies hit hard by the pandemic, Walgreens stated the deal will allow for more focus on its core retail pharmacy business.

Amazon, Berkshire-Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase healthcare company Haven disbands

The company announced it will cease its operations at the end of February. The joint venture was formed in January 2018 with the aim to innovate the healthcare delivery system.

Talkspace intends to make IPO debut through SPAC merger

The app that provides online therapy to users over text or video will be the first behavioral health company to be publicly traded once the transaction closes.