February has come and gone, and we’ve wrapped up another write-up of top healthcare stories for the busy healthcare marketing and PR professional.

Public health officials relaxed mask mandates as COVID-19 cases across the US dropped this month. Industry reports show health spending grew in 2021 and moderate drug price increases are expected in 2022. In merger and acquisition news, the Department of Justice moved to block UnitedHealth Group from acquiring Change Healthcare, and a monthly Affordable Care Act (ACA) special enrollment period will launch in late March.



Masks not needed in most of US under new CDC guidance

The CDC significantly relaxed nationwide mask guidelines in accordance with new COVID-19 community metrics.

US COVID-19 cases down 90% from last month’s peak

At the end of February, the US seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases declined to about 84,000 per day, down 90% from January according to Johns Hopkins University.



Health spending grew 3.4% in 2021, Altarum report finds

Increased support from the federal government in response to the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 drove healthcare spending in 2020 that tapered off in 2021. Removing these federal dollars from 2020 and 2021 estimates, spending growth from 2020 to 2021 is 8.4%.

Drug prices for hospitals to increase 3% in 2022, with remdesivir topping adalimumab in total spend

Several drugs identified as largest contributors to this year’s “moderate” price growth, according to Vizient’s semi-annual drug price forecast.

AHIP: Hospitals, doctors charge more for specialty drugs

On average, specialty drugs cost 108% more in hospitals and 22% more in physician offices than similar drugs from specialty pharmacies, according to an AHIP study of pharmacy and medical claims data from 2018 to 2020. 



Department of Justice sues to block UnitedHealth Group from acquiring Change Healthcare

Just ahead of finalization, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to stop UnitedHealth Group from acquiring Change Healthcare. 



Regular ACA special enrollment to start next month

CMS is scheduled to launch a monthly special enrollment period starting in late March open to Americans with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level and those who are not eligible for the Children’s Health Insurance Program or Medicaid.



ACHE report: Top issues confronting hospitals in 2021

According to American College of Healthcare Executives’ annual survey, hospital CEOs ranked personnel shortages as their number one concern in 2021, followed by financial challenges, which had consistently held the top spot since 2004.

Report: Telehealth visits grew by 19% from 2019

Though still well above 2019 rates, telehealth usage has declined from the summer of 2020, according to the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker.