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Obama administration moves to block health insurance mega-mergers

Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration went to court Thursday to block two major health insurance mergers, siding with consumer advocates and medical groups worried that the consolidation of large national health plans could lead to higher premiums. The long-anticipated move by the Justice Department and attorneys general in 10 other states, including California, will at least temporarily prevent Anthem Inc.'s purchase of Cigna Corp., a combination that would have created the nation's largest health insurer. And it will stop Aetna Inc.'s bid to acquire Humana Inc., a merger that would have combined the nation's third and fifth biggest health plans. "Competitive insurance markets are essential to providing Americans the affordable and high-quality healthcare they deserve," Atty. Gen. Loretta E. Lynch said Thursday after the suits were filed in federal district court in Washington.


Cutting healthcare costs shouldn't be this painful

Los Angeles Times

When my son was circumcised, Sade's "Love Is Stronger Than Pride" was playing on a radio at the hospital. The pediatrician glanced over at me and said, "Some day, he'll hear that song and won't know why it makes him uncomfortable." I recalled this experience while speaking the other day with Matt Williamson about his own son's quiet storm of foreskin loss. The issue wasn't the procedure, which I know some people question. The issue was the cost.


Still no Obamacare alternative from House Republicans, five years on

Los Angeles Times

More than five years after taking the majority on a promise to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, House Republicans have elected again not to advance a comprehensive alternative. Instead, lawmakers are putting forward a general outline Wednesday that combines a series of familiar conservative healthcare ideas, including overhauling the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs and eliminating federal regulations that require insurance plans to cover a basic set of benefits. The 37-page plan, promised since Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) "This isn't a return to the pre-Obamacare status quo," the new healthcare outline says. "And it isn't just an attempt to replace Obamacare and leave it at that.


Still no comprehensive Obamacare alternative from House GOP, five years on

Los Angeles Times

More than five years after taking the majority on a promise to replace the 2010 Affordable Care Act, House Republicans have elected again not to advance a comprehensive alternative. Instead, lawmakers are putting forward a general outline Wednesday that combines a series of familiar conservative healthcare ideas, including overhauling the government's Medicare and Medicaid programs and eliminating federal regulations that require insurance plans to cover a basic set of benefits. The 37-page plan, promised since Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) "This isn't a return to the pre-Obamacare status quo," the new healthcare outline says. "And it isn't just an attempt to replace Obamacare and leave it at that.


Patients who have Obamacare are filling more prescriptions and paying less for drugs, study finds

Los Angeles Times

Patients who gained health coverage through the Affordable Care Act are filling significantly more prescriptions while paying less for their drugs, according to a new study that credits the health law and adds to evidence of its benefits for previously uninsured Americans and those with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure. The innovative study is based on more than 1 billion pharmacy transactions from 2013 and 2014, which allowed researchers to look at how a sample of nearly 7 million patients were paying for drugs before and after the health law's historic coverage expansion. "This is strong evidence that the Affordable Care Act has increased treatment rates while reducing out-of-pocket spending, particularly for people with chronic health conditions," said Andrew W. Mulcahy, a health policy researcher at the nonprofit RAND Corp. and the study's lead author. "Improving the treatment of people with chronic conditions is an important step in improving health outcomes," he said. Starting in 2014, the law began guaranteeing coverage to Americans for the first time, prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to patients, even if they are sick.