Trending News Today: Medicare Proposal Encourages Physicians to Prescribe Less Costly Drugs

Top news of the day from across the health care landscape.

The potential merger of Anthem and Cigna would make it the largest United States health insurer. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is urging federal officials to thwart the merger, believing it could cause harm to consumers. If the merger is completed, it’s estimated that it would generate $117 billion in annual revenue with more than 53 million members, reported Kaiser Health News. “Bigger is not better for California consumers,” Jones said. “I urge the Department of Justice to use its authority to block the Anthem and Cigna merger because of its anti-competitive effects.” However, in a recent statement Anthem criticized Jones and felt they would obtain the necessary government approval for the merger. “We do not believe that the California Department of Insurance’s opinion is based on the true merits of this transaction,” Anthem said in a statement. “We are confident that the highly complementary nature and limited overlap of our organizations that will benefit the complex and competitive health insurance markets will be reviewed on the facts by the Department of Justice and appropriate state authorities.” The US Department of Justice is currently investigating the merger, which could result in a reduction of market power or blocking the merger entirely on antitrust grounds.

The State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) that provides seniors with a better understanding of Medicare and saves them millions, would be eliminated by a budget bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, reported Kaiser Health News. In a statement by Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), chairman of the appropriations committee’s health and labor committee, said that ending SHIP could save $52 million and would help pay for a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health, increase resources for opioid abuse prevention, and restore year-round Pell Grants. “Medicare is very complicated,” said Howard Bedlin, vice president for public policy and advocacy at the National Council on Aging. “Last year SHIPs helped 7 million people navigate this program and without those services, people will not be able to make well-informed choices. That’s going to cost them money.” In the fall, the full Senate is expected to vote on the budget bill.

The Obama administration’s proposed Medicare experiment that would encourage physicians to use less costly medications has critics split down the middle on whether this proposal would be helpful or harmful, reported Politico. Peter Bach, researcher at Memorial Sloan Kettering, believes that this proposal is a necessary reform. “This has been a highly coordinated effort to misinform the electorate, to frighten patients and to misinform policymakers about even the basic math,” Bach said. However, Executive Director of Community Oncology Alliance, Ted Okon, disagreed stating that the pilot is a dramatic overreach that would short-change physicians. Furthermore, it could set a precedent for a future president to circumvent Congress and make changes to Obamacare.