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From Health Plan Week - The influenza season is off to an early start and more severe than a year ago. The CDC reported widespread flu activity in seven states, regional activity in 18 states and local activity in another 18 states as of Dec. 2 and a higher-than-baseline percentage of outpatient visits for flu-like illness. CDC said it is tough to predict when influenza activity will peak for the current season, but stresses it will increase in the coming weeks. Read more

From Health Plan Week - In yet another year-end sign of vertical integration in the health care industry, UnitedHealth Group’s Optum unit said it has reached an agreement to buy a multistate physician group. Under the Dec. 5 agreement, Optum is to acquire DaVita Medical Group (DMG) for $4.9 billion in cash. The deal is expected to close in 2018, subject to regulatory approval. DMG will join the OptumCare division, which works with 80-plus health plans… Read more

From Health Plan Week - Congress has set the stage for a September return to debate on stabilizing the individual health insurance market, with major changes to Medicaid funding or expansion taking a back seat. Read more

From Medicare Advantage News - In keeping with the new administration’s theme of providing Medicare Advantage organizations more flexibility, CMS on Nov. 22 unveiled a set of revisions to the MA Value-Based Insurance Design (VBID) model that grants MA organizations in certain states a limited waiver to federal uniformity requirements. Industry experts agree that the modifications, which include opening the model to 15 new states and possibly more targeted conditions, represent a significant expansion. Read more

From Specialty Pharmacy News - An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Zinbryta (daclizumab) is a Biogen product and is included in its multiple sclerosis disease-modifying agent portfolio. AbbVie, Inc. actually owns the drug, which is co-promoted by Biogen. Prime Therapeutics LLC continues to sign agreements for its outcomes-based contracting program, known as CareCentered Contracting. The latest manufacturer to enter into an arrangement is Biogen, which inked a deal for its multiple sclerosis (MS)… Read more

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