From The Washington Post

Critics Say ‘Junk Plans’ Are Being Pushed on ACA Exchanges

November 20, 2019

The Trump administration is encouraging consumers on the Obamacare individual market to seek help from private brokers, who are permitted to sell short-term health plans that critics deride as “junk” because they don’t protect people with preexisting conditions, or cover costly services such as hospital care, in many cases.

Consumers looking at their health insurance options on the website for the federal marketplace, called healthcare.gov, may be redirected to other enrollment sites, some of which allow consumers to click a tab entitled “short-term plans” and see a list of those plans, often with significantly cheaper premiums.

The Trump administration is encouraging consumers on the Obamacare individual market to seek help from private brokers, who are permitted to sell short-term health plans that critics deride as “junk” because they don’t protect people with preexisting conditions, or cover costly services such as hospital care, in many cases.

Consumers looking at their health insurance options on the website for the federal marketplace, called healthcare.gov, may be redirected to other enrollment sites, some of which allow consumers to click a tab entitled “short-term plans” and see a list of those plans, often with significantly cheaper premiums. Short-term plans were once barred from the exchanges because they were considered inadequate coverage and do not meet the insurance requirements laid out under the Affordable Care Act. If consumers select a short-term plan, they are directed to call a phone number to finish signing up, according to screenshots provided to The Post….

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How Much Money Will It Take to Undo the Damage From Opioids?

October 30, 2019

Inside the plaintiffs’ war room, bleary-eyed, caffeinated lawyers worked on what would be one of the most important cases of their careers — the first bellwether trial in the national opioid litigation against the country’s biggest drug companies. Their rented office space across from the federal courthouse was crammed with copy machines, boxes of documents, whiteboards and — to capture the gravity of the work — some World War II-era propaganda posters.

“Careless Talk Costs Lives,” read one.

Inside the plaintiffs’ war room, bleary-eyed, caffeinated lawyers worked on what would be one of the most important cases of their careers — the first bellwether trial in the national opioid litigation against the country’s biggest drug companies. Their rented office space across from the federal courthouse was crammed with copy machines, boxes of documents, whiteboards and — to capture the gravity of the work — some World War II-era propaganda posters.

“Careless Talk Costs Lives,” read one.

Someone had stenciled a message on the wall: “If In Doubt Don’t Ship It Out.”

But their first battle, with two Ohio counties as plaintiffs, was called off at the last moment. At 1 a.m. on Oct. 21, hours before opening arguments were to start, four of the drug companies settled with Summit and Cuyahoga counties — with no admission of wrongdoing….

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Rates for the Most Common ACA Health Plans Drop for a Second Year

October 22, 2019

The average price for the most common type of health insurance sold through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace will drop by about 4 percent for next year, extending a reversal of steep rate increases that daunted HealthCare.gov in its early years.

The second consecutive year of lower monthly premiums coincides with a significant improvement in the number of insurance companies selling ACA health plans. Just 12 percent of ACA customers live in counties that will have only one insurer in the marketplace for the coming year, compared with almost 30 percent for 2018, and more than two-thirds will have a choice of at least three companies.

The average price for the most common type of health insurance sold through the Affordable Care Act’s federal marketplace will drop by about 4 percent for next year, extending a reversal of steep rate increases that daunted HealthCare.gov in its early years.

The second consecutive year of lower monthly premiums coincides with a significant improvement in the number of insurance companies selling ACA health plans. Just 12 percent of ACA customers live in counties that will have only one insurer in the marketplace for the coming year, compared with almost 30 percent for 2018, and more than two-thirds will have a choice of at least three companies.

This brightening scenario for Americans buying such health insurance creates awkward conflicting messages for senior Trump administration officials who on Tuesday presented the statistical picture of the ACA marketplaces before the seventh annual enrollment season opens late next week….

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Johnson & Johnson Reaches $20.4 Million Settlement in Huge Opioid Case

October 2, 2019

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has reached a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties on the eve of a huge federal trial to determine who is responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Johnson & Johnson would pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

Health-care giant Johnson & Johnson announced Tuesday that it has reached a $20.4 million settlement with two Ohio counties on the eve of a huge federal trial to determine who is responsible for the nation’s opioid epidemic.

Johnson & Johnson would pay Cuyahoga and Summit counties $10 million in cash, reimburse $5 million in legal fees and direct $5.4 million to nonprofits for opioid-related programs in those communities.

“The settlement allows the company to avoid the resource demands and uncertainty of a trial as it continues to seek meaningful progress in addressing the nation’s opioid crisis,” Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary Janssen Pharmaceuticals said in a statement Tuesday night. “The company recognizes the opioid crisis is a complex public health challenge and is working collaboratively to help communities and people in need….”

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Purdue Pharma’s Bankruptcy Plan Includes Special Protection for the Sackler Family Fortune

September 18, 2019

In 2008, as Purdue Pharma was searching for a new chief executive, Richard Sackler received a memo from an adviser.

“In the event that a favorable [recapitalization] deal cannot be structured during 2008, the most certain way for the owners to diversify their risk is to distribute more free cash flow to themselves,” F. Peter Boer, a member of Purdue’s board of directors told Sackler, a prominent member of the wealthy family that owns the company.

In 2008, as Purdue Pharma was searching for a new chief executive, Richard Sackler received a memo from an adviser.

“In the event that a favorable [recapitalization] deal cannot be structured during 2008, the most certain way for the owners to diversify their risk is to distribute more free cash flow to themselves,” F. Peter Boer, a member of Purdue’s board of directors told Sackler, a prominent member of the wealthy family that owns the company.

That, authorities allege, is exactly what the Sackler family did. A lawsuit filed by the state of Massachusetts claims the Sacklers transferred more than $4 billion from the company to personal accounts between 2008 and 2016. Oregon asserts the family may have taken as much as $10 billion out of the company….

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