Finance Roundup—HHS has more plans to cut drug prices; The cost of treatment-resistant depression

stethoscope, coins and calculator
Treatment-resistant depression carries a significant cost burden, according to a new study. (Getty/mckare)

Treatment-resistant depression has a significant economic impact, study finds 

Major depressive disorder carries a significant cost burden, both in healthcare expenditures and lost productivity. And cases that are particularly resistant to treatment contribute significantly to those numbers. 

Researchers estimate that major depressive disorder costs have reached $210.5 billion, and treatment-resistant cases—defined as depression diagnoses that did not respond to two or more treatment options—account for between $29 billion and $48 billion each year, according to a new study.  

Treatment-resistant depression can also impact patients' job prospects and work life, according to the study. It was not directly associated with a greater likelihood of being fired, but did link with a greater likelihood that a patient applies for COBRA benefits. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry article

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Azar: HHS has more in the pipeline to reduce drug prices 

The Trump administration unveiled a number of proposals that aim to reduce drug prices, and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said they're not done yet. 

Some of those plans may require Congressional action, he said, and HHS officials plan to work with lawmakers on the issues. WTHR article

Cancer care costs vary—and often exceed what Medicare will pay 

Charges for cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation treatment, fluctuate wildly between different hospitals, and more often than not exceed what Medicare is willing to pay.

These treatments typically cost between two and six times more than what Medicare will pay, researchers at Johns Hopkins found in a review of Medicare billing records from 3,000 U.S. hospitals. Hospital quality or charity care spending did not account for the high prices, the researchers found. American Journal of Managed Care article 

Bon Secours, Mercy Health announce merger 

Bon Secours Health System and Mercy Health are planning to join forces, a move that would create the fifth-largest Catholic health system in the country. 

Should the merger go through, the new unified system would include 43 hospitals across seven states and a combined $8 billion in operating revenue. The merger will bring together 57,000 employees and 2,100 physicians and advanced-practice clinicians. 

The new health system will also provide nearly $2 million each day in community benefits. FierceHealthcare article

35 state and regional hospital associations file amicus curiae brief in 340B case 

Thirty-five state and regional hospital associations have jointly filed an amicus curiae brief in the American Hospital Association's appeal of its 340B lawsuit. The group filed suit against HHS in response to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services'  final rule that would slash payments to hospitals that participate in the 340B drug discount program. 

The reimbursement cuts will lead the hospitals to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in funding, according to the document. "As a result, scores of low-income, uninsured, underinsured, and homeless patients will be unable to receive the same level of care," the associations wrote. 

A date for oral arguments in the appeal has not been set. Release

HHS makes $260M available in Title X grants 

HHS is offering $260 million in grants through Title X's family planning program, the agency announced Friday. 

The annual announcement was delayed, and grantees can apply for an extension to ensure that they don't lose funding in the interim, according to HHS. As part of the grant program, HHS is requiring that applicants expand their capabilities to monitor and report cases of child abuse, sexual assault or human trafficking. Release

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