This week’s Innovation Partners BioBlog looks at some of the business aspects of the healthcare industry. Walmart reportedly took baby steps towards the acquisition of insurer Humana last month, while Aetna has agreed to pass drug discounts on to patients, a move hailed by many as a positive step. Discussions around cancer care models, fee for service debate and more are included in this week’s news.


Walmart reportedly eyeing acquisition of Humana

The Wall Street Journal revealed that Walmart had been in talks with Humana about the Arkansas-based retail chain acquiring the insurer. The two companies already work together to offer co-branded prescription drug plans. If the merger does take place, Walmart will join a steady march of retailers adding healthcare companies to their suite of products and services. Talks are still in the early stages.

Aetna, Texas Oncology cancer program reduced costs for 500+ patients by $3M+

A cancer management program between Aetna and Texas Oncology reduced costs by $3 million and improved patient adherence and care, according to a new report. The Journal of Oncology Practice reported this positive news for Dallas-based Texas Oncology. The two entities conducted a study which included 746 patients and ran from June 2013 to May 2016. During the study, oncology nurses telephoned patients to check in with them weekly, providing cost-effective support.

HHS appoints 2 new advisers to tackle the opioid epidemic and drug pricing reform

To confront rising prescription drug costs and the opioid crisis, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has created two new positions. Daniel M. Best, the former corporate vice president of industry relations for CVS Health’s Medicare Part D business, will serve as senior adviser to the secretary for drug pricing reform. Brett Giroir, M.D., will add to his duties as the assistant secretary for health, serving in a dual role as a senior adviser to the secretary for mental health and opioid policy. Both positions are seen as the fulfillment of a portion of the agency’s push for renewal and reform.

The Current Landscape of Managed Care: Where We Are, and Where We Could Go

Lee N Newcomer, MD, MHA, former senior vice president, Oncology and Genetics, United Healthcare, presented the keynote session at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Annual Conference this year. Dr. Newcomer spoke about cancer care delivery from the managed care perspective. More details on this session and others are included in the main article.

Repurposing Existing FDA-Approved Inhibitors May Provide New Treatment Approach for Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer is a silent killer and one of the most lethal gynecological cancers. Wistar researchers have found rationale for repurposing a class of antitumor compounds called HDAC inhibitors, already approved by the FDA for the treatment of diseases such as leukemia, as a new therapeutic option for ovarian cancer with mutations in the ARID1A gene. Study results were published online in Cell Reports.

Aetna to pass drug discounts directly to consumers in 2019

Aetna insurance announced on Tuesday that it would pass drug discounts directly on to consumers, a move hailed by many as a step in the right direction. Health insurance companies’ discount program has been under scrutiny and in the news of late. Companies often get these discounts from drug manufacturers but insurers have received criticism over whether consumers are reaping any savings.

3 reasons to let go of fee-for-service payment models

Efforts to change the healthcare payment system from fee for service to value-based payment methods are often met with resistance. Physicians fear the change and believe it will devalue their services as well as patience care. However, many of the supporting facts for their arguments have changed over the years. This article examines three reasons to move away from fee for service payment models, including increased burnout associated with the fee for service model, improved business models for physicians, and reduction in both overdiagnosis and overtreatment for patients.