This week we bring a variety of newsworthy notes that may have been overlooked with today’s news moving so quickly. Enjoy!
Health insurers and pharmacy benefit managers have less to fear from business and regulatory threats. With that being the case, deals are being made early in 2021. Just after the first of the year, UnitedHealth Group announced a deal to buy health technology startup Change Healthcare; pharmacy giant Walgreens Boots Alliance announced it is selling its European distribution business to drug wholesaler AmerisourceBergen; insurer Centene said it plans to acquire mental-health-care specialist Magellan. What changed? Haven Health, the JPMorgan Chase-Berkshire Hathaway-Amazon joint venture and a potential major threat to the industry is closing up shop. Amazon’s online pharmacy is joining with a subsidiary of Express Scripts, the pharmacy benefit manager owned by Cigna, to administer the savings benefit for Amazon Prime members. The chance of large legislative change from Washington, D.C. has also subsided. Although Democrats took control of Congress, their razor-thin advantage in the Senate makes comprehensive health reform less likely, especially with the pandemic lingering. Meanwhile, industry fundamentals are strong with healthcare utilization trends returning to near-normal and demand for Covid-19 testing, vaccines, and therapeutics promise meaningful growth opportunities across the industry.
Walmart wants to be your doctor. In September 2019 the company launched Walmart Health, a primary care clinic, at a store in Dallas, Georgia. The doctor-run clinic, the first of its kind for the big box retailer, offers services like X-rays, annual checkups and dental exams. As consumers face ever increasing healthcare costs, Walmart is diving deeper into healthcare, opening in-store clinics at a rapid pace. Could Walmart Health’s low price point be the future of healthcare in America?
A recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research predicts that economic change brought about by long term unemployment will lead to a significant increase in excess deaths in the future. The authors of the study, a team of three researchers at Duke, John Hopkins, and Harvard, declare in their study that although they believe the recent jump in unemployment tied to the pandemic has saved lives in the short term, policymakers must be conscious of the long-term impact unemployment has on public health. Unemployment is a public health issue and, if left unchecked, will lead to excess deaths in the future. Historic data reviewed by the researchers shows that the greatest number of excess deaths do not occur suddenly but years into the future. The return to normal can be up to an additional 20 years.
A quickly emerging trend promising opportunities over the next decade will be purchasing office-first companies and making them remote. More to come…