What We’re Reading: Combating Drug Prices; Fauci Warns on Delta Variant; Health Care Gaps

SAP Partners | <b>Highmark</b>

Blue Cross Blue Shield aims to fight increasing drug prices with a new pharmacy solutions company; Anthony Fauci, MD, warns about the growing threat from the Delta variant; COVID-19–related death rates highest in Texas border counties.

BCBS Launches Start-up to Target Outcomes-Based Payment Contracts

Five plans from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS)—BCBS of Massachusetts, BCBS of Michigan, Blue Shield of California, Highmark Health, and Independence Blue Cross—have launched Evio, a pharmacy solutions start-up, to combat drug costs, Modern Healthcare reports. A top goal of this new venture is to form outcomes-based contracts with drugmakers, where payments are based on drug effectiveness. Evio hopes to accomplish that with a 3-pronged approach: compiling real-world data on drug effectiveness, partnering to leverage innovation, and moving toward value-based payment. Similar value-based contracts have been a focus of Highmark for some time, in which blinded data from its over 6 million members are used “to manage costs and craft its utilization management policies.”

Delta Variant Threat Increasing, Fauci Warns

In a White House briefing yesterday, Anthony Fauci, MD, underscored growing concern over the Delta COVID-19 variant, according to Forbes, which has grown in prevalence from 9.9% of new cases just 2 weeks ago to 20% this week in the United States. The expanding threat from Delta, which Fauci now calls “the greatest threat in the US in our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” also now accounts for more than 90% of new COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom. This news comes as the White House announced that President Biden’s goal of 70% of adults having at least 1 COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 4 will not be met. At present, that goal has been met for adults 30 years and older—in particular, 87% of Americans 65 and older received at least 1 vaccination—and the White House says it will be reached, too, for adults 27 years and older. However, more time will be needed for those aged 18 to 26 years to hit the target.

Texas Reports Disproportionate Deaths From COVID-19 in Border Counties

COVID-19–related deaths in Texas counties that border with Mexico far outpace those in the rest of the state per 100,000 adults, according to Kaiser Health News. For example, 1651.1 of those aged 65 and older and 414.2 of those aged 50 to 64 years (for every 1800 adults in these age groups) died, for mortality death rates nearly twice and 3 times as high, respectively, compared with the nonborder death rates. Texas being a non–Medicaid expansion state and these border counties having a lack of access to primary and preventive care are 2 reasons experts highlight as leading to the higher deaths in these areas. In addition, Kaiser reports, 90% of residents younger than 65 years in the border counties are Hispanic, and these adults have a 2-fold greater risk of dying from COVID-19 vs White adults.