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What We’re Reading: FFS Medicare Savings; ICU Triage Discrimination; Pfizer, Moderna Patent Lawsuits


Medicare Advantage plan members could save $12 billion if enrolled in fee-for-service (FFS) plans instead; Black patients were classified as low priority for intensive care unit (ICU) triage twice as often as other patients; Moderna and Pfizer face lawsuits over potential COVID-19 vaccine patent infringement.

FFS Medicare Plans Could Have Brought More Savings

A MedPAC report on Medicare payment policy concluded that enrolling beneficiaries in fee-for-service (FFS) plans instead of Medicare Advantage (MA) plans could have saved the government billions. Previously, MA risk scores were about 9.5% higher than scores for beneficiaries enrolled in FFS plans. By law, CMS reduced the MA risk scores by 5.9% to be 3.6% higher than FFS beneficiaries, which led to $12 billion in excess payments for MA plans. Increasing diagnostic coding could allow for plans to offer more benefits and attract more enrollees, the report authors noted. Their report satisfied 4 additional legislative mandate that address adjustments to certain payment systems, the performance of specialized MA plans, and a value incentive program for postacute care services.

Black Patients With COVID-19 Given Lowest ICU Priority

According to CIDRAP News, a crisis-standards-of-care (CSOC) scoring system assigned twice the proportion of Black patients to the lowest priority group for triage treatment for COVID-19 within an intensive care unit (ICU). The disparities were found in a modeling study that analyzed the link between CSOC systems—with estimated deaths by race, ethnicity, and residence—among 498 adults admitted to an ICU at 1 of 6 hospitals in Boston. During the pandemic, health systems adopted CSOC scoring systems to allocate limited medical resources, including ventilators. Relative to other participants (8.1%), 15.2% of Black patients were classified into the lowest priority group. Additionally, allocation for ventilators for high-priority patients showed 43.9% excess deaths among Black patients vs 28.6% among all other patients.

Alnylam Sues Pfizer, Moderna for Patent Infringement

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals filed 2 lawsuits in Delaware federal court against Pfizer and Moderna, alleging the companies infringed on patents surrounding the manufacture and sale of their respective messenger RNA vaccines. According to Reuters, Alynylam is seeking damages for the companies’ use of its lipid nanoparticles technology that’s used to carry and deliver RNA-based therapies and vaccines in patients. The suit comes after Arbutus Biopharma Cop sued Moderna in February, claiming that Moderna infringed on its patents for vaccine manufacturing. Anlnylam states that it does not plan to take any actions that would halt or slow the production, sale, or distribution of the vaccines to patients worldwide.

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