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Brainstorm Health: Medicare for All, Xarelto Lawsuits, Obamacare Enrollments

Happy Monday, readers.

Let’s take a minute to talk about Medicare for All. I have a piece in the April Fortune issue on this very subject that I hope you’ll read.

The 2020 Democratic primary race is shaping up to be a fascinating debate over the proper role, and extent, of the social safety net. And health care may prove to be one of the essential litmus tests in this debate, if the early indications hold true.

Candidates who haven’t commonly been associated with the “radical” or “left-wing” parts of the Democratic party, such as Sens. Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker, have all co-sponsored Sen. Bernie Sanders’ version of a “Medicare for All” bill (as politicians do, some of these candidates have equivocated on their stances, but none have fully recanted support for the underlying idea).

It’s hard to overstate just how much of a change that would represent for the health care industry. The details have yet to be flushed out, but the current instances of Medicare for All, especially Sanders’ bill, would likely eradicate nearly all of the private health insurance sector. That’s a $600 billion industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people.

There are varying approaches to expanding Medicare; not every Democrat has signed on to a full-fledged elimination of private health insurance. But the fact that this idea has taken hold among certain ostensibly “mainstream” candidates is striking. “The idea of eliminating an industry and companies that are this large is unprecedented,” Larry Levitt, senior vice president for health reform at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told me in an interview.

You can read my broader piece on the issue (including some input from the health care industry) here.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Thermo Fisher jumps on the gene therapy train. The gene therapy M&A train shows zero signs of slowing down. On Monday, Thermo Fisher Scientific announced that it will be buying Brammer Bio for $1.7 billion. “Brammer Bio will be an exciting addition to our pharma services business and will further strengthen Thermo Fisher’s leadership in serving pharma and biotech customers,’’ said Thermo Fisher CEO Marc Casper in a statement. “Gene therapy is an area of increasing focus for our customers and is fast-evolving, given its potential to treat a range of genetic disorders.” (Boston Globe)


Bayer, J&J come to $775 million blood thinner settlement. Johnson & Johnson and partner Bayer have come to a more than quarter-billion dollar settlement in a 25,000 class action lawsuit involving the prescription blood thinner Xarelto. As usually happens with these cases, the companies aren’t admitting any guilt, but citing that the “distraction” of the suits led to the settlements. Plaintiffs had alleged that the companies had failed to adequately warn of risks associated with the blood thinning drugs. (Fortune)


Federal Obamacare enrollment drops… marginally. Obamacare enrollment dropped marginally this past year on the federal website, according to a new government report (about a 300,000 decrease from the previous year out of about 11.7 million plans). But, as some analysts point out, that drop could be associated with significantly reduced federal outreach for ACA plans—in fact, states which ran their own ACA marketplaces may have, more or less, held steady. (Reuters)


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Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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