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Brainstorm Health: Greatest Health Care Leaders, McConnell Tobacco Bill, Hight Deductible Health Plans

Good afternoon, readers.

Today, Fortune released its latest annual list of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. And, as usual, a number of prominent names in health care, medicine, and global health cracked the index.

This year’s number one spot went to Bill and Melinda Gates. The philanthropic duo has their fingers in countless do-gooder health and wellbeing projects, running the gamut from its investment in GAVI, the worldwide immunization group, to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The Gates have deployed a stunning $45.5 billion between 1995 and the end of 2017 for their various causes. Cliff has an in-depth writeup of the pair and their eponymous foundation right over here.

And then there’s some of the names you may not recognize right off the bat. Those include: Doug McMillon and Lisa Woods, the respective CEO and senior director for design benefits at Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, who have created a new Centers for Excellence program to shepherd their workers to top hospitals for certain procedures; Intermountain Healthcare president and CEO Marc Harrison, one of the key figures driving an ambitious new project to create an independent, nonprofit drug maker run by hospitals to battle skyrocketing costs.

But wait—there’s more: Not Impossible Labs chief Mick Ebeling and Unreasonable Group CEO Daniel Epstein, whose unconventional and utterly captivating dinner speech at our recent Fortune Brainstorm Health conference blew the audience away (you really need to read all about it); and, in a repeat appearance, now-former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Scott Gottlieb, whose surprising departure after just two years on the job was met with mournful elegies from patient advocates, drug makers, and lawmakers from across the political spectrum alike. How often do you hear something like that about a high-ranking government official these days?

Go ahead and take a gander at the whole list.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


Med app downloads hit a new record. Global downloads of mobile medical apps soared to a record 400 million in 2018, or a 15% spike from the previous two years, according to a new report from App Annie and reported by MobiHealthNews. In countries where these apps have long been growing in popularity, big names like GoodRx and FollowMyHealth led the charge (perhaps unsurprisingly given those programs’ cost-saving and personal health applications). Spending on paid fitness apps especially swelled (as did apps such as Teladoc and Doctor on Demand’s telemedicine platforms). (MobiHealthNews)


Can biosimilars really save us? A group of experts are out with a stark commentary in the journal Health Affairs arguing that “biosimilars,” the generic alternatives to expensive “biologic” branded drugs that have only been on the U.S. market for about a half decade, are simply not going to achieve the same cost-saving effects they have in other nations. There’s a bunch of reasons for this (including the carte blanche enjoyed by American drug makers on pricing and the complicated, twisty relationships between branded biopharma companies and generic counterparts), but the end result is the same—prices aren’t going down considerably. So what should be done? According to the quartet of prominent doctors and researchers, direct price regulations for biologic after they lose their market monopoly advantages. (Health Affairs)


Report: Employers’ favorite health plans tied to putting off care. Employers have increasingly pushed health care costs onto their workers in the face of rising medical costs. One of the most common avenues of this cost-shifting is the growing popularity of high deductible health plans (HDHPs), which come with low premiums but high out-of-pocket spending. A new study suggests the preponderance of these plans is correlated with delaying both diagnosis and treatment for certain conditions such as mammograms and MRIs, especially among the lower-income people HDHPs usually entice. (NPR)

Mitch McConnell introduces bill to hike legal smoking age. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he will soon introduce legislation that will raise the legal smoking age to 21 from 18 (a move that’s already been undertaken by a number of states and cities). That would encompass both traditional tobacco products and electronic cigarettes, and McConnell’s announcement hit Big Tobacco company stocks. (Fortune)


Stripe Backs $40 Million Investment in A.I. Accounting Service Pilotby Jeff John Roberts

This Is the Emotional Quality That the World’s Greatest Leaders All Share, by Fortune Editors

Why Great Leaders Listen, by Clifton Leaf

The Elusive Gen Z Job Candidates: How Employers Can Get on Their Short Listsby Anne Fisher

Produced by Sy Mukherjee
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