The Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) Health Insurance Marketplace begins its sixth Open Enrollment period today. American healthcare consumers can sign up on the federal insurance exchange at healthcare.gov or through their state marketplaces. Last year there was increased confusion surrounding Open Enrollment due to changes (and attempted changes) made to the ACA under the Trump administration, leading to the U.S. uninsured rate to rise for the first time since 2014 and the largest single-year increase since 2008.

Open Enrollment period ran 90 days after November 1 until the end of January during the Obama administration but was cut to 45 days in 2017 unless you qualify for the Special Enrollment Period, extending the enrollment period by an additional 60 days. Further limiting access to enrollment, the healthcare.gov website has scheduled weekly 12-hour maintenance outages. Advertising and outreach budgets for Open Enrollment are also cut even more than last year.

New rules put out by the Trump administration this year allow ACA subsidies to be used for

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President Donald Trump gave a speech about pharmaceutical drug prices last month. During his presidential campaign and leading up to his inauguration, he accused pharmaceutical companies with “getting away with murder” for what they charge patients for prescriptions and promised to enact reforms to lower drug prices. After sixteen months in office, his speech last month consisted of few proposals as opposed to proposing meaningful legislation or guidelines that could have an immediate effect on prescription costs and actually led to pharmaceutical stocks rising.

Trump took aim at Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) who he referred to as “middlemen” who implement “gag rules” that forbid pharmacists from telling patients they are spending more than they need to on a prescription (you can read our blog on the laws proposed to combat PBM gag rules here). He also touched on other popular proposals such as removing barriers to generic medications

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This past Mother’s Day launched the 19th annual National Women’s Health Week. Led by the US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, the goal is to empower women to make their health a priority and raise awareness of the steps one can take to improve their health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends many common measures, such as proper health screenings, staying physically active, eating healthy, and promoting other healthy behaviors. Healthy behaviors include getting enough sleep, being smoke-free, washing your hands, not texting while driving, or wearing a seatbelt, a bicycle helmet, or sunscreen when appropriate. Furthermore, the National Women’s Health Week website has suggestions for women in their 20s to their 90s.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA; aka Obamacare) established Essential Health Benefits (EHBs) that insurers are required to cover, including maternity care. Following last year’s failed attempts to repeal the ACA, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced last month that insurers will be allowed to omit these Essential

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Cannabis extract, commonly found in early 20th century pharmacies

Medicinal cannabis (aka medical marijuana) is a growing topic in the United States. Today, there are 29 states (plus Washington DC) where cannabis is a legal medical option for patients. Cannabis is mostly prescribed for pain relief but can also be used to treat muscle spasms caused by multiple sclerosis, chemotherapy-induced nausea, lack of appetite from chronic illness, seizure disorders, Crohn’s disease, and more. However, cannabis exists in a legal gray area: while medicinally legal in a majority states, it is federally illegal and considered a Schedule I controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)—defined as having no acceptable medical use and high potential for abuse; the same categorization for heroin, LSD, and ecstacy.

The cannabis or hemp plant can be traced back to Central Asia before being introduced to Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Hemp fiber was used to make textiles used for clothing, rope, paper, and sails for hundreds of years before an Irish doctor found cannabis extracts

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In a previous blog post, we explored “clawback” and how it affects the prices of prescriptions. In short, Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) negotiate copay prices for insurers that are often higher than the cash price paid by uninsured patients all while instituting a “gag rule” for pharmacists to forbid them from revealing the price discrepancy to patients unless asked directly. A number of states have already passed laws banning clawback and gag rules, though a group of bipartisan U.S. senators have introduced a bill the ban gag clauses for PBM-negotiated contracts nationwide.

A recent study by Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 23% of all prescriptions filled through insurance ended up costing more than patients who would pay out-of-pocket. Related to this, a national poll from West Health Institute/NORC at

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