Healthcare Huddle Summer Recap - Connecting the Dots: UnitedHealthcare, Mark Cuban's Cost Plus Drug, Digital Health Funding, AbbVie's Humira, Neko Health, Amazon Web Services, Blue Shield of California, CMS Negotiations, Oak Street Health and Interwell's OakWell.

Ben H.

Hatched by Ben H.

Oct 14, 2023

6 min read


Healthcare Huddle Summer Recap - Connecting the Dots: UnitedHealthcare, Mark Cuban's Cost Plus Drug, Digital Health Funding, AbbVie's Humira, Neko Health, Amazon Web Services, Blue Shield of California, CMS Negotiations, Oak Street Health and Interwell's OakWell.


The healthcare industry is ever-evolving, with new advancements and controversies shaping its landscape. In this summer recap, we will dive into various topics that have stirred up the healthcare huddle. From UnitedHealthcare's controversial prior authorization rule to Mark Cuban's disruptive Cost Plus Drug company, we will explore the groundbreaking strides, potential savings, and future prospects. Additionally, we will unravel the intricate web of pharmacy benefit managers and the biosimilar market. Furthermore, we will analyze Neko Health's unique approach to preventive care, Amazon Web Services' entry into the transcription market, Blue Shield of California's bold move in the drug prescription world, CMS negotiations for Medicare Part D medications, and Oak Street Health and Interwell's joint venture to provide primary care in dialysis centers. Let's connect the dots and gain insights into the current healthcare landscape.

UnitedHealthcare's Controversial Prior Authorization Rule:

UnitedHealthcare's last-minute reversal from implementing a new prior authorization rule for non-screening endoscopies has caused quite a stir in the healthcare community. Initially, the rule was backed by evidence of procedure overutilization. However, gastroenterologists expressed concerns about potential patient harm and added physician stress. This controversy highlights the delicate balance between reducing costs and ensuring patient safety. It also emphasizes the importance of stakeholder engagement and collaboration in healthcare decision-making.

Mark Cuban's Cost Plus Drug Disrupting the Pharmaceutical World:

Mark Cuban's Cost Plus Drug company is making waves in the pharmaceutical industry with its rapid expansion and partnerships with independent pharmacies. By delivering brand-name and biosimilar drugs at significantly reduced prices, Cost Plus Drugs has the potential to save billions for Medicare Part D beneficiaries. This disruptive approach challenges the traditional pricing model and raises the tantalizing prospects of a partnership with CMS or the VA. The success of Cost Plus Drugs highlights the growing demand for affordable medications and the need for innovative solutions in the pharmaceutical market.

Digital Health Funding Trends:

The digital health funding landscape in 2023 is experiencing a shift, with a decrease in overall funding compared to previous years. However, this reduction in deal volume is accompanied by 12 mega deals that account for 40% of total funding in the first half of the year. Rock Health's recent report highlights three booming sectors: non-clinical workflow, at-home care solutions, and value-based care enablement. These trends reflect the increasing focus on improving healthcare delivery, enhancing patient experience, and optimizing outcomes through digital solutions. While funding may be lower overall, these targeted investments indicate the potential for significant advancements in these key areas.

The Biosimilar Challenge for AbbVie's Humira:

After enjoying two decades of market dominance, AbbVie's Humira now faces competition from a wave of biosimilars. However, the challenge extends beyond drug entry, as navigating the intricate web of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and the rebate system can hinder the adoption of cheaper drugs. Cost Plus Drugs and other players are sidestepping these traditional hurdles to bring massive discounts to the biosimilar market. This disruption has the potential to reshape the pharmaceutical industry and increase access to more affordable medications for patients.

Neko Health's Approach to Preventive Care:

Neko Health, co-founded by Spotify's Daniel Ek, is generating buzz with its unique approach to preventive healthcare through non-invasive whole-body scans. While the broader market of whole-body imaging raises concerns about false positives and limited evidence, Neko differentiates itself by focusing on primary care-like screenings at potentially more affordable rates. This approach addresses the soaring out-of-pocket healthcare costs in places like the U.S. and emphasizes the importance of early detection and prevention in improving health outcomes. Neko Health's innovative approach has the potential to revolutionize preventive care and make it more accessible to a wider population.

Amazon Web Services' Entry into Transcription Market:

Amazon Web Services has unveiled HealthScribe, an AI tool designed to transcribe and summarize patient-doctor dialogues for easy integration into electronic health records (EHRs). While the service positions itself uniquely by aiming to be integrated into larger healthcare platforms, it faces fierce competition from specialized health tech firms. The healthcare industry has witnessed the challenges faced by big tech companies in their foray into healthcare. The success of Amazon's new venture will depend on its ability to overcome these pitfalls and provide a seamless and efficient transcription solution that meets the unique needs of healthcare providers.

Blue Shield of California's Disruption in Drug Prescription:

Blue Shield of California has made waves by severing its ties with CVS Health's Caremark, prompting discussions about the future of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). This bold initiative aims to improve transparency and reduce costs by splitting the roles traditionally held by Caremark among five distinct entities. The move challenges the dominance of PBMs and raises questions about the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the current drug supply chain. It marks a potential shift in the industry and highlights the need for greater transparency and competition in the prescription drug market.

CMS Negotiations for Medicare Part D Medications:

CMS is gearing up to negotiate prices for ten key Medicare Part D medications, following the new permissions from the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. These negotiations have the potential to reshape the prescription landscape and generate significant government savings. However, they have also faced legal challenges and concerns about potential impacts on drug innovation. Understanding which drugs are on the negotiation list, the nuances of the act, and the potential ripple effects across the healthcare system and patients' wallets is crucial in assessing the implications of this policy change.

Oak Street Health and Interwell's Joint Venture:

Oak Street Health, a value-based primary care network, and Interwell Health, a kidney management company, have launched OakWell, a joint venture to provide primary care to end-stage kidney disease patients directly in dialysis centers. This innovative approach aims to reduce hospitalizations, increase kidney transplantations, and improve outcomes while lowering the total cost of care. By offering care services in dialysis centers, where patients typically spend significant time, OakWell aims to enhance convenience and access to comprehensive healthcare. This joint venture exemplifies the importance of collaborative efforts and creative solutions in addressing complex healthcare needs.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Foster Collaboration and Stakeholder Engagement: The controversies surrounding UnitedHealthcare's prior authorization rule and Blue Shield of California's move highlight the importance of involving stakeholders in healthcare decision-making. By fostering collaboration and engaging all relevant parties, healthcare organizations can ensure that decisions prioritize patient safety, cost-effectiveness, and transparency.
  • 2. Embrace Innovation and Disruption: Mark Cuban's Cost Plus Drug, Neko Health's preventive care approach, and Amazon Web Services' HealthScribe demonstrate the power of innovation and disruption in transforming the healthcare industry. Healthcare organizations should embrace and support innovative solutions that improve access, affordability, and quality of care.
  • 3. Advocate for Transparency and Competition: The disruption caused by Blue Shield of California's decision to sever ties with CVS Health's Caremark highlights the need for greater transparency and competition in the drug prescription market. Healthcare organizations should advocate for policies and initiatives that promote transparency, reduce costs, and enhance patient access to affordable medications.


The healthcare huddle has been buzzing with controversies, disruptions, and innovative solutions. From UnitedHealthcare's rule reversal to Mark Cuban's Cost Plus Drug, digital health funding trends, AbbVie's biosimilar challenge, Neko Health's preventive care approach, Amazon Web Services' entry into transcription, Blue Shield of California's disruption, CMS negotiations, and Oak Street Health and Interwell's joint venture, the healthcare landscape is continuously evolving. By embracing collaboration, innovation, transparency, and competition, healthcare organizations can navigate the complexities of the industry and drive positive change.

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