Biden zeros in on healthcare competition in executive order: 10 notes

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President Joe Biden signed an executive order July 9 that addresses competition among hospitals, health insurers, prescription drugmakers and hearing aid manufacturers.

While goals of the 72-initiative executive order stretch across economic sectors, healthcare is one of the main markets in which the president wants to discourage consolidation.

Ten things to know:

1. Under the order, the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission are encouraged to "vigorously" enforce antitrust laws, even on past mergers that previous administrations haven't challenged. 

2. Enforcement of antitrust laws should focus specifically on healthcare. The executive order has four focus areas in healthcare: hospitals, health insurers, prescription drugs and hearing aids.

Hospitals 

3. The executive order calls on the Justice Department and FTC to review and revise their guidelines on hospital mergers to limit harm to patients.

"Thanks to unchecked mergers, the ten largest healthcare systems now control a quarter of the market," the executive order said, pointing to the closure of rural hospitals as particularly concerning.

4. The order also directs HHS to support hospital price transparency rules and implement surprise hospital billing legislation. 

Health insurance 

5. President Biden directed HHS to standardize plan options in the national health insurance marketplace, which he said are too complicated and make it hard for people to choose a health plan.

Prescription drugs 

6. The order directs the FDA to work with states and tribal programs to import prescription drugs from Canada.

7. It also calls on HHS to increase support for generic and biosimilar drugs and to create a plan within 45 days to address high drug prices and price gouging. 

8. The order asks the FTC to ban "pay for delay" agreements, under which brand-name drugmakers pay generic drugmakers to keep out of a market.

Hearing aids

9. The order would allow hearing aids to be sold over the counter and asks HHS to issue a rule on the matter within 120 days. 

Noncompete clauses

10. The order also seeks a ban or limitation on noncompete clauses and some licensing requirements for workers.

View the full executive order here.

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