Brainstorm Health: Bristol-Myers Drug, Brain Implant, UnitedHealth Maternity Cost Program

Good afternoon, readers.

The political bonanza surrounding “Medicare for All” has sucked up a whole lot of media focus. But, on the ground, companies (and the government) are already experimenting with certain strategies that are a common feature of universal health care plans–including insurance giant UnitedHealthcare.

On Thursday, the company announced a new “bundled payment” program for maternal medical services and expects that nearly two dozen hospitals and provider groups will roll it out by the end of the year. Already, New Jersey’s Lifeline Medical Associates and Texas’ Privia Medical Group-Gulf Coast have signed up for the effort.

So what what is a “bundled payment?” In the U.S., much of health care is conducted on a “fee-for-service” basis. I.e., if you get a test, a procedure, and a followup, each of those things are billed separately to your insurer.

But many experts say this is a wasteful and inefficient system which incentivizes useless care that may not actually improve a patient’s life. Bundled payments take a more holistic approach and propose a single cost for a consolidated set of services.

In the case of maternal care, UnitedHealth’s new program would pay out a single sum for the entire continuum of maternal care, including prenatal, delivery, and post-partum services. This approach, the company says, can both lower costs and encourage care coordination among various medical teams, subsequently reducing the incidence of unnecessary procedures.

Put another way: Bundled payment advocates see it as a solution to the fragmented nature of American health care and the “every man for himself” approach in U.S. medicine.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee
@the_sy_guy
sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com

DIGITAL HEALTH

Report: China is testing out experimental brain implants to treat addiction. (CBS News)

INDICATIONS

A blow to brain cancer treatments as Bristol-Myers drug fails study.

THE BIG PICTURE

Trump pushes Congress on surprise medical bill legislation. (Reuters)

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[ceo_attribution author=”Produced by Sy Mukherjee” email=”sayak.mukherjee@fortune.com” twitter=”the_sy_guy”] Find past coverage. Sign up for other Fortune newsletters.