USA

US Rebate Plan Gets the Backing of Novartis CEO

The prices of drugs in the United States are one of the highest among developed countries, and that has been a source of anger for citizens for many years. However, the CEO of Swiss drugmaker Novartis Vas Narasimhan pointed out during the course of an interview that the company’s pricing has remained flat in the last three years and the pricing issue is primarily down to middlemen. The middlemen are actually in charge of managing drug benefits, and apparently, the rising drug prices are down to them. The United States government had floated the idea of a rebate plan by way of which the rebates that were paid to these middlemen or ‘pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBM) and would be ended and the benefits passed on to the end user. Insurers are also included among pharmacy benefit managers.

In January this year, the Alex Azar, the Secretary of the U. S. Health and Human Services unveiled a plan that seeks to end the rebates that were going into the pockets of PBMs and instead, divert those benefits directly to the patients so that that drug prices could be reduced. It should also be noted that U.S. President Donald Trump also called for lowering the prices of prescription drugs in the country in his State of the Union address this week.

Narasimhan, who has served as the chief executive of Novartis since February of 2018, backed this plan and stated that it would be ultimately hugely beneficial for patients. Novartis, which had recorded worldwide sales of $51.9 billion and profits of $12.6 billion, counts the U. S. as its most important market. More than 33% of its revenues are generated in the country. During an interview with Reuters, he said, “We (Novartis) pay almost 50 percent of our gross revenues in the United States into rebates. If you return those rebates to patients, so patients pay less out of pocket, I think that is something that makes a lot of sense and will correct a distortion in the marketplace.”

The PBMs, on the other hand, have countered the idea of this new rebate plan by stating that they pass along a lot of the benefits to the patients and in fact, due to the work they do, many people are paying lower health insurance premiums. However, Narasimhan countered that notion as well and stated that if it the payment to PBMs went on then at some point it will affect the insurance plans offered by the employers in the country. Needless to say, premiums will go up significantly as well. He said, “We have zero transparency into the billions we pay in rebates. You could see some adjustment in premiums. But I think that’s another area where we should get transparency.”

Justin LebronUS Rebate Plan Gets the Backing of Novartis CEO
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US Ends historic hostility with North Korea, Meet in Vietnam

The political and diplomatic relationship between North Korea and the US has been historically spiked. This condition worsened when North Korea conducted a series of missile and nuclear tests and displayed an ability to launch a ballistic missile across its borders. Tension prevailed between both countries in 2017. During the first half of 2018, North Korea announced the restoration of its missiles and had agreed to hold talks with South Korea. An inter- Korean summit was signed in April followed by bi-lateral summit between Trump and Kim in June 2018. This summit called for the “Full denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.” Ever since the success of the first meeting, US hostages have returned home, nuclear testing has been stopped, and there hasn’t been any nuclear launch in more than 15 months.

US president Donald Trump has announced that there would be another meeting between both the leaders at the end of February 2019, in Vietnam. This meet is to push for peace on the Korean borders. Trump has confirmed that his association with the North Korean leaders has been good so far and there has been a development in his administration’s efforts to stabilize peace.

However, president Trump has confidently claimed that “Washington and Pyongyang would be in a major war right now, had he not been elected as the president of the United States.” He also stated that continuous efforts are required to keep the peace in place as the US has a long history of heightened tension with North Korea.

Trump-Kim’s second phase summit meeting is scheduled on 27thand 28th February, in Vietnam. The exact location for the meet is not confirmed yet. However, two main locations that pose as major possibilities are – the nation’s capital, Hanoi and the coastal resort town, Da Nang. Other countries, South Korea and Japan hope that this summit would be meaningful and would lead to the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Prior to the leaders meet, the US lead negotiator with North Korea- Stephen Biegun is all ready to meet his North Korean counterpart Kim HyokChol on Wednesday in Pyongyang to discuss the content of the meet and the concrete deliverables.

The White House announced that the summit was scheduled at the end of February after president Donald Trump met with the North Korean diplomat – Kim Yong Chol and discussed for an hour and a half at the white house. After the past year’s meet, President Trump confidently declared that North Korea’s supply of nuclear missiles did not pose a threat to the US anymore. North Korea responded similarly, as long as the US does not pose a threat, they will hold back the usage of their nuclear supply. Their demands included the removal of US troops from the South Korean border, which the US hasn’t accepted and termed it non-negotiable.

The second meet is to progress further with respect to the development of nuclear missile, as there hasn’t been any post the first summit in Singapore. Reports state that North Korea has been working in new nuclear missile development projects and production of fuel for the missiles have increased in multiple solitary locations before that summit.

The UN has been keeping an eye on North Korea’s moves with nuclear weapons. They have confirmed that North Korea has been covering their ballistic missiles from American strikes. Monitors also said that the country had been illegally avoiding measures and the penalties.

North Korea has been the only nation to test nuclear missiles in this century. The nation’s leader Kim has been following the steps of his father, Kim Jong II, and grandfather, Kim II Sung and has tested more than 90 missiles and fired four nuclear weapons, since 2011. He has launched these weapons more than his father and grandfather did during their entire tenure of 27 years. The most severe and first ever intercontinental ballistic missile was tested in 2017. Kim has further threatened to release missiles into waters of Guam, touching the US territory before the summit.

Rosaria SmithUS Ends historic hostility with North Korea, Meet in Vietnam
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Three reasons why Trump is unlikely to clinch an infrastructure deal

United States president Donald Trump is keen to get an infrastructure deal done. But the way things have been working out for Donald Trump, it looks more and more unlikely that he will get any. When speaking about this, a former economic advisor to Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Gene Sperling, said that the United States president Donald Trump might be facing three significant challenges actually to finalize on a deal.

President Donald Trump is expected to address this issue on Tuesday night when he takes the podium to present his State of the Union address. Gene Sperling in a speech told that getting a positive response from the Democrats, who hold the House majority, is most possibly going to be difficult. He further added that the United States president has “three pretty tough bars to get over” to get a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

Trust Issue:

Gene Sperling, who served as director of the National Economic Council under both Clinton and Obama said, “People don’t like making a deal with him. Even Republicans have gotten burned on DACA, on the shutdown appropriations. So there is very little trust,”

President Donald Trump has caused some perturbation within his party over the recent shutdown of government and his stance to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals had a difference in opinion regarding the deportation for immigrants who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children. The decision for this case is still ongoing and is currently being held up in court. Trump recently offered to extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals legal protections for three years. Donald Trump offered this as an exchange to end the government shutdown and for border wall money and. The shutdown of government finally ended after a record-long 35 days.

Government Design:

There is a wide gap between the two parties when it comes to what should be in the plan. Gene Sperling said, “Democrats are going to want real spending, not loans, public-private partnerships and they’re going to want, as Chuck Schumer has said, a green infrastructure component that deals with climate change.”

“Any infrastructure bill would have to include policies and funding that help transition our country to a clean-energy economy and mitigate the risks the United States already faces from climate change,” Schumer wrote in the Washington Post op-ed on December. A distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation and co-author of “Trumponomics: Inside the America First Plan to Revive Our Economy,” Stephen Moore, agrees there is a wide divergence between the two parties.

When commenting about the issue, Moore, a conservative economist who advised the Trump campaign in 2016 said that the GOP wants more bridges and roads, better energy infrastructure and ports. While on the other hand the Democrats, want more green energy programs and mass transit.

Moore said, “When Republicans talk about infrastructure and Democrats talk about infrastructure, and it’s like Republicans are on Mars and Democrats are on Venus. There is an issue of whether they are actually talking about the same thing.”

Finance:

Gene Sperling said that after Trump’s tax cut added to the deficit, Democrats are going to expect a plan that is more deficit neutral. He went on to add, that this might lead to conflicts about whether President Donald Trump is willing to revert some of his recent tax cut to help foot the bill. However, Moore insisted that such a scenario will never happen.

“I guarantee you there is not going to be a big tax increase or a pullback on the tax cut because we believe the tax cut has been a phenomenal success,” Moore said.

He went on to add that the policy is responsible, in part, for the “incredible economy” and the “biggest construction boom going on in American history.”

Justin LebronThree reasons why Trump is unlikely to clinch an infrastructure deal
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Gold prices stable while Trump speech ignites fear of a government shutdown

On Wednesday, the gold prices sustained stability following the U.S President Donald Trump Union speech in his state promised to construct a border wall by giving little clarity about the developments within the ongoing trade negotiations with China.

Spot gold also retained stability at around $1,314 per ounce during 0431 GMT.

The U.S gold futures were also steady at $1,318 per ounce.

In the chamber of the House of representative, President Donald Trump spoke about the political conflict that he is undergoing due to his warnings that Democrats should end their opponents to funding for a border wall which is essential to stop the illegal migration and illegal circulation of drugs.

Another government shutdown is more likely in risk because of President Donald Trump who is still adhering to the speech of building a border wall, Hitesh Jain, the vice president of Yes Securities informed; further saying that steadier dollar is exceeding the profit of the gold.

Market competitors are aware of the fact that the global macro numbers are reducing. Investment in gold is the best approach and is very much in computation.

Trump’s claims for $5.7 billion for a U.S Mexico border wall funding has stimulated a 35-day historical partial government shutdown which was ended on 25th January while Trump has warned to resume the shutdown if in case he is not satisfied with the discussions.

At the same time on Tuesday, Dallas Federal Reserve President Robert Kaplan stated that unless the U.S economic outlook is not clear the Fed should keep the interest rate where they are as of now, and the process that is in his sight might take other several months.

The interest rate remained steady by the U.S central bank during last week and pledged to be patient before making any adjustments in the future.

The latest Fed meeting signaled that they would be very much in the patient because of the immediate slowdown and due to unreliable trade backdrop. It would still be observed as a peaceful stand even if there is at least one rate hike, Jain mentioned.

Meanwhile, the Trump’s speech did not mention anything important about the China trade front, Chinese officials and U.S officials are confident enough to start another round of trade talks by next week which is held in Beijing, two members who were well known about the plans informed on Tuesday.

Trump has promised to raise 25 percent tariffs from 10 percent over $200 billion goods of Chinese imports as of now if in-case both of them do not agree to a deal by 12.01 A.M on March 2.

As of now gold is unable to form the upside momentum and seems to be battling, Edward Meir the analyst of INTL FCStone mentioned in a research note.

Assets of SPDR Gold Trust which is the biggest gold-backed exchange-traded fund notice a fall of 0.18 percent on Tuesday. There is a drop for 2 consecutive sessions on the assets.

Palladium which is the precious metals also fell by 0.2 percent to $1379 an ounce.

Silver also fell down by 0.5 percent at $15.76, and platinum also slipped by 0.1 percent to $815.

Justin LebronGold prices stable while Trump speech ignites fear of a government shutdown
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Trump Calls on Congress to Act on Aging Infrastructure

The United States President on Tuesday has asked the U.S. Congress in his State of the Union address to pass legislation to boost aging American infrastructure. But, he has not shared any details as of how he is planning to fund it or how much it is going to cost.

Trump at the time of his election campaign in 2016 vowed to support $1 trillion infrastructure spending over 10 years, but then also he was not very transparent about his ideas.

Trump said in his speech, “Both parties should be able to unite for a great rebuilding of America’s crumbling infrastructure.”

He added, “I know that the Congress is eager to pass an infrastructure bill — and I am eager to work with you on legislation to deliver new and important infrastructure investment, including investments in the cutting edge industries of the future. This is not an option; this is a necessity.”

Trump, however, did not explicitly reveal any details of the price of the plans he was talking of. However, he called on “to produce a bill that generates at least $1.5 trillion for the new infrastructure investment we need” in his 2018 State of the Union address.

Many officials including Acting Environmental Protection Agency chief Andrew Wheeler are scheduled this week to hold events around the country to discuss infrastructure, while a U.S. House panel will hold a hearing on infrastructure needs on Thursday.

It should be reported here that in February 2018, Trump urged the Congress to authorize $200 billion in federal money over 10 years to spur road, bridge and other projects that are mostly funded by states, cities and the private sector.

That plan was heavily criticized and could not see itself in the Congress for voting, and then Congress had a majority of Republicans. As Democrats are controlling the House of Representative, they are demanding that Trump back new revenue as a condition of moving forward with an infrastructure plan.

As per some sources, the administration was considering an infrastructure plan for as long as 13 years.

Representative Peter DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation and Infrastructure, said on Tuesday he has been holding discussions with concerned officials about an infrastructure plan.

He also says the United States has a need of at least $2 trillion for infrastructure needs that includes 140,000 bridges that need substantial attention and 40 percent of the nation’s highways that need to be rebuilt.

He said, “It is past time to make these investments, we are in a crisis.”

His committee is scheduled to hear from Amtrak chief executive Richard Anderson, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Thursday.

And Democrats have previously proposed to raise $500 billion with the help of 30-year bonds and using revenue from indexing taxes on fuel to rise with inflation.

Keith GilbertTrump Calls on Congress to Act on Aging Infrastructure
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US Troops to Cover Mexican Border

The US-Mexico border dispute has been on the cards ever since American President Donald Trump wanted to raise a physical barrier to prevent the immigrants from entering the country. The Pentagon has now announced that there will be 3,750 troops deployed to the border security in addition to the active personnel already present, which raises the total number of troops to 4,350. This deployment increases the number of personnel on active duty by sevenfold on the Mexican border. Acting Secretary of Defence, Patrick Shanahan approved this arrangement in favor of Trump on January 11, 2019, and stated that this would last for 90 days. This mission included mobile surveillance and putting up 150 miles of concertina wire to cover up the ports of entry. The first approval for deployment of troops to Mexican border happened in October 2018.

President Donald Trump claims that “the border needs a strong physical barrier. It needs a wall.” The US Government came to a standstill due to his deadlock demand of $5.7 billion to construct the wall. This led to the Government shutdown for 35 days, the longest in US history. In continuation of this, Trump has stated that shutting down the federal Government again and declaration of National Emergency are the two options he is considering to sort the security issues and prevent the invasion. He believes that, unless the wall is raised, US is subjected to Human traffickers, drugs and gangs and criminals pouring in.

However, Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US, drove the President to end the shutdown without adhering to his demands. She had offered $1 billion to the president for the border security services, but not to construct the wall. This led to Trump opposing and accusing his political rival. He stated that “Her decision was bad for the country. Though she knew that the border needed the physical barrier, she refused his demands to win a political point.” He also pointed that “she was convinced with open borders and did not mind human trafficking..”

Discussions between the White House, congressional Republicans, and Democrats, about Trump’s demand of $5.7 billion for the wall hasn’t been favorable to him. Alabama senator, Richard Shelby, a key Republican participant, remarked that “a solution to this border security issue can be sorted only with a Trump-Pelosi truce.”

However, the deployment of these active troops has been criticized as a political stunt created by Trump to redeem his promise to protect the US ports of entry during the campaign, by the independent observers. Given this, the secretary of Defence, James Mattis, concluded that “the Pentagon approved this mission solely based on the request from the commissioner of customs and Border security Police and that his department didn’t entertain the political stunts.”

Ralph WilliamsUS Troops to Cover Mexican Border
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