Business briefs: Healthcare reform, Amgen, Pakistan pharma stance, digital marketing

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A government shutdown may be coming, but healthcare reform will roll on, notes the Wall Street Journal, citing a July report from the Congressional Research Service that addressed this possible confluence of events. The health exchanges, a keystone part of healthcare reform which are set to open Monday, October 1, have been heralded by a mix of tear-it-down Republican efforts and educational efforts, such as those by the Kaiser Foundation seeking to help consumers navigate the new system. To this end, Kaiser released a subsidy calculator Wednesday that provides estimates based on zip code for 46 states and Washington, DC, that will have insurance marketplaces. Kaiser's announcement notes that not every exchange is accounted for, in some cases because data is missing, and in others, such as New York, Vermont, Massachusetts and Kentucky, use unique methods of calculation. The subsidy calculator's release dovetails with the Administration's preview of premiums. The New York Times notes that numbers are for the lower-cost plans and fail to identify private insurers, which will be offering coverage on exchanges. “The figures, almost by definition, provide a favorable view of costs, highlighting the least expensive coverage in each state,” the Times reported. Knowing which plan to buy is just one challenge. NPR noted over the summer that many consumers do not understand how insurance works. This makes for a steep learning cure, particularly because research has shown that even privately insured individuals do not necessarily understand their healthcare plans, making decisions like a high deductible-low premium tradeoff that much more difficult. While funding the program and the government remain top-of-mind in DC, today's turmoil continues to color the 2016 runoff. Politico reports South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham will be calling Obamacare "Clintoncare" in the hopes it could dim her possible 2016 chances. The name is a double entendre, referring to the healthcare reform which cleared Congress and her own failed efforts during Bill Clinton's administration to get healthcare reform passed.

Amgen is going collegiate in China. The drug maker and ShanghaiTech University have signed an R&D agreement to advance biopharmaceutical discovery and translational research in China. The agreement means Amgen will set up R&D ops near two of ShanghaiTech's institutes – its advanced immunochemical studies institute and the iHuman institute. The company expects an R&D center to be up and running in 2014.

Pakistan's Security and Exchange Commission wants to establish pharmaceutical marketing rules, reports the Business Recorder, which says the government agency has sent draft guidelines to the health services minister. The Business Recorder's sources told the news outlet that the enforcement and compliance with the proposed regulations, which would guide financial interactions between HCPs and pharmaceutical companies, could reduce the cost of medicines. Among the proposed guidelines: HCPs selected for pharma consulting agreements must be picked based on qualifications, not business volume, and payments must be by check or bank transfer and agreed upon and disclosed in writing prior to agreement. Food and travel would also need to be tracked. Business Reporter describes these per-diem expenses as “reasonable.”

Advertisers are heaping money on Norwegians. The research site eMarketer notes that advertisers there will spend $209 in Internet ads per citizen this year, trailed by the US where the Internet ad spend is expected to hit $201 per person this year and by Australia, which will be targeted with around $191-worth of attempts to capture their mobile gaze. Total media spend skews differently, with Australia topping the list at $582 per person this year, followed by the US ($540) and Norway ($535). Overall, the total media spend is a mini-mini-rebound. Per-person total ad spend, eMarketer notes, is up 1.1% in Western Europe, after falling 1.1% in 2012. Digital spend's profile is much higher: eMarketer estimates it will rise 10.2% over last year as a whole, but 12% in Finland, Germany and the UK.

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