Headlines in the News

The Money and Politics of Prescription Drugs: What You Need to Know

May 8, 2019

If there’s one area of health care where Republicans and Democrats might strike a deal, it’s prescription drugs.

President Donald Trump has floated a plan to cut drug prices. Democratic and Republican ideas abound in Congress, where lawmakers have put more than 40 bills on the table. In 2018, 39 states passed 94 laws targeting pricing and costs. Florida’s House recently approved a move backed by the state’s Republican governor to allow imports from Canada. So far, Vermont is the only state to take that step.

If there’s one area of health care where Republicans and Democrats might strike a deal, it’s prescription drugs.

President Donald Trump has floated a plan to cut drug prices. Democratic and Republican ideas abound in Congress, where lawmakers have put more than 40 bills on the table. In 2018, 39 states passed 94 laws targeting pricing and costs. Florida’s House recently approved a move backed by the state’s Republican governor to allow imports from Canada. So far, Vermont is the only state to take that step.

Why do prescription drugs draw so much attention? Because millions of Americans rely on them, and 8 out of 10 say the cost is “unreasonable.”

America spends about $460 billion a year on these drugs, roughly as much as the combined revenues of the top three car makers….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

Drug Prices Will Soon Appear in Many TV Ads

May 8, 2019

The Trump administration for the first time will require pharmaceutical companies to include the price of prescription drugs in television advertisements if the cost exceeds $35 per month.

The move, announced on Wednesday by Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, is the most visible action the administration has taken so far to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. It has been a key issue for American voters and one that both Republicans and Democrats have vowed to address.

The Trump administration for the first time will require pharmaceutical companies to include the price of prescription drugs in television advertisements if the cost exceeds $35 per month.

The move, announced on Wednesday by Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, is the most visible action the administration has taken so far to address the rising cost of prescription drugs. It has been a key issue for American voters and one that both Republicans and Democrats have vowed to address.

The proposal could be challenged by the drug industry, which argues that revealing the list price will confuse consumers and could violate the companies’ First Amendment rights. While the list price of some drugs can be thousands of dollars a month, patients with insurance that covers their prescriptions frequently pay far less, often less than $50.

“We are moving from a system where people are left in the dark to a system where patients are put in the driver’s seat,” Mr. Azar said in a conference call with reporters….

Read the full The New York Times article

Trump Considers Poverty-Gauge Change That Could Trim Rolls on Aid Programs

May 7, 2019

The Trump administration is weighing changes to a federal poverty measure that could reduce eligibility for a number of federal safety-net programs.

The administration is seeking public input on a proposed change to an index used to gauge inflation for a U.S. poverty measure, according to a notice Monday in the Federal Register. The measure is used to determine financial eligibility for federal programs such as the school lunch program and Head Start, and the size of premium tax credits on the Affordable Care Act.

The Trump administration is weighing changes to a federal poverty measure that could reduce eligibility for a number of federal safety-net programs.

The administration is seeking public input on a proposed change to an index used to gauge inflation for a U.S. poverty measure, according to a notice Monday in the Federal Register. The measure is used to determine financial eligibility for federal programs such as the school lunch program and Head Start, and the size of premium tax credits on the Affordable Care Act….

Read the full The Wall Street Journal article

Even Doctors Can’t Navigate Our ‘Broken Health Care System’

May 2, 2019

Dr. Hasan Shanawani was overcome by frustration. So, last week he picked up his cellphone and began sharing on Twitter his family’s enraging experiences with the U.S. health care system.

It was an act of defiance — and desperation. Like millions of people who are sick or old and the families who care for them, this physician was disheartened by the health care system’s complexity and its all-too-frequent absence of caring and compassion.

Dr. Hasan Shanawani was overcome by frustration. So, last week he picked up his cellphone and began sharing on Twitter his family’s enraging experiences with the U.S. health care system.

It was an act of defiance — and desperation. Like millions of people who are sick or old and the families who care for them, this physician was disheartened by the health care system’s complexity and its all-too-frequent absence of caring and compassion.

Shanawani, a high-ranking physician at the Department of Veterans Affairs, had learned the day before that his 83-year-old father, also a physician, was hospitalized in New Jersey with a spinal fracture. But instead of being admitted as an inpatient, his dad was classified as an “observation care” patient — an outpatient status that Shanawani knew could have unfavorable consequences, both medically and financially….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

‘Medicare for All’ Gets Much-Awaited Report. Both Sides Can Claim Victory

May 1, 2019

The Congressional Budget Office published a much-awaited paper about the possible design of a single-payer or “Medicare for all” system in the United States.

The budget office most often provides detailed estimates about the cost of legislation. But anyone looking for many numbers in Wednesday’s long report would be disappointed.

The Congressional Budget Office published a much-awaited paper about the possible design of a single-payer or “Medicare for all” system in the United States.

The budget office most often provides detailed estimates about the cost of legislation. But anyone looking for many numbers in Wednesday’s long report would be disappointed.

Instead, the nonpartisan office noted the many ways that legislators could devise such a system, outlining the cost and policy effects of a wide range of difficult choices. It also noted that such a system would be so different from the country’s current situation that any hard estimates would be difficult, even with all the specifics laid out.

As such, the report has convenient snippets likely to be deployed by both single-payer devotees and detractors. Within minutes of its release, congressional news releases began pouring out, noting how the report had confirmed this or that position….

Read the full The New York Times article

CVS Health Raises Full-Year Profit Forecast on Aetna Strength

May 1, 2019

CVS Health Corp on Wednesday raised its full-year profit forecast and reported first-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street estimates due to growth in its Aetna health insurance business, and as drug prices fell within its expectations.

Shares rose more than 5 percent to $57.35. They had fallen 17 percent this year, hurt by a weak forecast in February and a cut to rival Walgreen Boots Alliance’s full-year outlook last month due to lower generic drug prices.

CVS Health Corp on Wednesday raised its full-year profit forecast and reported first-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street estimates due to growth in its Aetna health insurance business, and as drug prices fell within its expectations.

Shares rose more than 5 percent to $57.35. They had fallen 17 percent this year, hurt by a weak forecast in February and a cut to rival Walgreen Boots Alliance’s full-year outlook last month due to lower generic drug prices.

Aetna, CVS’s health insurance unit, beat analysts’ consensus by more than a billion dollars in the quarter, helped by its accounting for lower medical costs than anticipated during the fourth quarter.

The company, which bought Aetna for $69 billion in November, said 2019 cost savings from the deal were tracking near the high end of its $300 million to $350 million range, and that 2020 savings would likely exceed its $750 million target….

Read the full Reuters article