Continuing his attack on high drug prices, President Donald Trump and Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary Alex Azar launched a salvo to change how Medicare pays for drugs administered in doctors' offices and hospital clinics.
Amgen, Regeneron, Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb are among the pharmaceutical companies with the most at stake over payment changes in Part B, which represented about 8% of overall USA drug spending in 2016. He says Americans are now going to pay the prices other countries pay.
President Donald Trump's plan to lower drug prices sounds a lot like what the "global freeloaders" he often criticizes do themselves to curb high prescription prices. "These proposals are to the detriment of American patients".
But Trump's rhetoric on drug pricing sounds awfully similar to the rest of his nationalist message, and as a result, he fails to really address the problem he wants to solve. "We will no longer accept the inflated prices being charged to our seniors".
In those countries, the government health systems directly negotiate with pharmaceutical makers over the price of their drugs. Such blowback has doomed prior administrations' attempts to control Medicare payments.
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Medicare pays the average sales price in the United States plus an extra fee based on a percentage of the drug's price.
The use of private-sector vendors should also introduce competition to the USA healthcare market and shift the financial risk of handling drugs away from providers, HHS pointed out. Today, Medicare reimburses doctors and hospitals the average sales prices of the drugs, plus 6 percent to cover the cost of giving medications to patients. "With this innovative approach, he is now proposing historic changes to how Medicare pays for some of the most expensive prescription drugs, securing for the American people a share of the price concessions that drug makers voluntarily give to other countries". Patients alone would see their out-of-pocket costs drop by $3.4 billion.
The administration has moved twice this month to lower drug prices in other ways. The US can push drug companies to accept lower prices by the sheer size of its Medicare enrollment, said Rena Conti, associate professor for markets, public policy and law at Boston University. "Medicare could achieve significant savings if prices in the US were similar to those of other large market-based economies", the report concluded. But it will be hard for the party to escape its own health-care record.
While Democrats have hammered Trump over the past week saying that his administration is working to undermine protections in the Affordable Care Act for Americans with pre-existing conditions, Trump promised he "will always protect Americans with pre-existing conditions". Republicans did not support the 2010 passage of the ACA, which enacted them, and the majority of them voted to repeal and replace Obamacare a year ago.
The timing - two weeks before an election where health care remains a prominent issue - may be political. "The savings 340B provides eligible hospitals allow them to offset some of the uncompensated care costs they incur and support vital services that might otherwise be unavailable". When Pfizer and Novartis announced over the summer they were pulling back on some planned price increases, Trump touted it as proof his pressure tactics were working.
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Moreover, Deutsch said, the policy is more likely to affect drugmakers than other countries.
"This is price fixing".
Paul Ginsburg, PhD, director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, who led the discussion with Azar on Friday, saw the proposal in strategic terms. "It couldn't be more anti-Republican".
Already, however, there is skepticism about how much this will impact the drug industry.
The proposal is Trump's boldest action yet to lower drug prices, which the president says has been a key goal of his administration. In the past, Azar has taken aim at that particular piece of the program its spending has grown much faster than for drugs dispensed by pharmacies under Medicare's Part D program. Officials said they're seeking input on how to select the areas that will take part in the new pricing system. They may use group purchasing organizations to negotiate and secure lower prices.
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Trump's announcement represents the next leg in the administration's quest to appear tough on the pharmaceutical industry. Trump argued that other countries were being "very disrespectful" by selling their prescription drugs to Americans for higher prices than their citizens are paying for them. The changes would only apply to some drugs in Medicare's outpatient program known as Part B, and not the most commonly used medicines sold at pharmacies.