HealthCare Roundtable e-News – August 6, 2020

Trump Executive Orders: Discussion Follow-Up

We’d like to thank everyone who participated in Monday’s Zoom meeting. We hope you found the discussion helpful. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Please click here for a copy of the final presentation.

Attorneys General Ask HHS to Lower the Price of Remdesivir

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of Attorneys General from 34 states asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to invoke a federal patent law to lower prices of the COVID-19 treatment Remdesivir. The AGs asserted in a letter that Gilead, the manufacturer who produces Remdesivir, is charging too much for the drug and has not been able to guarantee a sufficient supply of it to hospitals.

In their claim, the AGs cited the drug was partially developed with taxpayer funds and therefore the federal government could use its march-in rights to seize Gilead’s patent. Attorneys General Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) and Jeff Landry (R-La.) stated that Gilead “should not profit from the pandemic and it should be pushed to do more to help more people.”

“We cannot afford to leave the supply of this critical medication to chance and the whims of the marketplace when it was funded in part by taxpayer dollars,” said Becerra.

The price of Remdesivir is currently capped at $3,200 per treatment in the United States for private insurers, but only costs Gilead between $1 and $5 to manufacture. The drugmaker is expected to produce an estimated 2 million treatments through the end of the year, only enough to cover half of the current confirmed patients with COVID-19. (InsideHealthPolicy)

Trump Signs Executive Order Calling on CMS to Propose Additional Medicare Telehealth Services

On Monday (Aug. 3), President Trump signed an executive order requiring CMS to make permanent certain telehealth provisions that were enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. The order also requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation to create a rural health payment model, providing hospitals in rural communities a more consistent stream of Medicare payments, and calls on HHS to propose a rule to extend telehealth flexibility beyond the crisis for Medicare beneficiaries and providers in rural communities which it did Monday.

CMS has also proposed adding codes for home visits of established patients, emergency department visits and psychological testing through the end of the year. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said that the timing will allow the agency to “study the impact of these changes outside the context of the emergency.” (InsideHealthPolicy)

The executive order also directs the Department of Agriculture, HHS and the Federal Communications Commission to form a task force to focus on improving broadband infrastructure in rural communities to support telehealth. Trump spoke on the order during a briefing on Monday, commenting that he would release a new healthcare plan before the end of the month (more details below).

Drug Company Execs, Administration in Talks to Make Deal on International Pricing Indexing, Says Trump

Last week, President Trump announced that pharmaceutical representatives had contacted the president to begin talks on lowering drug prices. The president did not confirm which representatives from which drug manufacturers had contacted him, though the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America did not respond to questions about whether the group and White House officials have discussed scheduling a meeting, but did confirm that they were willing to speak with the administration. (InsideHealthPolicy)

The president and the pharmaceutical industry have been at odds in recent weeks since Trump signed executive orders to create discounts for insulin and epinephrine, revive policies on eliminating rebates and create an international price index comparing U.S. drug prices to other countries. Politico reported that drug company executives cancelled the meetings scheduled with the administration because the major drug lobbies refused to send any members.

Trump took to Twitter on Thursday, saying that drug prices “will soon be lowered massively.” The tweets continued on Saturday with proposals reviving the international price index or the “favored nations clause.”

Trump Administration Plans to Unveil ‘Health Care Plan’ by End of Month

President Trump announced during a press conference last week that the administration will unveil a new health care plan by the end of the month. The president offered few details about the plan, during which he also announced an executive order to make permanent the administration’s telehealth policies beyond the pandemic. Trump had previously mentioned the plan during an interview with Fox News in July.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany commented, saying the president “continues to act in delivering better and cheaper healthcare, protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions, lowering prescription drug costs, and defending the right of Americans to keep their doctors and plans of their choice.” (InsideHealthPolicy)

Drew Altman, president and CEO of the nonpartisan health policy organization Kaiser Family Foundation, commented that the president’s “main objective will be to have something he can call a plan, but it will be smaller than a plan…it’s almost inconceivable that anything can be delivered legislatively before the election.”

Experts have observed that the Trump administration has been feeling the pressure on health care as his re-election campaign enters its final months. Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has campaigned on expanding Obamacare while also promising to implement a “public option” similar to Medicare as part of his joint task force with former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.