Biden-Harris Administration Unveils New Actions to Lower Health Care and Prescription Drug Costs by Promoting Competition
The Biden-Harris Administration released a set of actions to build on steps the Administration has already taken to lower health care costs. These new actions aim to promote competition in health care and support lowering prescription drug costs for American families. This includes the release of a proposed framework for agencies on the exercise of march-in rights on taxpayer-funded drugs and other inventions, which specifies that price can be a factor in considering whether a drug is accessible to the public. This serves as a continuation of actions taken by the Administration to lower health care costs, increase competition, and improve the quality and availability of care across the health care industry, including capping the cost of insulin at $35 per product per month for seniors, allowing Medicare to negotiate lower prescription drug prices, requiring drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they raise prices faster than inflation, and locking in $800 per year in health insurance savings for 15 million Americans under the Inflation Reduction Act.
Senate Finance Committee Holds Hearing on Nationwide Drug Shortages
The Senate Finance Committee held a hearing on “Drug Shortages: Examining Supply Challenges, Impacts, and Policy Solutions from a Federal Health Program Perspective.” The hearing addressed the need for dependable and reliable drug supply chains. The witnesses and committee members highlighted that the demand for generic drugs exceeds the supply, forcing providers to resort to rationing, inappropriate low doses, or alternative treatments. Witnesses proposed various policy solutions that could better incentivize buyers (providers, pharmacies, hospitals) and manufacturers to prioritize quality over cost. Individuals also discussed how decreased profit margins for drug manufacturers have forced them to move overseas, creating national security threats. The hearing highlighted the role increased incentives could play in ending the race to the bottom in price wars for generics, addressing quality control issues, preventing factory shutdowns, and alleviating the shortage of high-demand generic drug production. While federal tactics to increase incentives could be costly, the witnesses argued that the costs of ignoring this problem could contribute to higher costs in the future and mortality due to a lack of life-saving pharmaceuticals. Healthsperien covered the hearing and comprehensive notes can be found here.
Senate HELP Committee Reaches Bipartisan Agreement to Reauthorize SUPPORT Act
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee intends to hold a vote on December 12th to reauthorize treatment and prevention programs established under the SUPPORT Act, which expired on September 30th. While the Senate version of the legislation is gaining traction, the House companion bill is struggling to garner support as members are trying to include it on the floor suspense calendar before the year’s end. HELP Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Ranking Member Bill Cassidy (R-LA) announced yesterday that they had reached an agreement to mark up the bill that would reauthorize the SUPPORT Act. Coupled with the reauthorization of key substance use disorder programs under the SUPPORT Act, the bipartisan legislation also doubles the Substance Use Disorder Treatment and Recovery Loan Repayment Program and expands access to fentanyl and xylazine test strips. Healthsperien will cover the Senate HELP Committee’s markup on December 12 and provide detailed notes.
The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) released its Fall Regulatory Agenda, which details additional actions that Federal agencies are considering over the coming months as well as recently completed actions. Key focus areas for the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Regulatory Plan for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 include lowering costs and expanding coverage, reducing disparities and advancing equity, increasing public health preparedness, and supporting the wellbeing of families and communities. Among other goals, HHS aims to expand access to affordable care and protect health coverage following the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and strengthen federal early care and education programs that enhance quality of services to children and families, lower childcare costs for working families, and provide needed support to early educators. HHS notes that this plan aligns with the Administration’s commitment to continue building a better, healthier America, through rules designed to protect and enhance the lives of every person touched by HHS programs.
A survey on Racism, Discrimination and Health released by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) identifies areas for increased attention to address ongoing bias and discrimination, particularly in health care. The data highlights the persistent patterns of residential segregation and racial disparities in feelings of safety, police mistreatment, and experiences of discrimination among Hispanic, Black, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) adults compared to White adults. Survey respondents cited the following negative experiences with a healthcare provider: having to be prepared for possible insults, being careful about their appearance, and facing language access challenges, which all have consequences for health and health care use. These negative health care experiences lead to worse health outcomes, reduced healthcare seeking, and provider switching, with AIAN and Black adults disproportionately affected. Some solutions proposed include having strong local support networks and more health care visits with providers who have a shared racial and ethnic background. Survey findings also illustrate opportunities to increase respectful and positive provider interactions that can support high-quality and culturally competent care.