HealthCare Roundtable e-News – September 24, 2019

Pelosi Unveils Drug Pricing Negotiation Plan

Last Thursday (Sept. 19), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a drug pricing plan calling for the Health and Human Services Secretary to annually negotiate prices for up to 250 drugs on the market. The plan also addresses the Trump administration’s proposed “international price index,” which would allow the HHS secretary to negotiate costs based on the costs of the drugs in other countries, and includes a cap on seniors’ out-of-pocket spending in the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit at $2,000.

“This is an introduction. So much more will be added in the committee process and the public review of it. But we’re very excited about it and happy that we can give some hope to people that help is on the way,” Pelosi told the press.

Among the considerations for determining the drug prices, in addition to the price index, include the drug’s development and production costs and the number of competitors. The proposal also notes that drug manufacturers that are not subject to negotiations would be penalized if the costs of their drugs above the rate of inflation since 2016.

More information on Speaker Pelosi’s proposal can be found here.

Pelosi: Savings from Drug Pricing Plan Will Support Expansion of Medicare Benefits

The office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) released a summary highlighting key focus areas of the drug price negotiation plan that was unveiled last week. The summary addresses the plan’s goals and outlines areas where government savings can be utilized, including hearing, vision and dental benefits for Medicare beneficiaries. (InsideHealthPolicy).

The summary has received support for beneficiary advocates looking to invest Medicare savings back into the program. Lindsey Copeland, federal policy director for the Medicare Rights Center, spoke out in support of the provision, noting that all Medicare beneficiaries “should have access to affordable, high quality health care–including for vision, hearing, and dental –regardless of the coverage pathway they choose. We applaud HR 3 for prioritizing that guarantee.” (InsideHealthPolicy)

David Lipschutz, associate director and senior policy attorney at the Center for Medicare Advocacy, suggested that the plan’s costs and overall savings would depend on whether all the elements are added to Medicare at the same time or over the course of a few years, and how the Congressional Budget Office would account for potential savings from coverage additions like broader dental coverage. Lipschutz said the latter would likely offset some of the cost. (InsideHealthPolicy).

Trump Seeks to Rally a GOP That’s ‘Far from Sold’ on Drug Pricing Plan

As the 2020 election approaches, the Trump administration has ramped up efforts to encourage members of the GOP to seek solutions to health care costs, according to sources, with little success.

“Just because the president is sort of vaguely nodding at these ideas every once in a while isn’t a compelling enough reason for a lot of these offices to up and change the way they are approaching this issue,” said Benedic Ippolito, a health policy researcher at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute.

Despite the rollout of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) drug pricing negotiation plan last week, some members of the GOP — led by Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) — have vowed to block the plan in future votes given its focus on Medicare negotiating directly with manufacturers for many of the most expensive drugs. Others in the House have been hesitant to support the plan without indication of momentum from the Senate.

Despite the opposition, President Trump voiced his approval of Pelosi’s plan and HHS Secretary Alex Azar has reportedly been encouraging House Republicans on the Hill to seek a compromise. In a members-only meeting last week, Azar and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sought to convince GOP lawmakers to consider the proposal as a “starting point”. Senator Grassley, the Senate Finance Committee Chairman, passed bipartisan drug pricing legislation similar to Pelosi’s plan out of the in July. The Finance Committee legislation does not include Medicare negotiating language.