Pulse on Politics
by Michelle Leeds
It was a big week in politics with news from the Administration, Senate and the presidential campaign trail. Here’s what you need to know:
Democrats kicked off the 2020 presidential campaign this week with two nights of debate and there was no shortage of criticism for the pharma industry among the candidates. The Presidential hopefuls were quick to go after the industry as a whole, but did not call out specific companies or propose specific policies to address the cost of drugs. They drew a dotted line between high drug prices and voters’ financial concerns and often lumped the pharma and insurance industries together. In the roughly 25 minutes devoted to healthcare, insurance companies took the brunt of the beating. But, we expect drug prices will play an increased role in the conversation as policies move through Congress and the campaign season continues (for the next 16 months…).
The Trump administration signed a much anticipated Executive Order (EO) designed to make hospital bills more transparent. The EO directs HHS and other agencies to initiate a traditional rulemaking process (complete with public comment) around disclosure of hospital list prices. Notably, under the EO, the burden of disclosing pricing falls to hospitals. Insurance companies would not be required to disclose their negotiated rates. That distinction will be important as many consumers have expressed their desire for transparency around their out-of-pocket costs, which is what they pay after insurance kicks in.
On the Hill, Senators on the HELP Committee advanced a bipartisan bill designed to address a range of healthcare issues. The main attraction in the Lower Health Care Costs Act is the set of provisions aimed at preventing hospitals from delivering “surprise” medical bills to patients who might receive some portion of treatments out-of-network during a stay. But lawmakers tucked some drug pricing provisions in, too, including:
- The CREATES Act, which would penalize drug makers that withhold samples from generic competitors.
- A ban preventing PBMs from charging more for a drug than the PBM paid for the drug.
- The FAIR Drug Pricing Act, which would require drug makers to notify HHS of price increases above 10%, justify the increase and disclose R&D costs.
Elsewhere in the Senate, Finance Committee leadership is reportedly considering a sweeping deal to limit drug price increases in Medicare. Up for discussion is:
- Making drug companies pay rebates to Medicare Part D if their prices rise faster than the rate of inflation.
- Making drug companies pay back Medicare if they launch a high-priced new drug.
Stay tuned to The Week That Was for updates as these policies progress.
Who wrote this? The managing editors of TWTW are Randi Kahn, who is rethinking her footwear given our fantastic new standing desks and Dana Davis, who spent 2:32 seconds in the Amazon Go store this week.
Syneos Health Communications' Reputation & Risk Management Practice is a team of healthcare communications consultants, policy-shapers and crisis response specialists. We provide unique solutions to the evolving communications challenges in today’s healthcare industry, using evidence-based approaches to help our clients successfully navigate the most sensitive of situations.
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