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This Week in Health Care Reform - November 13th, 2015

The Administration turns its attention to the rise in high-priced prescription drugs; open enrollment continues; the Supreme Court announces its decision to review (again) the contraception requirements in the health care law; and, a new poll shows steady opposition to the law’s health insurance tax.


Week in Review

Rx Forum: Across the political spectrum, Americans cite the cost of prescription drugs as their top health care concern, at least, according to the latest poll results released by the Kaiser Family Foundation last week.  Overall, 77 percent of respondents said the issue was at the top of their list, reflecting the recent outrage over drug pricing that has begun to make waves on Capitol Hill and on the campaign trail.  For their part, lawmakers in the Senate have launched an investigation into the exorbitant price hikes by a handful of pharmaceutical companies that have made headlines of late, including Valeant and Turing.  While no formal hearings have yet been scheduled in the House, an Affordable Drug Pricing Task Force has been launched, aimed at addressing concerns over escalating drug prices.  For their part, GOP Presidential hopefuls have also slowly begun to weigh-in on the issue.  Recognizing the schism that exists between drug development costs and what consumers are ultimately charged for these medicines, the Administration has announced its intention to convene a forum later this month on the rising cost of prescription drugs.  Finding itself backed into a corner, the pharmaceutical industry has begun to counterpunch, in part by passing the blame for these out-of-control prices to insurers and federal regulators.

Open Enrollment: Heading into the Affordable Care Act’s third open enrollment season, there was some residual trepidation.  Still, despite the projections of ‘modest growth’ and the ‘tough rough ahead’, it bears noting that this year’s rollout has been a good deal smoother than we’ve seen in previous years.  As consumers continue to consider their options, advice has not been in short supply.  Perhaps chief amongst the experts’ reads in what it will take to connect the millions of remaining uninsured individuals to the coverage they need is the importance of health insurance literacy going forward.

Last Friday the Supreme Court announced its decision to again consider the contraception-coverage requirements of the Affordable Care Act.  The challenge will be the fourth time the Court has heard a challenge regarding the health care law.  The case hinges on whether the contraceptive rule violates the federal law protecting religious freedom and will bring the law, once again, front-and-center in an election year, already rife with contentious social issues.

HIT Poll:
The majority of small business owners say they’re worried about the impacts of the Affordable Care Act’s new health insurance tax (HIT).  In a new nationwide poll released last week, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of those surveyed expressed concern over what the HIT would do to their bottom lines.  More than half (55 percent) said that they expected their insurance costs and premiums to increase due to the new health care taxes called for under the health care law.  The poll was released by the Stop the HIT Coalition, a group of like-minded businesses and employer advocacy groups organized to raise the profile of the HIT and its deleterious effects on small businesses with lawmakers, opinion-leaders, and the public.

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Looking Ahead

Wrapping up his second week in his new post, experts are looking at what newly-elected Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s first week on the job can tell us about what to expect from him in the future.  And, with the Presidential debates coming at a faster clip, analysis abounds. 

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