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This Week in Health Care Reform - November 20th, 2015

Polling data shows that voters are increasingly looking to Presidential candidates to offer up solutions to escalating drug prices; meanwhile, public programs continue to wrestle with the impacts of covering high-priced medications; a House Committee announces its plans to tackle the drug pricing issue next year; and, a new survey shows growing support amongst providers for telehealth’s wider utilization.


Week in Review

Iowa Poll: Given the shockwaves that drug prices have sent out across the health care landscape, it should come as no surprise that the issue is gaining interest on the campaign trail.  Presidential candidates, with their fingers on the pulse of the electorate, have begun to offer up proposals to address the unsustainability of these escalating drug prices (although, it remains to be seen if any of them will actually work).  And, it’s clear that voters want to know what candidates are going to do to tackle the issue.  In a new poll compiled by Morning Consult on behalf of the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing (CSRxP), voters in important early primary states, like Iowa, see prescription drug pricing as one of the issues that could drive much of the conversation heading into next year’s elections.  Across party lines, respondents overwhelmingly said it was important for candidates to address the issue. 

Medicare & Medicaid Rx: Public programs also find themselves buckling under the weight of the growing drug price burden.  In fact, Medicare spending on breakthrough medications for hepatitis C alone is projected to nearly double this year, passing $9 billion.  And, it’s not just patients suffering from the liver-damaging disease who are impacted, as all beneficiaries are threatened with rising costs as a result of the program covering the expensive treatments.  On the Medicaid side, the federal government is also under increased budgetary pressure from the rising price of prescription drugs, as the program grapples with how to pay for these medicines.  Given the program’s size – Medicaid covers one-in-five Americans – it’s hard to argue that the program serving low-income beneficiaries has the heft to at least move the conversation in a better direction.

House Investigation:
A new report from IMS Health this week forecasts that global spending on medicines will reach $1.4 trillion by the end of this decade.  A quick scan of recent headlines and it’s not hard to see how we hit that number.  In light of this trajectory, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform announced its intention to hold an investigative hearing next year on the issue of skyrocketing drug prices.  Their announcement comes on the heels of a similar one made by the Senate Special Committee on Aging earlier this month to also look into prescription drug pricing.

AAFP Survey:
The majority of physicians believe that telehealth holds the key to, both, improved access and continuity of care for patients, at least, according to a new survey.  Compiled by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) and funded by Anthem, the study found that 87 percent of physicians currently using telehealth and 64 percent of non-users would take advantage of the technology if reforms are made to rules in the Medicare program that aggressively restrict the use of, and payment for, telehealth.  Nevertheless, the survey goes on to show, physicians believe barriers to wider spread adoption remain, including lack of training and reimbursement concerns.

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Looking Ahead

A recent forum highlighted the importance of access and healthy behaviors in managing chronic care.  A new report from the Commonwealth Fund finds that Americans spend more on health care than other high-income nations, but suffer some of the worst health outcomes amongst the group.  And, after a second strong week, open enrollment sign-ups top 1 million.

With the holiday upon us, there will not be a newsletter next week.  But, look for us again the following week.

Until then, you can keep up with the latest by following the Health Action Network on Twitter and by liking us on Facebook.

Have a safe and Happy Thanksgiving!