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This Week in Health Care Reform: June 30th, 2017

GOP leaders in the Senate look to rework their latest proposal aimed at replacing the Affordable Care Act; drugmakers’ profits are increasingly driven by price hikes, not new products; telehealth positions itself as a convenient alternative; and, the shift to evidence-based reimbursement continues to exert pressure on payment reforms.

Week in Review

Senate Bill: Earlier this week, Republican leaders in the Senate released a revised version of their health care replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), in anticipation of the proposed legislation being offered up for a vote ahead of the upcoming 4th of July recess.  Despite ongoing efforts to line-up support for the bill, though, enough room for discussion remained to prompt GOP leaders to postpone the vote until after Senators return from the break.  In the meantime, work continues to ensure that outstanding concerns are addressed in BCRA to encourage broader support from the party’s rank-and-file.  A newly revised version of the bill was expected today, with further developments unfolding into the weekend and as members head home to celebrate the Independence Day holiday.  Be sure to keep up with the latest developments by following the Health Action Network on Facebook and on Twitter.

Rx Profits: For most industries, profit growth is usually associated with the introduction of a new product, or, at the very least, enhancements to an existing one.  However, a new analysis points out that that no longer seems to be the case for drugmakers.  In 2015, 80 percent of the growth in profits observed in the pharmaceutical industry was attributable to price increases alone, rather than new drugs being brought to market.  The findings only serve to reinforce the established narrative surrounding drugmakers’ increased addiction to price increases as a means of exacting maximum profit from our beleaguered health care system.

Telehealth's Convenience:
A new study continues to highlight telehealth’s efficacy in the changing health care delivery model.  Performed in Norway, that study examined 400 headache patients and their interactions with their neurologists.  Half met with their specialists in the office, while the other half conducted consultations via video conference.  No discernible differences separated either patient group’s experience with regards to how they accessed their care, or the results of those treatments.  The findings only add to the growing body of research illustrating the important role that digital technologies can play in our evolving health care toolbox.

Evidence-Based Payment Reforms:
Much has been made of the need to reimagine the processes governing the administration of our health care system.  Perhaps nowhere is this more on display than in our gradual shift to a value-based payment model.  While that transition has slowly taken on the weight of inevitability, what’s hampered its progress has had more to do with limitations of capability, than stakeholders’ inability to find agreement on how best to proceed.  What’s not up for debate, though, is the fundamental importance to that transition of the relationship between payers and providers.  That relationship depends on the need for greater communication and collaboration, as highlighted by a new survey in which the majority of respondents “strongly agreed” on the criticality of both to our system’s ultimately reaping the benefits of transitioning from traditional fee-for-service to value-based design.      

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We encourage you to stay involved as implementation efforts surrounding health care reform progress.  Visit the Health Action Network and be sure to let us know what's on your mind.


Looking Ahead

Earlier this month, the House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Health held a hearing exploring ways to make Medicare work more efficiently for patients and taxpayers.  Among the programs discussed were Special Needs Plans (SNPs), which are designed to lower costs and improve quality of care for beneficiaries who require more expensive treatments, such as those dually-eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid, or living with chronic conditions.  SNPs, whose importance to programs like Medicare Advantage can’t be overstated, are expected to come up for Congressional reauthorization before the end of the year in order to continue providing seniors and persons with disabilities access to the specialized and coordinated care upon which they depend.

You can keep up with the latest by following the Health Action Network on Twitter and by liking us on Facebook.