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This Week in Health Care Reform: June 9th, 2017

GOP Senators work to find agreement on their health care replacement bill; the larger focus on value-based outcomes intersects with prescription drug prices; and, the advent of new technologies leads to more telescreenings.

Week in Review

Replacement Bill: Upon returning to Washington this week, Republican lawmakers in the Senate immediately pushed forward in their efforts to seek consensus on their version of a health care bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act.  In looking to sidestep the troubles that hamstrung their colleagues’ efforts in the House leading up to the lower chamber’s passage of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) early last month, GOP Senate leaders initially convened a group of 13 Senators, before opening up those discussions to the entire legislative body.  Despite some early complications, lawmakers emerged from a closed-door policy lunch this past Tuesday optimistic that they were making progress.  While specific details have yet to be released, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) fast-tracked the AHCA yesterday, placing it on the Senate calendar and, thusly, allowing it to skip the committee process, paving the way for an eventual vote on whatever health care legislation is ultimately offered up by his caucus.

Value-Based Outcomes:
If it’s beginning to feel like ads for pharmaceutical drugs have come to dominate commercial breaks, you’re not far off.  As multimedia tracking has shown, spending on these commercials has grown more since 2012 (62 percent) than any other leading advertising category.  The question is, though, whether or not the products that these ads are pushing are effective at doing what they claim to do.  That’s what health plans are seeking to answer for themselves, as more insurance companies are exploring outcomes-based arrangements with drugmakers, which isn’t entirely surprising, as the idea of establishing a greater focus on value-based design across our health care system continues to gain traction.  It stands to reason, therefore, that in seeking to address the pressing issue of out-of-control drug prices, stakeholders would look to apply these same principles to what’s quickly become the primary driver of health care costs in this country.  In fact, new data shows that one-in-four health plans can now lay claim to at least one outcomes-based contract with a pharmaceutical manufacturer.

The widespread application of digital technology is a critical part of the ongoing conversation surrounding how best to improve our health care system.  A new study emphasizes telehealth’s integral role in ensuring that patients are at the center of that focus.  With health systems across the country embracing an evolving patient-centered care model, video visits with primary care physicians are widely cited as, not just convenient, but able to improve patients’ ability to interact with their health care provider.  One real world example would be the increased screening rates for diabetic retinopathy seen across rural and underserved patient populations.  Experts increasingly point to telehealth as reshaping what the doctor visit of tomorrow will look like.      

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