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This Week in Health Care Reform - July 8th, 2016

Drugmakers find themselves under the microscope, again; partnerships lead to shared value in telehealth; and, the harmful health insurance tax continues to draw Congressional ire.

Week in Review         

Rx Prices: If it seems like drug prices have managed to permanently etch themselves into the evolving conversation around how to better manage health care costs, you’re not mistaken.  As our system places a greater emphasis on value and its relation to outcomes-based results, pharmaceuticals – or, more accurately, how they’re priced – have shown themselves to be a stubborn outlier.  In fact, a recent study estimated that global spending on drugs will reach $1.4 trillion by the end of this decade, an increase of as much as 32 percent from last year, alone, despite spending in other health care-related areas leveling off.  While the temptation may be to identify and vilify the bad players in the space, the trend in escalating prices has become more rule than exception.  For example, even though a good deal of the attention has focused on so-called ‘specialty’ drugs, which, according to new research, has seen insurers’ spending on these medicines nearly quadruple between 2003 and 2014, drugs across the treatment spectrum – such as dermatological or those used to manage cholesterol – have also experienced, or are targeted for, explosive price increases of their own.  As drugmakers continue to find themselves having to justify the high costs associated with their products, efforts to decode their decision-making process seek to pull back the curtain on why drugs cost so much.

Telehealth Value:
The growing consensus surrounding telehealth is that its widespread utilization will help transform our health care system, ushering it into the 21st century.  And, as we continue to get comfortable with technology’s ability to facilitate how and when and where we interact with our health care, new applications reveal themselves.  Whether through standalone kiosks or mobile apps connecting patients with doctors, the traditional barriers to care are slowly eroding.  Still, with each new advance in telehealth, old issues assert themselves – discussions about compensation, for instance.  But, as value is realized and, more importantly, shared between stakeholders, it won’t be long before everyone is able to reap the benefits of telehealth.

HIT: Much has already been made about the harmful new tax imposed under the Affordable Care Act that’s quietly threatening to raise health care costs for families, seniors, and small business owners.  Late last year, lawmakers responded to the collective outcry of their constituents, imposing a one-year moratorium on the health insurance tax (HIT).  And, recently, a handful of these legislators have sat down with those impacted by the HIT to hear firsthand how the tax impacts their respective bottom lines, including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Kelly Ayotte (R-New Hampshire), as well as Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona).  Learn more about the ongoing
efforts to repeal the HIT
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Looking Ahead

With both party’s nominating conventions right around the corner, predictions as to what to expect coming out of, first, Cleveland, followed by Philadelphia, this month, set the stage for the sprint to November’s Presidential election. 

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