A group of House Democrats is attempting to slow down an Obama administration effort to reduce drug prices in the Medicare system. At question is a proposed test of a new payment model to physicians and facilities that administer prescriptions drugs, like infusions of cancer drugs and other intravenous medications under Medicare Part B. Economists and health policy experts say that there are financial incentives to providers to use higher-cost drugs when there could be less expensive but just as effective options. To reiterate: what the Medicare program regulators are proposing is a test of a new payment model, not a wholesale switch.
So why would House Democrats have a problem with it? Because the drug companies and the doctors don't like it. And their excuse for organizing to slow down this test is pathetic.
The letter from House Democrats, according to Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), was made necessary because Big Pharma and oncologist lobbyists had pushed many Democrats to the brink of signing a much more aggressive Republican letter. The letter expresses concerns with the proposed rule, but doesn’t call for it to be withdrawn.
“Members are outlining their concerns, but this letter is in furtherance of getting an effective rule in place under the current timeline. This in no way is an effort to slow down or undermine the administration’s efforts,” Hammill told HuffPost after this story published.
Hey, about this, House Democratic leadership? Tell your members who say this is "necessary" or they'll do something worse to suck eggs. Tell them that you'll go all out supporting the administration on its effort to figure out how to save Medicare money and if they sign with Republicans, you'll hang them out to dry. Maybe tell them that they'll be responsible for explaining to their constituents why they're standing with Big Pharma and the physicians' lobby instead of President Obama. Because after all, testing ways to have lower drug prices for Medicare sounds like a pretty damned good idea.
The rationale that they're providing is that they're only asking the administration to answer a whole bunch of questions about this proposal to test this new system, whereas the Republicans are demanding it be stopped altogether. But, once again, this is only a test. What's more, says Patrick Conway, deputy administrator for innovation and quality at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, "Nothing in this proposed payment model will prevent doctors from prescribing exactly what treatment patients need." It's a proposal that won't prevent anyone from getting the treatment they need. That could save lots of money. Any Democrat considering signing on to a letter opposing that needs to seriously reconsider his or her priorities.
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