AcuPartD

Keeping you updated on the latest Medicare and Part D news


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Risk of chronic opioid use in elderly impacted by prescribing doctor

A recent study has found a link between chronic opioid use in Medicare beneficiaries and “high-intensity” prescribers, doctors that prescribe opioids for one in four patients they treat.  Beneficiaries with a high-intensity prescriber were 30% more likely to become a long-time opioid user.  Study authors conclude that their results are indicate that a single opioid prescription can affect the chances of long-term use and additional adverse health outcomes among elderly patients though additional research is needed.

The New England Journal of Medicine

New York Times

 


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Tom Price confirmed as HHS secretary

Tom Price was confirmed overnight by the US Senate to become the next secretary of health of human services.  The vote along party lines was largely expected and one of Mr. Price’s first responsibilities will be to head President Trump’s push to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.  Mr. Price is expected to work to limit the growth of Medicare and Medicaid.  Details regarding possible changes to the programs, which insure more than 100 million Americans remain unclear, but Democrats are worried about what they see as the secretary’s desire to dismantle Medicare.  A 2009 op-ed article penned by Mr. Price included the following, “Nothing has had a greater negative effect on the delivery of health care than the federal government’s intrusion into medicine through Medicare.”

New York Times

Tom Price op-ed


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Medicare may be permitted to negotiate prescription drug prices under Trump administration

There has been much confusion about the Trump administration’s vision for heath care in America.  Repeated calls to replace the Affordable Care Act and promises to not dismantle Medicare on the campaign trail are still fresh in American’s minds though Trump has provided few details or proposals. President Trump proposed often that Medicare should be able to leverage its buying power to negotiate better drug prices.  Trump presented this idea often on the campaign trail and recently said the following during a January 11 news conference:

I think a lot of industries are going to be coming back. We have to get our drug industry coming back. Our drug industry has been disastrous. They’re leaving left and right. They supply our drugs, but they don’t make them here. To a large extent. And the other thing we have to do is create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder.
Pharma, pharma has a lot of lobbies, a lot of lobbyists and a lot of power. And there’s very little bidding on drugs. We’re the largest buyer of drugs in the world, and yet we don’t bid properly. And were going to start bidding and were going to save billions of dollars over a period of time.

Medicare is currently not permitted to participate in the negotiation of drug prices between pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies that provide Part D prescription drug plans.  Many experts believe negotiating the prices of prescription drugs could save Medicare billions though the only government report on the subject, completed in 2007 by the Congressional Budget Office, found the effects would be insignificant.

Trump has seemed to walk back some of his previous campaign rhetoric on this subject and recently told a group of pharmaceutical executives that he would “…oppose anything that makes it harder for smaller, younger companies to take the risk of bringing a product to a vibrantly competitive market.  That includes price fixing by the biggest dog in the market – Medicare – which is what’s happening.”  White House spokesman Sean Spicer has since clarified that Trump does support Medicare negotiating prescription drug prices.

NPR story by Allison Kodjak


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CMS reports that Medicare Part D rebates to insurers not passed onto government, beneficiaries

CMS reported this week that despite pharmacies and drug companies paying higher rebates to insurers over time, the savings are infrequently passed on to government health programs and beneficiaries.  The growth in rebates from drug makers to insurers has far outpaced the growth in Medicare Part D drug costs since 2010, the CMS report shows. This has helped private insurers in Part D keep costs down, but it is not translating to lower costs for consumers. In some cases, it has resulted in more drug costs being shifted to the government.

The full report can be found here.


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The Opioid Epidemic and Medicare Beneficiaries

CMS recently outlined it’s strategy for combating the opioid epidemic that is impacting a large numbers of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries and their families.  CMS identified the following areas as priorities to reduce opioid overuse and misuse in Medicare and Medicaid:

  • Implement more effective person-centered and population-based strategies to reduce the risk of opioid use disorders, overdoses, inappropriate prescribing, and drug diversion
  • Expand naloxone use, distribution, and access
  • Expand screening, diagnosis, and treatment of opioid use disorders, with an emphasis on increasing access to medication-assisted treatment
  • Increase the use of evidence-based practices for acute and chronic pain management

The success of CMS’ strategy relies on successful coordination and cooperation between Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, their families and caregivers, health care providers, health insurance plans, and states.  Acumen’s work on the Overutilization Monitoring System (OMS) is described as one example of the work CMS already does with health insurance plans to improve how opioids are prescribed by providers and used by beneficiaries.

 

https://blog.cms.gov/2017/01/05/addressing-the-opioid-epidemic/#_ftn13

https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Fact-sheets/2015-Fact-sheets-items/2015-11-03.html


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Many Questions About Trump’s Health Care Policy Remain

For seniors in the midst of Medicare open enrollment, which lasts this year from October 15 to December 7, questions remain about how a Trump presidency will affect Medicare.  The president-elect made clear his intention to repeal the Affordable Care Act throughout his campaign and has since established a page on his website dedicated to his plans to reshape the nation’s healthcare system.  He includes steps to “modernize Medicare” and increase state flexibility with regard to Medicaid.  Trump promised throughout his campaign to leave Medicare untouched, though his campaign seems to be leaving the door open to some reforms.

Pharmaceutical stocks have gained in the days since Trump’s surprise victory over Hillary Clinton last Tuesday.  President-elect Trump continues to call for a replacement to the Affordable Care Act though he has yet to offer a specific plan nor clarified how he plans to combat the rising medication and health care costs for most Americans.  Regardless, any changes have the potential to greatly impact the drug marketplace and the drug price issue is unlikely to go away in the coming years.  During the Republican primary presidential campaign, Trump indicated that he was open to having the federal government negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies to secure lower prices, as other nations such as Canada do.  It is unclear if this remains part of Trump’s plan or was merely an idea proposed on the campaign trail.


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2016 Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy and Plan Performance

Wrapping up our coverage of the recently released Medicare Part D in 2016 and Trends over Time report from the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University and the Kaiser Family Foundation are findings related to the Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) program and plan performance ratings.

The report found that nearly 3 in 10 Part D beneficiaries receive financial subsidies through the Low-Income Subsidy program.  This number has grown steadily over the past decade, reaching 12 million in 2016.  About two thirds of LIS enrollees  (roughly 8 million) are enrolled in stand-alone PDPs; others are in standard MA-PD plans, Special Needs Plans (SNPs), Medicare-Medicaid plans participating in financial alignment demonstrations, cost plans, or PACE plans.  PDP LIS enrollment has been relatively constant since the program began, but MA-PD plan enrollment has expanded greatly since 2006.

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In 2016, MA-PD plans are far more likely than PDP plans to have 4 or more stars out of a possible 5 stars for the rating factors based on their Part D performance.  The average PDP plan star rating average has fluctuated in recent years while the MA-PD plan average has been increasing steadily.  Both plan types are rated on the same Part D performance factors.

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