The Trump administration moved swiftly this week to implement pieces of its plan to bring down drug prices. The Health and Human Services Department on Wednesday submitted a proposal to the White House that would curb kickback exemptions that allow drugmakers to offer insurers and pharmacy-benefit managers rebates widely blamed for keeping drug prices high. On the same day, the Food and Drug Administration released a plan to boost the market for biosimilars, or generic copies of expensive drugs that contain living organisms. On Thursday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb also said the agency would consider allowing importation of drugs from other countries under certain conditions, including when a generic-drug company that is the sole provider of a medication significantly raises the price of that drug.
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I give the President great credit for shining his spotlight on the ridiculous place the U.S. finds itself over drug prices. They are way too high, the private market has proven incapable of dealing with it––PBMs have only made the drug market more opaque, and the biggest drug purchaser in the world, the U.S. government, has been politically unwilling to deal with it.
All while other industrialized countries have nowhere near the problem.
What is even more frustrating is to see an easy solution that has worked for years in these other industrialized countries that, rather than being a single-payer government-run solution, is as American-style free market as it could be.
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Giving consumers the choice of purchasing renewal guarantees, either in conjunction with a short-term plan or as a standalone product protecting enrollees from re-underwriting in that market, would produce significant benefits well in excess of any costs. It would increase the number of Americans with health insurance, allow Americans to purchase insurance that respects their religious beliefs, and improve ObamaCare’s risk pools.
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The House Ways and Means Committee advanced a series of bills this week to expand health savings accounts and give direct assistance to families suffering from Obamacare’s price spikes. Among these bills is the Health Savings Act of 2018, sponsored by Rep. Michael Burgess, R-TX. Dr. Burgess’ bill would allow any person or family enrolled in a “bronze” or a catastrophic Obamacare plan to make an HSA contribution. Today, the most affordable health insurance plans in the individual market have cost exposures too high even for an HSA. It’s the worst of all worlds: an expensive premium, a high deductible, and no HSA eligibility despite sky-high out of pocket exposure.
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