President Trump on Wednesday announced an executive order on a topic rather far afield from his usual concerns: improving care for patients with kidney disease.
That might seem like an obscure topic, but it’s a crucial one. A shortage of kidneys for transplant kills about 43,000 people every year.
A federal judge on Monday dealt a blow to the Trump administration by striking down a new rule that would have forced pharmaceutical companies to include the wholesale prices of their drugs in television advertising.
U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington sided with drugmakers Merck & Co Inc, Eli Lilly and Co and Amgen Inc by halting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule from taking effect on Tuesday as planned.
President Trump said Friday he was preparing an executive order that would lower drug prices so that the federal government would pay no more than the costs paid by other countries.
He said the action would focus on a “favored-nations clause,” which is generally a contract under which a seller gives buyers the same best terms it offers to others.
Rising out-of-pocket costs for drugs are a major concern of Americans, and for good reason. Recently, some members of Congress and officials at the Department of Health and Human Services have championed a particular strategy to address this problem: pegging U.S. drug prices to what other countries pay for the same medicines.
By the left’s account you’d think the Trump Administration’s only ambition on health care is to rip insurance from the poor and sick. So note that a Health and Human Services rule finalized last month represents a dramatic expansion in health-care choices for those who may have limited insurance options.
The Trump Administration finished regulations expanding health reimbursement arrangements, often known as HRAs. The arrangements will allow an employer to give a worker tax-exempt dollars to buy a health-insurance plan in the individual market. Such arrangements have existed in some form since the early 2000s, but the Obama Administration used the Affordable Care Act to limit them.
President Trump wants you to see upfront prices for health care. That’s why a few months ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently published a request for comments about whether and how to end secret prices in health care. The deadline for comments was last week, and the submissions from the industries most threatened by consumers knowing and comparing prices — hospitals and insurance companies — are an exercise in Swamp-o-nomics.
John Desser, Senior Vice President of Public Policy and Government Affairs at eHealth Inc. and former HHS official, said, “Any effort to bring more visibility and data to the consumer on health care costs is a step in the right direction. Health care is just far too opaque, and so anything we can do to address that is a step in the right direction — but there will be some controversy. There will be entrenched interests that will try to oppose it.”
While Washington debates whether the “rebate rule” proposed by the Trump administration would cause federal spending to rise, too many are forgetting the people it would help. The rebate rule would convert rebates on brand-name prescription drugs—paid by pharmaceutical companies to health insurance plans—into upfront discounts—shared directly with patients at the pharmacy. The rule affects seniors and low-income Americans in privately run Medicare and Medicaid plans, but the administration wants Congress to extend the same protection to all Americans with private insurance. This is the quickest way to lower consumers’ out-of-pocket costs for medicines—by billions each year. It’s also a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reset our system to work better, for all patients.
Despite all the hoopla about Obamacare and its individual plans, most working-age Americans still get their health insurance through their employers. And as countless health wonks have noted, there are lots of problems with that. Employer offerings are limited and are not portable when people switch jobs. And the tax advantages that perpetuate this situation distort the economy: They encourage companies to offer more and more compensation in the form of health benefits, and they are unfair to workers without access to employer plans.
The White House should consider building on the HRA rule by requiring that all newly incorporated businesses seeking the tax break for employer coverage do so through HRAs. Such a reform would preserve traditional employer-based group health insurance for those who have it, while ensuring that start-ups that evolve into the Googles and Apples of the future deploy the new model.