A fight is brewing over a new Medicare proposal that would cut drug costs by changing how doctors are reimbursed for medications. Supporters believe it will encourage doctors to use less expensive drugs. Opponents claim it is misguided and puts costs ahead of quality and the judgment of doctors.
Patrick Conway, chief medical officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said in a telebriefing that the plan isn’t designed to save money. But he left little doubt that the ultimate aim is to eliminate incentives that may encourage doctors to select higher-priced medications that benefit their bottom lines but not their patients.
Conway called the current system — in which doctors are paid the average sales price plus 6 percent for handling and administration costs — a “perverse incentive structure that doesn’t benefit patients or the system.” He said oncologists have told CMS they sometimes feel pressure from their health-care systems to pick more expensive drugs to bolster profits.
A report in the Wall Street Journal described some of the reactions to the proposal.
- The Biotechnology Innovation Organization, billed as the largest trade association for biotech, said it was “gravely concerned.”
- Some cancer doctors want the proposal withdrawn because they fear independent practices will fold.
- Republicans who have railed against the Affordable Care Act say the plan was hatched in secrecy.
The Obama Administration announced the plan earlier this week and given some of the initial responses, it’s clear there is likely a major fight ahead. U.S. News & World Report echoed that sentiment running a headline that read, “Battle Lines Drawn Over Medicare Pricing Proposal.”
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) is very concerned about the escalating price of prescription drugs as hospitals and their patients also bear the burden of these costs. However, it is critical that the proposed solutions tackle the central problem of unrestrained pricing by drug companies and not inadvertently restrict access to needed drug therapies. AzHHA is evaluating the proposal with this in mind.
Now it’s your turn – share your thoughts on this new plan. Do you believe it will lower costs while still maintaining quality care, or do you think it is a heavy handed approach to force doctors to change the way they treat their patients? Digging into these types of controversial topics is essential if we hope to one day reach our goal of making Arizona the Healthiest State in the Nation!