KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

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Critics Of Medicare Drug Proposal Say It Focuses On Money, And Not Patients’ Health

The Obama administration on Wednesday released a plan for a new way to reimburse doctors for prescription drugs under Medicare, which is already drawing backlash from manufacturers and health care providers. However, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt defended the proposal, saying, “There is nothing that we propose to do, or should do, in any way, that prevents a patient from getting a prescription medicine that they need."

The New York Times: Groups Scrutinize White House Plan To Cut Drug Costs In Medicare
The Obama administration touched off a tempest on Wednesday with its plan to test new ways of paying for prescription drugs under Medicare, widely seen as the administration’s first serious attempt to rein in drug spending. Groups representing Medicare beneficiaries welcomed some of the proposals but expressed concern about others. Drug manufacturers and some cancer doctors criticized the initiative, saying it placed too much emphasis on saving money and too little on ensuring patients’ access to treatment. (Pear, 3/9)

The Wall Street Journal: Health-Care Providers Aim To Fight Medicare Drug Plan
Specialty physicians and other health-care providers have launched efforts to derail a federal proposal to test whether paying doctors less for drugs administered under a Medicare program reduces spending, one day after the Obama administration released the plan. The administration says the proposal will help patients and won’t deny anyone access to drugs. But the reaction Wednesday suggested a major fight ahead, as specialty doctors, drug-industry groups and Republican lawmakers described the plan as ill-conceived. (Armour, 3/9)

The Hill: Medicare Official Defends Controversial Drug Plan
The top Medicare official defended the administration’s controversial new plan to overhaul payments for prescription drugs on Wednesday, which he pitched as a way to increase access to potentially life-saving medicine. “There is nothing that we propose to do, or should do, in any way, that prevents a patient from getting a prescription medicine that they need,” Andy Slavitt, the acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said Wednesday. Slavitt spoke for the first time about the Medicare proposal in front of more than 100 pharmaceutical executives at the annual Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) conference. (Ferris, 3/9)

In a separate move, CMS shocks the industry with another Medicare decision released in a memo —

Modern Healthcare: Cigna Could Save $350 Million From New Medicare Advantage Policy Shift
The CMS has scrapped a policy that reduced star ratings for Medicare Advantage plans facing sanctions for poor compliance. The move, which was quietly released by the CMS in a memo (PDF) and shocked many in the industry, will immediately protect hundreds of millions of dollars at Cigna Corp., which had its Medicare Advantage plans sanctioned in January. “It does seem pretty unusual to make this kind of dramatic change in a memo,” said Tom Kornfield, a vice president at consulting firm Avalere Health and former CMS official. “It sort of comes out of nowhere.” (Herman, 3/9)

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