KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Experts Offer Views On Controlling Health Care Costs

At two different forums, health care policy experts talk about changes in policy that might slow health spending.

Politico: Experts Debate All-Payer Setups Vs. Medicare For All
Health care prices are too damn high. That's the punch line to the provocative Time magazine piece "Bitter Pill" by Steven Brill, who laid out his diagnosis of the problem Wednesday at a Center for American Progress panel. ... But while many policy experts agree with much of Brill’s diagnosis of factors that are driving up costs, there’s far less consensus on what to do about it. Brill said the voluminous feedback he's received since publishing the article breaks down along two lines. Conservatives believe consumers need to have more "skin in the game" — to pay more of health costs so they become more conscientious shoppers and put pressure on providers to more efficiently compete for their business. And liberals see the solution in Medicare-for-all, a single-payer system, amplifying the negotiating might the federal health care program already leverages to keep costs down (Norman, 3/14).

Medpage Today: Follow Medicare Savings Model, Insurers Told
To slow down growth in health spending, health insurers could employ the same strategy Medicare used a decade ago to increase use of generic drugs, a former Medicare czar said. Medicare's prescription drug benefit created tiers of products, with much higher copays for brand-name drugs compared with their generic counterparts. As a result, seniors accelerated their use of the lower-cost generics and caused Medicare Part D spending to be much less than initially anticipated. Today, generics account for about 80 percent of all drugs dispensed. "What we haven't seen is that kind of approach hitting the rest of our healthcare system in any big way," said Mark McClellan, MD, PhD, who ran the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) when Part D was implemented in the middle of the last decade. But he added that such changes are starting to occur (Pittman, 3/13).

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