KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

As Hill Panels Focus On Medicare, Marketplace Examines How Part D Changed The Pharmaceutical Industry

Medicare is a topic of conversation on Capitol Hill as a Senate committee holds a hearing on the Medicare Part D drug program. Meanwhile, on the House side, members of the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee heard testimony on patient cost-sharing that triggered a broad discussion of health care incentives within the program. 

Marketplace: How Medicare Part D Changed The Drug Industry
Later today, a U.S. Senate committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the prescription drug benefit program for seniors known as Medicare Part D. The program has been around now for 10 years. And it has meant tens of millions of new customers for pharmaceutical companies says Mark Duggan, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania. … Yale economist Fiona Scott Morton says the emphasis on cheaper drugs has pushed companies to be more innovative if they want a big payday (Gorenstein, 5/22).

MedPage Today: Focus On Medicare Cost Drivers, Congress Told
A congressional hearing on increasing patient cost sharing as a mechanism for Medicare reform turned into a call for broad changes to provider incentives in the program. Health policy experts told lawmakers Tuesday that payments need to move away from a volume-based fee-for-service if policymakers want to generate savings in Medicare. The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee called the hearing to examine bipartisan proposals for Medicare reform. Specifically, they wanted to discuss increasing the Part B deductible, increasing Part B and D premiums for wealthier seniors, and establishing a copay for home health services, subcommittee chair Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said. But experts called before the subcommittee called the proposals short-sighted and said they wouldn't do much other than cause beneficiaries to pay more (Pittman, 5/21).

Also in the news, the Medicare NewsGroup takes a look at how slowing health care costs impact Medicare -

The Medicare NewsGroup: Does Slow Health Care Cost Growth Matter For Medicare?
Medicare spending has generally increased at a rate faster than growth in the economy and national health expenditures, and it is expected to continue to do so according to the Medicare Board of Trustees 2012 report. From 2007 to 2011, a timespan that includes the U.S economic recession, the GDP grew at an average of 1.8 percent, national health expenditures grew at an average of 4.1 percent and aggregate Medicare spending grew at an average rate of more than 6 percent (Vahlkamp, 5/21).

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