KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Medicare Official Defends Proposed Changes To Prescription Drug Program

In written testimony, Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, says the changes are needed to head off cost increases, but an industry-sponsored study argues some of the changes could cost taxpayers more.

Reuters: U.S. Medicare Chief Defends Proposed Part D Drug Benefit Reforms
The Obama administration's top Medicare official on Tuesday defended proposed changes to the popular Part D drug benefits program for the elderly and disabled that are fiercely opposed by a broad network of drugmakers, insurers, healthcare providers and patient advocates. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a new rule in January that would fundamentally alter the program's private insurance coverage for certain drugs, change the pharmacy networks that some plans cover and limit the number of policies available to beneficiaries in any given region. ... Medicare chief Jonathan Blum said in written testimony to a congressional panel that the 2015 policy changes are needed to head off higher costs to the program from expensive new biologic therapies and rising subsidies for insurers and lower-income consumers (Morgan, 2/25).

Politico Pro: Study: Part D Rule Could Cost Feds Up To $1.6 Billion
If CMS follows through with its proposed revision of the Medicare prescription drug benefit, the federal government could spend up to $1.6 billion more on the program in 2015, according to a report released Tuesday by Milliman. The study, commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, comes ahead of a House hearing Wednesday on a proposed rule for the Part D program that the agency released in January. The study highlights CMS policy changes for "preferred provider networks" and new requirements on the mail-order drugs provided by pharmacy benefit managers (Norman, 2/25).

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