This post originally appeared in The St. Louis American on March 14, 2019.
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed a troubling regulation that would weaken Medicare Part D, the federal program that helps 45 million American seniors and people with disabilities afford prescription drugs. Part D is unique among government programs. The federal government allows people to purchase coverage from private insurers. The government subsidizes these plans but otherwise lets Medicare beneficiaries choose the coverage that's best for them.
This post originally appeared in the Chagrin Valley Today on March 7, 2019.
The Trump administration is poised to undermine senior citizens’ access to lifesaving medications. It recently proposed a rule that would weaken patient protections within Medicare’s “Part D” prescription drug benefit. Part D drug plans are required to cover all drugs in six “protected classes” of medicines. This ensures that seniors have widespread access to drugs used to treat cancer, depression, HIV and more.The administration wants to allow insurers to stop covering some drugs in the six protected classes. This change could result in poorer health outcomes for Medicare’s most vulnerable beneficiaries – and inflate health spending in the longrun.
As reported today by Politico, a new proposal to weaken Medicare's six protected classes policy could harm national efforts to eradicate HIV — a top priority of the Trump administration and HHS Secretary Alex Azar. "That's according to Precision Health Economics, which argues that applying negotiation tactics for protected classes drugs in Medicare Part D could harm patient access and end up hurting efforts to eradicate HIV. It's the latest in an effort led by AIDS United and other disease advocacy group to keep Medicare requirements to cover all protected class drugs."
This post originally appeared in The Independent on March 8, 2019.
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed a troubling regulation that would weaken Medicare Part D, the federal program that helps 45 million American seniors and people with disabilities afford prescription drugs. Part D is unique among government programs. The federal government allows people to purchase coverage from private insurers. The government subsidizes these plans but otherwise lets Medicare beneficiaries choose the coverage that’s best for them. Congress did put some guardrails on insurers when it created Part D. It required Part D plans to cover all medications in six “protected classes” of drugs, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants. These medicines help treat people with schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses.
This post originally appeared in the Daily Memphian on February 27, 2019.
As we trudge through February’s chill, rain and the ever-present potholes, I can’t help but look forward to the start of baseball season and those summer days having a cold beer while cheering my favorite team. Baseball is unpredictable. A stolen base, a wild pitch or a ninth-inning home run can change the course of the game. Epilepsy, like baseball, is unpredictable. Heat, humidity and exposure to the sun can trigger a seizure, and that’s what happened to a friend of mine who accompanied me to a game last season. The unpredictable nature of the disorder often makes epilepsy difficult to control and manage.
This post originally appeared in The Virginia Gazette on February 19, 2019.
At his pre-election campaign rallies, President Trump promised to protect Medicare. But now, his administration quietly embraces drastic changes that could choke off seniors' access to lifesaving treatments. Consider the administration's new guidance for Medicare Advantage, which enables about 20 million Medicare beneficiaries to obtain subsidized health plans from private insurers. The guidance, which took effect in January, allows insurers to force beneficiaries to try older, low-cost medications before they can access more advanced, expensive drugs.
This post originally appeared in Inside Health Policy on February 12, 2019.
HHS may stop the insurance industry practice of making seniors fail on drugs that have already failed for them when switching to a new Medicare drug plan, HHS Secretary Alex Azar told the American Medical Association Tuesday (Feb. 12).The practice is known as step therapy, though patient advocates often call it fail first. Azar learned of that application of the practice in meetings with patients and doctors who are urging against a separate HHS proposal to use step therapy more broadly in six protected drug classes.
This post originally appeared in Modern Healthcare on February 12, 2019.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the agency is exploring cracking down on a practice insurance plans use to make a patient start over on step therapy if they switch plans. Azar's comments before the American Medical Association's Advocacy Conference in Washington on Tuesday comes as the agency is proposing allowing Medicare Advantage plans to apply step therapy and prior authorization to drugs sold in Medicare Part B and Part D. The practice has opposition from some patient groups who fear that the tools hinder patient access.
The Partnership for Part D Access applauded HHS Secretary Alex Azar for his remarks in a speech today before the American Medical Association (AMA) in which he acknowledged the dangers inherent in requiring step therapy for patients who are already stabilized on an effective regimen of medications. Interestingly, his remarks seemed to run counter to his agency’s current proposal to weaken Medicare’s successful “six protected classes” policy. Given today’s statement, the Partnership urges the Secretary to abandon the administration’s proposal, which countless stakeholders would agree is “penny-wise and pound-foolish.”
This post originally appeared in Roll Call on February 5, 2019.
President Donald Trump’s plan to eliminate HIV transmission in the United States by 2030, which he announced Tuesday night, would be an ambitious goal that would require his administration to reverse course on a number of policies that potentially hinder access to HIV/AIDS care. “Together, we will defeat AIDS in America,” Trump said in his State of the Union address. He said that his budget will “ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years.”