GOP targets Dems with “Medicscare” ads

https://www.axios.com/gop-targets-dems-with-medicscare-ads-abc27c8c-f2d2-4e3d-9d4b-40a5552d4444.html

Conservative and industry groups are trying to whip up opposition to President Biden’s massive social spending plan by warning it will imperil Medicare benefits, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: “Medicscare” is a well-worn political tactic precisely because it can be effective. For Democrats, there’s zero room for defections against the $3.5 trillion proposal if they want to pass the bill.

What’s happening: Senior citizens in Arizona, represented by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), potential Democratic holdout, have started receiving large boxes labeled “Medical Shipment. Please open immediately.”

  • Inside, they find an empty prescription drug bottle and literature warning of Democratic plans to “ration Medicare Part D.” That’s a reference to a budget reconciliation bill provision that would allow the government to negotiate Medicare reimbursement rates for prescription drugs.
  • The mailers are the work of the Common Sense Leadership Fund, a Republican-aligned advocacy group. The mailers in Arizona specifically target Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), who’s up for re-election next year.
  • CSLF spokesman Colin Reed told Axios the group is mailing the packages to seniors and unaffiliated voters in Arizona and New Hampshire, where the group is targeting Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), who’s also up for re-election.

Another nonprofit advocacy group, A Healthy Future, is targeting the prescription drug portions of the bill in a digital ad campaign aimed at key Democratic votes.

  • The group has spent nearly $300,000 on GoogleFacebook and Instagram ads aimed at Reps. Frank Pallone, Tom Malinowski and Andy Kim, all Democrats from New Jersey — where the drug industry has a huge economic footprint.
  • “This is a prescription for disaster,” its ads say. They urge calls to Congress to “oppose cutting Medicare to pay for the $3.5 trillion spending plan.”
  • It’s not clear who’s behind A Healthy Future — the group did not respond to inquiries from Axios — but its messaging on reconciliation and past policy fights track with drug industry priorities.

The big picture: Democrats have turned to drug pricing reforms to offset part of the legislation’s massive price tag, potentially paying for as much as $600 billion in new spending.

  • That’s drawn intense opposition from the pharmaceutical industry — and lawmakers who enjoy the industry’s backing.
  • If it’s included in the final version of the legislation, it could be a major sticking point for groups looking to peel off wobbly Democratic votes.
  • Sinema has already said she opposes the effort.

Yes, but: The Mediscare tactic is larger than just the drug pricing fight. Americans for Prosperity, the Koch-backed conservative advocacy group, is running its own ads warning of much larger impending Medicare cuts.

  • It says the spending bill’s efforts to expand Medicare will imperil the program itself.
  • “Medicare is set to go bankrupt in about four years,” the ads claim. “Congress is acting irresponsibly and putting the program in jeopardy.”
  • AFP’s ads have touched on drug pricing as well, which it’s dubbed “a 95% drug tax to fund $3.5 trillion in wasteful spending.”

Medicare spending on advertised drugs

Medicare beneficiaries spent more on advertised drugs, study finds - Axios

Prescription drugs with some of the highest Medicare spending also had the highest level of direct-to-consumer advertising, a recently-released GAO report found.

By the numbers: The GAO found the Medicare program and its beneficiaries spent nearly $324 billion on prescription drugs advertised to beneficiaries and other consumers between 2016 and 2018.

This amount is more than half (58%) of total Medicare Parts B and D spending on drugs during that time, the most recent data available.

  • Seven of the top 25 drugs in Part D and two of the top 25 drugs in Part B with the highest spending were also among the top 25 drugs with the highest consumer advertising spending that year.
  • For example, Trulicity, as well as Lyrica, Eliquis and Humira were among the top 25 drugs in Part D and direct-to-consumer advertising spending.
  • Keytruda and Botox were among the top 24 drugs in Part B and direct-to-consumer advertising spending.

Alzheimer’s drug presents Democrats’ new policy dilemma

New Alzheimer's drug could be 'devastating' for Medicare - POLITICO

With a $56,000-a-year price tag, Biogen’s newly approved Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm is dovetailing into the debate on Capitol Hill over how to lower prescription drug prices.

Why it matters: Democrats may be positioning themselves to push policy measures that assign value to drugs and then price them accordingly — a huge potential blow to the pharmaceutical industry.

To truly address its launch price, policymakers have to grapple with big questions the U.S. system currently avoids: How should we determine the value of a drug, and who gets to make that decision?

  • President Biden proposed giving an independent review board the power to determine the Medicare rate for new drugs that don’t have any competition.
  • Democrats’ most prominent drug legislation is a House bill that gives Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices.
  • Sen. Ron Wyden, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, recently called out Aduhelm by name in a document outlining the principles that will guide the Senate’s drug pricing bill, a hint that the Senate’s legislation will take a different direction than the House’s.

The bottom line: “Any kind of process for valuing new drugs like Aduhelm take you immediately into the controversial quagmire of how to quantify improvements in quality of life for people,” said KFF’s Larry Levitt.

Walmart Health COO outlines health insurance business: 5 things to know

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/payer-issues/walmart-health-coo-outlines-health-insurance-business-5-things-to-know.html?utm_medium=email

NCDHHS on Twitter: "A few years ago, Durham's David Tedrow couldn't drive a  car. He'd forgotten how to answer a telephone. Now, he's started Senior  Health Insurance Brokers, LLC, and was honored

Lori Flees, senior vice president and COO of Walmart Health, officially launched Walmart Insurance Services Oct. 6. The insurance agency will “assist people with enrolling in insurance plans and simplify what’s historically been a cumbersome, confusing process,” Ms. Flees said.

Five things to know:

1. Ms. Flees outlined the operations of Walmart Insurance Services in a Oct. 6 blog post. Walmart will begin selling Medicare insurance plans during this year’s open enrollment period, from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. 

2. Walmart Insurance Services will provide Medicare products, including Part D, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. The products will be offered by Humana, UnitedHealthcare, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Amerigroup, Simply Health, WellCare, Clover Health and Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield. More insurers will be added, Ms. Flees said.

3. In July, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette broke news that Walmart had started seeking Medicare sales managers and insurance agents for a new entity called Walmart Insurance Services.

4. In early October, Walmart announced its partnership with Medicare Advantage insurer Clover Health on its first health insurance plans, which will be open to half a million people in eight counties in Georgia.

5. Walmart’s insurance business is licensed in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Ms. Flees said the company has hired insurance agents to help people find insurance plans.

How much does Medicare spend on prescription drugs?

https://usafacts.org/reports/facts-in-focus/medicare-part-d-prescription-drug-cost?utm_source=EM&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=medicaredive

Image result for drug spending

As of 2017, the government now spends more on prescription drugs than private insurers or individuals out-of-pocket. Medicare payments alone account for 30% of the $333 billion spent on prescription drugs. In 2005, Medicare was responsible for just 2% of prescription spending.

Medicare’s expanding role at the pharmacy came with the 2006 creation of Medicare Part D, a program that offers supplemental prescription drug coverage plans to Medicare enrollees. The federal government tracks all claims paid for through Medicare Part D.

Sifting through the data allows one to see how spending on drug brands and drug types has changed for Medicare.

The graphs below show how spending has changed. Spending per claim, or simply the cost of a prescription, have gone up in drugs used for cancer treatments or diabetes. Meanwhile, prescription costs have gone down for blood pressure drugs, even as total claims for those drugs go up.

During 2017, Medicare Part D beneficiaries took out 1.4 billion prescription drug claims on 2,878 different brands of prescription drugs. The total spend, before rebates and discounts kick in, was $152 billion.

All those figures are up from 2013, when Medicare prescription drug spending stood at $102 billion on 1.2 billion claims on 2,294 different drugs. Between 2013 and 2017, prescription drug spending increased 15%, claims increased 18% and spending per claim increased 29% from $81.02 per claim to $104.56 per claim

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services documents drug spending for three programs: Medicare Part B (drugs administered by health professionals), Medicare Part D (prescription drugs patients generally administer themselves) and Medicaid (prescription drugs).

The interactive graphic below shows Part D total spending (combining out-of-pocket costs with Medicare payments) and claims from 2013 to 2017.