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Articles Tagged with medicare

The rising prices of existing and new brand prescription drugs could have serious consequences for tax payers and the 44 million seniors who rely on Medicare.  In order to rein in those costs, it’s vital for the Administration to encourage the use of generic drugs and biosimilars.

While Congress has been grabbing the headlines by holding numerous hearings and introducing various legislative proposals aimed at lowering drug prices, the Trump Administration has introduced some consumer-friendly changes to Medicare that should change the way drugs are priced for seniors and encourage the use of generics and biosimilars.  First, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) proposes to change how insurance plans and PBMs conduct drug utilization management and structure drug formularies.  Second, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) proposes to eliminate the rebates that pharmacy benefit managers (“PBMs”) receive from drug manufacturers and to encourage that any rebates go directly to seniors at the point of sale.

These significant reforms are necessary as the stakes are high.  Since 2006, Medicare Part D spending has more than doubled to roughly $100 billion per year in 2017, and it is expected to climb as a growing and aging population of baby boomers becomes Medicare eligible.  Today, despite making up a modest proportion of Part D prescriptions, brand drugs account for some 84% of total Part D spending.  Generics, meanwhile, which make up most of the Part D prescriptions, account for only 16% of the total spending and saved the Part D program approximately $82 billion in 2017.

On March 27, 2012, the DOJ announced it would require Humana, a leading health insurer in the United States with 2010 revenues of approximately $33.6 billion, and Arcadian, which had approximately 62,000 MA members in 15 states and 2010 revenues of $622 million, to divest assets relating to Arcadian’s MA business in parts of five states in order for Humana to proceed with its acquisition of Arcadian.  The DOJ required divestitures of health plans in 51 counties and parishes in Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas.  The transaction, as originally proposed, likely would have resulted in higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality MA plans purchased by Medicare beneficiaries.

According to the DOJ, individuals eligible for Medicare, primarily senior citizens, may elect to enroll in a privately provided MA plan instead of traditional Medicare.  In establishing the MA program, Congress intended that vigorous competition among private MA insurers would lead insurers to offer seniors a rich set of affordable benefits, provide a wide array of health-insurance choices, and be responsive to the demands of seniors.  Approximately 71,000 people were enrolled in MA plans in 51 counties and parishes, accounting for more than $700 million in annual commerce.

The transaction as proposed would have eliminated competition between Humana and Arcadian, two of the few significant sellers of MA plans in 45 of the counties and parishes, allowing Humana to increase prices and reduce the quality of MA plans sold to seniors there.  The original deal would have created a combined company controlling between 40% and 100% of the MA health insurance market in these counties and parishes.

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