Because entitlement reform could touch nearly every medical lobby, all will keep eyes and ears on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s doings.
Doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, insurers, device-makers, and drug companies will be watching any Medicare or Medicaid cuts and will eagerly air their concerns long before any decisions are made.
Hospitals contend they’ve felt the brunt of Medicare cuts in the Affordable Care Act and several deficit-reduction measures since and are determined to prevent further hits. They should be vigilant: Committee Republicans continue to eye them as a source of future savings, as does the president’s budget.
Insurers worry about further cuts to Medicare Advantage, the private Medicare option, which is paid according to a formula that has also been recently cut. Many panel Republicans support the program and are unlikely to endorse further cuts. The powerful trade group America’s Health Insurance Plans has been lobbying hard on Medicare Advantage, distributing studies and organizing a grassroots campaign to argue that the various cuts would mean plans will fail and seniors will lose insurance coverage they want. That effort has had some effect on committee members, many of whom signed a letter that persuaded the Obama administration to revise a regulatory calculation that would have meant further reductions to the Medicare Advantage plans.
One big potential source of savings is reducing the amount paid to pharmaceutical companies for drugs purchased by low-income seniors who qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid. Such a price-fixing measure has few friends in the committee’s majority, but the president targets it for big savings. Individual drug manufacturers and PhRMA, their trade group, strongly oppose such a measure, which goes directly to their bottom line.
Among Food and Drug Administration legislation key to the industry are a user-fee bill it wants to pass and stringent standards for tracking drugs through the supply chain it doesn’t. Consumer groups will weigh in on the latter, favoring stricter standards as a way to better monitor the supply chain.
This article appears in the April 18, 2013, edition of NJ Daily as Health Care Interests Have Much to Monitor.