I had the pleasure of spending the day on Tuesday in Washington to discuss my favorite legislative topic – healthcare. First stop, the White House, where I met with the Special Assistant to the President for Health Policy. This was a lively discussion which covered rising drug prices, the opioid crisis, mental health parity and employer reporting. The reality in Washington is that strong bipartisan support is going to be necessary to do anything before the midterm elections. Opioid addiction is one of those issues. Both sides of the aisle appear ready to move boldly and decisively on this topic, which has become a national crisis.
A related subject, President Trump is slated to give a long-awaited speech laying out proposed actions to lower drug prices on Friday. Certainly, bold steps will be proposed although no one seems to be aware of exactly what the President will put forth. Both pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) and drug companies are vulnerable, as the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 52% of those polled felt that bringing down drug costs should be a legislative “top priority.” One rumor is that the anti-kickback exemption for drug rebates is at risk since rebates serve to create conflicting incentives. Another idea being floated is that Trump may announce ways to combat intentional drug manufacturer delays in getting generic drugs to market (such as creating a long-release formula to extend patent life).
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, said recently on drug pricing that “Action is desperately needed: There’s little difference for a sick patient between a miracle cure that hasn’t been discovered and one that is too expensive to use.”
We spent the afternoon visiting with bipartisan sponsors from both the House and Senate to discuss legislation to streamline employer reporting. As I left for Washington virtually all the clients I mentioned my trip to said, “tell them to do something about reporting.” This topic had support everywhere we went but as I have learned about politics, even that may not be enough to get these bills passed. I was led to believe that the House will look to move this forward in the summer months and sponsors are hopeful. But political wheels turn very slowly.