State and federal governments are looking into rising prescription drug prices, which Massachusetts regulators have identified as the fastest-growing element of the commonwealth’s healthcare annual cost growth.
In Washington, the House Ways & Means Committee, chaired by Massachusetts Representative Richard Neal (D), unanimously passed the bipartisan Prescription Drug STAR Act (H.R. 2113) on Tuesday. That act would:
Require drug manufacturers to publicly justify large price increases for existing drugs and high launch prices for new drugs.
Require applicable manufacturers to report to the Health & Human Services Secretary the total aggregate monetary value and quantity of samples provided to covered entities.
Require the Secretary to conduct a study on inpatient (Medicare Part A) drug costs, including trends in the use of inpatient drugs by hospital type.
Require the Secretary to publicly disclose the aggregate rebates, discounts, and other price concessions achieved by pharmaceutical benefits managers (PBMs) on a public website, so consumers, employers, and other payers can understand and compare the discounts PBMs receive.
Require all drug manufacturers to submit information to the Secretary on the average sales price for physician-administered drugs covered under Medicare Part B.
Neal was a featured speaker at the American Hospital Association annual meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. On Tuesday shortly before the Ways & Means vote on the STAR Act, he addressed the gathering, as did House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ken.).
In addition to his comments on the STAR Act, Neal issued a strong defense of the Affordable Care Act, saying, “I think that this constant threat and sabotage effort as it relates to the Affordable Care Act is unwarranted and indeed unwise. We should be working to repair the ACA. We should all be working together to buy into the idea of universal access to healthcare. That ought to be the standard we should try to embrace, that everyone has the chance to access healthcare.”
On the state level, last Thursday the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing reviewed two dozen bills dealing with prescription drug access, cost, and transparency.
In testimony submitted to the committee, MHA’s Senior Vice President of Government Advocacy Michael Sroczynski, said, “Hospitals, physicians, and health insurers are held accountable for healthcare costs, must meet healthcare cost growth benchmarks, and are required to report cost and utilization data to various state agencies. This data, in turn, is readily available to the public. Hospital financial information, in particular, is an open book. By contrast, there is currently little to no transparency around pharmaceutical costs.”