The Trump administration is preparing to do something that no administration in the modern era has ever attempted must less expressed an interest in doing: Taking on Big Pharma and its schemes to maximize profits at the expense of patients.
If you recall, one of the big, fat lies Barack Obama and his sycophantic Democratic allies in Congress told in order to dupe Americans into backing their “healthcare reform” plan was that the wrongly-named “Affordable” Care Act would reduce drug prices.
Sort of. Well, not really. Obama talked around the issue a lot when he was pressed (as you can see in this interview from 2011) but when it came right down to it, the “reform” law contained no provisions for dealing with rising drug prices. Which is why they continued to rise during his administration.
Now, President Donald J. Trump wants to take on Big Pharma in no uncertain terms.
In his State of the Union Address last month, Trump sent a signal that one of his administration’s most pressing priorities in the coming months and years is working to get the price of drugs down.
“One of my greatest priorities is to reduce the price of prescription drugs. In many other countries, these drugs cost far less than what we pay in the United States. That is why I have directed my administration to make fixing the injustice of high drug prices one of our top priorities. Prices will come down,” the president said.
That plan is being put into action. Newly-confirmed Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, along with White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney met with a small group of reporters last week to provide them with a preview into the administration’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget which provides some details into how the president intends to bring prices down and make good on his promise (something he’s good at).
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Azar noted that the administration seeks to accomplish the president’s objective by framing the issue with two principal questions: “How can we try to start flipping some of those incentives in the system geared towards higher prices? How do we find pockets of our programs where we maybe don’t negotiate enough or have people negotiating on our behalf to get as good of a deal?”
Trump officials are looking at policy shifts and changes in a number of federal agencies including the Food and Drug Administration, as well as current federal law and policies dealing with Medicaid, drug reimbursement, and other measures. (Related: Trump’s attack on Big Pharma’s cartel profiteering lost the drug industry about $25 billion in 20 minutes.)
As reported by The Western Journal, changes to Medicaid are key:
The administration is planning on asking Congress to clarify the definition of generic, over-the-counter drugs in an effort to avoid misclassifications that lead to exorbitant waste and provide potential loopholes for manufacturers to game the system.
Azar said the goal of asking Congress to specifically clarify drugs is to ensure that “generic and branded drugs are paying properly on the Medicaid rebate program.”
In a recent investigation, the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General discovered that drug makers misclassified perhaps as much as three percent of the drugs that qualified for Medicaid’s rebate program in 2016. Those miscalculations alone cost taxpayers a hefty $1 billion from 2012-2016.
The White House will also pursue legislation to give HHS the authority to permit a small number of states to see if they can manage to negotiate better prices with Big Pharma than the federal government currently gets under current Medicaid negotiation regulations.
“If they would like to take a shot at managing their formulary and negotiating better deals than we can get, we would like to do a pilot where up to five states could do that,” said Azar.
Trump will propose additional changes — to Medicaid and Medicare, the two largest government healthcare expenditures — and federal agencies like the FDA in order to get prices down.
Read more of J.D. Heyes’ work at The National Sentinel.