What We’re Reading: ACO REACH Coalition Launch; Concerns on Drug Price Increases; Lead Levels in Montana School Water

NAACOS announced the launch of the ACO REACH Coalition; US lawmakers signed a letter asking PhRMA President Stephen Ubl to explain the cause of drug price increases; of 222 Montana schools, 110 reported at least 1 sink or water fountain with lead levels above 15 parts per billion.

NAACOS Launches ACO REACH Coalition

The National Association of Accountable Care Organizations (NAACOS) announced the launch of the ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH) Coalition, which will focus on health equity by promoting shared learning and advocating on behalf of providers in this new Medicare value-based payment model, according to a NAACOS press release. This announcement comes after CMS said last week it is redesigning its ACO model away from its Global and Professional Direct Contracting (GPDC) model, which will continue until December 31, 2022, and immediately be replaced by the ACO REACH model. According to the release, this new model is the next step toward value-based care and accountable care that will benefit underserved communities.

US Lawmakers Push for Answers on Drug Price Increases

Thirteen US lawmakers signed a letter to Stephen Ubl, president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), pushing PhRMA to explain the cause of drug price increases and for information on the research costs and revenue from these drugs. As reported by Reuters, a PhRMA spokesperson reported a 1.3% increase in prices in 2021, and claimed the letter does not take into account “abusive” insurance practices and other factors that caused a general increase in health care costs. In the letter, the lawmakers cited 2 studies. One found that drugmakers increased prices for 72% of the 100 top-selling drugs in early 2022, and the other found increased prices for 16 of the top 20 Medicare Part D drugs.

Dangerously High Lead Levels in Montana School Water

As reported by Kaiser Health News, about half of schools in Montana that tested their water by mid-February had high levels of lead, according to state data. Under a new state rule, 589 Montana schools were required to test their lead levels in any sink or fountain used for drinking or food preparation. According to the rule, any water source with lead levels of at least 5 parts per billion (ppb) must be fixed or routinely flushed, and sources with more than 15 ppb must immediately be shut off. Of the 222 schools that did submit samples, 110 reported at least 1 sink or water fountain with lead levels above 15 ppb, which have since been blocked from use. The most concerning result came from Skyview High School in Billings, Montana, where a sink in a theater control room had a lead level of 7800 ppb—levels above 5000 ppb are deemed hazardous waste by federal environmental regulators.