What We're Reading: CMS Considering Changes to Medicare Part B Demonstration

What we're reading, June 29, 2016: CMS is considering changes to the proposed Medicare Part B demonstration; Senate Democrats block the GOP's Zika funding bill; and a Bloomberg analysis shines light on the pricing practices of the pharmaceutical industry.

A proposed change to Medicare Part B payment that has been met with some dissatisfaction from providers and patient groups could change in response to comments CMS received. According to The Wall Street Journal, Patrick Conway, MD, acting deputy administrator at CMS, said the agency is reviewing the more than 1300 public comments about the proposal and could alter the plan. Opponents to the proposal are concerned that it will limit seniors’ access to drugs. The proposed program would test changes to how providers are reimbursed for administering drugs in offices or outpatient settings.

Senate Democrats have blocked the GOP bill to fund the fight against the Zika virus. Democrats refused to pass the bill because Republicans had included in it provisions to deny new funding for Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico, reported AP. The legislation proposed funding of $1.1 billion, short of President Obama’s request of $1.9 billion. With the bill being blocked and Congress preparing for a 7-week vacation, it is unclear if a bill with funding to fight the virus will be passed.

In a special report, Bloomberg highlighted the secret drug pricing practices of the pharmaceutical industry. The analysis found even after estimated discounts are factored in, 30 of 39 medicines with global sales topping $1 billion a year had price increases that were more than double the rate of inflation from 2009 to 2015. Discounted prices for 27 drugs rose at rates of 25% or more compared with an increase of 9.5% for the consumer price index.