On Monday, a federal judge blocked the Trump Administration regulation requiring drug manufacturers to include list prices in TV ads, ruling that HHS had overstepped its authority in requiring disclosures of this nature. In other major federal legislative news, President Trump announced his withdrawal of the rule that would have eliminated rebates to pharmacy benefit managers in Medicare Part D. Currently, $166 billion – roughly 37% of the nation’s expense on drugs –in discounts from pharmaceutical companies go directly to PBMs. Unfortunately, the decision to move away from his policy could lead to more attention toward other drug pricing policies, such as the proposed International Price Index for Medicare Part B. As the Administration weighs its next move, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee advanced 10 health care and drug pricing-related bills, including the FAIR Drug Pricing Act, requiring transparency from prescription drug manufacturers and enhanced transparency of rebates, price concessions and other fees negotiated by PBMs. And, the Senate HELP Committee updated the language of the “Lower Health Care Costs Act.”
Back in Massachusetts, budget deliberations continued over the, now two-week, delayed budget for FY2020 which began on July 1, 2019. Additionally, PBMs are coming under increasing scrutiny by the state. The Health Policy Commission held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the findings of its report on PBMs. HPC members then testified on the data, and discrepancies in drug prices as a result of spread pricing, at the Thursday House Post Audit and Oversight Committee hearing.
The conference committee heads into another week of budget deliberations to work on finalizing the FY2020 budget that is now three weeks delayed. Once final, both the House and Senate will vote and, if enacted, send the budget to the Governor who will have 10 days to approve the final and send back vetoes. As negotiations continue, the state government remains open under an interim budget for the Fiscal Year 2020, which began on July 1, 2019.
On Tuesday, the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing will hear testimony on House Bill 1192, an act relative to the examination of health care cost trends in MassHealth.