On Friday the White House announced that President Trump’s initiative to increase transparency in Health Care costs was proceeding as planned and announced new proposed rules regarding health care price transparency.
In June the President signed an Executive Order to make federal agencies demand from hospitals, clear statements of prices for “standard charges” beginning in 2021. These statements would then be made public so that patients could see what they were being charged – something standard in pretty much nearly every other industry or transaction. This new initiative was called “Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First”
Friday’s announcement included new proposed rules on “transparency in coverage.” This would make insurance companies provide information about price and cost-sharing to the public so that they could compare prices and shop for their best options in health care in non-emergency situations.
Today the HHS Finance Committee met to take up the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Bill. The Senate and the House are moving quickly toward agreeing on a special session on Insulin. Testifiers included the major health insurance companies in Minnesota as well as advocates for the bill. There are still a lot of questions about who will actually pay for this in the end. Pharmaceutical Companies are supposed to reduce their prices, but cost-shifting will occur. The Insurance Companies testified that many employers are self-insured, which means that if the plans are imposed by law, they will find themselves paying more for their diabetic employees.
The committee heard new bill language which raised the threshold of incomes for people who qualify for the plan to $70,000 and included people who are insured but have deductibles of over $3000. The Senate plan differs from the house plan in that it is more about getting Diabetics coverage for insulin through MNSURE. The DFL plan is an emergency 90 day supply. Activists voiced the opinion that they like both plans and want to see both of them pass.
When legislation moves this quickly with a lot of momentum, nobody wants to hear any criticism. Hopefully, before the Governor calls a special session, legislators will take a step back and look at the forced aspects of the plan. There is an impact on healthcare costs more generally and it sets a precedent for government involvement in drug pricing and availability. The activists think that more government involvement and price controls in pharmaceuticals would be a good thing. You don't have to love Big Pharma to realize that the government may not have the patient's best interests at heart either. Government and Pharma have been working together for years through PBMs in Medicare drug pricing and have helped to create the system we have now. Chair Tina Liebling mentioned that she'd like to see the State of Minnesota essentially become a PBM--assert monopoly power in the state and negotiate all the prices for drugs.
What could possibly go wrong? Only everything that already has with drug pricing and bureaucratic failures. No transparency, no accountability, and no choice.
Today’s joint Senate hearing for HHS Finance, Policy and Reform was another exercise in frustration. DHS and HHS problems are continuing to unfold.
Since being elected in 2018, Rep. Jeremy Munson has been singularly focused on health care reform. He often tells the story about how he first became interested in health care when he, as a self-employed husband and father of 2 living in Lake Crystal, a small town south of Mankato, had to shop for health insurance for his family and found his choices limited and unaffordably expensive.
In the two years that he has served so far, he has championed practical solutions to the harsh realities of paying for health care in Minnesota today. To do that he has first had to counter solutions that did not work, or were simply another expensive band-aid on the problem and would result in more taxpayer money being spent to create more dependency on that money.