Trump’s plan to ‘lower drug costs’ is a bait-and-switch that leaves seniors paying more.

On Thursday, January 31, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) led by Secretary Alex Azar, announced a proposal that will have the biggest impact on the American healthcare system since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010.

The Trump Administration aims to lower drug prices for recipients of Medicare and other government programs by banning drug makers from paying rebates to pharmacy benefits middlemen known as PBMs.

Ironically, Azar is the former president of Lilly USA, a pharmaceutical company that has been criticized for raising its prices. During his decade with Lilly, the company notoriously tripled the price of insulin.


[rebelmouse-image 19346102 dam="1" original_size="713x413" caption="via Brookings Institution / Flickr" expand=1]via Brookings Institution / Flickr

Unfortunately for seniors, the new policy is a huge bait and switch that leaves most paying more — a fact the HHS admits in its own report.

THE BAIT

The HHS claims that its new policy will lower out-of-pocket drug costs from 9 to 14%.

“This proposal has the potential to be the most significant change in how Americans’ drugs are priced at the pharmacy counter, ever, and finally ease the burden of the sticker shock that millions of Americans experience every month for the drugs they need,” Azar said in a statement.

But are PBMs really the price gouging bogeymen the HHS claims them to be?

According to Forbes’ Policy Editor Avik Roy, the attack on PBMs for high drug prices is “balderdash” — a classy term for "bullshit" — and a PR strategy cooked up by drug companies to shift the blame for their high prices.  

THE SWITCH

While the Administration has been touting the over-the-counter cost savings of its new proposal, they’ve been quiet about the increase in premiums for Medicare drug plans the proposal will create.

Health insurance companies work with PBMs because they do an effective job at keeping their prices down by providing patients with medications at the lowest possible price. So without these protections, insurance premiums for Medicare drug plans will rise.

Over 77% of people on Medicare are also enrolled in a prescription drug Part D plan and, according to Bloomberg, premiums for Medicare drug plans under the proposal could increase anywhere from 8% to 22%.

The HHS admits in its own report that 70% of Medicare part D users will pay more after the new policy.

However, the authors of the report spun it as a positive.

“An estimated 30% of Part D beneficiaries have drug costs high enough that their out-of-pocket savings will likely exceed any premium changes,” the report reads.

That means 70% of Part D beneficiaries will pay more for insurance premium increases than they will save from the potential drop in drug prices.

“The majority of Medicare beneficiaries will see their premiums and total out-of-pocket costs increase if this proposal is finalized,” House of Representatives Ways & Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal of Massachusetts and Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey said in a joint statement. “We are concerned that this is not the right approach.”

The proposal has zero protections against drug manufacturers raising their prices.

[rebelmouse-image 19346103 dam="1" original_size="833x419" caption="via Rural Health Professions Action Plan" expand=1]via Rural Health Professions Action Plan

“Azar said Friday that the rule would deprive drug makers of an excuse for not lowering list prices. But the rule says manufacturers could reset their pricing strategies,” Bloomberg said.

Peter Bach, director of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center for Health Policy and Outcomes, told Politico that drug makers don’t increase their prices due to PBM rebates, but “to increase their revenues.”

“From the start, the focus on rebates has been a distraction from the real issue,” Matt Eyles, president and CEO of America’s Health Insurance Plans, told Politico. “The problem is price. Manufacturers have complete control over how drug prices are set. Already this year, more than three dozen drug makers have raised their prices on hundreds of medications.”

IT'S HARD TO TRUST THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION ON HEALTHCARE

While running for president in 2016, Donald Trump promised voters that his Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bill would provide insurance for everyone. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us," he said.

Instead, the proposal would have caused 14 million people to lose their healthcare immediately and another 10 million people to lose it over the next decade.

Luckily, it failed to pass the Senate.

In October 2018, the Trump Administration imposed new rules to make it easier for insurance providers to discriminate against sick consumers. While on the same day, he told supporters at a Philadelphia rally, “We will always protect Americans with preexisting conditions.”

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The new rule includes a 60-day period for public comment. The new protections could go into effect as soon as that period passes.

It's unlikely that this proposal will affect working Americans' healthcare in the near future because it has been criticized by two committees overseeing healthcare in the Democrat-controlled House.

Joy

Man uses TikTok to offer 'dinner with dad' to any kid that needs one, even adult ones

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud.

Come for the food, stay for the wholesomeness.

Summer Clayton is the father of 2.4 million kids and he couldn’t be more proud. His TikTok channel is dedicated to giving people intimate conversations they might long to have with their own father, but can’t. The most popular is his “Dinner With Dad” segment.

The concept is simple: Clayton, aka Dad, always sets down two plates of food. He always tells you what’s for dinner. He always blesses the food. He always checks in with how you’re doing.

I stress the stability here, because as someone who grew up with a less-than-stable relationship with their parents, it stood out immediately. I found myself breathing a sigh of relief at Clayton’s consistency. I also noticed the immediate emotional connection created just by being asked, “How was your day?” According to relationship coach and couples counselor Don Olund, these two elements—stability and connection—are fundamental cravings that children have of their parents. Perhaps we never really stop needing it from them.


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All photos from Pilllsbury used with permission

Pillsbury is partnering with non profit, Operation Homefront, to provide housing for veterans

True

It’s the dream of many veterans: a safe and swift return to the security of home – to a place where time can be spent with family while becoming part of a community and creating new memories. With the partnership of non-profit Operation Homefront, Pillsbury is helping give military families the opportunity to do just that.

For many of our American soldiers, the dream of making a comfortable return to civilian life is often dashed by harsh realities. Pew Research Center reports that 44% of veterans who have served since Sept 11, 2001 noted having a difficult time re-adjusting. From re-entering into the workforce to finding healthcare services, returning to civilian life can be a harrowing transition. While serving in the military is incredibly stressful, it also provides routine, structure and purpose that is not easily replicated in civilian life. Couple this with a lack of helpful resources for veterans, and the hope for a brighter future can be easily derailed.


However, some companies and organizations are stepping in to show support and provide resources. Operation Homefront, an organization dedicated to helping military families transition back to civilian life, launched its Transitional Homes for Veterans (THV) Program in 2018. The program places veteran families in safe, secure, rent-free single-family homes for a period of two-to-three years while providing financial coaching and training to reduce debt, increase savings, and prepare for independent home ownership. Since the THV’s inception, Operation Homefront has defrayed more than $500K in mortgage costs to military families.

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TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

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