Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tuesday update

The FEHBlog has been having internet difficulties at home which prevented new posts over the weekend. 

The House of Representatives is back to work today and the Senate returns next Monday to face the tax extenders issue again. The American Medical Association is pushing for a permanent replacement for the sustainable rate of growth formula used to set Medicare Part B reimbursements to doctors. The Hill's Healthwatch blog reports that
The AMA wants Congress to use savings from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to offset the cost of replacing the SGR. Some lawmakers have balked at using the savings as an offset, though Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) warmed up to the idea last year, saying the war savings and the SGR both amount to fake money. [FEHBlog note -- Good point!]
If Congress doesn’t tap into the war savings to offset its next doc fix, it will likely make targeted cuts to hospitals and other healthcare providers.
The New York Times reports that Walgreens is standing firm on its decision to end its contract with the large prescription benefits manager Express Scripts. According to the article, Walgreen's stock price dropped by 25% in the last sixth months of 2011 while the contract negotiations ground onto failure. "A spokesman for Express Scripts said the company remained open to having Walgreen in its network, 'but only at rates and terms that are right for our clients and in line with other pharmacies in our network.'”
The pharmacy benefit managers trade association announced today the launch of
a new ad campaign – "That's What PBMs Do" – that highlights the core value proposition of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The ad campaign focuses on key themes including:
• PBMs reduce pharmacy costs for employers, unions, and consumers
• PBMs play a key role in the Medicare Part D success story
• PBM mail-service pharmacy improves safety, savings, and convenience
"This ad campaign will educate policymakers and opinion leaders about the important savings and safety benefits PBMs provide to more than 216 million Americans," said PCMA President and CEO Mark Merritt."
Meanwhile Chain Drug Review reports that a coalition of consumer groups and "a growing number" of federal lawmakers are asking the Federal Trade Commission to reject the  Express Scripts merger with Medco on antitrust grounds.

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