Taking the Right Meds at the Right Time: Medication Adherence, Health Outcomes and Costs

Evidence shows that medication adherence—the extent to which a person takes medications as prescribed by their health care providers—is associated with improved health care outcomes for many costly chronic conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. However, only 50% percent of Americans are estimated to take their medications as prescribed, and non-adherence is estimated to result in added direct and indirect costs to the healthcare system of over $300 billion per year. The challenges and policy questions surrounding medication adherence affect Medicare, Medicaid, and the private sector – and offer a window into broader questions surrounding the ability of our health care system to coordinate care, particularly for people with multiple chronic conditions. In this briefing, top experts from the public and private sectors explored key policy, practical, and research questions surrounding medication adherence and management of medications.

High-Need, High-Cost Patients: The Role of Behavioral Health

Behavioral health conditions, including mental health issues and substance use disorders, affect nearly one in five Americans and account for $57 billion in health care costs annually. This briefing discussed current initiatives to integrate behavioral and physical health care services in order to improve quality of care and reduce overall health care costs.

Prescription Drug Costs: Trends and Tradeoffs in the Pipeline from Lab to Market

Innovative drugs have brought about significant progress in treating costly and complex conditions. While there is agreement among many stakeholders that some of these breakthrough drugs have had a positive impact on Americans’ health and life expectancy, increasing prices have also caused some confusion about the methods by which drug prices are determined. The goal of this briefing was to discuss recent prescription drug price trends, as well as demystify the pricing process. It identified contributors to the rising prices of many drugs, including shareholder interests and R&D costs, in addition to explaining possible future pricing-related challenges for manufacturers, providers, and consumers.

Biosimilars Toolkit: Unpacking Complex Issues

The Alliance for Health Reform has released a new toolkit, “Biosimilars: Unpacking Complex Issues.” The Affordable Care Act created an expedited licensure pathway for biosimilars, and, in March 2015, the U.S. approved the first biosimilar, leaving policy makers, regulators, providers and stakeholders to grapple with regulatory and financial questions.

21st Century Cures: Can Congress Come Together?

Join us for a special breakfast for reporters, where former FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach will give you the latest on the fast-moving 21st Century Cures legislation. Karen Riley, deputy director of strategy at the FDA’s Office of External Affairs, will also be available to answer questions. The briefing comes just a week after the House Energy and Commerce Committee unveiled bipartisan draft legislation. The committee may begin voting on the measure as early as next week.

Improving Health Care Delivery: Innovation in the Private and Public Sectors

This event examined innovative efforts in both the private and public sectors to move toward a health system that is more patient-centered, cost-efficient and delivers better outcomes. It will address efforts underway at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) and other federal agencies to spur innovation and prioritize a shift toward higher quality care, as well as the progress made by the private sector in improving quality and reducing costs through innovation.

Health Care Costs: What You Need to Know

The briefing explored the trends in health care costs in both the public and private sectors. It explained recent moderate growth rates, along with possible reasons and prospects for the future. This session was especially helpful to congressional staff members new to the issue, but also served as a useful review for anyone working on health care policy.

Medicare Advantage in a Changing Health System

Almost three in ten Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the Medicare Advantage (MA) program, which offers a choice of competing private health plans – typically managed care plans such as HMOs and PPOs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) made significant changes to the way Medicare Advantage plans are paid, including tying a portion of payments to a quality star rating system. Despite predictions that MA enrollment would drop in the wake of scheduled payment reductions to the program, the percentage of seniors who are choosing to enroll in MA plans is still growing. However, the impact of upcoming reductions remains the subject of much debate.

21st Century Cancer Care: Will New Models Lead to Better Care at Lower Cost?

The United States spends more than $125 billion annually on cancer care. By 2022, there will be 18 million people with cancer and by 2030 cancer incidence is expected to rise by 2.3 million new cases per year. The high cost of cancer drugs and the “buy and bill” model of paying for them under Medicare have received significant attention. But other factors, such as highly-variable practice patterns and a lack of meaningful engagement of patients in care decisions, have also been called into question.

Replacing the SGR

With the cost of repealing the Sustainable Growth Rate for Medicare Physician Payment lower than ever, many suggest that 2014 is the year that permanent change may finally be realized. This toolkit provides a brief summary of the history of the SGR, including the recent actions by the House Energy and Commerce, House Ways and Means, and Senate Finance committees to repeal and reform the flawed physician payment system.

Beyond the SGR: Alternative Models

Congress is as close as it has ever been to scrapping the Medicare sustainable growth rate (SGR) for an alternative system of paying doctors based on the quality – rather than the quantity – of services.

Tackling Health Care Costs: Finding Common Ground

Despite slower health care spending growth over the last few years, long-term forecasts for overall health spending – and for public programs like Medicare – signal continuing concern. The idea behind numerous recent proposals is to find lasting solutions, and some areas of consensus are beginning to emerge.

Reference Pricing: Will Price Caps Help Contain Healthcare Costs?

Many employers have begun to adopt a strategy known as “reference pricing” to help reduce health care costs. Under this benefit design, employees get insurance plans that set price caps on certain services and procedures. Enrollees are allowed to use any provider. But if they use providers with fees higher than the “reference price,” they must pay the difference between the reference price limit, determined by the employer or insurer, and the actual charge.

Quality Care: Getting More Bang for the Buck?

Health care policy leaders are counting on public and private initiatives, such as paying for performance, to improve value in the health care equation in which cost and quality at times seem to be at odds.

Health Care Consolidation

The pace of health care consolidation is accelerating. Over half of hospitals were exploring a possible merger in 2013, and half were also planning to purchase physician practices. The dollar value of those acquisitions declined, however, as recent purchases have been less about megamergers and more about smaller entities as the newer targets of acquisition.