Weekend update

Congress remains in session this week. Both of the Committees with responsibility for OPM and FEHBP oversight will be holding business meetings. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will meet on Tuesday, and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will meet the following day.

The Senate Committee in the course of its meeting will consider the President’s nomination of Michael Mulvaney to be director of the Office of Management and Budget, a key position in the federal bureaucracy. Mr. Mulvaney is a Republican Congressman from South Carolina.

In a bit of good news, the Wall Street Journal reports that big prescription drug manufacturers like Merck have begun to publicize their pricing.

Merck & Co. published a list of average price increases across its drug portfolio on Friday. Merck raised its gross price an average of 9.6%. After rebates, discounts, and product returns, however, Merck realized an increase of just 5.5% on a net basis.
Other drugmakers plan to follow suit. Johnson & Johnson said it would publish a similar list next month. Executives at AbbVie and Allergan, meanwhile, have pledged to limit both the number and the magnitude of gross price increases going forward this year. 

[While Merck’s net increase is above the rate of inflation,] the Merck report is a meaningful step forward in improving pricing transparency. Drug companies have long argued that gross prices don’t reflect the revenue that actually accrues to the manufacturer. That statement has always been accurate. Other members of the pharmaceuticals supply chain, like pharmacy-benefit managers and drug wholesalers, also benefit from regular price hikes. The industry’s argument hasn’t clearly resonated with the general public or politicians. 

For what it’s worth, the point has resonated with the FEHBlog.

Speaking of prescription drugs, Fierce Healthcare reports on five steps that health plans can take to help control opioid abuse.  The study can be found here.  The report adds that

[I]nsurers have already taken steps to mitigate the opioid crisis. Cigna, for example, eliminated prior authorization rules that can lead to delays for patients receiving MAT. And last week, Anthem announced that it set a goal of reducing the amount of opioids dispensed among its members by 30% by the end of 2019.

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