From our Nation’s capital, the President presented his Fiscal Year 2024 budget to Congress today. Roll Call informs us
While spending would increase by $1.9 trillion over a decade, revenue would increase by $4.7 trillion, for over $2.8 trillion in a 10-year deficit reduction. But according to the Office of Management and Budget’s numbers, the budget shortfall would still total more than $17 trillion over the next decade even if Biden’s plans were fully implemented, which seems unlikely.
The Wall Street Journal adds, “Biden’s budget shows the rising cost of leaving Medicare and Social Security untouched. In the President’s blueprint, the two programs plus interest consume a sharply growing share of economic output.
The President’s proposed spending and tax increases will face an unfriendly reception among Republicans in Congress, as lawmakers gear up for a fight over the debt ceiling that could come before the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. GOP leaders in the House have called for unspecified spending cuts as a condition of raising the federal debt limit. But the president has said he won’t negotiate over raising the debt ceiling.
Republicans plan to release their own budget proposal in the coming months, though they haven’t agreed on a plan.
The President will make public more budget details over the next few days. Until then, it’s worth noting that the budget includes the following healthcare proposal
The budget proposes $11 billion for a five-year effort the White House hopes will eliminate hepatitis C in the U.S., said Dr. Francis Collins, the former National Institutes of Health director who is spearheading the initiative. Drugs to treat the disease have been on the market since 2013, but normally retail for about $24,000 per patient.
In related news, the American Hospital Association tells us,
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] today recommended screening all U.S. adults at least once in their lifetime for hepatitis B using three laboratory tests. It also expanded risk-based testing recommendations to certain populations and activities with increased risk for the hepatitis B virus.”
The FEHBlog is unsure how this meshes with the ACA’s preventive services mandate because the current US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation is Grade B for “screening for hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection in adolescents and adults at increased risk for infection.” The CDC’s new recommendation is significantly broader.
The Office of Personnel Management released on March 7 “a new memorandum today detailing a vision for the future of the workforce: a Federal government with a workforce that is inclusive, agile and engaged, with the right skills to enable mission delivery.”
From the public health front —
- The Kaiser Family Foundation notes ten numbers to mark the third anniversary of the Covid pandemic
- The Dana Farber Cancer Institute highlights a comprehensive article about colon cancer in young adults.
- The Food and Drug Administration “published updates to the mammography regulations to, among other things, require mammography facilities to notify patients about the density of their breasts, strengthen the FDA’s oversight and enforcement of facilities and help interpreting physicians better categorize and assess mammograms.
- The New York Times reports, “A review of poisonings among children 5 and younger found that opioids contributed to nearly half of the deaths from 2005 to 2018, largely from accidental overdoses, according to new research. * * * The study, published on Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics, analyzed 731 poisoning-related deaths that occurred from 2005 to 2018 across 40 states.”
From weight loss drugs front —
- STAT News continues its reporting on obesity drugs. The latest article concerns “‘Emotional hunger’ vs. ‘hungry gut’: The attempt to subtype obesity and tailor treatments.”
- Medscape provides the account of a physician who took the new obesity drugs, specifically Ozempic. This article is particularly worth a gander.
From the SDOH front, Mercer Consulting lays out its latest “Must-Do Strategy: Lean in on Benefits Strategy to Support DEI Goals.”
From the miscellany department
- Cigna offers its insights on how to choose among virtual care, urgent care centers, and emergency rooms.
- Beckers Hospital Review notes
- “In a March 8 Twitter thread, the FDA acknowledged it’s aware of a potential drug supply disruption after Gurnee, Ill.-based Akorn Operating Co. closed in late February.
- “The FDA clarified that the ongoing shortage is of a specific albuterol inhalation solution used in nebulizers, typically in hospitals, for patients having trouble breathing, not in inhalers at the consumer level. The agency said it is working with manufacturers to ease the shortage and “reiterated that outsourcing facilities may compound the specific product.”
Finally, following up on the FEHBlog’s message to Congress about FEHB prescription drug costs, OPM stated its position against carving out prescription drug coverage from FEHB carrier responsibilities in the agency’s FY 2018 annual financial report on page 123:
OPM does not concur with OIG’s suggestion that OPM continue to pursue efforts towards a prescription carve-out program. The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program is a market-based program that provides complete health benefits within each FEHB plan. The FEHB Program is not a self-funded plan and its statutory framework does not contemplate it to be the direct payer of benefits. Each FEHB Program plan offers comprehensive medical services including services provided by physicians and other health care professionals, hospital services, surgical services, prescription medications, medical supplies and devices, and mental health services. FEHB Program plans compete to offer all of these benefits in a high quality manner at the most competitive price possible.
Carving out pharmacy benefits or any of the other services normally covered under an FEHB Program contract and administering the benefit as a separate contract or program, could undermine the fundamental market-based nature ofthe FEHB Program. It would be disruptive and could lead to a reduction in plan participation, and limit the ability of FEHB carriers to focus on comprehensively improving the health of the population. There would likely be less effective
coordination of medical and pharmacy claims, and potentially less effective, one-size-fits-all pharmacy utilization and disease management programs. OPM is now assessing carrier performance on the basis of clinical quality measures that require tight coordination between medical and pharmacy benefits. A carved out pharmacy benefit is not consistent with or supportive of plan performance assessment, and may impair achievement of OPM’s long-term population health goals. As an example, carriers being held accountable for controlling diabetes and hypertension in the population they serve cannot do so readily if they do not have control over pharmacy benefit design and real time access to adherence data.
To control the cost of prescription drugs, OPM works with carriers to better manage pharmacy networks, focus on drug utilization techniques, coordinate coverage of specialty drugs between the medical and pharmacy benefit, optimize the prescription drug benefit via formulary design, and implement effective cost comparison tools for members and prospective enrollees. Additionally, OPM notes that the most recent drug trend reported by FEHB carriers showed a significantly slower rate of growth compared with previous years, in line with industry trends.
This statement continues to warm the FEHBlog’s heart.