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The Innovation versus Litigation Debate

April 30, 2009
12:00 pm

Last year, the Supreme Court, in its decision on Riegel v. Medtronic, essentially said that approval of a medical device by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration pre-empts liability cases in state courts against that device. There are rumblings on Capitol Hill concerning possible action to overturn the Riegel decision and create greater liability exposure for manufacturers.

Thus, the Riegel case becomes the latest platform from which to debate where to draw the line on acceptable litigation so that it doesn’t impede or undermine healthcare innovation.

This month, the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed) held a press briefing on the issue. AdvaMed president and CEO Steve Ubl made the point that increasing the uncertainty over whether a medical device could face expensive state lawsuits, regardless of having successfully undergoing the FDA approval process, will have a chilling effect on innovation. Read more

Medicare Part D Popularity is Instructive

April 29, 2009
9:27 am

Born out of political controversy and a litany of pundit predictions that it would never work (plans wouldn’t participate, seniors would be too confused by the choices, costs would be too high), the Medicare Part D prescription drug program continues to be quite the success story.

A survey of seniors nationwide, conducted in March by KRC Research, found that 84 percent feel favorably toward the Part D program.  That’s actually up six points from the program’s popularity rating in 2006.

The survey numbers demonstrate that Congress did a good job in constructing the program, relying upon competition between private plans to hold costs down and drive up value.  88 percent of those surveyed say their Part D plan is providing them good value on their medicines, and seven of every 10 respondents say they have lowered their prescription drug spending because of the benefit. Read more

The Washington Post Weighs In On Health Reform

April 27, 2009
10:17 am

The Washington Post editorial page took a strong position this morning on the role of a government-run health insurance option as part of healthcare reform.  Essentially, the Post asserted what a lot of us have been saying, that we are on the verge of achieving real, meaningful health reform and it would be a tragedy to squander this opportunity by going to war over controversial provisions that aren’t essential to expanding quality health coverage to all Americans.

I was particularly pleased to see the Post take note of the role private sector competition is playing within the Medicare Part D program in holding costs down.  In many ways, the Medicare prescription drug program provides some valuable lessons in how to create a structure that expands access to care while reining in costs.  As the Post noted… Read more

The Medicare Access Issue

April 25, 2009
10:32 am

Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, raised some interesting points in a commentary piece last week. He points out, utilizing data from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, that 28 percent of Medicare beneficiaries in 2008 had difficulty finding a primary care physician. That’s up from 24 percent in 2007. In his piece, Dr. Siegel told firsthand the story behind the statistics:

More and more of my fellow doctors are turning away Medicare patients because of the diminished reimbursements and the growing delay in payments. I’ve had several new Medicare patients come to my office in the last few months with multiple diseases and long lists of medications simply because their longtime provider — who they liked — abruptly stopped taking Medicare. Read more

Welcome to Prognosis

April 24, 2009
8:29 am

According to those in the know on such things, there is a new blog created every half-second.  That means 175,000 new blogs are finding a home on the Internet every single day.  That’s a staggering figure for those of us who struggle to find time to get through the entire newspaper in the morning.

Given this abundance of information on the Web, one needs a pretty compelling rationale to erect another dwelling in this already-crowded community.

Then again, there are few subjects as important as healthcare or, more specifically, better understanding the state of our nation’s healthcare system and its future.

That’s not to say there is a scarcity of interesting and insightful voices bringing provocative perspectives on health issues to the blogosphere.  Anyone who wants to add both breadth and depth to their understanding of today’s key health policy debates should add sites like the National Journal Health Blog or Disruptive Women in Health Care to their must-read list.

The niche we want to create for Prognosis is the nexus at which policy meets practice. The organization I head, the Healthcare Leadership Council, has a membership that includes many of the nation’s premier hospitals, academic health centers, innovative pharmaceutical and medical device companies, health insurers, pharmacies and health care services companies.

We’re going to discuss policy on this blog, but we’re also going to make readers more aware of the innovations taking place in healthcare delivery, financing and technology, and how health policy and healthcare practices affect one another.  As Congress tackles the tough issues of how we pay for and deliver healthcare while expanding access to every American, let’s have a robust discussion as to the real-world impact possible policy decisions may have on patients, physicians, hospitals and medical researchers.

Our blog title, by the way, stems from the Greek word prognostikos.  It means “to have knowledge beforehand.” Not that we’re claiming to predict the future in this space, but we hope that a better understanding of what’s happening today in American healthcare will better enable us to participate in the debate that will shape, hopefully, an exciting tomorrow.