Mayo, Morning Joe and the Affordable Care Act

September 25, 2013
12:54 pm

Yesterday, Dr. John Noseworthy, President and CEO of the Mayo Clinic and a Healthcare Leadership Council member, appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program. It was an interesting and informative discussion about the need to reform Medicare’s Sustainable Growth Rate, the practical implications of the Affordable Care Act and how healthcare providers like Mayo have already been taking significant steps to elevate quality and cost-efficiency. It’s a video worth viewing.

Medicare Part D: Why Satisfaction Matters

September 18, 2013
10:18 am

Yesterday, the Healthcare Leadership Council, through its Medicare Today initiative, released its annual survey of seniors nationwide regarding their perceptions of and experiences with the Medicare Part D prescription drug program.  As has been the case since we began these surveys, the program is extraordinarily popular with seniors.  This year’s survey showed that 90 percent of respondents are satisfied with their Part D coverage.  They find their plans easy to use.  They’re saving money.  And, for many, their Part D plan is the difference between adhering to their doctor’s prescriptions and having to skip their medications.

That’s the what.  In this space, I want to discuss the why.  Why does it matter that the Medicare Part D program is so popular?  As some in Congress press to fundamentally change Part D by decimating its current pricing structure — either through mandatory drug company rebates to the government or shifting pricing authority from Part D plans to the Secretary of Health and Human Services — it’s worth noting three reasons why policymakers should take careful note of this program’s high approval ratings.

1)    The program is popular largely because it provides quality pharmaceutical coverage at an affordable price.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced this summer that average premiums in 2014 will be about $31 per month.  That’s the fourth straight year premiums have stayed level.  Obviously, competition between Part D plans is proving effective in keeping coverage affordable, a critical factor for seniors on fixed incomes.

2)    The Part D program has defied expectations since its inception.  Skepticism was abundant immediately after its enactment.  Plans wouldn’t participate.  Then, there would be too many plans participating and seniors would get confused.  The program would be a boondoggle for taxpayers.  Well, the results are in, and each state has an ample selection of plans.  Our survey shows seniors are negotiating the program without difficulty.  And overall program spending is 45 percent below original Congressional Budget Office projections.

3)    At a time in which citizens’ faith in government is at a disturbing low, a program that is overwhelmingly popular and that is spending at a rate far below expectations — certainly a rarity in Washington — is worth protecting, not remaking.

We’ll be sharing these survey results with members of Congress.  It’s our hope that lawmakers who are eyeing changes to Part D will realize that the program clearly isn’t broken and doesn’t need fixing.

The Need to Put Patients First

September 10, 2013
2:52 pm

Whenever we talk about comparative effectiveness research (CER) and using data to shape the direction of American healthcare, it’s always important to remind ourselves that the needs of patients must be kept foremost in mind.  Yes, discussions do need to focus on cost-efficiency and wringing unnecessary spending out of the system, but the real bottom line must be improving the healthcare system by expanding our knowledge on how to improve health outcomes.

On that note, there’s an upcoming event that should be highlighted on the calendar for those interested in CER and its potential impact on patient care.  On Monday, September 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Eastern time) at the W Hotel in Washington, DC, the National Health Council and the National Pharmaceutical Council are hosting a forum entitled “Putting Patients First ®:  Paving a Path to Useful CER.”  The focus of this event is on how CER stakeholders – including patients, providers, payers and researchers – can play a role in ensuring that the information emerging from this process is credible and useful and is communicated in an effective manner.

As the research process moves forward, this kind of stakeholder engagement is extremely important.   At HLC, we’ve met with the leadership and staff of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).  The PCORI team has a commitment to doing good work that can elevate the practice of evidence-based medicine.  Making CER relevant and valuable, though, requires the engagement of those on the front lines of healthcare delivery.  In that light, the September 30 forum is a significant stepping stone in the march forward.