Obama official pledges ‘adjustments’ to controversial Medicare proposal

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A top Obama administration health official told Congress Tuesday that the administration would make “adjustments” to a controversial Medicare drug pricing proposal to respond to concerns before it is finalized. 

{mosads}“We are reviewing the comments now and plan to make adjustments in the final rule,” Dr. Patrick Conway, the No. 2 official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said at hearing of the Senate Finance Committee. 

Conway, however, defended the overall approach, and it is expected that the administration will go forward with finalizing the rule despite the controversy. 

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed serious concerns with the administration’s proposal, which aims to fight high drug prices by changing the way Medicare Part B pays for drugs. 

Currently, Medicare pays doctors the average price of a drug plus 6 percent. The administration warns that system gives doctors an incentive to prescribe higher-cost drugs so that they get paid more. The pilot program would reduce the 6 percent add-on to 2.5 percent plus a flat fee of about $16. 

Republicans have called for the proposal to be scrapped altogether, while Democrats have expressed major reservations and called for changes. 

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, on Tuesday raised a common objection, that patient access to drugs could be harmed if doctors’ costs for a drug became higher than what Medicare reimbursed, especially in rural or small practices. 

“We will look closely at the comments and determine whether any adjustments are needed for rural practices or small practices,” Conway replied. 

Conway also mentioned the possibility of scaling back the project so it no longer applies to the whole country. 

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) expressed concern that the proposal “seems broader than is typical of a demonstration project.”


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