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October 16, 2019

Drug pricing, research funding and physicians in health policy

New legislation would save the Medicare program $345 billion, and AGA urges Congress to make it less burdensome for GIs to participate in the Quality Payment Program.
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HOUSE COMMITTEES TAKE ACTION ON DRUG PRICING LEGISLATION

The House Ways and Means Committee, the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the House Education and Labor Committee took action this week on H.R. 3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, legislation that was drafted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA.  The legislation seeks to lower the costs of prescription drugs by allowing the government to negotiate drug prices on a certain number of drugs and ties the price of prescription drugs to an average cost of the same drugs in six other industrialized countries. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has estimated that H.R. 3 would save the Medicare program $345 billion between 2023 and 2029. However, CBO also cautioned that the savings generated by the legislation could impact the number of new drugs coming to market since the pharmaceutical industry would lose an estimated $500 billion to $1 trillion in revenue over a decade as a result of the changes in the bill. House leadership would like to vote on this legislation the last week of October. AGA will continue to monitor the drug pricing legislation being debated in Congress and continue to support legislation that is consistent with our principles on drug pricing.

AGA SIGNS MACRA EXTENDERS LETTER TO CMS

As part of the Alliance for Specialty Medicine, AGA signed a letter to Congress that urges legislators to extend positive physician payment updates to the conversion factor under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and the incentive payments under the advanced alternative payment model (A-APMs) under the Quality Payment Program (QPP). Since specialties like gastroenterology have no A-APMs in which they can participate except for an accountable care organization (ACO), which are typically more primary care focused, AGA and the alliance urged Congress to extend the opportunity for specialties to participate in future models.

These upcoming payment updates and bonus expirations could hinder clinicians from participating in the QPP and prevent patients’ access to specialty care.

HOUSE INTRODUCES LEGISLATION TO BOOST BIOMEDICAL RESEARCH 

The Biomedical Innovation Expansion Act (H.R. 4667) was introduced in the House, which would provide $10 billion in federal funding over 10 years to NIH to support its efforts in combating cancer, preventing antibiotic resistance and finding cures for rare diseases. The legislation, introduced by Reps. Mikie Sherrill, D-NJ, Mike Levin, D-CA, and Abigail Davis Spanberger, D-VA, would allocate the $10 billion in federal funding to some of NIH’s biggest initiatives occurring under the NIH Innovation Fund, including the Precision Medicine Initiative, the Brain Research Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies Initiative, the Beau Biden Cancer Moonshot and the Regenerative Medicine Innovation Project. AGA appreciates the introduction of this legislation as it aims to strengthen NIH and its work by providing sustainable, long-term funding. 

AN EMERGING ROLE FOR PHYSICIANS IN HEALTH POLICY ADVOCACY

AGA member and advocate, Sadeea Abbasi, MD, PhD, describes the day-to-day activities of physicians being consistent with the fundamentals of local advocacy practices in an article for GI&Hepatology News. “In our responsibility to preserve and promote human life, physicians are not only uniquely positioned for advocacy but also inherently assume the role of becoming health care activists.” Dr. Abbasi also highlights the need for physician engagement in advocacy and politics to ensure that physicians and patients voices are heard in the policy development process. To get involved in AGA’s ongoing advocacy efforts, visit the AGA Advocacy webpage or contact Jonathan Sollish at jsollish@gastro.org

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