Jaw-dropping Rx Spending Report; Schondelmeyer Testifies at the Capitol; Leadership Summit Excitement Grows; Are Your Employees Financially Fit?

March 29, 2016

Weekly Buzz: Drug Spending Spikes Once Again

Drug spending spikes have become the rule, hitting $457 billion in 2015. In 2014, the cost was up 12.6 percent from the year before. Growth in 2015 was largely attributable to higher drug prices and an increase in the number of prescriptions per person, according to a report released earlier this month by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation.

“After six years, the Affordable Care Act has extended health care coverage to millions of people. But affordability problems remain, most prominently in the area of prescription drugs…lawmakers and the public alike are in an uproar over prescription drug prices. Drug costs poll at the top of voters’ health care concerns, and the issue has been reflected both on the campaign trail and in congressional hearings.”

~ From Morning Consult Article: “Why Prescription Drugs Aren’t Part of Obamacare”

Time to Register for The Action Group’s Employer Leadership Summit!

Registration is open for The Action Group’s 9th Annual Employer Leadership Summit on April 22, 2016. This year’s Summit features innovators from across the health care industry who are successfully turning their vision into action. Among the featured topics will be emerging Minnesota health care companies, how La Crosse, Wisconsin became the nation’s leader in advance care planning, ongoing health care purchasing challenges, and a panel discussion about The Action Group’s unique Care Delivery Learning Networks. For the popular Innovator’s Showcase, we have again invited health care entrepreneurs to present their new business ventures. Please click here to see the full agenda.

There are just a couple of booths left for sponsors. If you or a partner organization would like to sponsor an exhibit, please contact us!


Sponsor Logos

Meet Featured Summit Presenter, Olivia Ross, M.P.H., M.B.A.

Olivia RossOlivia Ross, associate director with the Pacific Business Group on Health (PBGH) New Initiatives team, will join our panel discussion: “Lessons from The Action Group’s Exclusive Learning Networks.”  She holds a Master in Public Health (MPH) from UCLA, and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University.

Olivia’s projects include management of the PBGH Employers Centers of Excellence Network, which is a multi-purchaser (employer) collaborative established by PBGH as part of its commitment to improving the quality and affordability of health care. Additionally, she participates in several ongoing projects focused on changing physician and hospital financial incentives to ensure high-quality health care delivery, while also containing costs.

Olivia has also worked for the Feinberg School of Medicine Center for Healthcare Studies at Northwestern University, and served as the research project manager of the Northwestern University Transplantation Outcomes Research Collaborative.

New Blog! How Improving Health Literacy and Financial Wellness Improves Lives

Denise Winston

Most employees are not financial planners, financial experts, or health care specialists. Yet we expect them to make decisions about tens of thousands of dollars each year in the form of health insurance, health savings accounts, 401(k) plans, and other employee benefits – on top of the other six to 10 financial decisions they make each day. Unfortunately, employees often make decisions on sophisticated and complex health and financial situations with very little or no education. Learn about what you can do to boost health and financial literacy among your employees from national expert, Denise Winston.

April is National Financial Literacy Month

National financial literacy month (dubbed Financial Capability Month in Minnesota) is recognized in the U.S. in April to highlight the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy financial habits. To learn more about related events, visit debtadvice.org. This website also includes a variety of free consumer education tools.

New Employee Education Tools Now Available From Choosing Wisely®

The Action Group has long supported Choosing Wisely and its efforts to advance a national dialogue on avoiding wasteful or unnecessary medical tests, treatments and procedures. To view a number of Choosing Wisely resources and a blog about how the City of Minneapolis has added it to its health and wellness strategy, click here.

Here are the newest materials:

From the Capitol

State CapitolThe pace is quickening at the Capitol as legislators work to get their bills heard by the April 8 policy deadline. Combined with the Easter holiday break that shortened both this and last week, it all adds up to a harried environment in St. Paul.

Legislative leadership continues to predict no new major initiatives or spending in health care; however, the policy committees are staying busy. Last Thursday, the Senate Health Policy committee heard four bills related to pharmacy pricing and transparency. While the bills are not expected to move forward in the House, it is another indicator that as a policy and political issue, pharmaceuticals continue to be top of mind for legislators. The list of bills heard is below:

S.F. 2948 Franzen Prescription drugs: Free product vouchers and discount use prohibition.
S.F. 2946 Franzen Academic prescription drug education program establishment and appropriation.
S.F. 2941 Franzen Qualifying prescription drugs cost disclosure requirement.
S.F. 2239 Lourey Canadian Pharmacies prescription drug reimportation program establishment.

SF2948: Dr. Stephen Schondelmeyer testified in favor, saying employers were very concerned about the impact of voucher and coupon programs for drugs, citing The Action Group as one example. PhRMA spoke against the bill, saying vouchers improved affordability and access for patients who do not have the option for generic drugs. While some members expressed a desire for more information and data around the proposal, the bill was passed to the Senate floor. To read a recent article about the fact that rebates do not take a bite out of rising drug prices, click here.

SF2946: The commissioner of human services would collaborate with the Board of Pharmacy and the School of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota to develop an outreach program designed to educate professionals on the cost-effective utilization of certain drugs. Several stakeholders feel this could be duplicative; bill was passed on to the Senate Finance committee.

SF2942: An annual cost report on certain expensive ($1,000+/month) drugs would be required. Included in the report would be costs for research and development, clinical trials, and marketing. Dr. Schondelmeyer again testified in favor of the bill, while PhRMA and Minnesota Medical Alley spoke against citing legal violations requiring private companies to disclose such information. The bill was passed to Finance.

SF2239: Creating drug importation programs was an idea that has been tried previously, including an attempt from then U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton. While the FDA currently does not allow for such a program in federal law, Sen. Lourey is interested in looking into possible variations that could be feasible. The bill was passed to the Senate Commerce committee.

Thought for the Week

“That is probably my single greatest regret, is we didn’t have the chance to get negotiating power for Medicare for drugs. That would have made a profound difference [in the ACA].”

Former Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), a member of the Finance Committee when the health care law was being negotiated and passed throughout 2009 and into 2010.