Patent expirations on big-name drugs such as Lipitor and Plavix has resulted in modestly less spending on medicines in the United States for the first time in at least 55 years, according to a report released on Thursday.
Overall U.S. spending on medicines totaled $325.8 billion in 2012, down 1 percent from 2011, according to the report from the IMS Institute of Healthcare Informatics. Adjusting for population, per capita spending fell 3.5 percent to $898.
The drop - the first since IMS began tracking drug prices in 1957 - marks the beginning of what is expected to be several years in which U.S. spending on prescription drugs will grow more slowly than overall healthcare costs, said Michael Kleinrock, director of research development at IMS.
The shift is being made at the same time the Affordable Care Act, designed to improve access to healthcare insurance, gets set to take effect next year.
The biggest factor behind the drop was the availability of lower-cost generic versions of drugs such as Pfizer Inc’s cholesterol-lowering Lipitor. New generics contributed $28.9 billion to last year’s reduction in medicine spending.
Several members of the GOP deputy whip team said House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) alerted Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) last week that there were not enough votes to pass a bill aimed at revamping a portion of ObamaCare.
Regardless, sources said Cantor — who has been pushing for a kinder, gentler GOP national image — opted to move the measure forward. It passed the Rules Committee Tuesday night after being cleared by the Energy and Commerce panel on a party-line vote last week.
But lacking the votes, GOP leaders on Wednesday had to pull the bill, which would have transferred funds from the Affordable Care Act to pay for an extension of the high-risk federal insurance pool for individuals with pre-existing conditions.
Cantor’s office maintains that the measure could come up again in May, though GOP lawmakers are very skeptical that it will get a vote in the House this year. Democrats strongly oppose the measure, which was introduced by Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.) and attracted a White House veto threat earlier this week.
One veteran Republican lawmaker said of the decision to hold a vote on the controversial measure: “They’ve lost their minds.”
Cantor’s office on Thursday disputed any split with McCarthy.
Here is Paul Ryan’s path to a balanced budget in three sentences: He cuts deep into spending on health care for the poor and some combination of education, infrastructure, research, public-safety, and low-income programs. The Affordable Care Act’s Medicare cuts remain, but the military is spared, as is Social Security. There’s a vague individual tax reform plan that leaves only two tax brackets — 10 percent and 25 percent — and will require either huge, deficit-busting tax cuts or increasing taxes on poor and middle-class households, as well as a vague corporate tax reform plan that lowers the rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
But the real point of Ryan’s budget is its ambitious reforms, not its savings. It turns Medicare into a voucher program, turns Medicaid, food stamps, and a host of other programs for the poor into block grants managed by the states, shrinks the federal role on priorities like infrastructure and education to a tiny fraction of its current level, and envisions an entirely new tax code that will do much less to encourage home buying and health insurance.
Ryan’s budget is intended to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the relationship between Americans and their government. That, and not deficit reduction, is its real point, as it has been Ryan’s real point throughout his career.
The Catholic Diocese of Nashville has voluntarily withdrawn its appeal of the ruling by U.S. District Judge Todd Campbell in November dismissing its lawsuit against the federal Affordable Care Act requirements for contraceptive coverage for its employees.
The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati granted the diocese’s request Thursday and dismissed its appeal.
After Campbell dismissed the original lawsuit, the Affordable Care Act was amended so that churches would be exempt from the contraceptive mandate, thereby changing the requirements of the law.
Religious-based groups such as hospitals, schools and other charities aren’t exempt, but if they inform their insurance company of their objection to providing birth control, the insurance company will issue a separate policy just for contraception to the employee for free.
As has been well reported over the right wing media, last week, Johns Hopkins Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery Dr. Ben Carson gave a speech at the National Prayer Breakfast, and with President Obama seated just to his right, he indirectly criticized Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act by suggesting that children be given health savings accounts the day they are born. He also took indirect aim at the recent tax increases on the wealthy that were part of the “fiscal cliff” settlement, as Obama looked more and more visibly annoyed as the speech went on.
Now conservative columnist Cal Thomas was a lone voice on the right in criticizing Carson for using an occasion “devoted to drawing people closer to God and bridge partisan and cultural divides” to deliver a lecture on his politics, but elsewhere, he is being hailed as a hero. Now Carson’s personal story is truly remarkable (it was dramatized in the 2009 TV movie Gifted Hands, with Cuba Gooding Jr. playing Carson), but five’ll getcha ten it was this comment to Neil Cavuto, where he took direct aim at the “PC Police” which has made him an instant celeb:
DR. BENJAMIN CARSON: There are a group of people who would like to silence everybody and have everybody go along to get along, but that’s not going to be very helpful for us in the long run, in terms of solving our problems. And somebody has to be courageous enough to actually stand up to, you know, the bullies.
The bully in this instance is Obama, and Carson stood up to him, just as Romney did during the first presidential debate last year, just as wingnuts wish Newt Gingrich or Allen West could have had an opportunity to put this radical liberal Marxist Fascist Maoist Stalinist Nazi gay married community organizer in his place. The Christianist rhetoric about a tax policy that “comes from the Bible,” and the fact that he does not believe in evolution was merely being icing on the cake. Now it was a very eloquent speech, but he blew the right dog whistles, and the dogs all came running with leash in mouth, hoping it’s time for walkies.
And I think this is the chief reason there is talk that he should (or will) run for president in 2016, which is, coincidentally, a possibility Carson left open at the end of his segment with Cavuto, the entire video of which can be seen here.
Womens’ rights advocate Sandra Fluke is calling the Obama administration’s compromise allowing religious institutions an exemption from the Affordable Care Act “another step” in the process of women having easier access to birth control. “It meets the important criteria of women having access to the health care that they need and not infringing on any potential religious concerns,” she told NewsNation’s Tamron Hall.
The Department of Health and Human Services announced Friday that employers who wish to be filed under the exception will now need to prove they are non-profits and that religion is a core component of their mission. This reduces the number of requirements employers must meet from four to one. Employees enrolled in these plans are eligible to receive coverage through “separate individual health insurance policies” that won’t increase their premiums.
Last year, Fluke, a recent Georgetown Law School graduate, was criticized by right-wing talk show hosts after she testified in front of House Democrats that health insurance plans should have a mandate to cover contraceptives.
Initial response to the proposal from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was quiet, but The Becket Fund For Religious Liberty released a statement saying:
“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious freedom of millions of Americans. For instance, it does nothing to protect the rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby. The administration obviously realizes that the HHS mandate puts constitutional rights at risk.”
Birth control was illegal 97 years ago, when Margaret Sanger and her sister, Ethel, opened a clinic in a tiny storefront in Brooklyn — the first Planned Parenthood health center. For 10 cents apiece, women could get information about family planning. From the very first day, women lined up down the block with baby buggies and babies in their arms.
Back then, it wasn’t unusual for women to have eight or 10 children, and women routinely died in childbirth. Margaret’s own mother had died at the age of 48, her body literally worn out from having 11 children and seven miscarriages.
Ten days after Margaret opened her clinic, she was arrested and thrown in jail — where she taught her fellow inmates about birth control. And the Planned Parenthood movement was started.
In 1960, the pill was approved as a contraceptive by the FDA and began to change women’s lives dramatically. But we still had to fight. It wasn’t until 1965 that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that married couples had a right to use birth control, in a case heard on behalf of one of Planned Parenthood’s great leaders. Since then, we’ve spent decades trying to make birth control more affordable by getting health insurance coverage that includes birth control, like it does any other preventive care.
Today we are closer than ever to realizing that promise. This morning, the Department of Health and Human Services announced new guidance for implementing the birth control benefit of the Affordable Care Act. The proposed regulations released today make clear that women will have access to birth control at no cost, no matter where they work.
Regulations like this can get confusing. Here’s the bottom line: places of worship are exempt from the birth control benefit, and they always have been. Today’s regulations don’t expand the group of employers that are exempt. Instead, the regulations simplify the definition of who is exempt, and they map out how women at other religiously affiliated employers (like schools and hospitals) will get birth control at no cost.
A judge on Friday rejected claims by the Mennonite owners of a Lancaster County furniture maker that new federal health-care mandates violate their free-speech and religion rights by making them pay for employees’ contraceptive services.
In a 34-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Mitchell S. Goldberg said the owners of Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp. did not prove that complying with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act amounted to a “substantial burden” on their religious rights or that they qualified as a “religious employer” for an exemption.
The decision was the latest in a string of conflicting rulings across the country, but the first in the Third U.S. Judicial Circuit, which covers Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Lawyers say the issue could end up before the Supreme Court.
Conestoga, an East Earl-based furniture maker owned and operated by Norman Hahn and his family, had previously excluded contraceptive services such as the morning-after pill from the insurance coverage it offered its 950 employees.
Last month, the Hahns claimed in a lawsuit that the new law would unconstitutionally force them to offer such options, which they called a “sinful and immoral” affront to the Mennonite Christian beliefs on which they run their company. Violating the law, they said, would subject them to crippling fines - $95,000 a day, or $100 for each employee nationwide.
They also argued that the free-speech rights that the Supreme Court recognized for corporations in the 2010 Citizens United case should be extended to corporations’ religious rights.
Citing the potential for significant harm against the company, Goldberg issued a 14-day temporary restraining order late last month, and barred government officials from imposing the fines. Lawyers for both sides appeared before the judge last week.
Attorneys arguing on behalf of the Departments of Treasury and Health and Human Services countered that the claim was baseless because the new regulations apply to insurers and secular corporations, not their owners, and because the act gives workers options but does not force any to use them. The American Civil Liberties Union also filed an amicus brief siding with the government.
A divided federal appeals court has temporarily barred the U.S. government from requiring an Illinois company to obtain insurance coverage for contraceptives, as mandated under the 2010 healthcare overhaul, after the owners objected on religious grounds.
More than 40 lawsuits are challenging a requirement in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that requires most for-profit companies to offer workers insurance coverage for contraceptive drugs and devices and other birth control methods.
Friday’s 2-1 order by a panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago in favor of Cyril and Jane Korte was the second by a federal appeals court to temporarily halt enforcement against people who said it violated their faith, said Edward White, a lawyer for the Roman Catholic couple.
The 7th Circuit suggested that the couple’s legal challenge might eventually prevail.
Its order came two days after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor declined to block the provision’s enforcement against companies controlled by the family of Oklahoma City billionaire David Green.
The U.S. Department of Justice, which had defended the contraceptives provision, did not immediately respond on Saturday to a request for comment.