PhRMA Lobbying Power Topples the World

Dr. Doug Walta, recently retired chief executive of clinical programs, physician strategy, outreach and diversity for Providence Health & Services painted a bleak picture for Portland State University and Oregon Health Sciences University students preparing for careers in healthcare at a recent Institute for Healthcare Improvement Open School lecture.

The Lund Report, November 24, 2015
by Jan Johnson

America provides the world’s highest-priced care with the lowest life expectancy of developed countries, with half of all bankruptcies related to healthcare costs, while one in seven Medicare beneficiaries is harmed while hospitalized, Dr. Douglas Walta told students last week.

With 18 percent of GDP spent on healthcare, less money is available for schools, roads or other public goods. “We are a parasite taking it from everybody,” Walta said.

Trends portend a bleaker future still. “PhRMA has the most powerful lobby in the world,” controlling drug prices that even the federal government cannot negotiate, Walda said. “Universities have to sell their souls to the drug companies” because federal grant funding is largely gone.

Drug makers can charge $100,000 a year for a prostrate drug that doesn’t increase life expectancy. Hepatitis C drugs do cure the disease but “might break Oregon’s bank,” considering the number of cases in the state.

Only one in seven workers in the US is within a normal weight range, and rising obesity brings a cascade of vascular disease, joint disease and renal failure, Walta said.

The students themselves were less pessimistic.


U.S. Spends Too Little on Public Health Initiatives: Report

Just $251 per person goes annually toward programs to prevent costly chronic diseases

[Note: Thanks to Betty Johnson and Ida Heilander for forwarding this report. The U.S. National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council has yet to be funded.]

US News: HealthDay April 10, 2012

TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- The United States needs to spend more on its chronically underfunded public health system and use that money more efficiently, according to an Institute of Medicine report released Tuesday.

The United States spends more on health than any other nation -- nearly $2.5 trillion in 2009 -- but has lower scores on life expectancy, infant survival and other indicators of population health than other wealthy nations, according to the report.

Public health department initiatives, services and expertise can help prevent or decrease rates of chronic diseases that account for the bulk of rising U.S. health spending, the authors report.

However, only 3.1 percent of U.S. health spending went to government-administered public health in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid's National Health Expenditure Accounts. That works out to $251 per person in public health spending, compared with $8,086 per person in medical care spending.

The report calls for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish new goals for life expectancy and per-person health spending. The hope is that setting targets will motivate public health and medical care professionals to work together to maximize the value of health spending, and that public health skills and knowledge are used to address some of the biggest issues facing the larger health care system, such as the unnecessary use of medical procedures.

To achieve efficient use of public health dollars, the report recommended that the U.S. National Prevention, Health Promotion, and Public Health Council -- created by the Affordable Care Act -- should establish the minimum level of public health services every community should receive from its state and local health departments.


Experts predict sharp premium increases for Medicare drug plan

PBS News Hour: The Rundown, November 22, 2015
bY Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, Associated Press 

WASHINGTON — With time running out on open enrollment season, many seniors are facing sharply higher premiums for Medicare’s popular prescription drug program. The reason: rising drug costs have overtaken a long stretch of stable premiums.

Beneficiaries have until Dec. 7 to see if there’s a lower-cost plan that will cover their medications in 2016. Consumer advocates and experts say it will pay to shop around this sign-up season.

“Premiums are going up. Deductibles are going up,” said Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “There is some potential to save a lot of money by switching plans.

Government spending on the program also has risen significantly, driven by pricey new drugs, notably for hepatitis C infection. The cost for the hepatitis drugs in the Medicare program is expected to be $9.2 billion this year, a near doubling from 2014. Because of the prescription program’s financial structure, taxpayers cover most of the cost for expensive medications. Three out of four adults infected with hepatitis C are baby boomers, the group now entering Medicare.”