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Newest Medicare proposal promotes Big Pharma's money-making scam by encouraging doctors to choose more costly brands over others


Medicare
(NaturalNews) The Department of Health and Human Services is proposing to test new methods of reimbursing cancer doctors for chemotherapy and other drugs, but it is facing furious pushback from oncologists and others who are demanding that the Obama Administration drop the plan.

As reported by The Associated Press, the outsized level of pushback to the plan has left many wondering if the government is even capable of battling rising drug prices and if the medical industry itself is taking advantage of a warped system.

At issue are some of the highest-priced medications that are used to treat life-threatening conditions and diseases, which is a top concern among the public and an issue that was supposed to have been solved by Obamacare.

As the AP reported further:

At issue are some of the most expensive drugs for treating life-changing diseases. The question isn't whether those drugs are fairly priced, but whether Medicare's current payment policy encourages doctors to prescribe the costliest medications so they can make more money.

Injected and infused drugs for such conditions as macular degeneration, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn's disease are also affected.

Currently, Medicare pays doctors and hospital outpatient clinics the national average retail price of a drug plus 6 percent, which has been reduced to an extent due to federal budget cuts. Of course, 6 percent of a $15,000 drug is much more than 6 percent of a $3,000 drug; the question is this: Is the huge discrepancy in pricing and reimbursement influencing doctors' drug-use decisions, which in turn is raising costs for the government and Medicare recipients?

"Medi-scare"

Medicare officials believe that is the case.

The new test plan, announced last month, would combine a 2.5 percent add-on with a set fee for each day the drug is being given. Meanwhile, a control group of physicians and hospitals would still be paid according to the current payment system.

If the experiment leads to lower costs without a drop in quality, then it is likely to be adopted as permanent policy. Officials said a planned second state of experimentation will attempt to tie what Medicare pays for a certain drug to how well it actually performs.

Upon hearing about the plan, medical specialists, Big Pharma and even some patient advocacy groups are trying to convince Medicare to abandon it. However, primary care physicians and providers, as well as economic experts and consumer advocates representing older Americans want the experiment to take place.

Opponents claim that, if Medicare makes the payment policy change then, cancer patients will be forced to go to outpatient hospital clinics instead of their own oncologist for the latest and most effective medications and treatments. That will happen, they say, because doctor-owned clinics and practices won't be able to afford the upfront costs of cutting-edge drugs. And they say the problem will compound itself in the rural areas of the country, forcing patients to drive longer distances to get to a hospital clinic.

Supporters say such rhetoric amounts to "Medi-scare," which is a well-used phrase to exaggerate the supposed impact of Medicare policy changes, in order to scare beneficiaries.

"When drugs are more profitable..."

Either way, the charges and counter-charges on both sides have ramped up.

"It is remarkably insulting that some people today think that cancer physicians in large numbers are saying, 'What's the most expensive way I can treat this patient?'" Dr. Allen Lichter, CEO of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which represents some 20,000 U.S. cancer specialists, told the AP.

He added that Medicare is making "a dreadful mistake," noting further that many cancer specialists don't really have any low-cost alternatives (though there certainly are lower-cost natural alternatives, as Natural News readers know).

"It will severely damage oncology practices across the country, and it will not solve what we have long recognized is a serious problem, that cancer drug prices are skyrocketing," he said.

However, Dr. Peter Bach, director of the policy center at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, said he thinks Medicare is doing the right thing. He said doctors are like all other humans – they respond to financial incentives, and the current payment scheme sends the wrong message.

"When drugs are more profitable, both doctors and hosptals [sic] tend to use them more," Bach said, as reported by The Seattle Times.

Sources:

SeattleTimes.com

TheHill.com

NaturalNews.com
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