Prescription Imports, Drug Prices Revealed: Trump’s Health Care Plans

As Democratic contenders for the White House battle it out over their visions for transforming health care in America, President Donald Trump continues to try to position himself as responsible for bringing down costs.

“People are concerned about the high health care cost and they’re also concerned about the experience they’re having with the health care system,” Seema Verma, head of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told WTTW News on Thursday during a trip to Chicago. “What I hear is most people are happy with their doctors, they’re happy with their private insurance. They’re concerned about health care costs, and they’re also concerned about the ease of using the health care system. Not having access to their to their health care record, not having pricing information.”

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In recent days, the Trump administration has rolled out a plan to permit certain drugs to be imported from Canada.

“Americans are having to travel to other countries to get lower-priced drugs. We don’t think that’s fair. Americans shouldn’t have to shoulder the cost for innovation for the entire world,” Verma said.

The concept has been met with pushback from drug companies and from Canadians wary of what it would do to their prescription drug supply and costs.

Another proposed rule would require hospitals to put on their websites prices they’ve negotiated with insurance companies for scheduled medical procedures; Verma said that will spur health care providers to be more competitive and will drive down costs, but hospitals argue that it will do the opposite.

“There’s huge variation – between 100% and 400% variation – in terms of health care prices. And we know Americans are some of the best consumers in the planet. They know how to shop around, they want to shop around. With deductibles increasing people want to have more information. So this is a step in the direction of allowing them to be able to even do this,” Verma said. “If you think about when you’re going shopping for a car or for an airline ticket or for really anything else in the economy, you have that information. But somehow in health care, which arguably could be some of the highest expenditures that you have in your household, you don’t have any of that information.”

Another forthcoming proposal could affect health centers in the Chicago area by diverting money spent to reimburse them for performing procedures on Medicare and Medicaid patients, to rural hospitals that are reimbursed at lower rates.

None of these proposals have been implemented yet, and challenges could prevent them from ever being put into action.

Meanwhile, despite Trump’s attempts to repeal it, former President Barack Obama’s signature health care program remains in place, albeit without the individual mandate that requires individuals to either purchase insurance or pay a penalty. But a court challenge backed by the Trump administration argued earlier this month has the potential to lead to its downfall.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky

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