KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Administration Reverses Course On Proposed Medicare Drug Changes

After advancing a number of changes to the Medicare Part D program earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services withdrew its plan, which had drawn significant opposition from patients, drug companies and lawmakers in both parties.   

The Wall Street Journal: Proposed Medicare Part D Drug Changes Are Scrapped
In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed broad changes to the Medicare Part D prescription-drug program that covers medicines for about 39 million beneficiaries. Among the most contentious proposals was one to end the practice of covering essentially any type of antidepressant, antipsychotic or immunosuppressant prescription drug for consumers in the program. Medicare had said the plan was meant to save taxpayers money and simplify the program for seniors (Corbett Dooren, 3/10).

The New York Times: White House Withdraws Plan Allowing Limits To Medicare Coverage For Some Drugs
Under pressure from patients, pharmaceutical companies and members of Congress from both parties, the Obama administration on Monday withdrew a proposal that would have allowed insurers to limit Medicare coverage for certain classes of drugs, including those used to treat depression and schizophrenia (Pear, 3/10).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: Medicare Officials Back Away From Changes To Rx Plan
Facing heavy bipartisan opposition on Capitol Hill as well as from patient groups, businesses, insurers and others, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Monday it did not plan to move ahead "at this time" with several proposed changes to the Medicare prescription drug program (Carey, 3/10).

The Associated Press/Washington Post Administration Drops Proposed Medicare Changes
The Obama administration says it’s pulling the plug on proposed changes to the Medicare prescription program that ran into strong opposition on Capitol Hill. Among other changes, the regulation proposed to remove three classes of drugs from a special protected list that guarantees seniors access to a wide selection of critical medications (3/10).

Politico: Medicare Drug Changes Put On Hold After Criticism
CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner wrote in a letter to Congress Monday that she was shelving changes proposed in January that could have loosened the requirements that Medicare Part D insurance plans cover a broad range of drugs in six “protected classes” of medications. The changes also would have limited the number of drug plans that were available (Norman, 3/10).

Reuters: US Administration Pulls Back On Medicare Drug Benefit Proposal 
The Obama administration, in an abrupt about-face, said on Monday it would drop proposed changes to Medicare drug coverage that met wide opposition on grounds they would harm health benefits for the elderly and disabled. Late last week, more than 370 organizations representing insurers, drug makers, pharmacies, health providers and patients urged the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to withdraw changes it had proposed for Medicare Part D (Morgan, 3/10).

McClatchy: Obama Administration Abandons Medicare Changes
The Obama administration announced Monday that it will not proceed with several contentious proposals to change the Medicare prescription drug program in 2015 after congressional Democrats and Republicans expressed major concerns about the plans. "Given the complexities of these issues and stakeholder input, we do not plan to finalize these proposals at this time," wrote Medicare Administrator Maryilyn Tavenner in a letter to Congress on Monday. "We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years” (Pugh, 3/10).

In other Medicare news -

USA Today: Law, Healthier Beneficiaries Helping Trim Medicare Costs
Health care spending per Medicare recipient will slow in the future, because of lower payments to doctors, fewer services per beneficiary and a lower average age of beneficiary, according to a February monthly budget review by the Congressional Budget Office. "Under current law, spending per person in Medicare will increase much more slowly during the next decade than it has during the past few decades," CBO states in the review (Kennedy, 3/10).

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