Promises Kept? On Health Care, Trump’s Claims of ‘Monumental Steps’ Don’t Add Up

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In the Press

Katie Gudiksen
Katie GudiksenSenior Health Policy Researcher

Kaiser Health News

 Julie Rovner and Phil Galewitz
September 28, 2020

Senior Health Policy Researcher Katie Gudiksen was quoted in the 9/28/2020 Kaiser Health News article “Promises Kept? On Health Care, Trump’s Claims of ‘Monumental Steps’ Don’t Add Up“:

Trump pledged to attack high drug costs as one of his main campaign themes in 2016 and again this year. But he has not had the success he hoped for.

In one of the administration’s biggest moves, the Department of Health and Human Services approved a rule last week that allows states to set up programs to import drugs from Canada, where they are cheaper because the Canadian government limits prices. Yet, it’s unclear if the program will get off the ground, given drug industry opposition and resistance from the Canadian government.

In his health care policy speech Thursday, Trump promised to send each Medicare beneficiary a $200 discount card over the next several months to help them buy prescription drugs. The initiative is being done under a specific innovation program and must not add to the deficit. Administration officials Friday could not answer where they will get the nearly $7 billion to pay for what is perceived by many observers as a last-ditch stunt to win votes from older Americans.

The president previously signed an executive order that seeks to tie the price Medicare pays for drugs to a lower international reference price. The administration, however, hasn’t released formal regulations to implement the policy, which could take years, and the policy is expected to be challenged in court by the drug industry.

In addition, Medicare will cap the price of insulin at $35 per prescription starting in 2021 for people getting coverage through some drug plans. More than 3 million Medicare beneficiaries use insulin to control their diabetes.

Trump also signed a law banning gag clauses used by health plans and pharmacy benefit managers to bar pharmacists from telling consumers about lower-priced drug options.

The administration’s plan to require drug companies to provide prices in pharmaceutical advertising has been beaten back in court.

The administration points to the increased number of generic drugs that have been approved since Trump was elected, but many of those drugs are not on the market. That’s because generic companies sometimes make deals with brand-name manufacturers to delay introducing lower-cost versions of their medicines.

At the same time, several bills the president supported to lower prices have stalled in Congress because of partisan differences and industry opposition.

“I don’t think there has been any meaningful action that has had meaningful effect on drug prices,” said Katie Gudiksen, a senior health policy researcher at The Source on Healthcare Price and Competition, a project of UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.

Yet, she said, it’s possible Trump’s harsh criticism of the industry has had a chilling effect that led to lower prices.

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