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Health care spending seen doubling in 10 years


health careU.S. spending on prescription drugs, hospital care and other health services is expected to double to $4.1 trillion over the next decade, up from $2.1 trillion in 2006, a government report released on Wednesday found.

Despite relative stability in recent years, nearly 20 cents of every dollar spent in 10 years will go toward health care, National Health Statistics Group economists said in their projections looking at 2006 to 2016.

Last year's health spending should make up about 16 cents for every dollar spent, they wrote in the journal Health Affairs.

Lead author John Poisal told reporters a major factor was an aging population as the "leading edge of the baby boom generation becomes eligible for Medicare," the nation's insurance program for those age 65 and older.

Bush Budget: Cut Medicare and Medicaid Growth Rate


FDAMONDAY, Feb. 5 (HealthDay News) -- President Bush's proposed $2.9 trillion federal budget, unveiled Monday, calls for health care spending cuts, including a major five-year reduction in Medicare expenditures to slow the program's annual growth rate from 6.5 percent to 5.6 percent.

The proposed total cuts of $78 billion for Medicare and Medicaid -- the federal health insurance programs for the elderly and lower-income Americans, respectively -- are part of Bush's plan to eliminate the federal deficit by 2012. However, Medicare spending would increase nearly $454 billion in 2008, an increase of $28 billion over this year, before the proposed reductions take effect.

The total 2008 budget for federal health care, administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would be nearly $700 billion for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, an increase of more than $28 billion over 2007. Medicare makes up 55.4 percent of the HHS budget, while Medicaid accounts for 29 percent.

Health-care spending hits nearly $2 trillion


medicaidU.S. spending on health care hit nearly $2 trillion in 2005, fueled by the cost of hospital care, doctor fees and prescription drugs, government experts said in an annual report released on Tuesday.

Health-care spending grew 6.9 percent to about $1.99 trillion from about $1.86 trillion in 2004, a slower pace than the 7.9 percent increase a year earlier, the report by the National Health Statistics Group found. The increase outpaced a 3.4 percent rise in inflation in 2005.

The statistics group is part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the single largest payer for U.S. health care.

Officials seek to restore Medicare drug safety net


medicareState government on Jan. 1 stopped covering emergency 30-day supplies of prescription drugs for seniors having difficulty obtaining medications under the new federal Medicare benefit. Before expiring, the program had covered 150 prescriptions per day, according to its supporters.

The state-sponsored Medicare Party D Safety Net program was enacted by the Legislature and signed by former governor Mitt Romney in December 2005 and lapsed on Dec. 31, 2006, after the House and Senate could not agree on an extension -- the Senate favored one, but it was dropped by the House in deliberations on an unrelated bill.

According to Health Care For All, an advocacy group that is pushing for the benefit's restoration, individuals are walking away from pharmacy counters without prescribed medications because they can't afford to pay for them.

Democrat-controlled Congress bad medicine for drugmakers


congressPfizer Inc., Amgen Inc. and the rest of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry awoke to a new reality this week: a Congress controlled by Democrats determined to impose costly restrictions on their business.

Five committees are planning investigations into how to lower prices paid by Medicare, improve drug-safety enforcement and make generic medications available faster. Further probes and policy salvos may follow.

The pharmaceutical firms depend on a friendly federal government: A sixth of 2006 growth in the $252 billion U.S. drug market came from Medicare, according to estimates from IMS Health Inc., a Fairfield, Conn.-based research firm. Moreover, both Democrats and the companies are well aware that the industry gave at least two-thirds of its political donations to Republicans in recent elections.

Medicare's Prescription Drug Plan Enrollment Deadline Looms

medicare cardHealthDay News  -- The deadline for enrolling in or changing your Medicare prescription drug plan is fast approaching, and experts agree that you need to choose carefully because premiums have increased and drug coverage has changed in many plans.

"In terms of premium increases, 77 percent of drug plan enrollees are in plans where premiums will be increasing," said Larry Levitt, a vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation. The deadline for picking a plan for 2007 is Dec. 31, and that decision can't be changed again until next November.

However, if a recent survey holds true, many seniors will simply stick with what they've got.

New Congress to tackle prescriptions, other healthcare issues

senateBy CHRISTOPHER LEE, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Healthcare is to return to the national political stage in 2007, setting up partisan clashes in Congress that could end with rare vetoes from President Bush and help define the 2008 presidential campaigns.

Here is a look at parts of the healthcare agenda in the new Congress:

Medicare prescription drug price negotiations. Proponents, mainly Democrats, say repealing a provision in the 2003 Medicare drug benefit law and forcing the Bush administration to negotiate with drug companies over prices could save billions of dollars a year.

Most happy with Medicare Part D


politics over drugsWASHINGTON, Dec. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. congressional leaders want to push for major changes in Medicare Part D, but most voters favor the new prescription-drug program, a survey finds.

Concern about prescription drugs ranked well down the list of "most important" issues listed by voters in exit polls on Election Day, there are overwhelming majorities of seniors happy with the program, and many say they were likely to support officials who voted to create it, according to Democratic pollster Douglas Schoen of Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates.

Only 2 percent of voters polled for each survey said it was the most important factor in their voting decision.

Group Plans To Re-introduce Drug Bill

politics over drugsA bipartisan congressional group plans to re-introduce a bill that would allow U.S. residents to import drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Senators Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Representatives Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., and Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., say passage of the Pharmaceutical Market Access and Drug Safety Act would cut the cost of prescription drugs.

"It is unbelievable that Americans are forced to pay the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs," Dorgan said. "It's time we took some action to put downward pressure on these prescription drug prices, and I think we have a bipartisan group that is going to stand up and move this issue forward."

© 2006 UPI

Freeing the Drug Market

FDABy David Gratzer

With health-care costs rising year after year — and drug costs rising faster than any other aspect of health spending — Americans wonder how to make drugs cheaper and more accessible. Politicians are listening: During the campaign, for example, Democrats promised seniors a better deal on drugs. But rather than embracing measures that could undermine the innovation of the industry, Congress can quickly and easily reduce the cost of drugs: Return the FDA back to its original mandate.

How much will that medicine cost? It’s a question patients ask me every single day. We love prescription drugs, but bemoan the price of pharmaceuticals. It’s no wonder that Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi promises that Washington will “negotiate” drug prices for Medicare, and that she has flirted with reimportation. Not long ago, I might have favored these ideas too — it’s tempting, after all, to think Congress can offer American pharmaceuticals at, say, Canadian prices. But Congressional meddling in the price of drugs would end up destroying the innovation and capital needed to develop new pharmaceuticals, leaving us with Canadian prices and Canadian innovation (or the lack thereof).