Health Care News: January 2007 Archives

Health-care spending hits nearly $2 trillion

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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

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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

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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.