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Published: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 1:35 AM
Updated: Friday, February 09, 2018 @ 1:34 AM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will propose lowering prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries by allowing them to share in rebates that drug companies pay to insurers and middlemen, an administration official said.
A senior administration official outlined the plan Thursday on condition of anonymity ahead of the release of Trump's 2019 budget plan next week.
Pharmaceutical companies now pay rebates to insurers and pharmacy benefit managers to help their medications gain a bigger slice of the market.
Insurers apply savings from rebates to keep premiums more manageable.
Under Trump's proposal, seniors covered by Medicare's popular "Part D" prescription benefit would be able to share in the rebates for individual drugs that they purchase at the pharmacy.
Trump's budget would also expand Medicare's "catastrophic" drug benefit so that many seniors with very high costs would not face copayments. Seniors with high drug bills are currently still responsible for 5 percent of the cost of their medications. With some new drugs costing $100,000 a year or more, patient costs add up quickly.
The White House proposal would put Trump in the middle of a tug-of-war between drug companies on one side and insurers and pharmacy benefit managers on the other, with billions of dollars at stake.
Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers say the reason drug costs are so high is that drug companies are free to charge what the market will bear.
The pharmaceutical industry says middlemen are the problem, because they keep rebates paid by drug makers instead of passing them on to patients. Insurers counter that rebates are passed on in the form of lower monthly premiums for everybody.
The drug industry lobbying group, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, had no immediate reaction.
The Trump administration's new proposals come on top of a long list of Medicare changes in the congressional budget deal. Medicare is the government's premier health insurance program, covering about 60 million seniors and disabled people.
Lawmakers would shift a greater share of Medicare drug costs to the pharmaceutical industry. They also want to eliminate the drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" one year earlier than currently scheduled, in 2019 instead of 2020.
"On the whole, I think this is a good bill for people with Medicare," said Joe Baker, president of the Medicare Rights Center, said of the congressional legislation. "This tilts toward getting a lot of good things done."
But his group opposes a provision that would raise premiums paid by the wealthiest retirees for coverage of outpatient services and prescription drugs.
Here's a look at some of the major Medicare provisions in the budget deal that Republican leaders are trying to push through Congress. Democrats are split over the overall measure, but the Medicare provisions appear to have support from both parties:
— PRESCRIPTION DRUGS
Originally, beneficiaries in the "doughnut hole" coverage gap were responsible for the full cost of their medications, but the Affordable Care Act passed under former President Barack Obama gradually closes the gap. The budget deal accelerates the timetable by one year, to 2019.
Drug makers are already required to provide discounts to close the coverage gap, but the budget deal raises the level of company discounts, which in turn lowers the government's costs. That should act as a brake on the monthly premiums paid by beneficiaries.
"In theory when Medicare spending goes down, premiums would go down, too," said Tricia Neuman, a Medicare expert with the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.
The drug industry is criticizing the proposal, saying it will mainly benefit insurance companies that act as middlemen providing the benefit.
The coverage gap starts when beneficiaries hit $3,750 in total drug costs.
— CAPS REPEALED ON REHAB
The budget deal permanently repeals limits on therapy services commonly used by stroke patients and people recovering from major surgeries. Those services include physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.
In previous years, Congress had routinely held off on applying the caps. Groups including AARP were pressing for a full repeal. It takes effect this year.
__HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR WEALTHIEST RETIREES
Premiums for outpatient coverage and prescription drugs would rise for about 1 million wealthy seniors with annual incomes of at least $500,000 for an individual, or $750,000 for a couple filing jointly.
Hiking premiums on the well-to-do is an idea that has bipartisan support among lawmakers, but advocates worry that Congress will ultimately start raising costs for middle-class seniors as well.
__TELEMEDICINE AND CHRONIC CARE
The budget deal expands Medicare's ability to pay for telemedicine in a wide variety of situations, including for patients with stroke symptoms.
It also incorporates a bipartisan Senate bill that is intended to improve care coordination for patients with chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.
—COST CONTROL BOARD REPEALED
Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2018 @ 3:26 PM
WASHINGTON — An attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to the FBI in the agency's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to President Donald Trump's campaign.
The charges against lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan are the latest in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation.
The Special Counsel's office files a new indictment for making false statements to investigators pic.twitter.com/kYaO8c8M2l— Jamie Dupree (@jamiedupree) February 20, 2018
READ MORE: Who is Rick Gates and why was he indicted by Robert Mueller? | Who is Paul Manafort, the man indicted in Robert Mueller’s Russian investigation? | What are Paul Manafort and Rick Gates charged with? | MORE
Published: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 @ 2:40 PM
WASHINGTON — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee is investigating the White House’s employment of staff secretary Rob Porter in the wake of allegations that he abused his two ex-wives, committee chairman Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina, said Wednesday.
Porter submitted his resignation Feb. 2.
Gowdy told CNN that the committee launched a probe Tuesday night into Porter’s employment and when White House officials knew about the domestic violence allegations levied against him.
Porter has denied any wrongdoing.
"We are directing inquiries to people that we think have access to information we don't have. You can call it official. You can call it unofficial,” Gowdy told CNN. “I'm going to direct questions to the FBI that I expect them to answer.”
Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy on allegations of spousal abuse against former top White House aide Rob Porter: “How in the hell was he still employed… How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” https://t.co/vuNO7b7riO https://t.co/nHySCCvUGb— CNN (@CNN) February 14, 2018
Porter resigned Feb. 2 after his ex-wives went public with allegations of domestic abuse and said they spoke with federal authorities about the claims, prompting critics to question why he had remained employed in the Trump administration. The allegations held up a background check needed to grant Porter a security clearance for work in the White House. Officials said he was working on an interim security clearance.
The process to get Porter his clearance was ongoing at the time of his resignation.
“How do you have any job if you have credible allegations of domestic abuse?” Gowdy asked on CNN. “I am biased toward the victim.”
Porter’s first wife, Colbie Holderness, and his second, Jennifer Willoughby, told the FBI about the alleged domestic violence in January 2017, after they were contacted while Porter was applying for his security clearance, according to The Washington Post.
White House officials defended Porter in the immediate aftermath of the allegations, and President Donald Trump has faced criticism for what critics called his lack of care for the victims and his focus on the fact that Porter has denied the claims.
“I was surprised by (the allegations), but we certainly wish him well, and it’s a tough time for him,” Trump told reporters in Washington on Friday. “He did a very good job when he was in the White House, and we hope he has a wonderful career. … It was very said when we heard about it, and certainly he’s also very sad now. He also, as you probably know, says he’s innocent, and I think you have to remember that.”
Holderness told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive throughout their relationship, which started in 2000, but that things escalated after they were wed in June 2003. She said Porter kicked her during their honeymoon and during a 2005 vacation in Italy, punched her in the face.
Willoughby, who married Porter in November 2009 and separated from him in early 2010, told The Daily Mail that Porter was verbally abusive.
Willoughby obtained a protective order against Porter in June 2010 after she said he violated their separation agreement and refused to leave her apartment, according to court records obtained by The Daily Mail. In the complaint, Willoughby said Porter punched in a glass door while she was locked inside the apartment, but left after he heard she was on the phone with police.
She told the Mail that in December 2010, he dragged her out of a shower while she was naked in order to yell at her.
Published: Saturday, February 10, 2018 @ 12:20 PM
ANDERSON, S.C. — A veterans nursing home in South Carolina honored a resident who died this week with a patriotic farewell that has gone viral.
In a Facebook post, Laura Dorn thanked the Richard M. Campbell Veterans Nursing Home in Anderson for taking such good care of her father, Doug Timmons, who had Alzheimer's disease and was a resident of the facility for the last three years. Dorn wrote that her father died early Thursday morning and the staff took the time to honor him for his service as his body was removed from the facility. In a video that Dorn posted, Timmons' body, draped with an American flag, is wheeled out as staff line up and a musical tribute plays.
Published: Friday, August 11, 2017 @ 4:16 PM
BEDMINSTER, N.J. — President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he is “very thankful” that Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to expel hundreds of U.S. diplomats, telling reporters in New Jersey that the decision will help the U.S. cut down on salaries.
“I want to thank him because we’re trying to cut down our payroll, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m very thankful that he let go a large number of people because now we will have a smaller payroll,” Trump said, according to The Washington Post. “There’s no real reason for them to go back. … We’re going to save a lot of money.”
The comments were Trump’s first addressing Putin’s decision last month to expel 755 diplomats and technical personnel from the U.S. Embassy and consulates in Russia, according to The Post.
Trump’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018 included a 29 percent cut of State Department funding, NPR reported.
But White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in an email to The New York Times on Friday that the president was making a joke.
“He was being sarcastic,” she told the newspaper.
Still, some lawmakers questioned Trump’s decision to praise Putin.
“After weeks of silence regarding Vladimir Putin's outrageous expulsion of hundreds of U.S. embassy personnel, President Trump once again let Russia off the hook and instead insulted America’s diplomats,” Rep. Eliot Engel, D-New York, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
“No doubt, the President's staff will eventually try to clean up after the parade by claiming it was a joke, but there's nothing funny about this,” he said.
According to Politico, “many, if not most, of the positions cut will likely be those of locally hired Russian staffers. The local staff who are let go will likely get severance payments, but cost savings are possible in the long run.”
Unidentified sources told the news site that most of the U.S. diplomats made to leave Russia will be moved to different posts.
Putin’s decision to kick American diplomats out of the country came in retaliation for sanctions placed on Russia by the U.S. Trump signed the bill, which passed with strong bipartisan support and required congressional approval to lift the restrictions, although he criticized it as being “seriously flawed.”