Fact Checking Sen. Menendez ACA Diatribe

Dear Senator Menendez,

As a N.J. citizen, taxpayer, physician, husband and father, I must offer factual correction on your healthcare policy ACA diatribes.

You tweeted:

Nothing could be further from the truth in your partisan message:

1. Insurance coverage is not healthcare.
2. Forcing citizens into ACA Medicaid at taxpayer expense is foolhardy.
3. ACA through “guaranteed issue(preexisting conditions)” destroyed the risk pools that kept prices stable. Now ALL commercial plans premiums have doubled and tripled.
4. The individual insurance market was decimated by ACA, destroying any semblance of insurance competition.
5. ACA put most private practice independent physicians, that are more efficient and cheaper, out of business and working for hospitals. As you know, hospitals inflated pricing schemes also extorts taxpayer dollars
6. ACA also pushed insurers toward “narrow networks.” eliminated patients long-term relationships with physicians and further limited their choice of physician and facility.
7. ACA and forced government dependence will bankrupt the country and its citizens, as a whole and individually.
8. Remember the three big lies of Obamacare? Keep your doctor. Keep your insurance. Each family will save $2500. All proven false partisan narrative.
9. Attacking the president of the United States is a waste of time, money and energy when he would gladly work with you on these issues.

I would be glad to work with you and other legislators on competitive free-market plans and assure quality and give patients best choice and restore personal responsibility and freedom.

Sincerely
Craig M. Wax DO
Independent family physician, media host and healthcare policy expert

Senator Menendez: Stand Up Against Killer Kickbacks

Call Senator Menendez office today! (202) 224-4744 

Give him key questions to ask at tomorrow’s Senate meeting on PBM‘s. Please read below and call today. 

Dear Senator Menendez,

You are aware that the Senate Finance Committee meets on Tuesday, April 9, 2019,  to question Pharmacy Benefit Managers.I am truly sorry that none of the Senatorial staff from NJ could attend the meeting on April 1, at the Library of Congress. I am proud to have been intimately involved in the planning and execution of that meeting along with many others that have fresh working solutions for our health care crisis.  Patient advocates and physicians from across the aisle and across the country came together. We were especially moved by the presence of the Black Healthcare Coalition,  a group of 3000 pastors from across the country who are leaders for their African-American congregations.  It has been eye-opening for the Black Healthcare Coalition to learn their congregations are being targeted by the PBMs and GPOs, as is the rest of the nation.  The Safe Harbor for Legalized kickbacks for PBM and GPO cause artificial medication shortages and forces those with preexisting conditions to pay exorbitantly at the pharmacy counteror skip taking their medication(s) altogether. As Pastor Stephan Broden   framed the issue of legalized kickbacks, “It’s time for us to take this to the streets… because people are getting hurt.“

Congress is responsible for legalizing kickbacks for the GPO’s in 1987.  In 2003, the PBM’s  had legalized kickbacks extended to their industry.  The pay-to-play scheme for GPO is controlling which brand medications, solutions and devices are available in hospitals.   The PBM pay-to-play scheme is controlling what prescription meds are covered by insurance plans.   Patients and physicians are confronting life-threatening issues for patients, and neither the patients or physicians have any control.

Of the 150 drug shortages currently listed by the FDA,  roughly 90% of those medications have a single manufacturer because they bought the right to “sole-source contracting.” This unethical business practice by the PBMs was exposed in the second Senate Finance Committee hearings on February 26, 2019. I saw you both in attendance at that hearing, Senators.  I watched the hearing; many patients and physicians watched it, many of your constituents, and some are copied on this email.

Senator, you took an oath, just as physicians have taken an oath.  And we are fulfilling the Hippocratic Oath in the best way we know how, by speaking out for our patients who are hurt by continual drug shortages,  and high prices at the pharmacy counter and on hospital bills.Social media, The Black  congregations, the Hispanic population (Dr Wust Smith,  Pa pediatrician,  who is writing for the Hispanic outlook magazine and also attended the conference ) and the 1.8 million member Association of Mature American Citizens (also  in attendance Monday)  are all solidly behind repealing kickbacks for organizations who are robbing the American public of $200 billion a year while offering no research and development no manufacturing,  not even distribution of medications. As Pastor Broden says, “ We are gonna shine light and Make noise!”

Will you stand up for patients and the citizens of New Jersey, Senator Menendez, and ask the PBMs the following questions this Tuesday?

  1. How much do they take in rebates (kickbacks) from drug manufacturers and others. He should follow up with where do the so-called rebates go? They are supposed to go to the plan sponsor, employer, or individual purchasing the policy to keep prices down. They actually drive up prices and costs for all.
  2. Senator Menendez should insist that the PBMs make their rebates(kickbacks) transparent and report them to HHS, CMS, Congress and the public at large.
  3. Senator Menendez should advocate for the transparency and public report for all processes and payments by PBMs.
  4. Recommend that he advocate Senate and House to repeal the PBM safe harbor of 2002 that empowered PBMs to extort drug manufacturers for kickbacks called rebates, at the expense of patients, third parties, states, fed, and all taxpayers.
  5. Full repeal of 2002 PBM safe harbor for not only Medicare and Medicaid but also all payers including commercial and individual payors.

Senator, we are here to help you  take steps that are righteous and good in order to get our patients what they need which is affordable prescription medications, transparency of price and accessible quality healthcare.

Lastly, we would like to know  your position on the kickbacks themselves? Are you going to support Senator Braun’s Bill which will codify the Azar rebate rule as well as extend kickback repeal to the general insurance marketplace?

Simply put we are asking you, “do you stand for patients or do you stand for profits?”

Action Alert: Stop Killer Kickbacks

On Tuesday April 2, the Oversight and investigations subcommittee of Energy and Commerce is holding a hearing investigating Insulin pricing https://energycommerce.house.gov/committee-activity/hearings/hearing-on-priced-out-of-a-lifesaving-drug-the-human-impact-of-rising

Team: we need to and HAMMER them with calls.

Congressional Switchboard: (202) 225-2927
Chair Rep. Diana Degette Phone: (202) 225-4431
Vice Chair Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy (202) 225-5931
Rep. Janice D. Schakowsky (IL) (202) 225-2111
Rep. Raul Ruiz (CA) (202) 225-5330
Rep. Ann M. Kuster (NH) (202) 225-5206
Rep. Kathy Castor (FL) (202) 225-3376
Rep. John P.Sarbanes (MD) (202) 225-4016
Rep. Paul Tonko (NY) (202) 225-5076
Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (NY) (202) 225-6231
Rep. Scott H. Peters (CA) (202) 225-0508
Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ) (202) 225-4671
Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY) (202) 225-3501
Rep. Michael C. Burgess (TX) (202) 225-7772
Rep. David B. McKinley (WV) (202) 225-4172
Rep. H. Morgan Griffith (VA) (202) 225-3861
Rep. Susan W. Brooks (IN) (202) 225-2276
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (OK) (202) 225-2701
Rep. Jeff Duncan (SC) (202) 225-5301
Rep.Greg Walden (OR) (202) 225-6730

Put their numbers in your phone find 3 friends to do the same. Tell them to call and to have people call tomorrow and Monday to say:

“Insulin costs so much, because of GPO and PBM rebates. stand for people over profits, and make PBM and GPO kickbacks illegal.”

It’s NOT enough to support the HHS PBM rebate Rule, not enough to support S. 657 The Drug Price Transparency Act (S. 657), intro by Senator Braun of Indiana.

April 1, in the Library of Congress, Physician and Patient Advocacy Leaders will be telling the world exactly this on LIVE STREAM! The meeting attendees represent over 30,000 physicians. Lawmakers are most welcome to attend or send your Health Care Aide Congress must introduce and support a bill that repeals GPO kickbacks as well as PBM !!

How can anyone possibly support legalized kickbacks for GPO/PBM Pharma Middlemen who do no Research, no manufacturing and distribute no product?” The only ENDURING solution for safe affordable medications like insulin is full repeal of the legalized kickbacks enjoyed by BOTH PBM AND GPO. Remember, congress, you work for US!!!!

Tweeters can tweet and retweet right @ those lawmakers and @potus, @pence @senatorbraun, etc:

Make insulin affordable by repealing the PBM AND the GPO #kickbackskill https://www.theintell.com/opinion/20190306/guest-opinion-make-lawmakers-cut-kickbacks-hold-drug-companies-accountable .

Assisted Suicide Bill on Verge of Advancing in NJ

A warning from veteran NJ physician Louis Keeler, MD:

My message today is mainly directed to the practicing physicians of New Jersey and in a special way to all the citizens of New Jersey.. The subject of discussion is a bill that is to be voted on by both houses of the legislature on March 25. That’s four days away. The name of the bill is both deceptive and euphemistic. It is entitled Medical Aid in Dying For the Terminally Ill Act. It is also known as” assisted suicide” but I assume that by a collective guilt of those legislators who are voting for the bill they have specifically put in the bill a prohibition against using the words “assisted suicide”. Have no doubt what were talking about is voluntary euthanasia.

Euthanasia is defined in the dictionary as the painless killing of a patient suffering from incurable and painful disease or an irreversible coma. Synonyms are mercy killing, assisted suicide, physician assisted suicide. Continue reading

Corporate Giants and the government revolving door create costly and fragmented care

By: Marion Mass, M.D. and Craig M. Wax, D.O.

Insurers, Pharmacy Benefit Managers(PBM), advocacy groups  such as AARP, and others are using their amassed wealth and influence to game the over-complicated and burdensome healthcare system for their own profit on the backs of the American taxpaying patient while fragmenting their care.  Let’s follow one pathway of corporate profiteering that results in a poorer quality of patient care:

United Healthcare’s subsidiary Optum (the company formerly known as Inginex) is one of the three big PBM…  companies that control what drugs your insurance company pays for and how much, while having the government given right to receive kickbacks from pharma manufacturers (conflict of interest much?). These kickbacks are costing Americans $200 BILLION PER YEAR and a prime reason why Optum got so rich. Their 2018 profits put them at the 100 billion mark.

How did a company with a history of fraud get so rich? Round up the usual suspects of the government/corporate cronyism.

After the fraud charges,  Ingenix rebranded itself as Optum, it’s CEO Andy Slavitt left and in 2015 became the Head of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services(CMS)  while the former head of CMS, nurse Marilyn Tavenner, left to become the president of the insurance industry’s  lobby group AHIP. Slavitt was able to cash out stock options TAX FREE, getting a $4 million windfall.

Curiously, in 2015, while Slavitt is running CMS, Optum seems to take over the publication and administration of the CPT and ICD coding, their logo appearing on the coding material.

As if kickbacks, and coding are not enough, Optum finds another revenue stream via home visits. They send clinicians to medicare advantage patient’s homes often incentivizing the patients with gift cards.  ( apparently they discovered that kickbacks work)  These “wellness visits” prevent patients from being able to see their primary care physician for an annual physical, thus fragmenting care, while failing to forward critical information to the patients’ physicians.

These visits seem designed for Optum to be able to increase risk scores, and thus collect more from Medicare. A possible scenario: order protein levels, often low in elderly patients, increase the patients risk score, and viola!  Optum collects more from Medicare, and thus from the pockets of TAXPAYERS. Apparently, someone in the Justice Department is paying attention, as United looks to be in the hot waters of fraud yet again.

All this money-making benefits the AARP, a formidable lobby force in DC. The AARP gets nearly 50% of its income from royalties the big insurance companies pay them to peddle Medicare advantage plans, the bulk from United/Optum. A mere  17% of AARP’s collections come from membership fees from its 37 million members.
https://capitalresearch.org/article/aarp-advocacy-group-or-crony-capitalists/

There you have it: big insurance and their PBM henchmen, hired by our government, teaming up with the AARP all getting rich gaming the system while Medicare patients get fragmented care and taxpayers pay more. Medicare advantage plans? They ought to call them “taking advantage of taxpayers plans. ”

Marion Mass, MD is co-chair of Practicing Physicians of America (PPA) and Craig M. Wax, DO is PPA’s VP of Health Care Policy.  Learn more: https://practicingphysician.org

American ingenuity and free markets can solve the problem of rising drug prices… if we allow it.

A couple of major threats to the health of the prescription drug supply chain are finally getting some long overdue attention.

  1. We are over-reliant on foreign production.

More than 90 percent of our prescription drugs are either manufactured in China or contain key ingredients that come from China, and China isn’t our best friend. Drugs on this Chinese-sourced list include antibiotics, birth control pills, cancer treatments, anti-depressants, statins (for high cholesterol), and HIV/AIDS drugs.

Why in the world are we outsourcing this mission-critical aspect of American medicine to countries hostile to our nation? (Not to mention the fact that countries like China are stoking the opioid epidemic by exporting deadly illicit Fentanyl to our shores).

Steve Jobs famously took the Obama administration to task over the main reason Apple had 700,000 factory workers employed in China, instead of the U.S:  D.C. is not business-friendly and it is impossible to build a factory in the United States due to regulations and unnecessary costs.

https://www.businessinsider.com/president-obamas-lack-of-resolve-frustrated-steve-jobs-2011-10

Unfortunately instead of cutting the red tape, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and colleagues are proposing exactly the wrong solution to bringing drug production back to the US of A. Instead of unleashing the market forces that built America into the #1 economy in the world, Warren hopes to import the same policies that sank behemoths like the U.S.S.R. and helped ignite the dumpster fires consuming Venezuela and Cuba: nationalized takeover of production.

Even the most profitable industries are not immune to the destruction that government-run production can bring. Case and point: Nationalization has driven Venezuela from oil powerhouse into the poorhouse:

So let’s look for proven solutions instead of dooming the drug industry to a fate of greater drug shortages, stagnation, and even higher prices.

Yes, there is already a sea of red tape and failed policies standing between American patients and inexpensive drugs. Thankfully, unlike Senator Warren, the Trump administration’s FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb MD and HHS Secretary Alex Azar seem truly interested in getting to work cutting through it by unleashing competition not warmed over communism.

Which brings us to the second major threat to the supply chain that is getting some overdue sunshine:

2) Kickbacks to Group Purchasing Organization and Pharmacy Benefit Manager Middlemen.

According to nomiddlemen.org:

GPOs and PBMs are perpetrating “a dangerous and unethical game of ‘pay-to-play.’ It’s the dirty little secret behind the outrageous cost of medications and the shortages of many drug and medical supplies. Unfortunately, a law was passed that allows these medical market “middlemen” to accept kickback payments from drug and medical supply companies in exchange for exclusive sales contracts! It created a government-sanctioned system of racketeering that would be illegal in any other industry.

 

The FDA along with HHS have signaled a willingness to end the kickbacks. And since the beginning of 2019 Senator Susan Collins and the new Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Chuck Grassley have also stated they are going to take a close look at these shameful business practices

https://www.collins.senate.gov/newsroom/senator-collins-urges-administration-prioritize-reducing-drug-prices

https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/commentary/grassley-top-priority-reducing-health-care-costs

Bottom line? American ingenuity can solve the problem of rising drug prices. If we will let it.

Take Action by Jan 11: Eliminate the #GPO #PBM Middlemen #Safeharbor Creating Drug Shortages and High Prices

“Drug shortages are pretty much a daily disaster right now for most hospitals,” reported Pharmacy Times on December 10. Meanwhile, “The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not just seeing an increase in drug shortages but also a spike in the intensity and duration of shortages,” writes Zachary Brennan, summarizing conclusions from an FDA event last month.

This summer FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD convened a Drug Shortage Task Force “to seek root causes of drug shortages and potential enduring solutions.”

The Task Force has issued a request for public comment as it prepares a report to Congress, and the deadline to submit solutions is January 11. Please help us, your colleagues, and your patients, take advantage of this opportunity to share a few key ideas with the Task Force.

Here’s how you can help! Continue reading