Lawmakers Request Information on Pre-Pandemic Vaccines

Leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written to Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking for more information on the adequacy of the aging stockpile of pre-pandemic vaccines. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) maintains a stockpile of $1.75 billion worth of pandemic influenza vaccine. But BARDA’s most recent budget only included about $20 million, or one percent of the stockpile value, for replenishment and maintenance of this asset. The national vaccine goals for pandemic influenza preparedness call for pre-pandemic vaccine stockpiles to protect 20 million people, in addition to a manufacturing infrastructure to support rapid production of 600 million doses.

CMS Launches Drug Cost Data Tool

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have launched a new tool for analyzing the pharmaceutical costs of the Medicare program. The Medicare drug-spending dashboard will make it easier to research trends in how pharmaceutical products are used and purchased. The dashboard provides information on Medicare spending on prescription drugs for both Part B and Part D drugs in an accessible format for the public in order to increase transparency. The interactive dashboard is comprised of 80 drugs sorted by total annual cost, highest spending per Medicare user, and highest annual increase in cost. These 80 drugs represent 33 percent of all Part D spending and 71 percent of Part B drug spending in 2014. Topline findings show large price increases among some generic drugs. The cost of prescription drugs has become of increasing concern to lawmakers and Medicare officials. Last year, Medicare spent more than $140 billion on prescription drugs.

As Penalty Draws Nearer, Insurance Enrollment Increases

People who do not purchase health insurance next year will face a minimum penalty of $695 or 2.5 percent of their income. This penalty is likely responsible for the increase in health insurance enrollment, especially in the population under 35 years old. The administration announced last week that 8.2 million people have already signed up, including 2.1 million people under the age of 35. This is compared to the 6.4 million people who had signed up for insurance at this point last year, and includes nearly double the number of young people enrolled during the same time period. Last year, the maximum penalty for not buying health insurance was the greater of $325 or two percent of their income. While 7.5 million people chose to pay the penalty, this number could drop in the coming year given the administration’s enrollment projections. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell has said that she expects a total of 9.9 million people to pay into plans this year.

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