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Insurers hope for drug price transparency legislation — at a minimum

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An insurance lobbyist hopes at least to win legislation next year requiring drug companies to disclose more information about their pricing as a means to control pharmaceutical costs.

Price controls, said Paul Sanford of the Florida Insurance Council, would be a much bigger lift, and would have to happen on the national level.

But requiring price transparency as a condition of doing business in Florida might be realistic within a year or two, he said.

“If you really want to cut costs, you’re going to have to take some draconian steps,” Sanford said during a panel discussion on high drug costs sponsored by the Campaign for Sustainable Rx Pricing, a national group just beginning to work in Florida.

“Transparency in drug pricing — I think that’s the key,” said campaign representative Christina Johnson, who chaired the talks.

“When an EpiPen goes from $50 to $500, that’s the problem,” she said. “It happens overnight, without warning,” forcing patients “to make a decision between medicine and a mortgage.”

Also represented on the panel were the Florida Association of Health Plans, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Elder Care Services in Tallahassee, and Tallahassee Memorial Health Care.

The coalition comprises 23 organizations that provide health care in some form, including the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, the American College of Physicians, the American Academy of Neurology, the AARP, the Federation of American Hospitals, and Wal-Mart.

Prescription drug spending represents nearly 20 percent of health care costs, according to the campaign, and is growing faster than any segment. Spending increased by more than 13 percent during 2014, the largest annual increase since 2003, and by another 12.2 percent in 2015, the campaign said.

Largely driving the trend are the costs of specialty medications — drugs for conditions including cancer, multiple sclerosis, and hepatitis C — that require special handling.

These expenses exceed the consumer price index and are expected to comprise 44 percent of spending on drugs by next year. They will account for 73 percent of spending on medicine.

Spending on ten breakthrough drug therapies will cost the government nearly $50 billion over a decade, the campaign said.

Michael Moline is a former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal and managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal. Previously, he reported on politics and the courts in Tallahassee for United Press International. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as editor of the Florida Flambeau. His family’s roots in Jackson County date back many generations.

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