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3. Political Cartoon: 'Wait, There's More?'

Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Wait, There's More?'" by Dan Piraro.

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Docs … a tough O.R. issue
For some hospitals.

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Summaries Of The News:

Capitol Hill Watch

4. Valeant Officials, Blasted By Lawmakers For 'Immoral' Pricing Practices, Admit To Making Mistakes

“Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered. It’s time to slaughter some hogs,” Sen. Claire McCaskill said in opening the committee hearing on high drug prices. Valeant's outgoing CEO J. Michael Pearson offered his regrets to a skeptical panel, while investor Bill Ackman promised a shift in pricing strategy going forward.

The New York Times: Valeant Chief, At Senate Hearing, Concedes Mistakes On Steep Drug Prices
The chief executive of Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, which has been harshly criticized for its practice of raising prices on old drugs, said during a tense hearing on Capitol Hill on Wednesday that the company had made “mistakes,” while lawmakers accused him and others connected to Valeant of favoring profits over patients’ needs. “Let me state plainly that it was a mistake to pursue, and in hindsight I regret pursuing, transactions where a central premise was a planned increase in the prices of the medicines,” J. Michael Pearson, the chief executive, said at the hearing. (Thomas, 4/27)

The Associated Press: Lawmakers Blast Valeant For Price-Gouging Tactics
Lawmakers accused Valeant Pharmaceuticals of gouging patients to reward Wall Street investors during a hearing Wednesday scrutinizing the embattled drugmaker's pricing tactics. The blistering criticisms from Senate Republicans and Democrats came as Valeant's outgoing CEO expressed regrets for the most egregious price increases and a billionaire hedge fund investor defended the company's business model. (4/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant’s Michael Pearson Admits Aggressive Drug-Price Increases Were A Mistake
Michael Pearson, who oversaw the rise and fall of Valeant, told the committee that Valeant’s strategy of buying and increasing prices on many drugs was a mistake. The testimony, under sharp questioning, highlighted Valeant’s stark fall from Wall Street darling to Washington punching bag, and showed how much it has at stake. Its stock is​down more than 85% from its high last August, closing at $34.92 on Wednesday. Shares were up about 2.5% in after-hours trading. (Hoffman and Rapoport, 4/27)

The Hill: Senate Dem Takes On Drugmaker: ‘It’s Time To Slaughter Some Hogs’
A leading Senate Democrat is vowing to take on prescription drug price-gouging amid a deepening congressional probe into embattled drugmaker Valeant Pharmaceuticals. “Pigs get fed, hogs get slaughtered. It’s time to slaughter some hogs,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, the top Democrat of the Senate Aging Committee, said Wednesday. McCaskill’s remarks were the opening salvo of a high-drama hearing on Wednesday, which features three current or former executives from Valeant. (Ferris, 4/27)

STAT: Valeant Officials, Under Fire, Pledge To Consider Cutting Drug Prices
Investor Bill Ackman, an influential Valeant board member, told the Senate Special Committee on Aging that he texted Valeant board chairman Robert Ingram during the hearing to suggest a conference call with the board this week to discuss cutting the prices of the drugs — Isuprel and Nitropress — by 30 percent. That would match the 30 percent discount that Valeant said it has been offering hospitals that need the drugs — though senators on the committee, and a hospital official, said hospitals had not yet received the price break. Ackman said he would also recommend unspecific decreases for two other drugs that treat Wilson’s disease, Cuprimine and Syprine, which were focuses for the committee. (Scott, 4/27)

Reuters: Ackman, Valeant Pledge Reforms After Spiking Drug Prices
Activist investor William Ackman promised U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that he will urge the board of Valeant Pharmaceuticals to reduce the high prices of four life-saving drugs that are now at the heart of two congressional probes. Speaking before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Ackman revealed that Valeant's board will hold a conference call on Thursday to discuss the costs of heart medications Isuprel and Nitropress, as well as Cuprimine and Syprine, two drugs that are used to treat a genetic disorder that causes copper to build up in the body's organs. (Lynch and Berkrot, 4/27)

Forbes: Valeant Pharmaceuticals And Bill Ackman Have Their Day In Washington
Neither Pearson, Schiller and Ackman were were able to produce convincing answers as to how Valeant’s business model could work without price hikes. Ackman, who has invested roughly $4 billion in Valeant, said he was unaware of the extent of the company’s drug prices, even when a friend described the company’s prices for Cuprimine, a cure of Wilson’s disease. Meanwhile, CEO Pearson was unable to name a single instance in the U.S. where Valeant did not raise prices after acquiring a drug, and he noted instances where the company could only justify a deal with sharp price increases. (Gara, 4/27)

USA Today: Senate Told Valeant Drug Price Hikes Hurt Patients
Berna Heyman told a Senate committee Wednesday that her annual co-payment for a lifesaving drug needed to treat an ailment known as Wilson disease stayed below $700, a manageable cost, until 2013. That's when Valeant Pharmaceuticals International (VRX), an embattled Canada-based drugmaker, raised the price on Heyman's medication, said the retired Virginia librarian. By 2014, her projected co-pay topped $10,000 a year, with her health insurer paying more than $260,000, she said. (McCoy, 4/27)

STAT: Valeant May Have A New Chief Executive, But Its Future Remains Dim
Now that Michael Pearson, the outgoing Valeant Pharmaceuticals chief executive, has issued a mea culpa about his decision to raise drug prices sky high, where does the drug maker go from here? The prognosis is not healthy — at least as far as some Wall Street wags are concerned. (Silverman, 4/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Pharmaceuticals To Make Sweeping Changes To Board
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. is planning sweeping changes to its board of directors as it moves to set a new tone at the top of a company under fire from politicians and investors for its management and drug-pricing practices. The drugmaker is expected to announce as early as Friday that five of its long-standing directors have agreed to step down to make room for new nominees, according to people familiar with the matter. Four new directors are lined up to join the board, the people said. Their names couldn’t be learned, but they draw heavily from traditional pharmaceutical companies, the people said—a sign that Valeant is looking for credibility from an industry it has long criticized as bloated, slow-moving and wasteful. (McNish, Hoffman and Benoit, 4/27)

The Wall Street Journal: Valeant Discloses Pay For New CEO
Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., which came under fire after it raised dramatically drug prices, on Wednesday disclosed a multimillion-dollar pay package for its new chief executive. Under the terms of the contract, Joseph C. Papa, the chief executive of rival Perrigo Co. who is slated to take over as Valeant’s chairman and CEO next month, will receive a $1.5 million annual salary. But the 60-year-old stands to make much more thanks to restricted stock awards that would vest if Valeant’s stock reaches certain thresholds. (Armental, 4/27)

5. Wyden Introduces Bill Aimed At Protecting Seniors From High Drug Costs

The legislation, proposed by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., would make sure Medicare recipients don't face out-of-pocket costs past a cap of about $7,500.

The Hill: Wyden Introduces Bill To Cap Drug Costs Under Medicare
Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.), the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, on Wednesday introduced a bill aimed at protecting seniors from high drug costs, an issue that has attracted growing scrutiny. Wyden’s measure would cap drug cost-sharing for Medicare enrollees so that seniors would not have to pay out of pocket costs above a roughly $7,500 cap. In 2013, 2.9 million people in Medicare’s prescription drug program had to pay costs above that cap, Wyden’s office said. (Sullivan, 4/27)

Morning Consult: Wyden Introduces Bill To Reduce Out-Of-Pocket Medicare Drug Costs
“Escalating drug prices are increasingly straining the budgets of families in Oregon and across the country, particularly seniors in Medicare who often have to take multiple costly medications to stay healthy,” Wyden said in a statement. “It defies common sense that protection from high out-of-pocket costs exists for almost all other types of health coverage, but not for traditional Medicare.” Medicare’s program’s prescription drug benefit, or Part D, is offered by private insurance plans, whereas the hospital and medical components of the program are run by the federal government. (Owens, 4/27)

Health Law Issues And Implementation

6. Ryan Calls For End To Health Law's Premium-Cost Protections For People Who Are Ill

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., says the provisions that keep insurers from charging sick people higher rates has raised costs for healthy consumers while undermining choice and competition, Reuters reports. Also in health law news are stories on expected premium increases and insurer Anthem's latest earnings report.

Reuters: Ryan Wants To End Obamacare Cost Protections For Sick Consumers
U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan called on Wednesday for an end to Obamacare's financial prot

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