The budget includes a four-year extension of the Children's Health Insurance Program, to be funded with an increase in tobacco taxes, $4.2 billion in spending for centers that provide primary health services to medically underserved and vulnerable populations, and consolidating the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety Inspection Services with the Food and Drug Administration's food safety components to create a single new "food safety agency within HHS."
The budget also "proposes targeted reforms to Medicare and Medicaid that are projected to save more than $400 billion over the next decade," according to HHS. "These reforms will improve the long-term sustainability of Medicare and Medicaid by increasing the efficiency of health-care delivery while enhancing the quality of care for the elderly, children, low-income families and people with disabilities."
The suggestion that HHS have power to negotiate Medicare specialty drug prices did not have a budget savings amount attached to it. That could be a reflection of how unlikely that proposal is to fly with Congress.
Increasing specialty drug costs have been pointed to as one of a handful of inflationary factors that have gone against the trend of an overall slowdown in national health-care spending. About 55 million people receive prescription drug benefits under the Medicare program, but the government currently is barred from negotiating prices of medication.
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Spending on Medicare Part D, the area of the program that covers prescription drugs, is projected to grow by 30 percent in 2016, according to the budget proposal. The cost of specialty drugs is one of the factors causing that increase, according to HHS.
Sylvia Burwell, HHS Secretary, said the power she's seeking for her agency is "something that we believe will help with the issue of drug prices."