Health Highlights: April 12, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Medicare Outpatient Drug Payment Plan Sparks Controversy

Different groups are fighting over a Medicare proposal to test a new way to pay for drugs given to patients in a doctor’s office.

The government’s goal is to get high drug costs under control, especially expensive injected and infused drugs for conditions such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and macular degeneration, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, Medicare pays doctors and hospital outpatient clinics the average sales price of a drug, plus a 6 percent add-on fee. The government believes this system leads doctors to choose more expensive drugs.

Under a new formula announced last month, Medicare would combine a 2.5 percent add-on with a flat fee for each day the drug is administered to a patient. In a study, a group of doctors and hospitals would be paid under the new system and a control group would continue to be paid under the current system, the AP reported.

If the study shows that the new system lowers costs while maintaining quality of care, the new approach could become permanent policy.

Drug companies, specialist doctors and some patient advocacy groups oppose the new plan, while it is supported by primary care doctors, consumer groups representing older people and some economic experts, the AP reported.

Opponents are trying to get members of Congress on their side. Supporters say there has been a lot of talk about getting high drug prices under control, but little action.

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