WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 8, 2003) — As Congress considers Medicare reform, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) is launching a print ad campaign this week designed to persuade federal legislators to correct the current threat to life-saving medicines that exists for the nation’s elderly population. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) created the threat when it implemented regulatory changes earlier this year to Medicare’s hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS).
“The ad reinforces the message that the most vulnerable patients on Medicare in the United States may be denied access to life-saving medicines because of decisions made by a bureaucratic agency, not by a physician,” said BIO President Carl B. Feldbaum. “We’re asking Americans to call on their representatives and senators to do the right thing, and fix this existing problem as Congress works to improve the Medicare system overall.”
The print ad titled, “Keep the care in Medicare,” depicts an elderly woman and with accompanying text, explains that “Every day thousands of America’s seniors come to hospital outpatient centers for treatments that keep them alive and healthy” by providing access to the “latest, most effective medicines to fight cancer, cardiovascular disease, and many other life-threatening illnesses.”
However, regulations implemented by CMS on Jan. 1, have reduced reimbursement rates for Medicare coverage for medicines provided in the hospital outpatient setting “so severely that many hospitals won’t be able to provide them anymore,” the ad continues. And, Medicare patients may not even be aware that hospitals are denying them access to medicines.
To view the ad online, visit www.bio.org/access.
The ad will debut Friday, May 9, in Louisiana’s Times Picayune and the Bangor Daily News in Maine. Similarly, the ad will run on Monday, May 12, in the Capitol Hill-based newspapers Roll Call and CongressDaily; Phoenix, Ariz. community newspapers will be targeted on Tuesday, May 13. The ad’s initial wave is designed to target districts of legislators who serve on congressional committees that will play a key role in the Medicare debate.
Feldbaum added that more ads in other congressional districts are likely.
In addition to highlighting existing problems within the Medicare outpatient system through its ad campaign, BIO is working with Congress to develop several legislative remedies to problems within the hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS) that threaten Medicare patient access to biotech drugs and biologicals, including the following:
• Separate reimbursement for drugs and biologicals that appropriately reimburse hospitals for their acquisition and handling costs.
• Permanent separate reimbursement for all innovative drugs and biologics as soon as the products have received FDA approval.
• Exclusion of orphan drugs from OPPS, so they will be reimbursed more appropriately.
• Elimination of the functionally equivalent standard for setting payment rates and requiring CMS to adhere to FDA-established definitions of drugs, biologics, orphan drugs and medical devices.
BIO represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.