Op-Ed: 340B Drug Discount Program 25th Anniversary

Photo source: Louisiana House of Representatives

Photo source: Louisiana House of Representatives

While Congress remains deadlocked on health care reform, there is good news for some of Louisiana’s seniors who are in the Medicare program. Recently the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Service (CMS), a federal agency that sets Medicare policy made some important change to the 340B Drug Discount Program which will result in Seniors and the Medicare Trust Fund paying less for prescription drugs.

 

Most people have never heard of the 340B Drug Discount Program although it is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Designed to help low income and uninsured patients to afford their prescription medicines, the program allows certain clinics and hospitals that serve large populations of such patients to buy drugs at a steep discount. The intention was that these discounts would be passed along to the patients.

 

Like so many well-meaning government programs, over time the purpose of the program has been lost and some hospitals have taken advantage of it to pad their bottom lines rather than help patients pay for drugs. Because the legislation that created the program, and the rules promulgated to implement it, are vague, clever consultants have found loopholes to help some hospitals exploit the program.

For example, while clinics such as the Ryan White AIDs Clinics, must document how they use the savings from the discounts, large corporate hospital chains who make tens of millions from the program have no reporting requirement at all. In fact, many hospitals run fully insured patients through the program, not just those in need. They take drugs they bought at a steep discount and sell them to fully insured patients at full price and pocket the difference. In the case of some very expensive cancer drugs, this profit could amount to thousands of dollars from just one patient. This overcharging not only impacts the Medicare Trust Fund but also the out of pocket amount that Medicare patients must pay.

 

In its recent ruling CMS has rightly said that hospitals must charge Medicare, and the Medicare patient, a price that is much close to what the hospital actually paid for the drug under the 340B Drug Discount Program. No longer are excessive profits acceptable. 

 

But even this welcome change by CMS is very limited. It only applies to drugs administered by hospitals to Medicare patients in their outpatient facilities. Drugs prescribed to Medicare patients which are taken at home and which seniors purchase from for-profit chain drugs stores with contract arrangements with the hospital, can continue to yield massive profits for both hospital and pharmacy.

 

So, while there is limited good news for some on Medicare, there is no good news for younger patients. The reality for non-Medicare patients is that those who are in need have no guarantee of receiving the 340B discount and those who are fully insured continue to be run through the system and charged full price, generating windfall profits for hospitals.

 

Since CMS has less authority to deal with non-Medicare patients, Congress needs to step in and modernize and reform 340B. Until they do the massive and unsustainable expansion of the program which has taken place in recent years will continue. Expansion would be fine if it were driven by the needs of patients. But it is not. It is drive by the desire of corporate hospitals and the for-profit drugstore chains which whom they have partnered, to pad their bottom line.

 

The purpose of the 340B Drug Discount Program is as valid today as it was 25 years ago. Arguably it is more important because prescription drugs play an ever-increasing role in modern medical care. But if it is going to survive another 25 years it need to be fixed. CMS has taken a good first step to protect some Medicare patients. But other Medicare patients, patients served by other government programs and those patients who have private health insurance or health insurance provided by their employers are not protected. Congress needs to follow the lead of CMS and reform 340B for everyone. I can think of no better 25th birthday present to this worthy program than for Congress to take action to stop those who are abusing it.

 

State Representative Tanner Magee

Louisiana - District 53

Posted on November 20, 2017 and filed under Louisiana.

Citizens for Louisiana Job Creators: Released Prisoner Arrested for Armed Robbery

Photo source: WWL

Photo source: WWL

Just a week after the Department of Corrections released 1900 criminals,WWL TV reports a habitual offender -- who was supposed to be in jail for 12 years but got out in 3 years -- robbed a man at gunpoint.

Governor Edwards' staffer, James Leblanc, indicated we needed to give the "reforms" time to work. Perhaps we could suggest that anyone who has SIXTY FOUR counts of burglary NOT be set free when Governor Edwards and the Department of Corrections decides to let the next batch of 1500+ criminals out of jail on December 1. 

As we said last week, lock your doors and as U.S. Senator Kennedy has suggested "you ought to own a handgun just in case."

Posted on November 9, 2017 and filed under John Bel Edwards, Louisiana.

Paper: Filing lawsuits not a solution to coastal erosion

Photo source: The Advocate

Photo source: The Advocate

Louisiana and other Gulf Coast states need to find constructive ways to mitigate the coastal erosion problems, but a recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court indicates that filing lawsuits against the oil and gas industry may not be a viable way to solve this problem.

On Oct. 30, the Supreme Court refused to revive a Louisiana flood protection board’s lawsuit seeking to make oil, gas and pipeline companies pay for decades of damage to coastal wetlands.

The suit was filed by the Southwest Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East. The suit claimed that the industry’s dredging of canals in coastal drilling areas contributed to the loss of wetlands that form a hurricane buffer for New Orleans.

Federal courts, however, blocked the suit. A federal district judge in New Orleans in 2015 ruled that federal and state law provided no avenue by which the board could bring the suit. Then the appeals court in New Orleans agreed with the lower court, which led to the Supreme Court ruling.

Don Briggs, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, had this response to the ruling: “It’s three strikes and you’re out! The SLFPA-E lawsuit was dismissed in a U.S. District Court, refused by a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and denied by the U.S. Supreme Court. These and similar frivolous lawsuits against oil and gas companies are destroying Louisiana’s competitiveness to attract future investment. We are thankful for the Supreme Court’s ruling and will continue to hold true to our convictions, fighting to ensure that the oil and gas industry remains a cornerstone of Louisiana’s culture.”

The oil and gas industry has been a bedrock part of the Louisiana economy for over a century, and has brought prosperity to many Louisiana families. Oil and gas production is also vital to the whole nation.

But Louisiana and other coastal states also need help with mitigating the coastal erosion problem, and since the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked this avenue of funding, it should be up to the federal government to live up its responsibility to provide the funding needed to restore the coastal parishes.

Source: The American Press

Posted on November 9, 2017 and filed under Louisiana, Oil and Gas.

Louisiana Citizens for Job Creators: AG Landry Victory Against Transgender Expansion

Photo source: LA Attorney General

Photo source: LA Attorney General

Attorney General Jeff Landry has won yet another legal battle against Governor John Bel Edwards. Landry challenged Edward’s executive order expanding LGBT benefits for state workers. Landry believed the order exceeded Edward’s authority. 
 
A three-judge panel of Louisiana’s 1st Circuit Court of Appeal ruled unanimously. The executive order was an unconstitutional attempt to expand state law.
 
Landry said, “We have stated all along that the Governor must follow the law, just like everybody else. This ruling affirms a notion of basic civics that the Legislature makes the law, not the Governor.”
 
We commend Attorney General Landry on his on this victory as he continues to execute his authority as the state’s chief legal officer.
 

A Glimpse Into "Honor Code's" Prison Reform

Source: Louisiana Dept. of Corrections

Source: Louisiana Dept. of Corrections

In case you missed this one, our own "Honor Code", John Bel Edwards, has decided that one of the most important things that needs to be done in this state is prison reform.  As a result, countless number of prisoners will be released.  As with most everything that a liberal might try, there will always be the problem cases.  One particular case would be this:

Law enforcement agencies in this area are especially worried because of the early release recently of a “career criminal” who has since been indicted for first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 10-year-old boy. He also wounded a 17-year-old whom authorities say may never walk again.

The accused man was paroled after serving 24 years of a 99-year prison sentence for armed robbery and other crimes. No explanation has been offered as to how he managed to be paroled.

One can only hope that the "governor" sees what a potential release of criminals will do for society and the citizens of Louisiana.  We urge him to carefully look at each and every case.

Source: Prisoner releases raising questions

Posted on October 17, 2017 and filed under John Bel Edwards, Louisiana.

KENNEDY: A tax code for the middle class – let’s invest in the American dream

Photo source: Wikipedia

Photo source: Wikipedia

BY SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA.)

It doesn’t take an expert to see that something is stalling the American economy.

2016 was the 11th straight year that America failed to achieve 3 percent annual growth, which was our average nearly every year since 1960. I’ve heard numerous pundits act like returning to 3 percent growth is something special. No, it’s just “average.” The American people deserve better than just average growth.

But even average growth is optimistic if we keep hamstringing our job creators. Our 40 percent corporate tax rate and broken tax code are chasing our ideas, our jobs, and our investors into the open, waiting arms of foreign countries. We are keeping wages and productivity low. We are crippling our small businesses.

Changes have to be made to unshackle our small businesses, but in the process, we can’t forget about the primary vehicle for economic growth: the middle-class.

I’ve said it before: What we have right now in America is too many undeserving people at the top getting bailouts and too many undeserving people at the bottom getting handouts. And you know who’s been stuck with the bill? Middle-class families. And they can’t afford it any more. Their kids’ tuition has gone up, their health insurance has gone up, but you know what hasn’t gone up? Their take home pay.

That’s why I’m speaking up for the middle class. Someone has to speak up for ordinary people when it comes to tax reform.

Middle-class families drive our economic engine. They buy the goods and services that our businesses are selling. They work hard to be able to spend and save and invest. They are our entrepreneurs and our innovators. And now, as they are trying to balance their checkbooks, nearly one-third of their income is automatically withheld and sent off to Washington.

Right now, if you’re a middle-class family in Alexandria, La., with a combined household income of $59,000 and two kids, and you claim all your exemptions and take the standard deduction, you’re still going to be sending the federal government $3,500. Now, that’s not even counting contributions to state and local taxes, or payments to Social Security and Medicare. By the time the bills are paid and there’s gas in the car, very little is left for the kids’ college funds.

I have a plan for how tax reform can target the middle class and bring those families some badly needed relief.

Nearly three-quarters of Americans opt to take the standard deduction when filing their taxes. It’s simple, it’s fair, and it requires less documentation than itemizing. All Congress needs to do is to double the standard deduction across the board in order to inject more than $600 billion back into the economy over 10 years, according to a 2014 CRS report. That’s an immediate shot in the arm for the American economy. That family of four in Alexandria will have their tax bill reduced to $1,700, freeing up almost $2,000 of hard-earned income.

That’s $2,000 new dollars back into my state’s economy. As the cost of earning more is reduced, people will want to work harder. That means more productivity and even more growth. It’s Economics 101: You give people more to spend and they’ll spend it, and grow the economy in the process.

We need to liberate the middle class and their power to spend and save. In short, we need to renew the belief in the American dream.

A tax reform policy that provides relief to the middle class, such as doubling the standard deduction, will reawaken the incentive to work, save, and invest. Our economic fate is tied to the health of our middle class and our small businesses. It’s high time that we offer middle-class Americans a tax code that believes in them.

Kennedy is the junior senator from Louisiana.

Source: The Hill

Posted on October 16, 2017 and filed under John Kennedy, Louisiana, Taxes.

Port of Iberia Executive Director Speaks Up Regarding Oil and Gas Lawsuit

Photo source: KATC

Photo source: KATC

Executive Director Craig Romero recently spoke up regarding the   lawsuit brought about by the 15th Judicial District Attorney in Louisiana. Romero had the following to say regarding the lawsuit being brought back to state court:

 “To suggest that we would sue the very people that is the heart and soul of Acadiana’s economy, you can’t sue your customers, it makes absolutely no sense, there’s no logic to it.” said Craig Romero.

Read more: Oil And Gas Lawsuit Moves Back To State Court; Port Of Iberia Director Speaks Out

Posted on September 30, 2017 and filed under Louisiana, Oil and Gas.

Louisiana's legal climate hits 'rock bottom' in national survey

Photo source: Louisiana Record

Photo source: Louisiana Record

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Louisiana has the worst legal climate in the nation, according to a survey released this week.

The survey, dubbed the "2017 Lawsuit Climate Survey: Ranking the States," was conducted by Harris Poll and was accompanied by a video by Faces of Lawsuit Abuse, a project of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, which owns this publication.

"Louisiana, you're one of the worst," the video said. "Awarding ridiculous sums of money for junk lawsuits. Some of your politicians are hiring their trial lawyer friends to file cases while doing nothing to pass legal reforms."

The Pelican State came in behind 48th-ranked Illinois and 47th-ranked California. Louisiana's ranking in the latest poll, which was first conducted in 2002, is a first and all-time low for the state, which edged out Missouri this time, which ranked 49th.

“Louisiana’s lawsuit climate has hit rock bottom,” Lisa A. Rickard, president of the Institute for Legal Reform, said. “The state’s long history of litigation abuse and the questionable integrity of its courts hurt everyone by holding back more robust job growth and investment.”

The survey ranked Louisiana "dead last" in the poll's 10 categories, including judges’ competence and impartiality, jury fairness and the quality of its appeals process, according a statement by the institute. The survey also ranked New Orleans and Orleans Parish as the nation's fourth worst lawsuit jurisdiction.

"Over the years, judicial misconduct has plagued Louisiana’s courts," the Institute for Legal Reform said in the statement. "In 2016 alone, judicial misconduct cases resulted in fines, suspensions and resignations of at least five different judges. Several of these cases were for repeat offenses."

Survey participants included 1,203 in-house general counsels, senior litigators or attorneys and other senior executives at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million who said they knew about litigation matters, according to the survey.

Participants were reached through more than 1,300 telephone and online interviews between March 31 and June 26, which asked for rankings on topics such as fairness of a given state's lawsuit environments in 10 categories, including state laws, courts, judges and juries.

The institute also issued the 2017 edition of its "101 Ways to Improve State Legal Systems," a listing of key legal reforms that states can adopt to improve their lawsuit climates.

The U.S. Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial and educational activities at the national, state and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation, representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

Source: Louisiana's legal climate hits 'rock bottom' in national survey

Posted on September 14, 2017 and filed under Louisiana.