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WAOPS signed on with 31 other osteopathic associations in support of the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act. The letter was sent out from the American Osteopathic Association to Representatives Ruiz, Bucshon, Bera and Miller-Meeks and reminded them that the legislation would apply a permanent inflation-based adjustment to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) which would provide stability to providers delivering essential care to Medicare beneficiaries and help ensure that patients have access to timely and high-quality care.
The letter went into further detail regarding what this would continue to mean for providers and patients, and emphasized that the Strengthening Medicare for Patients and Providers Act would provide transformative stability to the Medicare payment system. The message concluded with thanking the representatives for their leadership on this essential issue.
Click here to read the letter in its entirety.
WAOPS sent a letter to the Wisconsin legislature members regarding their support for the All Copays Count Legislation.
Read the full letter here.
WAOPS signed on to a letter to Senator Baldwin regarding PBMs:
Dear Senator Baldwin,
We are aware that the Senate HELP Committee will be considering legislation to regulate pharmacy benefit managers on April 19, and we are writing to share what we would like to see from this hearing.
As you no doubt know, pharmacy benefit managers (PBMS) are prescription drug middlemen owned by insurance companies that leverage their place in the drug supply chain to reap huge profits for themselves while leaving patients with few options at the pharmacy counter. While better regulations targeting the frankly monopolistic practices of PBMs has been considered in the past, we would like to encourage you and your colleagues to move forward with bold and impactful new policies that will make a real difference for patients across the country.
Due to the fact that just three PBMs, OptumRx, CVS Caremark, and ExpressScripts, control 80 percent of the drug marketplace they have been able to engage in practices that don’t just cost money, but actively hurt patient access to medicines. Since PBMs manage drug formularies for insurance plans they are able to decide which drugs will be covered, and frequently they have given preference to higher cost medications because they can make more money off them than lower priced alternatives. PBMs are too often leaving low-priced generics and biosimilars off formularies entirely, which in turn drives up prescription drug costs and puts many drugs out of reach of the average patient. Additionally, PBMs are the vertically integrated through the ownership or management of many specialty and retail pharmacies. This integration allows PBMs to steer patients toward their own pharmacies in order to increase their own profits, even if their pharmacies are not convenient or preferred by the patient.
Action at the federal level must be taken to regulate PBMs and ensure they are working for patients not their own bottom lines. Strong transparency requirements should be implemented to PBM contracting practices so they can be monitored to ensure they are operating in the best interest of patients and not their own profits.
In Wisconsin, we have passed legislation requiring PBMs in the state to disclose what they pay for drugs and whether the savings on those drugs have been passed on to patients. This type of transparent accountability is critical to ensuring a more equitable drug supply chain. We cannot continue to allow PBMs to reap unprecedented profits thanks to a lack of transparency and accountability.
Recent litigation by several Attorneys General have found that hundreds of millions of dollars in government funding has been lost to PBMs thanks to their purposefully opaque business practices. The link between the price of a medicine and PBMs profits must be broken.
We hope you will remember our concerns during the upcoming HELP Committee and will support significant new regulations to ensure patients are being treated fairly and can more easily access the medications they need.
The AOA is circulating a sign-on letter in response to the Federal Trade Commission’s proposed rule banning the use of non-compete clauses in employment contracts and WAOPS has signed on in support.
The rule would designate the use of such clauses as an unfair method of competition under the FTC Act. The AOA is circulating this sign-on to express the osteopathic physician community's support for this effort. Overall, the letter:
View the letter here.
WAOPS submitted a proclamation to Wisconsin Governor Evers office for National Osteopathic Medicine Week, and received an official proclamation!
Happy National Osteopathic Medicine week to all DOs!
WAOPS was glad to sign onto a group health letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging them to finalize stronger annual and 24-hour standards for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) for fine particulate matter pollution (PM2.5).
The letter read as follows:
"Particle pollution poses a dangerous threat to human health. According to the American Lung Association’s 2022 “State of the Air” report, Wisconsin is home to 75,199 children and 467,737 adults with asthma, 244,094 people with COPD, and 321,019 with cardiovascular disease, all of whom could be at greater risk of health harm from particulate matter. The current limits on both short-term spikes and annual levels of particle pollution are currently too weak to protect the health of people in Wisconsin.
The revision of the NAAQS for particulate matter pollution represents an important step toward healthier air. To ensure that the standards are aligned with the current science, the undersigned organizations support a final standard of 8 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) for annual PM2.5 and 25 μg/m3 for 24-hour PM2.5.
The Clean Air Act requires that the NAAQS be set based solely on what the best available science says is necessary to protect public health with an adequate margin of safety. EPA was correct in reconsidering the PM2.5 standards following the 2020 review. Overwhelming scientific evidence shows that the current standards are inadequate, putting vulnerable populations at risk and further entrenching environmental injustices in exposure.
PM2.5 can increase the risk of heart disease, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with lung development. Overwhelming evidence shows that both acute and chronic PM2.5 exposures are deadly. For example, a 2016 study of individuals 65 and older in New England found that the risk for premature death occurred even in areas that meet the current level.1 A more health protective standard is needed, especially for individuals most at-risk, including pregnant people, infants, children, seniors, people living with lung and heart conditions, lower-income communities, and communities of color.
As health organizations committed to improving public health and advocating on behalf of the patients and communities we serve, we urge you to follow the science by proposing and finalizing standards of 8 μg/m3 for annual PM2.5 and 25 μg/m3 for 24-hour PM2.5 to ensure healthier air for all."
WAOPS was among other Wisconsin health organizations that signed on to support; American Lung Association in Wisconsin, Wisconsin Allergy Society, Wisconsin Asthma Coalition, Wisconsin Medical Society, Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association.
From the American Osteopathic Association.
CHICAGO—March 17, 2023—Breaking records from all previous matches, the 2023 National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) matched 7,132 osteopathic medical students and past DO graduates into postgraduate year 1 (PGY1) residency positions. Reaching another all-time high, 91.6% of the 7,436 participating DO students matched into residency programs in 37 specialties.
Overall, the number of osteopathic fourth-year students who matched into PGY1 positions increased by 0.3% from last year. Final placement numbers will be available in May and are expected to exceed the 99% rate reported in prior years.
“We are thrilled to see continued growth in the number of osteopathic medical students and graduates who successfully place into residency positions through the NRMP Match each year,” said AOA President Ernest R. Gelb, DO. “The percentage of matches for our residency candidates continues to keep pace with the growth of our profession, demonstrating that residency programs and patients are actively seeking the distinctive approach DOs provide across the full spectrum of medicine.”
Era of growth
A total of 3,902 (57%) matching DO students landed positions in primary care programs, with the remaining 2,910 (43%) matching into secured non-primary care placements across a wide range of specialties. This year’s Match resulted in increased placements for DO residents in family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics. The number of DO placements in specialty training programs increased for general surgery, neurology, psychiatry, pathology, orthopedic surgery, child neurology, obstetrics and gynecology, physical medicine and rehabilitation, vascular surgery and otolaryngology.
Additionally, a record number of 320 graduating osteopathic fourth-year students and 68 graduates secured residency positions via the military match, which places applicants into programs run or sponsored by the military.
“It’s exciting to witness the continued growth and expansion of osteopathic medicine across the full House of Medicine, and this year’s high match rate speaks to the exceptional quality of our DO residency candidates and the pivotal role they will play in the future of health care,” said AOA Interim CEO Kathleen S. Creason, MBA. “I am inspired by the dedication and tenacity of these future residents and can’t wait to see how they will influence the landscape of medicine for years to come.”
For graduating fourth-year osteopathic medical students, the top 15 specialties by number of PGY1 matches are:
The American Osteopathic Association (AOA) represents more than 178,000 osteopathic physicians (DOs) and osteopathic medical students; promotes public health; encourages scientific research; serves as the primary certifying body for DOs; and is the accrediting agency for osteopathic medical schools. To learn more about DOs and the osteopathic philosophy of medicine, visit www.osteopathic.org.
From Wisconsin Health News
Insurers and pharmacy benefit managers would have to count copayment assistance from drug companies toward patients’ annual deductibles and maximum out-of-pocket costs under a bill introduced by a bipartisan group of lawmakers Tuesday.
In response, associations representing insurers and pharmacy benefit managers raised concerns about drug coupons, warning they increase overall drug costs.
Sen. Andrè Jacque, R-De Pere, said the “critical legislation” is about medication adherence and better health outcomes. He said that it can be “devastating” for patients to learn that they haven’t met their out-of-pocket commitments.
“This is about making sure people can afford their medications and not have to choose between groceries and gas and being able to progress and deal with a chronic condition,” Jacque said at a press conference.
A memo for the bill circulated to gain support for the plan from lawmakers noted that the legislation applies to prescriptions if there's not a "medically appropriate generic equivalent available," which the bill's sponsors argued removes concerns that the financial assistance would drive patients to higher-cost drugs.
Rob Gundermann, CEO of the Coalition of Wisconsin Aging and Health Groups, which is leading a group of around 40 patient and provider groups in support of the bill, said copay assistance programs were created by manufacturers to respond to efforts by health plans to shift the cost burden of prescriptions onto patients.
“Copay assistance is a critical lifeline for patients across our state,” he said.
Similar legislation introduced last session didn’t make it into law. It faced criticism from insurers and the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association.
“Drug companies offer coupons to insured patients, regardless of their incomes, to induce patients to take a more expensive brand drug instead of an equally effective, less expensive, alternative with lower cost sharing,” Sean Stephenson, director of state affairs for the association, which represents pharmacy benefit managers, said in a Tuesday statement. “Numerous analyses show an increase in the use of copay coupons correlates to a total increase in prescription drug spending.”
Wisconsin Association of Health Plans Executive Director John Nygren said some aspects of the proposal have changed since last session.
"Our fundamental concern remains the same: Copay coupons are marketing tools used by pharmaceutical companies to encourage use of their drug over alternative therapeutic options," Nygren said in a statement.
The Alliance of Health Insurers said in a statement that the legislation “would do nothing to control the soaring prices of prescription drugs.”
“Perversely, this legislation would reward drugmakers for steering patients towards and keeping them on expensive brand-name drugs, costing all of us more money,” they said in a statement. “The federal government considers copay coupons an illegal kickback if used by an enrollee in Medicare or Medicaid because they induce a patient to use a specific drug. Copay coupons should be banned."
The standing order from the Department of Health Services now allows people who are trained to take their certificate directly to the pharmacy to obtain epinephrine devices. This is a huge win for those who are certified as trainers under Dillion's Law - as they won't have to call their provider for refills as long as they use their certificate. Certificates are valid for four years.
Read more here.
From Wisconsin Health News:
Wisconsin students entering seventh grade this fall will have to get the vaccines for meningitis and whooping cough, according to the Department of Health Services.
Students are already required to receive the tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine at the start of sixth grade. The change better aligns with the shot’s recommended age of 11, the state agency said.
In addition, a booster dose of meningitis vaccine will be required at 12th grade.
Past chickenpox infection will also have to be documented by a qualified medical professional. Child care centers will have to start working with parents now to ensure proper documentation, per DHS.
“Each of these vaccines is already recommended for children, and today’s update improves that protection,” DHS Deputy Secretary Deb Standridge said in a Wednesday statement. “Parents who choose to keep their children up to date on vaccinations are not only protecting their own child’s health but are making a choice that protects the people who live and work in their communities.”
Per DHS, vaccination rates have declined during the pandemic. The most recent data during the 2021-2022 school year show 88.7 of students met minimum immunization requirements, a 3.2 percent decrease from the previous year, and 3.3 percent of students were behind schedule on their vaccinations, a 0.4 percent increase from the previous year.
There is no change to exemption options for medical, religious or philosophical reasons. And DHS is encouraging, but not requiring, flu vaccination and COVID-19 vaccination, per the statement.