The Slatest

Silly Lobbyist Accidentally Provides Two Experts at Same Hearing With Same Testimony

Michael Schweitz of the Alliance of Specialty Medicine and Coalition of State Rheumatology Organizations.

Screen shot/House.gov

Well, here’s a fun thing spotted by Charles Ornstein of ProPublica and investigated by Jeffrey Young of the Huffington Post: Two experts testifying at a Tuesday House subcommittee hearing submitted almost identical statements about the potential impact of a change in the way Medicare reimburses doctors for drug costs

This is from the submitted testimony of Dr. Michael Schweitz, who was appearing on behalf two physicians’ advocacy groups:

In early February 2016, CMS posted guidelines to contractors about the Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model, which proposed changes to the Average Sales Price (ASP) methodology for Part B drug reimbursement. This demonstration project would be mandatory for zip codes identified by CMS. The posting appeared to have happened erroneously, as the agency quickly removed the guidelines from its website. This posting and its subsequent hasty removal greatly worried us, as it indicated a major payment change was well underway, even though CMS had not engaged in any pre-rulemaking dialogue such as town halls or Requests for Information. 

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And this is from the submitted testimony of Marcia Boyle, who was appearing on behalf a patients’ advocacy group:

In early February 2016, CMS posted guidelines to contractors about the Medicare Part B Drug Payment Model, which proposed changes to the Average Sales Price (ASP) methodology for Part B drug reimbursement. This posting appeared to have happened erroneously, as the agency quickly removed the guidelines from its website. The posting and subsequent hasty removal greatly worried the provider, patient, and manufacturer communities, as it indicated a major payment change was well underway, even though CMS had not engaged in any pre-rulemaking dialogue such as town halls or Requests for Information. 

A lobbying firm called Hart Health Strategies, HuffPo found, represents all three groups involved and was responsible for the common testimony. “It was merely a clerical error,” a Hart represenatitive said.

It should be said that this doesn’t prove that either Schweitz or Boyle are wrong on the merits or that the interests they represent are illegitimate. It does prove that we have a weird system of deciding how Congress gets advice.

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