Federal Legislation Advances in Digital Therapeutics and Improved Access to Care

Updates in Federal Legislation Addressing Digital Therapeutics Access to Care

This article was originally published by Pharmacy Times®. It has been lightly edited.

Health care legislation has been on hold at the federal level following Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) removal as Speaker of the House. Although legislation cannot currently pass through Congress, important actions around digital therapeutics, access to care, and health care disparities are still important to highlight.

Stark cloudy weather over empty exterior view of the US Capitol Building in Washington DC, USA | Image credit: lazyllama – stock.adobe.com


In a session at AMCP Nexus 2023, Jennifer Mathieu, MA, senior vice president of professional and government affairs at the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, and Geni Tunstall, JD, director of regulatory affairs at AMCP, discussed federal legislative and regulatory updates that are on the horizon.

Looking Ahead

“The really positive news is most of us are only looking at the next 3 months, but we do have a whole other calendar year where we can pursue various health care legislation,” Mathieu said. “We are not going to have to reintroduce because we’re not starting a new Congress at the beginning of 2024, so we don’t have to reintroduce any of these bills and continue to work on them in 2024 if we are unsuccessful in getting them signed into law this year.”

Digital Therapeutics and Technology

Mathieu started by discussing legislation regarding digital therapeutics and technology, including the Access to Prescribing Digital Therapeutics Act, which was initially introduced in 2022 and reintroduced in March 2023. The bill is designed to provide benefits for prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs) in Medicare and Medicaid—including coverage and reimbursement—and would be limited to digital therapeutics that are cleared or authorized by the FDA and prescribed by a health care provider.

The legislation would not require coverage by CMS for specific PDTs and would use the normal formulary decision processes for digital therapeutics. Currently, CMS does not have the authority to cover PDTs, as Medicare and Medicaid do not have the flexibility to cover these products outside of the defined benefits categories.

In addition to the legislation, the FDA will be putting together a Digital Health Advisory Committee to advise on digital health technologies. The FDA will be accepting nominees until December 11, 2023. This committee will include 9 core members who will advise the FDA commissioner on all digital health technology developments, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, wearable devices, and digital therapeutics, according to Mathieu.

High-Cost Therapies

High-cost therapies are also a focus of current legislation, including the Medicaid Value-Based Purchasing for Patients Act. This piece of legislation will enhance Medicaid access to new and high-cost therapies for patients, which would include cell and gene therapies. The intent is to modernize the framework for value-based purchasing (VBP) arrangements in Medicaid, clarifying the best price under VBP arrangements for the maximum possible price paid, Mathieu said.

Pharmacist Services and Biosimilars

Further, if passed, the Equitable Community Access for Pharmacist Services Act will authorize pharmacists to receive reimbursements under Part B for COVID-19 care, including testing, vaccination, and treatment provided at the end of the public health emergency, according to Mathieu. It will expand upon future public health emergency issues under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act during COVID-19 and will also cover influenza and respiratory syncytial virus. This will hopefully improve access to care in underserved communities, Mathieu said.

Another hot topic includes biosimilars. With more biosimilars coming to the forefront of care, the Biosimilar Research Fund and National Biosimilars Project Act will include appropriations for either the National Institutes of Health or other agencies of similar caliber to help fund large population and epidemiology research on biosimilars, which will help to further define interchangeability. This will allow biosimilar-to-biosimilar interchangeability or substitution under pharmacy entities, Mathieu said.

Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Reform

Pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) reform has been one of the most noteworthy topics in pharmacy for 2023. Some current legislation includes the Pharmacy Benefit Manager Transparency Act, Modernizing PBMs and Ensuring Accountability Act, Pharmacy Benefit Manger Reform Act, PATIENT Act, Transparency in Coverage Act, and Health Care Price Transparency Act.

Other Important Legislation

Mathieu included an AMCP prediction that the year-end health care package will include language related to drug access, PBMs, insulin caps in the commercial market, and product hopping. Other important legislation that could potentially pass includes the Pandemic and All Hazard Preparedness Act and the Substance Use Disorder Prevention That Promotes Opioid Recovery Treatment for Patients and Communities Act. She added there is proposed legislation that targets drug shortages, which is another challenge that still needs to be addressed.

Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Updates

Tunstall also provided regulatory updates around the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The major prescription drug provisions would include Medicare drug pricing negotiation, Part D reforms, and inflationary rebates. CMS has also released rules and guidance over the past year and will continue to release more throughout the implementation of new requirements.

For drug price negotiations, CMS will meet with the various manufacturers of 10 medications, who will have 30 days to either accept the CMS offer or present a counteroffer to the agency. CMS will also host patient-focused listening sessions, which will include insight from patients, caregivers, beneficiaries, and patient advocacy groups, as part of the drug negotiation process. The sessions will be held between October 30 and November 15, 2023, and will be open to the public and live streamed.

Key Dates for the IRA:

  • January 1, 2024: The start date of the catastrophic phase of Medicare and the premium stabilization
  • July 1, 2024: The cap on Part B payment for new biosimilars
  • September 1, 2024: The maximum fair price for the first 10 drugs published from CMS that are listed above
  • www.ajmc.com – 2023-10-28 13:05:22

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