Rosenthal says pharma must do its part

It isn’t surprising that Amy Rosenthal, the executive director of Health Care for All, wants to rein in the cost of prescription drugs. She’s been quite clear that breakthrough drugs don’t have much of an impact if people can’t afford them.

But her talk of shared responsibility on the Health or Consequences Codcast with Paul Hattis and John McDonough took the debate in a new direction. She said she has made the rounds with all of the players in the Massachusetts health care system and discovered a shared pride in all that has been accomplished in terms of near-universal coverage and moderating prices. Each of the players has contributed.

“Individuals were required to start buying health insurance, the individual mandate,” she said. “Employers had an employer assessment. Hospitals and insurers have to go before the Health Policy Commission. All of these things were not easy. People had to put some serious skin in the game. And all we’re saying at this point is that it’s time for pharma to do their part in this.”

Like everyone else, Rosenthal is waiting to see what emerges from the fiscal 2020 budget deliberations on Beacon Hill. Gov. Charlie Baker, the House, and the Senate have all included provisions in their budget proposals addressing the rising cost of prescription drugs, but the approaches adopted by the governor and Senate are more aggressive. They would pressure drug manufacturers to negotiate lower prices for their products by threatening public disclosure of pricing information and referring instances of excessive prices to the attorney general for investigation under the state’s consumer protection law.

Rosenthal said she isn’t putting all her eggs in the budget basket. She is also talking to the chairs of the Legislature’s Health Care Financing Committee, pushing for legislation that would require more transparency and accountability around drug pricing.

“There’s really very little transparency around the actual cost it takes to produce a particular drug. It’s kind of like a black box where people outside the industry really don’t understand it,” she said.

But Rosenthal says transparency isn’t enough. She also supports accountability. She wants to give the Health Policy Commission the power to set upper payment limits for what she describes as a small group of drugs – those undergoing a rapid increase in price (insulin and Epipens) or those with very high prices but limited value.

McDonough asked Rosenthal whether her version of accountability was just a metaphor for price controls.

“No,” she said. “What this is is really incentives to bring manufacturers to the table.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Environmentalists and lead sponsor Rep. Lori Ehrlich are criticizing moves by a House committee to water down a bill that would ban plastic shopping bags at supermarkets. (Salem News)

A Globe editorial slams the Baker administration’s efforts to undermine an oversight committee reviewing the state’s new solitary confinement law for state prisons.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Two top aides to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will go on trial next week on extortion charges in a case that has see-sawed through the legal system for three years. (Boston Globe)

The Brockton Enterprise has a photo essay of late Mayor Bill Carpenter’s funeral at Brockton High School.

A new $1 million fire truck delivered to Andover is too high to fit under an overpass in town, but officials say it can be modified so that it will make it under the bridge. (Eagle-Tribune)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump blasts out a racist tweet against four minority Democratic congresswomen, urging them to “go back” the countries they’re from. (New York Times) One of the four, Boston Rep. Ayanna Pressley, tells Globe columnist Adrian Walker it’s “just another day” under a person who “embodies zero of the qualities and the principles, the responsibility, the grace, the integrity, the compassion, of someone who would truly embody that office.” No Republican leaders stepped forward to denounce Trump’s comments. (Washington Post)

President Trump’s threatened roundup of undocumented immigrant families this weekend that set migrants in many communities on edge showed few signs of materializing on Sunday, the second time rumors of a large-scale immigration enforcement operation failed to come to fruition. (WBUR)

Leaders of local Jewish and Japanese-American groups — who say they know well the history of persecution and detention camps in Europe and the US — call for the US to close down the border detention facilities and reunite separated families. (CommonWealth)

ELECTIONS

David Bernstein defends “horse race” coverage of the presidential contest. (WGBH)

Stephen Kinzer issues an open call for a progressive Democratic challenger to step up and take on US Rep. Bill Keating — but he says the candidate shouldn’t be an old white guy like him. (Boston Globe)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

American Airlines is extending its Boeing 737 Max plane flight cancellations. The plane was grounded in March following two deadly crashes.  (Associated Press)

EDUCATION

Members of the Governor’s Black and Latino Advisory Commissions urge support for his education bill. (CommonWealthJames Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, and Ed Lambert, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, argue for a two-pronged approach that combines new spending with reforms. (CommonWealth)

Towns that rejected the building of a new Wahconah High School are weighing their legal options. (Berkshire Eagle)

Some law schools are giving applicants the option to submit either LSAT or GRE scores in an effort they say improves diversity. (WBUR)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

For the first time in decades, a Cape doctor is heading the prestigious Massachusetts Medical Society. Dr. Maryanne Bombaugh, of Falmouth, a gynecologist at the Community Health Center of Cape Cod in Mashpee, is the first Cape Codder to serve as society president since 1984.(Cape Cod Times) 

ARTS/CULTURE

The Holyoke schools are integrating arts into core curriculum subjects like English and math — and say it’s helping keep students engaged. (CommonWealth)

Framingham’s library is bringing back a Spanish-language storytime session geared toward toddlers, an effort organized by nonprofit Discovering Hidden Gems. (Metrowest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION 

The head the Massachusetts High Tech Council, Chris Anderson, says transportation improvements are an urgent priority in the state — but he says talk of the need for new revenue to address the issue is premature. (CommonWealth)

A man was airlifted from Wareham to Boston Medical Center on Saturday after his leg was severed by a train while he was trespassing on the right-of-way on the Lakeville line, MBTA Transit Police said. (Standard Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Martin Suuberg on Friday adopted Hearing officer Jane Rothchild’s recommendation to uphold a permit issued to gas company Spectra Energy-Enbridge and reject an appeal filed by Weymouth, Quincy, Braintree, Hingham and a citizens group, which had argued that the company’s proposed station in Weymouth would worsen air pollution in the Fore River Basin. (Patriot Ledger) 

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Three Peabody police officers accused of beating a 16-year-old boy will face a federal jury in October. The North Reading resident alleged officers arrested him at a McDonald’s and when he exercised his right to remain silent beat him so severely he suffered a traumatic brain injury. He still suffers from seizures as a result. (Lynn Daily Item) 

State and local police said they seized 12 illegally owned guns, more than 3,100 rounds of ammunition, and various pills in a Friday raid in Holbrook. Stephen Buckman was charged with 19 gun and drug crimes. (Patriot Ledger)