Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., co-authored a paper on Tuesday that proposes setting up a Netflix-like subscription model for states to cover skyrocketing costs for hepatitis C treatments.
The idea, put forth in a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, highlights the bind that many states are in, struggling to pay for high hepatitis C treatments.
“Netflix is a video-streaming service that provides unlimited content for a flat fee; the analogy is a pharmaceutical corporation providing an unlimited supply of its HCV treatments to treat all infected residents of a state in exchange for a flat recurring fee,” the authors wrote.
Cassidy, a gastroenterologist before entering politics, has placed a special emphasis on healthcare policy during his time in the Senate.
The paper added that the current shortfall in hepatitis C treatment is due to states paying exorbitant prices per prescription. A state usually buys the drug either for Medicaid patients suffering from hepatitis C or for people incarcerated in state jails.
“With hepatitis C treatments, state Medicaid programs and prison systems have responded by limiting access to these drugs, even though it would be better if persons with infections such as HCV were treated rapidly and broadly,” the paper added.
The authors suggested that, in the the subscription model, the drug subscriber should not be the state, but rather a purchasing coalition of all entities that pay for the drug, including private insurers.
“The coalition would have three purposes: to provide scale for the buyer, streamline a statewide effort at HCV elimination across payers, and ensure that the payers collectively recapture the long-term cost savings from avoided future medical costs,” the paper said.
The drugmaker would provide unlimited access to the treatment. All manufacturers of the product would bid on the price and duration of the subscription they would offer and the state selects the most enticing bid.
The paper said that the Trump administration could set up an experiment of the model to determine whether it works.
Cassidy, who spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to repeal Obamacare last fall, has also co-sponsored several pieces of legislation targeting high drug prices. He most recently co-sponsored a bill that passed the Senate to end "gag clauses" that insurers and drug middlemen include in contracts with pharmacies to prevent a pharmacist from informing a consumer it is cheaper to buy a drug out-of-pocket rather than through their insurance.
Dr. Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan Kettering and Mark Trusheim, a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were the other co-authors of the paper.