The NACDS Annual Meeting Business Program included remarks by former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-WI) (right). “Your industry has to play a monumental role in healthcare. If you take a look at the debt in this country, it is primarily driven by healthcare entitlement programs—Medicare, Medicaid, and what is commonly referred to as Obamacare. Those three programs are the primary drivers of our debt because it is a pay-as-you-go system: Current workers pay current taxes for current retirees.”  

The challenge, according to Ryan, “is that we are going from 40 million to 77 million retirees in America.” These programs, he added, grow about 6% to 8% per year, and our economy doesn’t grow at that rate. “Therein,” he said, “lies your future debt crisis.” Moreover, Ryan said, the U.S. spends two-and-a-half times what other industrialized countries spend on healthcare, “but we don’t spend it intelligently.”  

What does Ryan see as the solution? One of the smartest ways to tackle the healthcare reform problem, he said, is getting the consumer “back in the game” in a “patient-centered” healthcare environment that features choice and competition. He recalled that the projected cost of Medicare Part D, which he helped craft in 2003 while on the House Ways and Means Committee, was astronomical. However, the legislation was supported by a “premium support system,” which ensured that multiple providers competed for consumers’ business. The result: Medicare Part D actually cost 40% less than projected, according to Ryan. “Competition,” he said, “brings performance.”

The NACDS, said Ryan, can make a difference by helping make sure the consumer demands that providers compete for their business. The best place where a patient/consumer can make an informed decision, he added, is in the pharmacy.  “We want choice and competition, we want transparency,” he added. “You really do have a key role to play in getting healthcare inflation in a good place. If we solve this healthcare inflation problem, we will have solved the debt crisis.”

Turning to another key healthcare issue, Ryan described the opioid crisis from a policymaker perspective. “Every single person in Congress, everybody knows, somebody personally that has an addiction to opioids. This crisis is taking every corner of our country, and it has taken a lot of policy makers by surprise. So we put together a very comprehensive plan to attack the opioid crisis.” NACDS, he acknowledged, was an “important, important player” in the effort to take on the opioid-misuse and -abuse battle.

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