On Monday May 6, 2019, KEI gave the following intervention during the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Listening Session in advance of the Seventy-second World Health Assembly to be held in Geneva on May 20-28, 2019.
KEI Statement – HHS Listening Session WHA72
11.5 – Universal Health Coverage
The United States, like many other countries, has an aging population.
According to the Population Reference Bureau report, “Aging in the United States,” “The number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060, and the 65-and-older age group’s share of the total population will rise to nearly 24 percent from 15 percent.”
Many other countries are experiencing similar demographic shifts.
These demographic shifts make it more challenging to provide universal health care.
In order to have both universal health care and equal access to new medical technologies, governments will have to embrace new approaches to financing biomedical innovation.
KEI favors delinking the financing of R&D, including the incentives for private investments.
Any method of financing innovation that depends upon a temporary monopoly as the incentive is expensive and features both rationing and an inequality of access.
But whatever approaches governments take, having greater transparency of the economics of biomedical markets and innovation is critically important.
One area where universal health care is particularly at risk concerns the new cell- and gene-therapies, such as Luxturna, a gene-therapy that can restore vision in people with a specific genetic mutation that causes progressive vision loss, or CAR T treatments for cancer. Access to these very expensive treatments is extremely limited in developing countries, a fact that should be addressed by the WHO. Government policies on licensing inventions could also expand access and make treatments more affordable.